Very infrequent problems starting my car

subaru
electrical-wiring
outback
batteries
starters

#1

I’m hoping someone out there can help me. I have a sporadic problem with my 2003 Subaru Outback that has so far bewildered a couple of mechanics who have been unable to come up with a solution. In the past year, I have had a dozen or so occasions in which my car has not started (at least initially). Though the mechanics have looked over the vehicle and particularly the electrical system and the battery they have not found anything wrong. Part of the problem is that the mechanics have not been able to replicate the problem in their shop (and I have also not been able to repeat the problem on command). Generally what I have experienced is that when I turn on the ignition nothing happens with the engine (i.e. no engine turning over etc) though I will point out that the electrical system still functions fine (i.e. headlights and radio work etc.). I?ve listened real closely and I believe I hear a faint single click somewhere in the engine or ignition but for the most part there is nothing. Up to this point I have been able to start the car on every occasion usually after 5-10 minutes of fiddling around inside the vehicle. My latest conclusion is that by giggling the automatic gear shift I am somehow ?unfreezing? the vehicle as it will generally start up as though there was never a problem. Though I originally thought the problem might be the result of the car sitting for lengthy periods of time, on one occasion I started the car without issue, parked it for 5 minutes to run an errand and then had problems starting it when I returned to the car. Though I have ultimately been able to start the vehicle every time, my confidence in the vehicle has been greatly weakened and I?m worried that one of these times it will not start at all. Just to provide other basic information, the vehicle is an automatic and has roughly 70k miles on it. Any guidance anybody has would be welcome and appreciated. Thanks.


#2

The times it wouldn’t start, did the CEL come on on the instument panel?

Has anyone tested for a stored code?

The CEL doesn’t have to light up to have a stored code.


#3

Could be a bad neutral safety switch. You could just replace it , they aren’t expensive.


#4

There was not a ‘Check Engine Light’ and I’m quite sure the mechanics did not check for any stored codes. It sounds like it is definitely worth investigating. Thanks.


#5

Could also be a bad spot on the starter armature. Unless it lands on that bad spot for the mechanic, it will seem OK. Next time it happens, if you haven’t already replaced the neutral safety switch, move the gear shifter around and try starting it in neutral or in park once you have moved it out of park. If that doesn’t work, see if someone can whack the starter with a rubber or plastic mallet to jolt the starter just enough to get if off the bad spot.


#6

Well, based on what I’m reading on the neutral safety switch that sounds like a very likely candidate. I’ll do some further research and likely bring it to my local mechanic. Thank you!


#7

Lots of good material. I obvious came to the right place. I’ll try your suggestion time next. Thanks.


#8

It may also be a out of adjustment neutral safety switch. Try putting the car in neutral instead of park the next time it happens. Also try moving the selector slightly out of park or neutral while turning the key. Keep the parking brake on and your foot on the brake as well.
Have the mechanics cleaned the battery terminals? If not, a dirty terminal can cause the same problem without showing any corrosion or shutting down the electrical system.


#9

Thanks. More good information. I actually cleaned the battery terminals even though they were not all that dirty. Next time the problem surfaces, I’ll try your suggestions.