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Thread: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

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    Default Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    The wide and varied knowledge of this forum never ceases to amaze me. My car is a manual Subaru Impreza outback sport. Twice in the past week, I have attempted to start it with the clutch pushed in only to hear a click when turning the key to the start position. I then back it off and try again and after a couple of attempts, the starter grabbed. Does this sound like a starter that is going bad? I don't think it is the battery as it is only a year old and one of the times this happened, the car had only been sitting for a few minutes and when it did grab, it seemed strong enough. This has never happened to me before. I've had a dead battery but never this intermittent problem.

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    *Retired* The_LED_Museum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Maybe the connection to your battery is hosed. Ie. it lets a few amps through, but poops out when the current demand exceeds some minimum level.

    I'd check and (if necessary) tighten the battery cables first. Your starter probably isn't bad, but the electrical connections to it might be.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    1. I agree, probably not the starter. More likely the Batt. cable or battery. Remove cables, clean, hose them down with WD40 or if corroded pour a can of cola on the ends. reinstall and tighten.

    2. Check entire cable for corrosion. Batteries can and do leak and ruin cables.

    3. Buy a new battery. Cheap fix. Do it even if you have it checked and they say it's good, just trust me on this. I had my batt. tested a year ago after mine wouldn't start, batt. tested good. I called my auto parts friend and he told me what I am telling you above but I was too smart to listen. I put on a new starter and it still wouldn't start. I had the batt. tested at a second place and they said it was good so I changed the cable. It still didn't turn over. I finally broke down and bought a new batt. even though mine was supposedly good. Guess what? Problem solved.

    Answers to all life problems and road blocks are easily solved here at CPF.

    Tomorrow I will supply the answer to cheap hyodrgen powered automobiles. I have known the answer for a couple of years but have held back because I wanted to wait for Darell's EV thread to finish. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Is that what the "RC" stands for; Removes Corrosion Cola?
    [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/yellowlaugh.gif[/img]
    If that doesn't work you might try baking soda, water, and a toothbrush..
    also scrub the battery tray and use those little round anti-corrosion felt terminal cozy-thingys, they work.

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    Flashaholic BF Hammer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    I would interpret a loud click to be the starter solenoid engaging, but for some reason the starter motor isn't turning. I agree with Craig and Dave above, inspect your battery connections carefully for corrosion. If you don't have a sealed battery, pop open the caps and check if one of the cells is low in water. Alternator problems typically will display an idiot light on the dash, so I would suspect a faulty battery first. If you have another car, I would even try a quick swap of batteries just to verify.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Great suggestions by the brethern. May I add another test? Turn on your headlights with the car off. If they are almost as bright as they are when the engine is running, that's a very good indicator that your battery is OK because it's receiving and accepting the charge from the alternator.

    A pale and obviously sick color suggests that either your alternator or voltage regulator (assuming cables, battery is physically alright and water level are OK) is out of whack. If they don't produce the required volts then your starter may have problems because it isn't getting the right amount of juice.

    Let us know!

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    My first guess would be the solenoid, actually. The click is the solenoid moving, but it might not be closing the contact. Jeff has a good idea about the headlight test. Of course a cheap float battery tester could be used as well.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    I second the battery test to figure out if the battery connection's the problem. Usually, if your headlight doesn't come on, or if your radio does not turn on, then it's your battery.

    But if all electronics seem to come on fine, and you hear the clicks when you flip the key switch, then it's a bad starter...

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    does the click come from under the dash or the engine?
    many cars use a small relay to turn on the solinoid which keeps from running high current thru the ignition switch.
    if you hear the click come from the area of the starter it may be the starters fault.there are also switches that only allow the car to start in neutral or park and the clutch depressed if used.common troublemakers.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Wow, write this, go to bed and amazed at the responses. I'll look over the battery connections and clean. The headlight test is a good suggestion as well. I can't really tell where the click is originating from and yes, the clutch has to be fully depressed for it to start. I thought the switch/mechanism that controls that function might be bad but repumping the clutch didn't solve the problem, only repeatedly turning the key off and on. Thanks.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Try the battery terminals first. My electric start Lifan decided to die on me in the supermarket bike park in the pouring rain. When I pressed the Start button there was a loud click from the battery compartment. On investigation I found it to be a loose earth connection on the battery. Tightening the terminal cured the fault and the bike has never gone wrong since!

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    It could even be the ignition switch itself. If there are any codes the Check Engine light would probably come on, buy maybe you can run it by your nearest Auto Zone and have them check the computer for codes. Solanoids, switches and such are usually capable of telling the computer they're out of wack.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    You guys are good [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] My first thought is the same as Craig's, bad battery connections. It could certainly be other things, but always check the simple stuff first and cleaning and tightening the battery terminals will only take a moment, so very little lost if it turns out to be something else.

    Saaby is right about the check engine light, if there were anything in the computer to read it would light up. I actually had mine come on when the connection to the heater fan went bad. How it knew about that I have no idea.

    Check the battery first.

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    Flashaholic* Skyline's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Lots of great suggestions already, and I have nothing new to add. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    Since you drive a Subaru OBS, you should check out www.nasioc.com -- North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club. Nearly 30,000 members, and the forums there are a great place to find out everything you want to know about your car. NASIOC offers a very friendly atmosphere too.

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    Flashaholic* Wingerr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    If you check all the cable connections (also the ground cable to chassis) and make sure they're not the problem, it may be the starter solenoid contacts, if oxide builds up on the contact, you'll hear the click as it drives the contacts together, but if it's pitted and oxidized, it may not transfer the current. Releasing and retrying it changes the contact position slightly and it may then start up.
    First thing to check is the cable connections as everyone mentioned, but since it starts strongly when it does crank, that contact's a possibility, since a bad cable connection wouldn't generally be intermittent like you've described.
    If it turns out to be that, you could try opening it up and cleaning up the contacts-

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    I had something that sounds like this on my '94 Mercury Topaz (Ford Tempo) twice in its life. (it may still be alive, but we decided to see other people...) It was the power lead (I assume positive) that ran from the starter solenoid to the starter moter going south. Seems they ran it near the exaust and that helped any water that got on it corrode it really well. I replaced that cable every other year, it seems. On the plus side, it was a fairly simple thing to diagnose and fix--the second time it happened.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    [ QUOTE ]
    Wingerr said:(snip)but since it starts strongly when it does crank, that contact's a possibility, since a bad cable connection wouldn't generally be intermittent like you've described.

    [/ QUOTE ] Generally, you are correct but I had this happen to me. The poor connection was at the solinoid. The noise I heard was a spark that occured under the cable lug where it to the solinoid. It was a snap sound and happened intermittenly.

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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    I don't even know what the starter solenoid is or where it is located?

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    Flashaholic* Skyline's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?


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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Turn on the headlights - and watch them as you try to start the car. Do they dim a lot when the you only hear the click? If so, you have a bad connection or battery.

    If they dim slightly or not at all when you try to start the car, the solenoid is bad. Many cars have the solenoid mounted to the starter. Follow the positive (+) cable from your battery. If it goes to the starter, the solenoid is on the starter. I suggest replacing both if that is the case, as the brushes in the starter often wear out soon after the solenoid begins to fail.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    The starter motor uses more current than most of your car's wiring or switches will handle. To alleviate this problem, the solenoid (an electromagenetic coil) is energized by voltage from the ignition switch. The solenoid then moves a large piece of copper across two terminals which route current directly from the battery to the starter motor.

    The fast clicking noise is caused when the solenoid is energized, current flows from the battery to the starter, and then battery voltage drops so low the solenoid loses power. There is a spring in the solenoid which moves the copper bar away from the terminals when the solenoid loses power. As the drain on the battery drops, the solenoid gets power again, and the cycle repeats rapidly, causing the clicking noise.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    I think cable connections or starter relay (solenoid) is the culprit. Keep in mind one of the battery cables goes to the starter relay. It could have a loose connection there. Also the contacts inside the starter relay could be in need of replacement. If the starter eventually cranks the engine at full speed, it probably isn't the starter itself.


  23. #23
    Flashaholic* Wingerr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    Hopefully it does turn out to be a cable connection; definitely would be a simpler and cheaper fix- when you hear a click, I assume it means a single click, and not a click-click-click sequence as you hold the key. In that case (click-click-click) it's just a voltage/current supply issue, which should be relatively simple to deal with.

  24. #24
    Flashaholic* Wingerr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does this sound like a bad car starter?

    [ QUOTE ]
    sunspot said:
    Generally, you are correct but I had this happen to me. The poor connection was at the solinoid. The noise I heard was a spark that occured under the cable lug where it to the solinoid. It was a snap sound and happened intermittenly.

    [/ QUOTE ]
    When you heard the arcing sound, did it crank at all? Usually I've found that once it doesn't start from a poor connection, it doesn't restore itself without some mechanical assistance, from at least a jiggle of the cables or something. If the symptoms are that it restarts without any other effort than cycling the ignition key, the solenoid contacts are a good possibility.
    Starlight's description of the solenoid is pretty good- a multiple clicking is from the voltage dropping below the hold-in point of the solenoid, and then once the load of the starter is released, the voltage rises enough to pull in the starter solenoid again, starting the whole cycle over.

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