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New Battery And Car Won't Start ...


bcarey
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Here's my story.

 

I last drove the car this summer, after which it sat several months, battery disconnected, while I slowly pieced together a new radiator/water pump/hoses/etc (I'm new at this and have a toddler, so a combination of little free time and taking double to get things done). 

 

Last week I finished all the work and put the battery back in the car. I started it up to make sure that the fan was clearing the new radiator, then shut it off 30 seconds later to add coolant. Although it started up pretty easily, the first time, I got nothing the second time, nor the next day. No "rrr rrr rrr", just a single "click" sound from the engine bay.

 

The battery was a little old, so I bought a new 51R from Costco. (I know it's not quite the right fit, but it's got enough cranking power to fire up our cars.) I put that in tonight, and still nothing. Just the click. I checked the ground and the connection to the starter, and cleaned up the contacts at both, and still nothing, just the click.

 

Am I missing something obvious? Do I need a new starter? Something else?

 

I'd appreciate any help. 

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I would first try pushing the car in gear (2nd gear is easier) for about one or two feet to get a different spot on the flywheel and starter, then put it in neutral and try starting it with the key as normal.

 

If you still don't get any response other than the click, then it's either the starter, the wiring to and from the ignition switch or the ignition switch itself.

 

You can eliminate the ignition switch and the wiring by using a jumper wire at the starter, between the positive (coming from the battery positive cable to the starter) and the spade on the starter solenoid.

 

If the engine does not turn over then, it's most likely the starter.

 

Regards, Maurice.

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Try in neutral also. Could be the neutral safety switch. Maybe. You checked both ends of the ground, right? With your key on, are the headlamps bright? What happens if you try starting with the lights on?

 

Also there's a seatbelt interlock switch in some years. Sometimes they start working again. That's all I know

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Bjorn:

 

I've never dealt with an automatic that way (to move the flywheel and starter to a different point) but the second part will work regardless (jumper between those two terminals).

 

However, now that you mention that you have an automatic, I would also try to eliminate the neutral safety switch which is found on any (AFAIK) automatic.

 

One way to start down that road is to first try to start the car with the key (as you normally do) but put the selector switch in "N" (neutral), instead for the normal "P" (park).  If you still get nothing but a click, try to start it by keeping the key turned all the way (i.e., as when the engine normally cranks) and, with you other hand move the selector lever around the "P" (i.e., jiggle it forward and backward around the P) and then try the same procedure by moving it to and around the "N".  If it "catches" and starts to turn the engine over, you will probably have to repair or replace the neutral safety switch.

 

Regards, Maurice.

 

P.S., Although it's unlikely that it would ever "catch" in anything other than around "P" or "N", just to be safe, make sure that there is some room in front of the car when trying this procedure (and no one standing in front of it).

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Thanks for all the advice, all.

I tried rolling it a few feet, starting in neutral, seatbelt on, etc, and the same problem persists. Now, though, the headlights won't come on (and today the left stalk broke off from the column, the problems keep piling on!). They did come on with the previous older battery. Do I have a new problem, or is it possible my new battery is junk/too small?

I don't have the tools to do the jumper option, but I guess that's my next step.

Thanks again for your help. I was planning a nice drive for this weekend to test out the other work I've done, so being stuck in my garage is a little discouraging.

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Hi Ray,

 

I'll give all my connections another look, but I scrubbed all the points yesterday. I'm getting instrument and parking lights to turn on, so some juice is getting through. I loaned out my voltmeter, so I'll have to wait a day or two before I can check the voltage/amperage.

 

The thing that still gets me is that it started just fine one minute, and then nothing the next.

 

Thanks again for all your patience.

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Welcome to the wonderful world of electronics. Its not like water pipes, where the flow may gradually taper off. With wires, it may work to a point than quit suddenly. The cables may be corroded inside, or frayed at the ends. A quick test is to see if you get battery voltage at the starter end of the big cable. I usually charge new batteries just in case. You might try that. But if low draw items work and high ones don't, you're not getting enough voltage into the system.

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grab a cheap test light* and pull the starter trigger wire (smallest one on the starter), connect the test light to it and see if it lights up when the key is turned to the start position. 

 

* or make one up with a bulb, possibly bulb socket and some random wire as required

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Just a quick update. I got my charger and voltmeter back last night. Charged the battery to 13+, and still no headlights. (Wipers, instrument cluster, running lights etc work.) I checked the voltage from the battery to the end of each cable as suggested above, and got readings that were also in the 13+ range. Cleaned terminals and contacts and still nothing; no headlights, and just the click when I turn the ignition.

 

I might swap the battery cables this week, on the off chance that the reading at the ends of the cables was incorrect. (I might have done it wrong. What's the procedure?)

 

The weird thing is that everything fired up fine before I added coolant to the radiator. Then the trouble started. I thought perhaps the engine lurching for the first time in months on that initial start could have dislodged something, perhaps at the alternator, so I checked and wiggled as many wires as I could. 

 

Any thoughts other than this? It seems I have a more fundamental issue than just a potentially toasted starter... 

 

I'm really grateful for all your help.

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It could be related to your recent work, or it could be coincidence. Its happens. Battery seems healthy, so next step is wiring. You're not getting full power to the circuits. Did you disassemble the front battery connection and clean each terminal? Next I'd replace the battery to starter main cable. It may be showing voltage, but not able to pass full amps. Make sure the small brown wire from the alternator is solid and attached to the engine. Check connection of red wire on back of alt. (all these with ground strap removed of course)

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