Explorer Starter Just Clicks

Contributed by drbob

Well, it did it to me again. Second time in almost seven years and for the exact same thing -- the battery cable.

As many know or have experienced the OEM positive battery cable on the early cars is a weak spot. Symptoms are the same as a starter failure, where everything works but the starter just clicks. The first time it happened years ago I was a few blocks from home so I walked home. This time I was two miles from home in the rain! Guessing at the problem I donned one of the plastic trash bags that live in the jack compartment now and crawled under to attach a jumper cable to the starter solenoid. With the other end on the battery positive, it started just fine and got me home. Just a little wet but no worse.

The Ford store was closed but the local Pep Boys had a replacement that isn't quite as beefy as the one it replaced. 6ga vs what looks like 4ga on the original/replacement from Ford. But it is available and it's also only $20 (vs $65 reported by others here). In it went and the car starts fine again.

Being the brilliant engineer that I am, I of course set off on a way to improve the cable. I think that when/if it fails again, the solution will be a standard cable from the battery to the starter relay and a separate switch-to-starter cable from the relay to the solenoid. There's a 14ga wire from the relay to actuate the solenoid, so that will get fabricated separately, then bundled into the accordion shield for the trip down to the starter. I like the tinned marine cable with soldered/heat shrink connections for this as opposed to the exposed crimps on the replacement I put in. There's also a real temptation to reroute the cable across the front of compartment at the lower radiator support, then take it back under the driver's side frame rail to the starter... maybe.

So -- stranded twice by the exact same problem years apart! What are the odds.

Contributed by Dennis Fowler

I have seen many similar problems over the years (decades) with corroded cables, many times inside the jacket itself where it wasn't apparent. Rescued a few damsels-in-distress also (sadly, didn't get turned into prince charming for the effort).

As an engineer, I would think twice about the tinned cables with compression (crimped) fittings. My industrial experience has been that we *never* tin leads with crimped connectors. Much more prone to fatigue failure in high vibration applications. Even with a soldered connector I have experienced failures where flexing or vibration is present.

Replacing the OEM stuff with a better gauge and routing would be beneficial IMHO. Let's face it, the engineer's who designed this had the bean counter bellowing over their shoulders to shave a half cent or more off the cost, so routing to save a few inches adds up over 400,000 vehicles.


Contributed by Patrick

dr bob, you seem like the type that might consider this. First as you pointed out the 6 ga. is a little light. When your battery is getting low the extra resistance might mean you don't start that time. Also for the life of the starter during each start you're getting a little less voltage. For the same load you'll pass more current, which is not good. So you might want to try welding cable. With their fine strands and soft drawn copper they even make outstanding jumper cables. You can finish them off with high quality crimp connectors with gel filled heat shrink boots. You might have to get the connectors at a welding shop because although they are rated as 4 ga. they take a connector with a slightly larger id. Now what's this about the next time it happens? We're expecting you soon to be behind the wheel of a '99 black 5.4L Expedition.




Added December 7, 1998

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