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Intermittent starting issue that is driving me to madness

Paraphoe

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Hey all. I haven't been around in a while but rest assured, the truck is alive and well (mostly).

I'm hoping someone (anyone!) can help me out with a problem I've been having. Here goes:

During a very cold spell in December I accidentally left my aux lights on and then left on a business trip - killed the sh*t out of my battery. Try as I might, there was no way to bring it back to life. I replaced the battery with a brand new one, all good.

After the new battery was installed, I found that I could only get the truck started intermittently. A shop I took it to discovered that it was the starter solenoid acting up - I could put the key in the run position and bridge the leads on the solenoid and it would start right up.

So I buy a new relay and bring it to the shop. They replace the solenoid and now the truck won't start at ALL. Battery is fine, solenoid is fine. They switch back to the old solenoid. Still no luck. They trace it to the ignition switch. They replace the ignition switch, give me a new key, and go back to the new solenoid and everything is fine. Problem solved! Wheeeeee!

.....Fast forward to this past weekend, I take it in to get new tires mounted and balanced, go to pick it up and BOOM. Won't start again. Battery is fine, full health, can't jump it. What happens is, when I turn the key, I hear a single "click". Power to everything is fine, and I can't start it by jumping the solenoid either. Has to be the ignition switch again, right?

So this morning I get it towed to the shop who did the ignition switch. They pull it off the tow truck, push it into the bay, hop inside - BOOM - starts right up like nothing is wrong. They drive it around and test it all day, no problems. Starts up every time.

So at this point, I'm at a loss. Battery is fine, solenoid is fine. If it was a bad ignition switch or starter, it wouldn't magically work again with no explanation. Does anyone have ANY ideas or can offer any help? Does anyone know of an "ace" mechanic that specializes in electrical work in the Philadelphia area?

My thoughts: There has to be a wire broken inside somewhere. That's the only explanation I could think of for it not starting, then being jostled around on a flatbed and suddenly starting with no issues.

At this point, if it happens again, I'm going to get it towed to a Ford dealer and tell them to not call me back until they find the issue. I'm exasperated and this entire thing is maddening. I need this truck to be reliable. I can't worry about whether it's going to start or not every time I take it out. Any thoughts, suggestions, or help greatly appreciated....
 



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boominXplorer

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Replace the terminals and at least the ground cable. I had a similar issue that ended up being the ground cable.
 






Paraphoe

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Nice to see some "old school" guys still around!

Good thoughts, but I don't think it's battery related, unless I know less about vehicles than I think - the whole truck has power, lights are fine, cluster lights up, etc.

It happened AGAIN this morning. It started fine last night driving it home, it started fine this morning driving it to the barbershop, and then wouldn't start for the ride home. I'm going to get you guys some videos of exactly what is happening, but here's a summary:

I turn the key and there is a loud click from the starter solenoid mounted inside the engine bay (this is the solenoid, right? Is there a second one mounted on the starter motor?) - so I believe that is engaging as it should to kick power to the starter (also, if I bridge the terminals on the solenoid with the key in the run position, the truck still won't start, so in my unprofessional opinion, the solenoid is fine). So if the solenoid is engaging and sending power to the starter, would the logical conclusion to draw be that the starter itself is bad? My friend mentioned an immobilizer switch?
 






Mbrooks420

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Next time it happens shake the battery cables pretty good and see if it changes. There can be enough resistance in the cables that the accessories will power, but won’t let enough juice through to run the starter.
 






Paraphoe

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Here's a video from this morning of me turning the key repeatedly so you can hear the fender mounted solenoid clicking and see that everything is powered...

 






Mbrooks420

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Did you mess with the cables to see if it would start after?
 












Paraphoe

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Did you mess with the cables to see if it would start after?

Not yet, as soon as I get out of work I'm heading back to where it's stuck and will try this.

or neutral safety switch acting up?

This is a great thought, Tim. I'm doing some reading and it's very possible this could be the issue, but let me ask you this: if it WAS the neutral safety switch (NSS), would the power be able to get to the starter solenoid? Clearly power is making it to that component, so is the NSS after it in the circuit? I was thinking it was before...
 






Mbrooks420

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I would think the solenoid wouldn’t click if it were the safety switch. My Mounty fails to start once in awhile. I have an extra large capacity battery terminal that is missing an 8and 4guage wire, and doesn’t clamp as tight as it should. It’ll click every few weeks, and I have to wiggle the wires, and then it’ll start right up. Bought a terminal yesterday, have just been lazy.
 






delexploder

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I'm betting its the starter ,
 






Paraphoe

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Update: Got back to the truck - messing with the battery cables did not help. Put the truck in neutral and it also didn't crank. No change from this morning. Called for a second tow, getting it taken to my Local Ford dealer. Hoping it won't start when it gets there so they can actually diagnose the issue. Praying it's as simple as the starter or neutral safety switch and isn't a phantom broken wire which may be completely impossible the diagnose.
 






Mbrooks420

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Dealer? Ouch. A wire wouldn’t be a big deal, there’s not a lot involved in the starter circuit.
 






Paraphoe

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Dealer? Ouch. A wire wouldn’t be a big deal, there’s not a lot involved in the starter circuit.

Actually changed course this morning and am going with a different shop, but when you have an issue no one can seem to fix for 4 months, and it impacts the ability to use your vehicle and have any confidence that it will get you home, I'm sure you can understand me considering taking it to Ford.
 






Mbrooks420

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Surely. Intermittent Elwctrical issues are the worst.
 






FullBlownModz

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Sounds to me like either the solenoid is wired wrong, bad starter, or bad ground cable. Could possibly be a bad ignition relay?
 






Mbrooks420

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How could the solenoid be wired wrong if it works sometimes?
 






Paraphoe

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UPDATE: Well the shop called me back - they took it off the tow truck and sure enough, it fired right up again. He spent the entire day trying to get it to "fail". After the 14th trip around the block, it happened. They were able to trace the issue to simply a bad starter. If the starter was bad from the beginning, I still don't understand how changing the ignition switch solved the issue for 4 months, but he told me he's positive it's the start and the internals are a mess. So they're going to replace that and I guess I'll just cross my fingers that that finally puts this whole thing to bed...
 






FullBlownModz

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How could the solenoid be wired wrong if it works sometimes?
I accidentally wired my solenoid wrong one time, and it made the same click under the hood. Well, I guess it never started either though haha

UPDATE: Well the shop called me back - they took it off the tow truck and sure enough, it fired right up again. He spent the entire day trying to get it to "fail". After the 14th trip around the block, it happened. They were able to trace the issue to simply a bad starter. If the starter was bad from the beginning, I still don't understand how changing the ignition switch solved the issue for 4 months, but he told me he's positive it's the start and the internals are a mess. So they're going to replace that and I guess I'll just cross my fingers that that finally puts this whole thing to bed...
Glad they were able to find the problem!
 



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GRNMACHINE

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Jason,
any further probs? I am having a similar issue (very intermittent). purchased motorcraft switch SW-5016/F5TZ-11572-A last year and hope to get to it soon.... rarely drive the explorer anymore.
 






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