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Wierd electrical/ignition/starter/problem

Chris Harrach

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Greetings all,

Have a minor (I hope!) problem that started yesterday. When turning the key in the ignition, the engine dragged as if the battery was going bad. This is what I believed because I've had a bad battery before, & it sounded just like it. Finally today, I tried turning it and all I got was silence, and all the dash lights came on. No clicking sound, nothing. It was as if there was no power going from the ignition key switch to the starter. Repeated the process 4 times with same results. Finally I turned it and it came to life normally as if nothing was wrong. I immediatly had the battery replaced, got home, and 3 hours later I went out to check it and had the same problem AGAIN!! There was some lock/unlock action with the doors during this exercise. Is this any of the following problems:

1) Ignition switch gone bad?
2)Starter gone or going bad?
3)Ignition/Starter relay bad?
4)Bad wire or battery cable connection?

The battery & terminals are new as of 6:15 pm today and the alternator is new as of last November. I gave a boost off to a friend about a week ago. and up till then there had been no promlems. Since I've changed the battery, is there anything else that could have been damaged during this jump start I did?

Any ideas as to WHATS going on? All info and or solutions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Chris H.

1997 Eddie Bauer
Evplorer 4x4
 



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PAExplorerXLT

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Sounds just like what my son was experiencing with his Explorer (which I am driving now). Mysteriously and at random times, the engine would not turn over. Dead as a door nail. Nothing worked. But then for some reason it would come back to life. He later found out that it was the shift lever. Apparently, there is a so called neutral safety switch on the transmission housing that disconnects ignition if the selector is not in P. He would wiggle the shifter a bit and it would start. The problem ultimately went away when I had to replace the transmission.
 






Chris Harrach

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Neutral Safety Switch

Sounds just like what my son was experiencing with his Explorer (which I am driving now). Mysteriously and at random times, the engine would not turn over. Dead as a door nail. Nothing worked. But then for some reason it would come back to life. He later found out that it was the shift lever. Apparently, there is a so called neutral safety switch on the transmission housing that disconnects ignition if the selector is not in P. He would wiggle the shifter a bit and it would start. The problem ultimately went away when I had to replace the transmission.

Thanks for your reply. Please tell me that this switch can be replaced without having to replace the Transmission! I had read on the web that when this switch goes bad, that putting the transmission in Neutral will start it, which indicates the swith is bad. I tried that but there was nothing. So is this the problem or something else? Im stumped. It don't help that all my tools are about 11 miles away at my storage. :mad:

There is however a single CLICK when I try turning it over. It seems to be coming from the starter relay/solenoid, thats bolted to the inside left fender. It has a small red wire attached to it, and when disconnected, there's no CLICK at all. Does the fact that it's making a click when I try to turn the engine, indicate that the relay is working properly?
 






swshawaii

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Connection checked at the solenoid on the starter? Disconnect the battery FIRST, then remove the terminal cover.
 






PAExplorerXLT

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The neutral switch can be replaced on its own, if that is the problem. In our case, there was NOTHING. No clicks, now sound of any kind. For a while we thought it might be the anti-theft feature or something.
 






Chris Harrach

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Upper connections checked

Connection checked at the solenoid on the starter? Disconnect the battery FIRST, then remove the terminal cover.

I've removed & cleaned all the connections on top (battery terminals, cables, and starter relay) If it wasnt clean before, it is now. Still nothing except the single CLICK from the starter relay on the fender. I'm now checking for any signs of rodent damage to the wires, since I found that a 4 legged SOB had helped themselves to a portion of my insulation around the A/C & Heater core housing. :eek: (There's a lot of squirels & chipmonks around here. Even a few mice.:thumbdwn: ) But that was a month ago and I've checked daily for further incursions, but none so far.

As soon as I can get my tools here tomorrow, I'll check under the vehicle, Starter will be #1 place to start. Right now, I'm checking the ignition switch and the steering column for any wires that may be a cause of this problem.
 






Chris Harrach

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Anti Theft

The neutral switch can be replaced on its own, if that is the problem. In our case, there was NOTHING. No clicks, now sound of any kind. For a while we thought it might be the anti-theft feature or something.

You know, I ran across a thread on this forum that refered to that. I suppose it's not outside the realm of possabilities. Especially since the door lock engage/disengage after every 5 or 6 tries at the ignition switch. I was able to get it started once this morning, but since then nothing works. All I get is the loud single CLICK from the starter relay. Wiggling the shift lever & ignition switch give no results.:(
 






sgully67

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Since the fender mounted relay is clicking your problem is not the neutral safety. Power goes through the neutral safety before that relay. You have three possible problem areas.

1. Bad contacts in fender mounted relay. Check for power at the 2 larger studs. one should have power all the time the other should have power when trying to start. If no power when trying to start relay is bad.

2. Bad ground connection at engine. Follow negative battery cable down to were it attaches to engine and make sure it clean and tight.

3. No power to starter or bad starter. Larger connection power all the time. Smaller connection (wire from fender mounted relay) power when trying to start. If powers are present your starter is bad.
 






Dave 1955

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Connection checked at the solenoid on the starter? Disconnect the battery FIRST, then remove the terminal cover.

Yep..that push on one can be the problem.Bish to get at with your hand but can be done.
 






Chris Harrach

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:rangerred:
Yep..that push on one can be the problem.Bish to get at with your hand but can be done.

Hey Dave1955. I just crawled out from under truck. Can't find any damaged wires, but the top of the starter is in a damn tight place. From where I'm laying, there's no way to see up on top, and Im not familiar with how it connects. Trying to feel by hand isnt a lot of help. Not sure what/where the terminal cover is.
 






Chris Harrach

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Since the fender mounted relay is clicking your problem is not the neutral safety. Power goes through the neutral safety before that relay. You have three possible problem areas.

1. Bad contacts in fender mounted relay. Check for power at the 2 larger studs. one should have power all the time the other should have power when trying to start. If no power when trying to start relay is bad.

2. Bad ground connection at engine. Follow negative battery cable down to were it attaches to engine and make sure it clean and tight.

3. No power to starter or bad starter. Larger connection power all the time. Smaller connection (wire from fender mounted relay) power when trying to start. If powers are present your starter is bad.

I checked the connectiom at the fender relay, & even replaced it with a new one. It's operating as you described it should: Constant power at the lower connection, power at the top when trying to start I got it to crank up once this morning, Cut it off after 20 minutes, then back to "CLICK" & silence after that. Will try to check for power at the starter connection.
 






Chris Harrach

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Advice on how to remove starter? Starter problems

OK, I've checked the power at all the relative connections and I have power where I should at the times I should. There is power at the starter (The big RED wire) and I assume there is power at the small RED wire, but I cant maneuver around to it. Also, the end of the wire seems to end in a plastic plug or shroud. Cant get a mirror on top to stay in place to shine a light into it to show whats there. I could only see 2 mounting bolts where the starter attaches to the housing, a top & bottom one. Are these the only 2 or is there a 3rd one I dont know about? Im pretty sure the starter needs replacing as it's the original OEM. (1996/1997). Thank's to all who've helped me with this.:salute:

P.S. Can starters be Tested like Alternators? May sound like a silly question, but I'd like to know. Thanks.
 






sgully67

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Yes starters can be bench tested
 












Chris Harrach

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Relay wire "Plugged" into starter.


Thanks for the info. It's greatly appreciated. The starter is loose and ready to drop EXCEPT for one thing: The small RED wire attached to the starter & running to the relay on the fender, is "Plugged", for lack of a better term, into the starter. The wire ends in a black plastic plug and I cant see any way of "Unplugging" it from the solenoid. Should I just cut the wire, or will I need this plug like thing for the new starter?

Update: Found a small tab on the back side of the plug (Yes. it was a plug) depressed it and off the wire came. Seems to be what I think is called a SPADE connection. It slid off a flat metal connector.
 






RomeovilleIL

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That wire is not plugged into the starter. It is held on with a nut. Pry off the black plastic cover, then unbolt the nut and pull the wire.
 






Chris Harrach

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Problem NOT solved. Worse!

Got old starter off, new starter connected & mounted. Was able to crank truck and I thought my troubles were over. Unfortunately, the truck wouldnt start a second time. This time the symptoms were a rapid CLICKING sound from fender mounted relay and that was all. Went back and checked all my connections, but something drained the battery all the way down in about 20-25 minutes. Now there's no power at all. Positive battery terminal was very warm to the touch when I disconnected the battery. Not extreme, but I know that WARM wasn't a good sign. I'm totally baffled, not to mention frustrated to distraction. What the hell happened, or better yet, IS happpening?
Any ideas????
 






stickboy

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A quick and simple test to see if it's the neutral safety switch (may not always work, but often times it does). If the truck doesn't turn over in park, try putting it in neutral. If it cranks over, it's likely the NSS. I have this problem on mine, but haven't gotten around to replacing it yet.
 






Chris Harrach

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Bench testing starters.

Yes starters can be bench tested


A quick question. I'm taking my starter in to be bench tested today. The original one I took off the truck failed a bench test & I replaced it. However, continuing problems are forcing me to go and have the replacement tested as well. My question is simple: A starter may work properly "bench-tested" however to know how much the starter draws under load, isn't that normally determined only when in the car, and it's able to start?
 



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sgully67

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While I think some if not all bench testers can check starter draw it would be more accurate to do an in car test. Since the positive terminal is getting warm to the touch the system is definitely drawing to much. New starter may be bad, wouldn't be the first time I've seen it happen, or possible bad cable either positive or negative. When you get a starter back in I'd suggest you do a voltage drop test on the cables.
 






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