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Old 09-17-07, 08:46 AM   #1
dabsabre
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YACT: help diagnose my car problem

okay, this has been going on for awhile and 2 local garages can't figure it out. sometimes when I go to start my car, I turn the key and nothing happens. it doesn't try to turn over like the battery is dead. the radio, power windows, headlights, etc.. all come on just fine. sometimes I'll get one "click", but not multiple clicks like it might be a bad starter/alternator.

when it did it this summer, I took it into a garage. they first said one of the battery cables was bad so they replaced it. about 2 weeks after that, it happened again and they couldn't find anything when they looked at it again. they tested the charge on the battery and didn't find anything wrong but did say they had seen some issues like this in the Texas heat with those cheap Walmart batteries. I got it replaced at Pep Boys (probably middle of July) with a new battery but the problem started happening again about 2 weeks ago. I needed a jump and it seemed to be okay for a few weeks before I went out yesterday. The car wouldn't start so we took a different car. But when I got ready to leave for work this morning, it started just fine.

It's a 2000 Ford Escort ZX2 if it makes a difference.

it happened about a year ago as well and another garage dropped in the aforementioned cheap Walmart battery and that seemed to fix things until it started up again this summer.

any ideas?
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Old 09-17-07, 08:53 AM   #2
Mrs. Danger
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My guess would be a loose connection in the steering column, or somewhere else between the key and the starter.

Fiddling with the battery wires may be just enough to close the connection.
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Old 09-17-07, 08:54 AM   #3
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Is it a stick? If so, it sounds like maybe the clutch safety is not working (clutch must be in to start the car so you don't start it in gear).
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Old 09-17-07, 08:58 AM   #4
al_bundy
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could be a bad starter or a bad alternator not recharging the battery
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Old 09-17-07, 10:00 AM   #5
4KRG
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It could also be a corrorded contact somewhere in the connections between the battery/ alternator/ starter somwhere. I would trace out where all the cables connect these devices, disconnect and clean them and reconnect and make sure they are all tight.

Having a 'new' battery that operates at 90% capacity can produce enough current to 'jump' the weak connection. As the battery ages a bit and loses some current, it can't 'jump' that weak connection and you get nothing. I bet if you held the key on for 3-4 minutes while the nothing was happening, the car would suddenly start.
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Old 09-17-07, 10:35 AM   #6
ANDREMIKE
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so the battery is not dead.... when this happens? Its probably in the ignition... or the clutch as someone pointed out.

What happens when you turn tyhe key? Do the lights come on on the dash board but it just doesn't turn over? Try replacing the starter. its not the alternator if the battery is charged.
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Old 09-17-07, 11:17 AM   #7
dabsabre
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yeah, it's not a stick so we can rule out the clutch.

all the dash lights (battery, etc..) and the radio, headlights, domelight, power windows all function when I turn the key.. it just dosn't start.. it doesn't try to even turn over.. I just turn the key and it's like nothing happens. I can go out again in a little while and try and start it and everything's fine.

I've looked at the battery connections but I'll check out the other ones as well.
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Old 09-17-07, 11:34 AM   #8
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Do you have a voltmeter? See what the charge is on the battery when the car won't start. A problem with the charging system (regulator, or whatever) could be leaving your battery at partial charge: enough to turn on the lights but not enough to drive the starter motor.

A short somewhere could cause the same thing. The battery getting drained while the car is parked. If you want to troubleshoot this, you'll need an ammeter to find out if there's current going someplace while the car is turned off.

It sounds like a nasty problem to track down, besides being intermittent. But I think the second garage was trying to get rid of you without putting in any effort.
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Old 09-17-07, 11:37 AM   #9
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My two guesses:

1) You have a loose contact in your steering column somewhere (as someone else previously mentioned). Try shaking your steering wheel next time maybe?

2) You may have a bad starter solenoid/relay.
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Old 09-17-07, 11:43 AM   #10
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Your gunkulator valve is stuck in the open position.
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Old 09-17-07, 01:41 PM   #11
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Since it's an automatic, could also be a flaky neutral safety switch - the switch that makes sure you can't start the car in anything other than park or neutral. Try shifting in & out of park if it happens again, & see if it suddenly works.
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Old 09-17-07, 01:53 PM   #12
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I am having the exact same problem with my Tacoma. First time was a couple of months ago, than my 2nd time happened last wk. I was going to take it in and just have them run a diagnostics on it. They were thinking maybe an electrical thing... starter and battery are fine.
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Old 09-17-07, 01:55 PM   #13
Jeeden
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dabsabre
yeah, it's not a stick so we can rule out the clutch.

all the dash lights (battery, etc..) and the radio, headlights, domelight, power windows all function when I turn the key.. it just dosn't start.. it doesn't try to even turn over.. I just turn the key and it's like nothing happens. I can go out again in a little while and try and start it and everything's fine.

I've looked at the battery connections but I'll check out the other ones as well.
ok, not a stick. A couple of other choices to add to everyone else's:

1. Is there some sort of security lockout? I know it's a escort, but is there one of those keychain chips you must put in a slot to start the thing? Sometimes those are mounted low and get kicked and crack and get a bad connection.

2. On the note of someone else's idea...do you have a ton of keys and keychains on your key ring? If so, the ignition switch could be loose in the steering column.

Also, even though it's not a stick, try wiggling the gear shifter while it's in park. There is still a lockout on the gate that tells the car it's not in gear. Eliminate this possibility by holding the key in the "start" position while you jostle the gear shifter in park.

Last edited by Jeeden; 09-17-07 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 09-17-07, 02:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeeden
1. Is there some sort of security lockout? I know it's a escort, but is there one of those keychain chips you must put in a slot to start the thing? Sometimes those are mounted low and get kicked and crack and get a bad connection.
I have one. The light switch needs to be pulled into high beam position when turning the ignition. It was like that when I bought it six yrs ago...so I don't know why it'd be acting up now. But that sounds like the most likely problem at this point...ya think?
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Old 09-17-07, 02:06 PM   #15
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put it in "H"
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Old 09-17-07, 03:04 PM   #16
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At first glance - sounded like a dirty connection at the battery.... but if they replaced the cables and the battery - I have nothing to add
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Old 09-18-07, 12:06 PM   #17
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Got a delayed response when I turned the ignition this morning... it wouldn't have started tomorrow so I took it straight to the shop. I'll let you know what the problem was... probably starter.
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Old 09-18-07, 01:34 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artman
I have one. The light switch needs to be pulled into high beam position when turning the ignition. It was like that when I bought it six yrs ago...so I don't know why it'd be acting up now. But that sounds like the most likely problem at this point...ya think?

My wife had the exact same symptoms on her Saturn. We had to take it in twice for service, but they said it was the security system. For some reason the engine immobilizer was kicking in when it shouldn't have been. We sold the car shortly after the second time it was fixed, so I really can't say if it was finally resolved.
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Old 09-18-07, 01:58 PM   #19
Heat
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One of my cars was having a similar problem just a couple weeks ago.

I also had checked the connections on the battery and they were OK. What the problem ended up being was the connection between the cable and the ring that slides over the battery terminal.

Try these steps:

1. Disconnect the negative terminal. With one side of a pair of jumper cables, hook one onto the negative terminal and the other to the car's body, see if it works. If not, try a few other places around the engine. If it works then there's a problem with your negative cable.

2. Clean the negative terminal with a terminal cleaner (from Autozone or Pepboys, etc).

3. Reattach the negative cable and take off the positive cable. Now take apart the cable from the ring that slides over the terminal, it should just be a couple bolts. Move the wire around with your fingers, put it back and tigten it back down. Clean the terminal. Reattach the cable. See if the car starts.

That's the point where my car was fine again.
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Old 09-18-07, 02:19 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heat
One of my cars was having a similar problem just a couple weeks ago.

I also had checked the connections on the battery and they were OK. What the problem ended up being was the connection between the cable and the ring that slides over the battery terminal.
On my old car, it ended up being a corroded connection at the starter itself. It was fixed by replacing a 25 cent copper washer at the starter.
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Old 09-18-07, 02:27 PM   #21
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Was the battery load tested? It could have a bad cell in the battery, that will only show up when there is a heavy amp draw on the battery(like when starting). I have had the exact same thing happen, ended up having to take the battery(not that old) back for replacement after replacing a starter/solenoid and rebuilding an alternator and still having the problem.
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Old 12-20-07, 07:37 AM   #22
dabsabre
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well, I get the starter replaced over the summer and everything was fine until a few days ago.

2 days ago, I turned the key and it wouldn't start. there wasn't a clicking noise, and it didn't try to turn over like it might be a bad battery.. the same thing as before: you turn the key and nothing happens.. the radio, lights, electric windows, etc.. all operate but the car doesn't even attempt to turn over. I tried again about 30 minutes later and everything was fine.

this morning, it starts just fine but the stupid thing refuses to shift out of park. I tried fiddling with the shifter but it would not shift out of park. is there something weird going on in the steering column?
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Old 12-20-07, 03:14 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirk
Since it's an automatic, could also be a flaky neutral safety switch - the switch that makes sure you can't start the car in anything other than park or neutral. Try shifting in & out of park if it happens again, & see if it suddenly works.
This sounds right. The latest post about trouble shifting out of park is possibly related. My #2 theory is flaky ignition switch.
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