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Old 05-29-2004, 11:22 PM   #1
djsep
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Unhappy Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

Ok...I'm not much of a mechanic, but I try. I own a 1980 Toyota Celica that's been sitting around for a while. Basically the car will not start. I thought it may have been just the battery so I replaced it. It still will not start. I don't even get a click when I turn the key. The headlights DO come on. At this point I just need to know where to start looking for the problem. I'm thinking of starting with the easiest parts first: Distributor Cap & Rotor, Spark Plugs & Wires. Am I starting in the right place? Or does it go deeper than that? Like the Starter or the Ignition Coil or something else? What is the best way to pinpoint the problem? Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you in advance.
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Old 05-30-2004, 10:52 PM   #2
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Make sure the battery is good. that current is getting to alternator & starter, use a test light, meter, or ground probe. start their, then move on, it takes spark & gas..........good luck.
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Old 05-31-2004, 03:52 AM   #3
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I think that we need a clearer explanation of what the problem is? Describe exactly what you are doing and exactly what the car is or is not doing? What sounds do you hear? Does the engine even crank? If the engine doesn't crank-over, focus your attention on that first. If those 24 year old battery cables are badly corroded, I'd replace them first before doing anything else. Corroded battery cables would allow the 5 or so amps of power to go to the lights, but not the 60 or so amps to go to the starter. Let us know what you find so that we all can learn something from your experience.

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Old 06-01-2004, 01:58 AM   #4
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

Hey Jimmyd2,
The battery is definitely good cause I just bought it. I didn't have a tester, but all I know is the headlight works.
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Old 06-01-2004, 02:15 AM   #5
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

Hey Doug,
My car doesn't do anything at all. No sound. Not even when I try to crank the engine....nothing. I thought at first it may have been the battery that's why I replaced that first. I don't know if I replace the spark plugs, wires, distributor cap, and rotor first if it would fix the problem. Shouldn't I at least be able to crank the engine even if any of the parts I mentioned were bad? I'm thinking it's the starter but I don't want to go and spend money on something I didn't need. Any suggestions?
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Old 06-01-2004, 03:38 AM   #6
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Don't be spending any money on parts not associated with the inability of the engine to crank-over. You've got to correct that problem first. Have you checked the condition of the battery cables? If the cables look okay (as in NO Corrosion what-so-ever) and there are no loose connections, try jumping the starter directly with cables from the battery to the starter. If the starter doesn't crank when power is connected directly to it, then it's defective. If the starter cranks okay, look up which relay is the starter relay. Unplug it. You'll have to use a volt meter or test light. Have someone turn the ignition switch to the start position. Is power getting to the starter relay circuit? If the answer is No, check the fuses. If the fuses are okay, run a test wire from the positive battery terminal to the starter relay contacts (what the relay plugs into) and see if the starter cranks. (*to know which wire to touch, look at the color of the small wire at the starter. That same color wire goes to the starter relay. That's the wire to touch to make the starter crank.) If the starter cranks by doing that, and your test light or voltmeter shows current when the switch is in the start position, then you have a defective relay. If no power was going to the relay when the ignition switch was in the start position, then you probably have a defective ignition switch or loose connection somewhere.

Buy the Haynes or similar car repair manual that has the electrical schematic diagram for your particular car. All the wires are color coded. You can compare the color code in the manual with what you have in your car. If nothing else, you'll know where the wires are supposed to be running from and where they are supposed to be going to....that is unless someone has butchered the wiring. Actually, it wouldn't be too difficult to figure out how to run some newer wiring...if it comes to it.
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Old 06-01-2004, 07:36 AM   #7
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

I know it sounds daft but did you charge your new battery up, new batteries come with a minimal amount of charge in them, enough to light the bulbs but not enough to turn the engine over?
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Old 06-01-2004, 09:48 PM   #8
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

nialusa, you're right about the batteries. New batteries come dry. Acid is supposed to be added to the full mark. The battery is supposed to be allowed to sit for one hour, and then be charged to full charge. Acid is again supposed to be added to bring the acid level up to exactly the full mark. Anything added after that would only be water. I keep using the word "supposed," because the average shop only adds the acid the first time, and puts the battery on the shelf for sale. That's why when you get a new battery, the acid level is usually too low. The gallon of acid I bought 20 years ago still serves it purpose to top-off any new batteries I bought through the years. However, this probably isn't what djsep's problem is. Be nice if it was.

Last edited by Doug Rodrigues; 06-16-2004 at 10:46 PM.
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Old 06-03-2004, 01:32 AM   #9
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

Thanks Doug. I will try your suggestion this weekend. Hopefully this is going to be an easy fix. I'd hate to spend more than I have to.
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Old 06-03-2004, 01:57 AM   #10
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

Yeah, just go slow, think logically and have the car in neutral so you don't run-over yourself when you "bump" the starter. Hey, that brings up another situation: I don't know if you car has a safety switch to where the clutch has to be pushed-in before the starter circuit is complete? You may have to bridge that switch too while someone operates the ignition switch. That would be another one to check IF the starter cranks over when you "bump" it. (* On the newer Toyotas there is an override button on the panel which will allow the starter to bypass that safety switch. See if your car has one of those. That switch was put there in the event that the safety switch became defective.) Or if you have an automatic transmission, there is a switch which will only allow the starter to crank in Park or Neutral. Both switches are easy to find. That switch would be between the relay and the starter.

When it comes to "bumping" the starter over, all you need are a couple of 10 gauge wires about 10 feet long. The Negative wire would be held against the starter body. The Positive wire would be touched against the small wire terminal at the starter, or even the large positive terminal on the starter. A large clamp on each wire to connect them to the battery would be nice unless you can have someone hold them on the battery terminals. Radio Shack sells large enough clamps for a couple of dollars.

My gut feeling is that your battery cables are probably corroded. I hope that it's that simple.
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Old 06-11-2004, 11:20 AM   #11
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try checking the timing also
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Old 06-11-2004, 08:06 PM   #12
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Starting Problem

I also have a starting problem. I bought a '97 Buick Regal in 2003. It had 50,000 miles on it and I put on another 25,000. I replaced the battery, water pump, and alternater since last December. Beginning in March, whenever I drive in the rain and turn the car off and then try to restart, it won't start. There usually is just a "click" coming from under the dash when it won't start. I have many times turned and held the key in the start position for up to 5 minutes and all at once the starter kicks in. Today I tried it twice for 15 minutes each and it's dead!

I have had the car to a dealer (of course on dry days when it starts) and they found nothing.

Any suggestions before I just start replacing starter, key cylinder, and other electronics?

Dan
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Old 06-12-2004, 12:43 PM   #13
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dmoen,
You're just going to have to work backwards from the starter using the same logical systematic process of elimination as djsep. Have a couple of 10 gauge wires available so that when the starter fails to crank you can immediately test to see if it will bump-over. If the starter does bump-over, then you've already eliminated that problem. If it doesn't bump-over, then you know that the starter is no good. Instead of looking at the system as a whole confusing circuit, divide it up into smaller sections to be tested. It's easier to trouble shoot that way, but always think logically rather just "trying something." If the starter didn't bump-over, what wire in that circuit connected to the starter would make it turn? Track that wire back to the source and again logically determine why power isn't feeding through that wire.

But again back to the basics: Check for corroded battery cables. djsep's cables are 25 years old! They've got to be corroded! How do yours look? Are the terminals tight? Do you have a volt meter? How many volts at a full charge? Is it getting a charge? If your battery is fully charged, what does the volt meter show when you move your ignition switch to the start position? Does it show less than 9 volts? If it does, then the starter is probably no good, but that's easy to fix. Starters are simple. Just cleaning the gap between the commutator segmets of old brush material and installing new brushes will make it turn like brand new, that is unless you've held power to the starter too long and the solder got thrown-off the connections in the armature from overheating. So many different things you can check, but begin with bumping the starter over first IF your battery and cables are in good condition.

Oh, by the way....the key cylinder isn't the ignition switch. The key cylinder turns the ignition switch which is the electrical part of the starting circuit. That's why car thieves use a body-pull slide hammer to pop the key part out, and then use a flat blade screwdriver to turn the electrical part of the switch. Ever see that old movie "Gone in 60 seconds." ? Your car can be gone in 30 seconds without trying too hard. Anyway, without too much trouble, if you have access to a functional ignition switch...say...from a wrecking yard?...you can simply unplug each connection and temporarily attach your second switch without tearing your steering column apart. Another benefit to removing an ignition switch from a wrecked car at the salvage lot is that it becomes a learning experience. IF your ignition switch was defective, and IF you have to replace it, you can make any mistakes on that salvaged car before you start making any mistakes on your own vehicle.
Some mistakes cannot be fixed. Learn on that wrecked car first and save yourself some potential grief, plus get a functional switch at a fraction of the dealer prices. However, ignition switches rarely go bad so don't jump to the conclusion that I'm recommending that you change the switch. Go through your checks first.

Last edited by Doug Rodrigues; 06-16-2004 at 10:49 PM.
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Old 06-15-2004, 12:52 AM   #14
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Re: Need help troubleshooting a starting problem.

Just get a test light and disconet the smaller wire goinfg to the starter. there should be two wires going to starter, one smaller and one big from battery. unplug the small wire and have somebody turn key switch to start position and hold there wkhile you see if the test light lights up on the smaller wire. byrdman
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Old 06-15-2004, 09:41 PM   #15
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Yes, that would be one of many tests....but how would this test for high resistance in corroded battery cables, or high resistance in the starter?
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