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Old 01-04-2017, 01:49 AM   #1
510man
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Default Bad DB Electrical Starter?

I searched and read MANY posts on starting problems but I didn't see one specific to this issue. Hence, a new post.

I recently replaced the starter on my daughter's 2000 SC2 because the starter worked intermittently. When the starter wouldn't engage, there was total silence. No solenoid click. No multiple clicks (weak battery or bad connection). Dash lights and headlights were bright. No change when jumped. Hence, I replaced the presumed original starter. Problem solved.

Today, the car would not start. Turn the key and it clicks once, which should be the solenoid. In my experience, a single click means the ignition switch, clutch safety switch and relay are all working. Power would be going through the purple wire to the solenoid (not yet verified with a volt meter). Solenoid tries to engage the starter and......no go. We roll started the car to get it home. This is a bad starter, right? I replaced it 30 days ago.

I understand new doesn't always mean good in the world of electronics but I gotta think a failure like this is rare. What am I missing before I remove the starter and send it back to DB Electrical?

Thanks for any help.

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Old 01-04-2017, 02:50 AM   #2
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Be absolutely sure both battery cables are clean and free of corrosion and both chassis and engine ground connections are clean and free of corrosion. If in doubt about the battery, have it tested at any auto store selling car batteries. This eliminates the main power source to the starter. The ignition switch/starting circuit is more or less correct but verifying 12v at the small purple wire as long as the ignition switch is held in the START position eliminates the starting circuit. Refrain from assuming wires are fine by carefully inspecting all of them. There's always a possibility of a break in wiring that turns into an intermittent starting problem. To make things safer while under the car, disconnect battery negative first followed by disconnecting the purple START wire, then reconnect battery negative. The ignition switch can be cycled on and off as many times as necessary to ensure 12v is on the end of the START wire, verifying the starting circuit is fine. The last suspect is the starter if its intermittent.

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Old 01-04-2017, 12:34 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Agreed, the new starter being bad already is unlikely, possible but very unlikely.

With the original starting problem, did you do some voltage measurements down at the starter terminals? Was the failure persistent enough so those voltage tests could be conclusive? I suspect the answer is "no", and you threw a starter at it as a guess. Now it is time to do some real trouble-shooting.

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Old 01-05-2017, 09:03 AM   #4
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Purple wire measures 12.02 - 12.07v every time the ignition switch is moved to the start position. Further, voltage is zero when the clutch is not depressed indicating the clutch safety switch is working. Solenoid clicks once when turned to start position with clutch depressed, as it should. Starter motor never engages.

Tapped starter with a hammer. No change. Used a high amp jump start charger on the battery too. No change.

I believe I have a bad starter. :-(

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Old 01-05-2017, 09:08 AM   #5
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Bad starter or bad connection at the battery connection at the starter, or more likely, a bad starter solenoid.

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Old 01-05-2017, 11:31 AM   #6
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

The PPL wire isn't the only voltage you want to check.

Check voltage at the upper big terminal (where battery cable connects) relative to the starter case, make sure there is about 12V there, too, while trying to crank. No 12V? Then there is a problem with the power or ground to the starter; that may be anywhere in the paths from both battery terminals to the starter solenoid or case.

If you have 12V at the upper term, then check voltage at the lower one, where the strap going into the starter motor itself goes (again, relative to the starter case itself and while trying to crank). If you don't get 12V there, then the solenoid is bad. If you do get 12V at the lower big term, the basic motor is bad (brushes most likely).

These are fairly definitive tests, but if you have 12V on the upper big term, then the whole starter assembly usually has to be replaced, whether it is the motor or solenoid bad. You may not want to bother checking at the lower term. I'll stress again, make these voltage readings relative to the starter case; have one meter probe connected directly to the starter case and not to some other handy "ground" spot on the engine or chassis.

This may sound complicated, but only takes a few more seconds than just checking the PPL wire, once you are down there to check the PPL, and can assure you that you aren't just "throwing a starter at it".

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Old 01-14-2017, 10:49 AM   #7
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Tested the voltage at the positive terminal on the solenoid while turning the key to "start". Voltage exceeded 12V every time. That said, I assumed it was the starter and ordered another new one.

Installed the second new starter..........same thing! What? Bench tested the first new starter since it was now out of the vehicle. It took off fine with jumper cables. Net, bad battery cables!

The suggested test at the positive solenoid terminal while cranking showed 12V+ but that test, unfortunately, doesn't test amperage. The cable would carry 12V but wouldn't carry enough amps to engage the starter.

The lesson learned would be to follow the tests listed in the post. However, if the voltage is 12V at the solenoid terminal when the ignition is in the "start" position, do one final test, which would be to remove the starter and bench test it with jumper cables. Odds are good that my original starter was fine.

As for battery cables, any good source for OEM cables other than RockAuto? I say OEM because the positive cable has some pretty tight clearance with the air cleaner. There may be other alternatives others have used. Suggestions are appreciated.

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Old 01-14-2017, 11:16 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

I have repeatedly posted that BOTH the positive and negative cables must have the terminal bolts removed completely, they push out while being turned, and the plastic covers slid off the cable so the terminal end to cable crimp can be inspected for bluish-green corrosion. This is the sign of a previously leaking side post battery and there is no long term fix, the cable is scrap. If the terminal cover is molded to the cable and not removable those are aftermarket sub standard aluminum cables, they tend to have a high failure rate. A light white corrosion may be removed by hot water but if it is down into the copper wire is also going to return. Baking soda will not make it go away either.

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Old 01-14-2017, 11:40 AM   #9
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

I had to replace my positive main battery cable 4 years ago, 2 months of troubleshooting an intermittent no start finally revealed the battery cable had corroded down from the positive terminal under the red insulation. Looked great on the outside, until I cut the insulation away.

...
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Old 01-14-2017, 12:36 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

you can lead a horse to water............................

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Old 01-14-2017, 02:34 PM   #11
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Cables visibly look fine. No corrosion at all. I cleaned and greased the terminal connectors in an effort to prevent that problem shortly after buying the car. Cleaned them again during this troubleshooting process. The problem is evidently masked by the insulation as Ricketts described.

The positive terminal end was replaced with an aftermarket bolt-on repair before I owned the car. Looking back, that likely happened because the original positive cable terminal corroded beyond repair.

BTW, this problem could be on the ground side too. To that end, I'm just replacing both cables with OEM cables unless somebody has a better aftermarket solution. Old Nuc's post seems to support using OEM cables but they sure are spendy.

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Old 01-14-2017, 02:39 PM   #12
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by underthehood View Post
you can lead a horse to water............................
How is that relevant here? billr had the problem right early on. All the suggested testing was done and pointed to the starter. Nobody suggested a bench test with jumper cables, which is what found the likely problem. My brother suggested the bench test based on a similar problem on a boat engine. I came back and posted it to help the next person wrestling this problem.

Last edited by 510man; 01-14-2017 at 02:46 PM..

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Old 01-14-2017, 04:17 PM   #13
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

I gotta say... the procedure I outlined must not have been followed exactly, as it would have pin-pointed the problem as being in either the power or ground to the starter assembly. Did you check for 12V at the big (top) term while cranking? Did you have the other meter probe connected to the starter case, not engine, chassis, or battery while doing that? Checking while cranking ensures that heavy current will be drawn if the starter is OK. Connecting the other meter probe to the starter case checks both the power and ground cables. If that test had shown the 12V not holding up on the big term, then a bit more testing would be needed to determine if the problem was in the power or ground; but you never got that far.

Since you got 12V on the big term, and say it was "while trying to crank", did you hear a big clunk from the solenoid, did you test voltage on the lower big term? I'm guessing you didn't connect the other meter probe to the starter case...

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Old 01-14-2017, 06:11 PM   #14
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Both meter probes at the starter. It's easy to do since you're there already with the positive probe. I did move the ground probe to the tranny case, which made no difference. Tells me it's the positive cable. This is also the cable that had universal repair terminal at the battery.

Cables are 17 years old and weren't maintained very well by the POs. Replace them both and I'm good for longer than I'll likely own the car.

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Old 01-14-2017, 06:49 PM   #15
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 510man View Post
Both meter probes at the starter. It's easy to do since you're there already with the positive probe. I did move the ground probe to the tranny case, which made no difference. Tells me it's the positive cable. This is also the cable that had universal repair terminal at the battery.

Cables are 17 years old and weren't maintained very well by the POs. Replace them both and I'm good for longer than I'll likely own the car.
Anytime the starter will not crank and there is any cable repair part on either battery cable that will be the problem 99.9% of the time.

The procedure billr outlined will find a high resistance cable but it does take some experience to pull off. If the solenoid does not pull in then it will not be a definitive test, the solenoid must pull in completely. There are easier ways to do this but being under the car while doing it is highly discouraged and the number of people with a remote starter setup are few. A remote starter setup is a N.O. push button, 2 3-4' lengths of #14 stranded wire with a small and large alligator clip on the ends. The small clip on the purpler wire terminal and the large alligator clip on the battery post, or the bolt holding a side connector to the battery. Push button and if it does not crank then it is either battery cable or starter. You do this from above so if something goes wrong you do not get run over by your own car.

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Old 01-14-2017, 10:44 PM   #16
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

My no start issue was the most painful thing I have fixed (to date) on my turd. Of course it happened when it was -30 out, never in the summer. I methodically went through each point on the mental checklist, checking terminal tightness, tapping starter with a hammer, checking grounds, over a 2 month period. Every time it started, it would then work fine for 2 to 3 weeks, then suddenly act up again. Finally narrowed it down to tapping on the main power cable. I read that side terminal batteries were prone to corrosion leaching down inside the sheath, on a whim I cut it back and there is was, green for 3 inches. $42.00 for a new AC Delco cable was worth it. It was nice actually "knowing" that the solution was actually the right one.

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Old 01-15-2017, 07:03 AM   #17
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Ricketts: "It was nice actually "knowing" that the solution was actually the right one. "

Probably the most important thing I've learned here....."Confirm the Kill"

Congrats on your finding. Now you truly "know".

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Old 01-15-2017, 09:43 AM   #18
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Default Re: Bad DB Electrical Starter?

Some of the side post batteries GM/Saturn installed in these cars had a nasty tendency to leak acid.

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