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Intermittent starting problem


Guest imported_TheColossusofRoads

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Guest imported_TheColossusofRoads

First let me say that the problem in question is not with one of my Buicks (I have two, a 1985 LeSabre Collectors Edition and a 1996 PA Ultra) but it's very annoying just the same.

My 1964 Impala SS generally starts without hesitation and runs fine, but all too frequently now it will do absolutely nothing when I turn the key. The ammeter needle goes deep to the minus side when I try start it. Each time this happens if I get a jump from a good battery it will turn over instantly. I've changed the ignition switch in the dash, the + and - battery cables are nearly new, and two different batteries have been in the vehicle during this period. The problem has been present when the engine is either hot or cold.

I've been reluctant to use the car much this cruising season because I never know when it'll act up, but thankfully (I guess) it does start each time when jumped.

Where would you suggest I start looking for a cure to this problem ? Anything come to mind that others here have experienced? I'm in my mid 60's and don't have a lift in the garage, so most of my tinkering is limited to the "upstairs" part of the car.

Thanks for any tips.

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Sounds like you have a constant drain on the battery. Recently I had an open circuit in my transistorized voltage regulator on one of my 69's. It was pulling 7 volts when the car was off.

Disconnect the negative battery terminal and then with everything off, put a volt meter between the negative cable and the negative battery terminal. If you have a draw at all it ought to show up. Then you just have to find it.

Good luck

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Guest imported_TheColossusofRoads

Brief update-

I did find two of the four terminals on the voltage regulator were badly rusted, (I thought I'd checked them before, but evidently not) so I cleaned them up as well as their spade connectors and so far it's started everytime I've tried it since, but it'll take lots more stops and starts to know if that was the problem.

JohnD1956 - what kind of voltage reading would be normal using your negative battery terminal test?

Getting there, one step at a time...........

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Check for lose and dirty connections. A lose or dirty ground strap will cause problems also. Fords of this vintage were nutorious for the starters rusting overnight because of dew. A whack with a hammer usually fixed them. Have you checked the voltage regulator and selenoid ?

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It sounds like it's time to replace or recondition the starter motor if you have checked everything else. Also to do the test that JohnD1956 suggested it should be an Amp meter not a Volt meter!

Cheers John

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Guest simplyconnected

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: TheColossusofRoads</div><div class="ubbcode-body">...it will do absolutely nothing when I turn the key. The ammeter needle goes deep to the minus side when I try start it. Each time this happens if I get a jump from a good battery it will turn over instantly.</div></div>

You describe a few problems, and they are separate from each other. If it really does nothing when you turn the key, that can be either a dead battery, a loose wire (ground or hot), or a bad starter relay (can you hear/feel it energize when you turn the key to 'start'?).

If it starts with a jump from another battery, you very well could have bad battery connections. When you connect jumper cables, they bite into the connector, not the battery post, causing a more direct connection to your starter motor. Don't under-estimate a dead battery cell, either. You may not be starting with the full 12-volts. A good garage will check your battery for free. They put a load on the battery, and check each cell. Some cars operate for years on a dead cell, until more cells go bad.

If you're sure the battery and connections are good, and the AMMETER needle goes deep, your starter motor is drawing lots of current. If it draws current but doesn't rotate, pull the back plate off and check your starter brushes. Most owners never maintain their starter motor; they run it until it drops. If you can change brushes before commutator segment dammage, the repair is very inexpensive. A burned/shorted armature commutator will show up as you describe on the ammeter, and it's usually caused by a short, or worn-out brushes, arcing tons of amps.

To check your starter relay, jump across both heavy terminals. You can use a jumper cable. If the starter runs strong, then the relay contacts are worn out. A new relay usually costs around $10 at the auto parts store.

Hope this helps. - Dave

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> JohnD1956 - what kind of voltage reading would be normal using your negative battery terminal test?

</div></div>

I see John 390 said this simple draw test ought to be done with an amp meter. I imagine an amp meter would work better, but I did it with a volt meter as that's all I have available.

If everything is off, then you should not have any draw ( 0 volts) in this test I mentioned. I figure with the ignition off the only things drawing volts would be the clock if it works, and the courtesy lights ( including trunk or glove box). So you may have to pull that fuse. I also figure most things would draw 12 volts, although each item probably draws a different amount of amps, so an amp meter might make it easier to see the level of the draw if there is one at all.

As I said, with every thing off, my car did have a 7 volt draw which disappeared when I disconnected the voltage regulator. I also had 0 voltage draw after I put on my spare voltage regulator.

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Guest imported_TheColossusofRoads

Here's where I stand now -

A friend who is a long-time Chrysler/Jeep mechanic (and general automotive whiz) stopped over last night and ran a few tests. The draw on the battery was something like .0003 - virtually nothing. He checked a few other electrical connections and suspects the trouble is somewhere in the starter/solenoid combo, partly because it almost always happens when the engine is hot. (He said he has a '66 Chevelle that did the same thing).

There's a old time auto parts store not far from me that is noted for quality rebuilds of starters and such, so I'll check them out early next week. A rebuilt unit doesn't cost much, so it's be worth a shot.

I'll let you know what happens. My thanks to all who offered opinions and suggestions. I don't intend to miss another cruisin' season next year, that's for sure...........

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I suggest you test your battery connections by connecting your meter to the positive terminal on the battery and the negative directly to the starter body. Sometimes the engine, frame, & ground cable routing just isn't good enough on older cars to provide full starting power with a good battery.

This starting problem might be solved with an additional ground strap connected directly from the starter mounting bolt to the negative terminal of the battery.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest imported_TheColossusofRoads

Update: I bought a rebuilt starter/solenoid combo from the old car parts place I mentioned in an earlier post, and so far the Chevy has started every time, hot or cold. Granted, I haven't used the car as much as I might have during nicer weather, but so far so good. Hopefully, the starter replacement has cured the problem.

Thanks to all who offered suggestions.

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