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starter clicks, but doesn't turn engine (sometimes)


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My '95 Legacy with the 2.2 engine occasionally won't turn over. When the key is turned, either nothing happens or there's an audible clicking noise.

The car has an automatic, so I understand there's no starter relay to fail?

The battery is older, but passed a load test.

There's no rhyme or reason to whether the engine will turn over. For example, we had a spell of cold weather recently and the car sat outside overnight in 20-something degree temperatures and started the next day w/ no problems. So my nephew drove it to school (approx 5 miles), came out four hours later ... and it wouldn't start.

It's quite possible it's the original starter.

After this had happened a couple of times I checked and cleaned all the battery connections, plus the starter connection, plus the engine and body grounds in the engine compartment. But the no-start still happens occasionally.

All advice appreciated.

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Is it like a series of clicks that sounds like a buzz, or just one loud click? Mine does both. Had very similar troubles to what you're describing last year, still persisting into this year. Totally random non-starting. It ended up being a series of problems. Chief among them:

 

1- the connector that attaches to the starter that comes from the ignition switch can get grimy and loose. try polishing up that connection and make sure it's secure.

 

2- your key may be worn out. I found that if I pushed my key inward toward the firewall while turning it, instead of just rotating the key like actually push a little forward while you do, and you might have better luck getting it to start.

 

3- my fuel pump was slowly dying. i eventually stopped hearing it prime itself when I turned the key to the "on" position. replacing the fuel pump solved my problem for many months.

 

there were a whole bunch of other problems that sort of went together to cause my issue, but yours may be a little simpler. at least i hope so for your sake. i also did some things that sort of were just easier to do while the rest of the electrical & fuel systems were taken apart like replace the fuel filter and the spark plugs/wires, and cleaned the MAF.

 

good luck, let us know what it ends up being.

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I had one do this. There is a very large electrical connection inside the starter so that once the gear extends over to the ring gear it then energizes the windings. This connection gets worn out over time since it is a moving part, and carries a couple hundred amps. At the time I had time and no money, so I took the starter apart and cleaned up these contacts. That got me about a year more service before it died completely.

 

The easy fix is to get a new starter and put it in. Simple job.

 

About 10 years later and mine has done it again a couple times. I have a new starter that I carry with me and I'll put in if I need to.

 

The short term fix to this is when it happens, put the hood up, get your ice scraper and give the starter a couple whacks with the scraper handle.

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