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Starter and Battery Issues

alternator battery starterQuestion:
My car suddenly would not start. It made a clicking noise when
I turned the ignition and the lights on dash/etc. came on when
I turned the key. I was able to jump start it easily, but it
wouldn’t hold a charge. I also cleaned the corrosion off the
battery and was able to start it…but then again, nothing.
I expected it was the battery and/or alternator. I took it
to a mechanic who insisted it was the starter and the battery/elec
system was getting a charge. He seemed like a decent guy.
But, then in the end…he replaced the starter and the battery.
Suddenly, he found a friend with a wrecked car and gave me that
starter for free…charging me 140 to install it and then the
battery cost/install. I am getting wildly different information
from people around me…some saying it would not be at all possible
to jump start that car if the starter were bad- yet others say it
could happen. Was he telling me the truth or have I just paid for
something that didn’t happen/not nec? Help?

The clicking noise is the solenoid, which is usually part of the
starter. Over time the solenoid contact points will arc from the
current flowing through the connection and will not make a good
connection to turn on the starter. You hear a click, but the starter
does not turn over. Sometimes a jump start will provide just enough
of an extra boost to overcome that corrosion on the solenoid. It’s
possible that is what was going on in your case.

Regarding the battery, your mechanic more than likely put a volt meter
on the battery with the engine running, this would tell him if the
alternator was charging. He may also have done a load test on the
battery to determine health of battery. If your battery was over 3
years old, it was probably a good idea to replace it anyway.

With all that said, the friend with a wrecked car sounds shady, and
$140 for install of a starter sounds high to me, he was most likely
hiding the cost of the used started in there. Most cars should take
an hour or less to replace the starter, at a shop rate of $60 – $80/hr
with an independent shop. This scenario also makes me think he could
have been hiding the fact that he did not change anything (Did he show
you the new/old starter?) since he was putting in a used starter, it
would be hard to determine if it was actually replaced since both
would look used. Hope that makes sense, and don’t want to say for
sure that was his motivation, but it’s always possible.

Posted: 12th August 2016  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Electrical, Engine

No A/C Power Steering and Battery Light is ON.

Question:serpentine belt I have a 2004 Lincoln Towncar and my AC went out there was a smell like burnt plastic,then a knocking noise started when i start my car.Today my steering wheel is very hard to turn and the battery light stays on the car struggles to stay on.

Answer: Most likely the serpentine belt has broken. Do not drive the car as
the water pump could be driven by that belt and overheating could occur. The belt typically runs the alternator, air conditioning compressor and power steering pump. As stated before, it could also drive the water pump, but most modern cars have the pump driven by the timing belt. Should be a $25-$45 belt and a fairly easy job to replace. Whoever does the work should check all pulleys and make sure nothing is seized. The burning rubber smell could have been from a seized idler pulley, tensioner or accessory pulley, which caused the belt to heat up and snap.

Posted: 24th July 2015  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Cooling, Electrical, Engine, Heat & AC

Subaru automatic shifter solenoid question.

subaru shifterQuestion: I have a 92 Subaru loyale and the solenoid in the shifting mechanism isn’t receiving any power. My question is what powers the solenoid, is it the inhibitor relay or inhibitor switch that isn’t giving it power? I hooked the solenoid up to a voltage meter and there is absolutely no power, so the shifter is stuck in park and won’t switch gears unless I use the emergency release button. So my husband decided to bypass the solenoid completely and hook up the shifter to a light so the shifter will shift into other gears. But what is causing the no power to the solenoid?


Answer: Beth, the shifter solenoid is designed to keep you from shifting out of park when the brake pedal is not depressed. There should be a plunger switch under the dash directly above the brake pedal which activates your brake lights, and sends a signal to the solenoid to activate and allow shifting when the pedal is depressed.

I would first check to see if your brake lights work, if not then the switch is bad, a common issue on older cars. The replacement part is usually under $10 and easy to change.

If you have brake lights, then you need to check voltage at the relay when the car is on and the brake pedal is depressed. If you don’t have voltage (12 volts) follow the wiring from that brake light switch to the shifter solenoid and see if there is a break in the wiring, or a blown fuse. If you do have voltage coming in to the solenoid when the brake pedal is pressed, then the solenoid is likely bad.

Posted: 8th October 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Brakes, Drivetrain, Electrical

Battery Drain and Cigarette Lighter Issues

cigarette lighter battery drainQuestion:

Alternator works.  I can drive the car for an hour or so -park it overnight and the battery is dead.  I have to charge it.  There appears to be a short somewhere but I don’t know where (The cigarette lighter doesn’t work???  Everything else works. Where should I begin looking.  I cannot find a web page  on how to replace the lighter on a 94 Mazda Miata   – Jerry




The best and fastest way would be to buy or borrow a clamp-on DC amp meter, which will allow you to hook up a freshly charged battery and measure the current draw with everything in the car off.  (key out, doors closed, underhood light unplugged)  If there is a drain you will see it on the current meter.  You can then start pulling fuses in the fuse box and see which circuit is causing the drain.  Once you have isolated the circuit you will then have to dig in and trace the wires.  More than likely the cigarette lighter circuit will be the culprit.  It’s possible there is a short, or I have even seen a penny get stuck in the cigarette lighter and cause issues!  (usually a blown fuse)  Your Miata also has a “fusible link” which may be blown as well, which would require a new socket, since the fusible link is built in to the socket.  Not sure on the specifics of how to remove the cigarette lighter, but I searched following my own advice and found this…


“I have my center console and center panel (the black strip that surrounds the radio/HVAC/cig-lighter area) removed at the moment for another purpose. And I just took my cigarette lighter out last night. Thing is, so far as I can tell, there’s no way of removing the cigarette lighter casing from the front without damaging it. I know you can yank it out with a needle-nose pliers, but it will get trashed. Since you already have a new replacement unit, maybe you should just go ahead and do that. Just be sure to break the cigarette lighter casing and not the center panel (the black plastic).

If you want to remove it without damaging it, you have to remove the center console and center panel. This sounds worse than it is. Once you have the center panel out, the cigarette lighter casing (and passenger side air-bag switch in my car) comes out with it. Then you can access it from behind. I actually used a cloth-wrapped flat-head screwdriver to slowly pry out the metal part from the front. When it’s out, there’s a clip on the plastic part that, when pressed in from behind, allows you to remove the plastic part from the front.” - http://forum.miata.net/vb/showthread.php?t=91095

Posted: 29th October 2013  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Electrical

Battery Drain or Bad Alternator?


Hi Kevin,
My 1999 Mitsubishi Montero is acting strange:
draining the brand new battery in two days even when just parking in the garage.

Remote key does not open the locks, only clicking noise generated. Engine starts and runs while battery is still charged.
Is it possible that this condition is coming from faulty alternator?

Click Here To Read More…

Posted: 23rd August 2010  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Electrical

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