Starter won't crank. Solenoid clicks. - Nissan Forum
B14 95-99 chassis 1995-1999 Sentra and 1995-1998 200SX

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#1 Old Oct 17th, 2009, 08:01 PM
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Starter won't crank. Solenoid clicks.

I have a 97 1.6L Sentra manual transmission with a problem that has been getting worse and worse for about six months. When you turn the key, the starter solenoid clicks, but the motor itself doesn't turn.

A little while ago, you could just turn the key again, and it would go fine. But gradually you had to turn the key more and more. Then yesterday it wouldn't start at all.

I had the battery and starter tested at auto zone, and they told me to replace the battery. That didn't help. So I replaced the negative terminal as well, and also didn't fix the problem.

I'm posting a picture to confirm that we hooked the starter back up correctly when we reinstalled it, even though I'm pretty sure we did.



I think the wire on the right is a positive, but I'm not sure. The wire on the left goes to a ground on the car, and then to the negative terminal. Is this correct? If it is, what else could be causing the problem? We also held down the little sensor that tells the car the clutch is down, and that didn't help either. Any ideas?

Last edited by spenc938; Oct 17th, 2009 at 09:26 PM.
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#2 Old Oct 17th, 2009, 08:11 PM
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there's no picture posted.
#3 Old Oct 17th, 2009, 08:56 PM
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Did Autozone test the solenoid also?
#4 Old Oct 17th, 2009, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jdoggsc View Post
there's no picture posted.
My bad. Fixed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Faja
Did Autozone test the solenoid also?
According to Autozone, the starter will not work on their machine at all if the solenoid is bad. So yes, the solenoid should be good.

Last edited by spenc938; Oct 17th, 2009 at 09:27 PM.
#5 Old Oct 17th, 2009, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by spenc938 View Post
My bad. Fixed.



According to Autozone, the starter will not work on their machine at all if the solenoid is bad. So yes, the solenoid should be good.

If you have a second car or maybe a friend's - try jumping your battery and see if it starts on the first shot
#6 Old Oct 17th, 2009, 10:37 PM
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The battery is fully charged. We tried jumping both the old one and the new one.

And if the battery was low, wouldn't the starter motor at least try to turn the car over? Right now it doesn't do anything at all. The solenoid just clicks.
#7 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 12:25 AM
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As I've posted in other places, Autozone = garbage. And I think you just might get better info at McDonalds...
Just because the starter works on their machine doesn't mean it'll work in your car. Their machine probably has a nice solid 14v running thru it, your car maybe has 12.6v on a good day, maybe more if you've got the charger hooked up at the same time. Their machine has known good cabling, your car, maybe not so good.
Clean the heck out of the terminal, on the battery, on the starter itself, on both ends of both cables leading to and from the starter. Gotta have a good connection for the juice to get thru.
Next time you try it...and I know it'll be a bit of a stretch...hit the key, if the solenoid clicks and nothing else happens, give the side of the starter itself a good whack with something metal like a hammer. The commutator on the starter could be getting worn out. On those 'Autozone testers', the starter isn't under any kind of load, the power only has to kick the solenoid and spin the starter. In your car, you've got to run the ECU, run the dash lights, kick the solenoid, spin the starter AND your engine.
A couple of other things to try...
--Take the starter relay itself and swap it with another similar looking relay. There are a handful of relays in the relay box that'll work, just pick one and swap it out and see what happens.
--Next time it DOESN'T start, put the tranny in 5th gear, roll the car ahead 10-20ft or so, with it still in gear and your foot off the clutch (i.e. turn the engine a little bit), then try it again. Could be that the starter just doesn't want to engage at that particular point on the flywheel (not likely, but could happen), maybe it's all gummed up with crud in there.
In the end, it sounds to me like you've got a worn out starter. Not uncommon...just happens.
#8 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jdgrotte View Post
As I've posted in other places, Autozone = garbage. And I think you just might get better info at McDonalds...
Just because the starter works on their machine doesn't mean it'll work in your car. Their machine probably has a nice solid 14v running thru it, your car maybe has 12.6v on a good day, maybe more if you've got the charger hooked up at the same time. Their machine has known good cabling, your car, maybe not so good.
I was thinking the same thing. As much as I don't want the starter to be the problem...

Quote:
Clean the heck out of the terminal, on the battery, on the starter itself, on both ends of both cables leading to and from the starter. Gotta have a good connection for the juice to get thru.
Tried that already.

Quote:
Next time you try it...and I know it'll be a bit of a stretch...hit the key, if the solenoid clicks and nothing else happens, give the side of the starter itself a good whack with something metal like a hammer. The commutator on the starter could be getting worn out.
Tried that already

Quote:
--Take the starter relay itself and swap it with another similar looking relay. There are a handful of relays in the relay box that'll work, just pick one and swap it out and see what happens.
I swear I checked the relay box and didn't see one for the starter. But I'll go look again and double check when I get home. Is there any other relay box besides the little one under the hood on the passenger side?

Quote:
--Next time it DOESN'T start, put the tranny in 5th gear, roll the car ahead 10-20ft or so, with it still in gear and your foot off the clutch (i.e. turn the engine a little bit), then try it again. Could be that the starter just doesn't want to engage at that particular point on the flywheel (not likely, but could happen), maybe it's all gummed up with crud in there.
Last time I went to drive it home from work it took us an hour and a half of tinkering to get it to start. It finally went, and I drove it home. Then we worked on it for four or five hours at home, and we can't get the motor to kick in. And, as I mentioned it has had this problem for months, so I don't think this is the issue.

Quote:
In the end, it sounds to me like you've got a worn out starter. Not uncommon...just happens.
That's my fear as well. But this car was a replacement work car for another work car that got totaled, and we've already put about 800 bucks into it. It's hard sinking money into a car this old when every time we fix something it only runs for a month. And I would like to eliminate as many of the other possible causes as i can before I spend another 150 on a starter. Especially since the dealership claimed that the starter was new.

One other thing I forgot to mention is that when we're turning the key and the starter clicks, the negative battery cable heats up. I'm not sure if the old one did this, but the new one is the same gauge. Is this normal?

Last edited by spenc938; Oct 18th, 2009 at 01:30 PM.
#9 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 03:28 PM
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Check with a multimeter to make sure you are getting 12 volts at the starter solenoid terminal. [the small wire on the solenoid.] There is also a slight chance that the problem might be in the ignition switch itself.

Aussie 1986 N12 PULSAR 24 years,250000km one owner, still going strong!

Last edited by pulsar86; Oct 18th, 2009 at 03:36 PM.
#10 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 04:39 PM
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Does the car work if you give it a push start?

Also, try turning on the lights and then start the car, see if the lights dim or not. If not, the solenoid is not pushing out enough amps to engage the starter. If it is dimming then the problem looks like it could be the starter itself.
#11 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 06:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spenc938 View Post
I was thinking the same thing. As much as I don't want the starter to be the problem...
If you're handy (and it sounds like you are), you could pull the starter itself apart, clean out the commutator bars, go down to the local hardware store, slap some new brushes in it, maybe even replace the bearings. After all of that, you've practically got yourself a brand new starter...for about 1/100th the cost of a new one...

Quote:
I swear I checked the relay box and didn't see one for the starter. But I'll go look again and double check when I get home. Is there any other relay box besides the little one under the hood on the passenger side?
The one next to the battery on the drivers side maybe?

Quote:
One other thing I forgot to mention is that when we're turning the key and the starter clicks, the negative battery cable heats up. I'm not sure if the old one did this, but the new one is the same gauge. Is this normal?
Ya that could possibly be the most important information given so far!!!
Sounds like something isn't wired up correctly, dead short from somewhere to somewhere else, like something on the starter itself isn't wired up right, going straight to ground instead of thru the starter windings themselves.
The negative cable shouldn't heat up all that much, even if you're cranking and cranking (with the motor actually turning this time).
And define 'negative cable heats up'... Sure it's not because you're feeling it and you are actually heating it up, or is it actually getting hot to the point of 'can't grab it because it's so hot'?
Also, put a meter across the battery...
What does it read for voltage:
1) with nothing on, doors closed, key out, lights off, everything off
2) headlights on bright, blower on full, foot on the brake, key on but not cranking, dome light on, etc...
3) everything off, but turning the key trying to crank the engine (but it's not 'cause something is wrong)
4) everything off, but turning the key to crank the engine (assuming you can get it to crank some time)
5) everything on like in #2, but trying to crank like in #3
6) everything on like in #2, but cranking like in #4 (again assuming you can get it to crank)
All this will really in troubleshooting the problem...

Last edited by jdg; Oct 18th, 2009 at 06:24 PM.
#12 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 07:12 PM
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The only multimeter I've ever used was digital, but the only one I can find now is analog. And I have to admit, I have no idea how to read this thing. When I set the voltage to 50, and try to check the car battery, the needle goes halfway up... But it's not like the battery is 25 volts.
#13 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spenc938 View Post
The only multimeter I've ever used was digital, but the only one I can find now is analog. And I have to admit, I have no idea how to read this thing. When I set the voltage to 50, and try to check the car battery, the needle goes halfway up... But it's not like the battery is 25 volts.
Can't read an analog meter? That's like saying you can read a digital clock but can't read a round wall clock that has an hour and minute hand.
How difficult can it possibly be?
If you set the dial to the '50' scale, and you find the marks on the meter face that go from 0 to 50, then you read the marks in the middle along that same scale.
And I'd be willing to bet that the meter's scale isn't linear, probably a logarithmic scale. Read the scale!!!
#14 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by jdgrotte View Post
Can't read an analog meter? That's like saying you can read a digital clock but can't read a round wall clock that has an hour and minute hand.
How difficult can it possibly be?
If you set the dial to the '50' scale, and you find the marks on the meter face that go from 0 to 50, then you read the marks in the middle along that same scale.
And I'd be willing to bet that the meter's scale isn't linear, probably a logarithmic scale. Read the scale!!!
Reading it like that would mean that the car battery was at 25 volts with everything shut off. Which is not possible.
#15 Old Oct 18th, 2009, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by spenc938 View Post
Reading it like that would mean that the car battery was at 25 volts with everything shut off. Which is not possible.
Just means Autozone sold you one of the super duper batteries that is coming for the 2020 cars!!! Now everything is going to go twice as fast!!!
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