2006 sebring: intermittent no starter motor action

Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 07:46 PM GMT

Question

I have recently had a tune up, engine flush and transmission fluid changed and I have 148,000 on my Sebring convertible. Recently, I never know if it will start or not. I am only putting 93 octane without the ethanol in it as directed by my dealership. However, every now and then, my car balks at starting even tho all the dash lights are on...it wont crank. I usually let it sit for a few minutes and try it again and it starts. I've asked the dealership to check the fuses and the starter motor and their response is that they can't do that and I'll just have to wait til it wont start at all. Being a single woman and a teacher, I do not want to get stranded somewhere alone. HELP! What should I do about correcting this?

Answer

Hi Kay, The starter motor circuit is fairly simple to troubleshoot when it won't work. The possibilities are that the ignition switch 'start' position is flakey, the gear shift lever in Park or Neutral is slightly out of adjustment so that 'word' is not being passed that you are in a safe gear to start the engine, that the relay switch for the starter motor is not making good internal connection when activating or possibly not activating at all, that the solenoid switch at the starter motor is not making good contact to pass the current from the battery to the starter motor or not activating, the starter motor internal brushes are not making good contact, of finally that the battery wire or the battery ground wire is not making good connection. While that is a long list and checking most of those things would involve tools or an electical meter there are a couple of things to try that would at least eliminate some of the possible causes. There is a box in the engine compartment that is square and contains the fuse #8 and the relay. So you could look at that fuse to be sure that it doesn't have a subtle crack in its internal wire which would cause it to work sometimes and sometimes not by removing it and holding up in the light to view the wire. Then find the starter motor relay which is a small box in the front of the box (of which there are three such relay boxes in a row, and it is the center relay box). Notice that when a helper tries to start the engine that if you have your fingers on the relay box you will feel it click (and maybe even hear the click except that there will be a louder click from the starter motor at the same time so you probably can't hear the quieter click of the relay, but at least you will feel it. When the starter won't work, then if you could possibly have a helper try the key then you could go to the box and note whether or not the relay does click or not. You could also try to move the gear shift lever to either side of the detent position when it is in park or in neutral and then try the ignition key again. That would be a test of a possible misadjustment of the safety switch that keeps you from starting in gear. When it won't start, if it does make the loud click coming from the starter motor but the motor doesn't turn the engine over then it is either that switch is bad, the starter motor is bad, or the electrical wires to the starter motor are not making good connection. So those are some of the things to try/observe before the next 'no starter' and then what to do when you have the next event. Hopefully you will get a clue that will help us to focus in on exactly where in that chain of connections the problem resides. Please let me know what you find now or when it won't respond. Roland PS: Thanks for the rating/nomination.

   While taking this to the dealer may stir them to check the circuit out, it is the case that when it is an intermittent situation that it may not reveal itself to them. It would have to fail while in their hands. So I would encourage you to try the things I listed when it next won't work and then let me know what you find:
when you touch the relay box while a helper tries the key, move the shift lever off-center, listen for the loud click from the starter solenoid to be there or not, and jiggle the key when it is in the 'start' position. All those will check out the ignition switch, the safety interlock, the starter relay, the solenoid switch at the starter, and the motor itself. The only thing you can't check is a poor wiring of the battery leads or possibly loose wires connecting the various wires I listed, but at least by checking whether the relay does or doestn't click you would know if the issue is 'before' or 'after' that relay.

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