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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First, note that I am a total newbie to this -- so please excuse any ignorance. I just bought a 1970 SS for my wife yesterday -- and really have very little knowledge when it comes to cars -- but I'm certainly willing to learn!

The problem is that, probably 75% of the time, turning the key to start the car will do nothing but "click." The guy that I bought it from simply said "it does that sometimes." Basically, if you turn it back and forth a few times (sometimes a lot more than a few times), it will finally decide to turn over and eventually starts.

I'm not even sure where to start with this! To be honest, I don't even know where to find the starter under the hood at this point! Can anyone lead me in the right direction on what I should be looking at?

(If you feel "he's way too newbie for this", feel free to tell me to try to find a real mechanic!)

Thanks much!

- John...
 

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John
I never send anyone to a mechanic if they are willing to try and do the job themselves. First off the sound you hear is the solenoid engaging. The solenoid is mounted on top of the starter. Its job is to apply power to the starter motor and push the starter gear into the flywheel gear to turn the engine.
The solenoid/starter is located on the passenger side of the engine. It’s down by the pipes at the rear of the engine, silverish is color, about 10 inches long and round. The large cable from battery (+) is connected to the solenoid/starter.
The solenoid clicking is usually caused by not having enough power to turn the starter motor. It takes a lot of power to turn a starter. That’s why the battery needs to be as big as it is.
A few things could cause this problem. However the first things to look for are:
1, Weak battery.
2, Dirty battery cable connections.
3, Bad battery cables
That’s where a “real” mechanic will first look and most likely start changing things out.
1, Is the battery as old as the hills? Change that out.
2, Check the battery cable connections on the battery. They need to be clean and tight. If the cables are not in good condition, replace them. They are available from the auto parts store.
3, Check the battery (-) connection on the engine. That needs to be clean and tight.
That’s should give you some idea where to begin. Good chance that you might hit the problem. If not post back and we’ll look a little farther.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ok -- thanks much for helping me with this! Today, I disconnected and cleaned everything associated with the battery connections -- except for the one to the solenoid/starter itself (um, because I wasn't sure how to actually get a hand IN there to disconnect/clean things up actually). Most of the connections were pretty dirty looking -- I cleaned the buildup/junk off with some fine steel wool. It seems to have helped the problem some, but it still occurs.

Basically, when it doesn't work, if I just sit and turn the key back and forth, it will finally turn over and start after the 3rd or 4th try. On all the other tries, I just get that click from the solenoid.

So, now that things are clean, I started looking at other things that you mentioned. First, the battery is fairly new and appears to be fine from what I can tell. The cable connections themeselves all seem clean now. The cables themselves don't appear to be in bad shape (although I'm willing to buy a new set if you think it is worth doing)...

Now, in another post that I found from you, you mentioned where the wiring should go from the battery. In it, you said that the positive side should have a large cable going to the solenoid/starter and a smaller wire going to a junction block near the battery. I appear to have that -- it looks proper. You said that, for the negative, there should be the large cable going to the block -- which I appear to have. And a smaller wire going to the inside right fender. I do not have that. What I have is a smaller wire coming off of the large cable just before it connects to the block that then connects to the alternator (I believe!). Again, I have no wire going from negative to anywhere else, such as the fender. Should I run one somewhere?

Here are some pics to help explain things... First, this is where the negative connection comes over from the battery:



...you can see that the main cable connects to the piece going to the block -- and has that small wire coming out going to the alternator right there. Again, that's all that is coming off of the battery on the negative side.

The wire from the positive side that doesn't go to the solenoid connects to this small junction block in the front:



...and then, out the other side, comes a couple cables together -- which seem to wrap around behind the battery in a bundle and then go over to the alternator:



...as you can see, there are two connectors that plugs into the alternator there: a black bundle that plugs in with, I believe, a 2-pin plug and a red wire that plugs next to that. Also, note the dangling connection on the left (with the yellow jacket). That isn't connected to anything.

Well, I think that's all I know for now. I'm open to any suggestions as to where I should go from here. Thanks again for your time!

- John...
 

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John has some excellent advice and will always help. In addition...it sounds like if it does it sometimes and you can eventually get it to go it might be the static timing? To check for this simply do this test. When the engine will not turn over, get out and pull the main coil wire that goes to the distributor. This literally disconnects the spark from the distributor. Get back in and try again. If the car then turns over at a much faster rate then the static timing it too advanced. This is especially hindered in hot weather and hot engine conditions which further add to "quicker" peak combustion pressures that are working against the starter.

If that does not work and all your electrical system is good, go to http://www.inccn.net/jsheatsoak.htm for more information on this problem.

Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ok -- I'll give it a try (as soon as I find out where the main coil and distributor are -- seriously, I'm THAT much of a newbie)!

Also, just to add some information to that... The problem actually seems to DECREASE as I use the car. The first time I go to start it, it seems to be more likely to happen than if I have been using it for a while and then turn it off and try to restart it.

Then again, maybe that has just been coincidence -- since it does indeed still happen fairly commonly even if warm...

Thanks!

- John...
 

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You may need to undo the starter and drop it down to reach the wire connections on it.

Also, the altnerator bracket where the ground wire goes is also bolted to the block and that bolted connection can become bad so you need to lock at it too. The bracket bolts to parts that are all installed on the engine with a gasket between them and the block.

It could also just be the solenoid and the starter motor switch inside is going bad. Maybe if you drop the starter you could just buy a new one and install it at the same time. They're fairly cheap and not hard to install.

Peter
 

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Baking soda is good for cleaning dirty battery connections. Mix it with water and make a paste to apply to the dirty joint. Neutralizes the acid.
The remainder of the baking soda can be used for baking soda biscuits. Have a pretty good recipe for those. Kids always liked them.
 

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If your car is automatic with a console, you should replace the neutral safety switch wires with 12 gauge wire. This will cure most people's grief.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It is an M21 4-speed. Thanks though.

- John...
 

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"You said that, for the negative, there should be the large cable going to the block -- which I appear to have. And a smaller wire going to the inside right fender. I do not have that. What I have is a smaller wire coming off of the large cable just before it connects to the block that then connects to the alternator (I believe!). Again, I have no wire going from negative to anywhere else, such as the fender. Should I run one somewhere?"
The purpose of the large negative wire to the block is to provide a ground for the items tied to the block. Items such as the starter, alternator, distributor, and the gage sensors that are screwed in. It needs to be large principally for the starter. The small wire to the right inside fender provides the ground for everything not tied to the block. The block is insulated or isolated from the rest of the car because it sits on rubber mounts.
The car was designed to have this small wire in there. On some cars this has disappeared over the years. Instead of using this little wire for ground some cars now rely on ground straps from the block to the frame or firewall. This isn’t right for a few reasons. Don’t want to go into boring discussions about ground noise, Think the best reason to have the small ground wire is if the negative cable block connection goes bad, everything in the car goes dead without it. With the small cable installed, one might just have a starting problem if the block connection goes bad. Without it one also looses the lights if the block connection goes bad. Sort of tough on a dark road at night.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Originally posted by John_Muha:
The car was designed to have this small wire in there. On some cars this has disappeared over the years. Instead of using this little wire for ground some cars now rely on ground straps from the block to the frame or firewall. This isn’t right for a few reasons.
Ok -- sounds good. Should I run something straight from the battery to the fender then? Or am I safe to just run another wire from where the larger one connects to the fender? Maybe I could just run another wire from the post on the alternator that the current small wire goes to and connect that to the fender?

- John...

P.S. I bought some ramps today -- so I hope to drop the starter and clean all that tonight to see if it helps with my problem...
 

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My car is starting to do this also.

In the past, I was always told that this ment that the solenoid was going out. A temporary fix was to tap on the solenoid a couple times and then try to start the engine again. This has worked for me a couple times in the past.
 

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Originally posted by jgoggan:
Or am I safe to just run another wire from where the larger one connects to the fender?
You have a large one running to the fender?? Did I miss something or did you mean engine?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Oops! My mistake. Yes, I meant engine block. The negative large wire goes to the engine block with a small one breaking off there and connecting to the alternator. Just wondering if I can just connect from that post on the alternator (where the current small wire already connects) and run that to the fender. Sorry about that.

- John...
 

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Ok, then you also must have some straps off the engine, Probably going to firewall behind the engine. It probably won’t fix this problem but the proper way to connect the body ground is back to the battery. The way to do this is replace the negative cable. They sell cables with a short pigtail lead coming out of them along with large lead. The pigtail lead will probably be too short to actually reach the fender. You will need to solder or splice additional wire to make it longer.
Buy a cable that isn’t going to be tightly stretched from the battery to the block. It needs some slack. I usually get the largest gage they have in the store.
 

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I had a similar problem. The car would often not start, but just a "click," even when it was cold...

I found that the post on the solenoid (where the large cable attaches) was loose in the solinoid itself... Tightened it up, and have never had the problem again... It was free, but did take me a little time to figure it out...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Ok -- I got the car up on ramps today and was able to take a look. Found the starter and the solenoid on top. I wasn't sure about how to go about dropping it down. It looks like it is held up by two bolts towards the rear of the car -- is that correct? Do I have to worry about nuts or anything on the other side -- or does it bolt into holes that are in something else (i.e. I can just worry about the bolts themselves).

Also -- it's hard to estimate how heavy it is. I don't want to unbolt it and then find out that it weighs much more than I am assuming!
Is it something that I can hold in one hand while I unbolt with the other (which will make it much easier to put BACK in when I need to hold it and bolt it in, of course). Or is it heavier than that and I'm going to have to find someone else to hold it there as I bolt it back should I decide to remove it?

Thanks!

- John...
 

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Its just held by those two bolts, and possibly a small bolted bracket off the very front of the main starter body... so maybe three bolts...

Those bolts thread into the engine block, so no nuts to worry about...

It is very heavy (10 pounds?), so it can be hard to hold up with one hand and loosen/start the bolts... especially while lying on your back...

I would remove the front bracket (if present) first. Then I usually loosen both bolts a few turns, then pull one bolt out completely and reinstall it with just a few turns by hands, then remove the second bolt. I know that the remaining bolt is close to coming out, so I can be prepared for the weight...

I would also pull the wires out of the plastic "gutter" up top (on the firewall), to give them some extra play...

I also have some small wrenches ready for the wiring underneath. There are two small wires, and usually require a 11/32 wrench (maybe 3/8).

You probably need to take these small wires off the solenoid before you can drop the starter to the floor (the wires aren't long enough...).

Don't hang the starter by these small wires!!!

Disconnect the battery first!!!

Note which small wire goes to which terminal!!! Write it down or draw a diagram!!!


maybe place a box/milk crate/etc or stack some wood to support the starter off the floor until you can get those small wires loose...

You can then remove the large cable with a 9/16 wrench, and once removed, see if the stud is loose in the solenoid... That might be the problem (it was on mine!). Alot of autoparts stores (I am assuming) can perform an electrical test to see if the starter is bad, or the solenoid, etc... This can save you some money and aggrevation...

Buy the largest guage cable you can get if replacing that (I'd go at least a "2-guage" cable).

When reinstalling the cable/starter, make sure the cable is away from the block and exhaust. Bend the cable as needed. Look at the bends in the old cable... The cable itself could probably touch the block, but be sure its where its insulated. Note how the existing cable is routed BEFORE removing the starter...

Reinstallation is easy, but make sure you hook the two small wires up correctly...
 

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They are heavy but not that bad to take down. Before you do you might want to see if you can get it to run down there. If you look up at the solenoid mounted on top of the starter you will see 3 terminals. There is a large one where the big positive cable is connected. On each side of it there are 2 small terminals with smaller wires on them. The solenoid has embossed letters next to each terminal. The one closest to the block is the “S” terminal and has a purple wire on it. The one away from the block is the "R" terminal and has a yellow wire on it.
The “S” terminal is the start terminal and the purple wire heads back to the ignition switch. If you apply 12 volts to this terminal the starter should spin. Easiest way is to use a remote starter switch as I mentioned earlier. What most guys do is short the large terminal to the “S” terminal using a screwdriver. This gives the starter 12 volts. It will spark a little.
It is important that the screwdriver only touch the two terminals. You don’t want to touch the frame or the block.
It is suggested that before you do this you should remove one end of the center small wire from the distributor cap. This will prevent the engine from firing while you are under there.
 
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