Starter is a likely culprit
Q I'm hoping you can help me with my 2001 Blazer. It has failed to start on a dozen or so occasions. It will make no sound when I turn the key. About two or three different times, someone did something down at the starter and it started. Another time, someone jiggled the battery cables and it started. My mechanic replaced the starter relay, but that didn't help. It has 160,000 miles. I'm very frustrated with this problem as no one seems to be able to fix it.
A I can appreciate your frustration as an intermittent no-start condition can place you in an inconvenient or dangerous situation. Your description of no sound helps pin this down as a no-crank starting problem as opposed to a cranking no-start (run) issue. Possible culprits include the battery, battery terminals, ignition switch, park-neutral switch, starter relay, wiring to starter and starter connections, and the starter itself. Let's wade through these and rule out as many as possible. You'll need to endure just one more episode to get to the bottom of this.
It sounds like the battery is OK, as you don't mention needing to jump-start the Blazer. To be sure, during an unsuccessful cranking attempt, turn on the headlights. If they remain bright as the key is tried, the battery and battery cable terminals are OK.
Next are the ignition and park-neutral switches. During an unsuccessful cranking episode, try working the key start position by rotating the key less, more etc. Same goes for the park-neutral switch, try selecting neutral, wiggling the shift lever, exploring the edges of both the park and neutral shifter detents as the key is held to the crank position. If even brief cranking or noises are heard, the wiggled switch is likely the problem.
Your starter relay lives in a very convenient, accessible location within the under-hood fuse box, a 5-inch square plastic black box with a knob-attached lid, under the hood on the left-upper side. Try removing the cover and feeling the relay — a 1-inch square black cube, centered in the box - as a helper successfully cranks the engine. You'll feel a click. Now you know what to check for next time the Blazer fails to crank. If the relay fails to click during a no-start episode, the fault is likely within the ignition or park neutral switches, or a loose terminal at connector C-100 at the firewall. Since the relay is new and didn't fix the problem, I'll take a chance and rule it out as a likely culprit.
Now we'll close in for a solution: If during a no-crank episode the headlights do not dim and the relay clicks as the key is tried, the fault almost has to be within the starter. With 160,000 miles on the clock, the starter, if original, is on borrowed time. Its brushes are likely worn very short and may make only tentative contact with the armature. A swift smack to the starter can often induce the parts to work briefly — that may have been what was tried by the helpers. A loose electrical connection at the starter is also a possibility, but these are virtually impossible to access without removing the starter. If going to the trouble to do this, I'd renew it anyway.
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; he cannot make personal replies.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Jump in home loans, trading commissions lead to profitable 1st quarter for banks
- Google’s changes to search results formula expected to shake up mobile economy
- Is Big Brother a backseat driver?
- Renewed fears of Greek default whack stock market
- Mylan discounts speculation of a possible takeover by Teva
- Here’s how to clean your car
- Pa. employers shed 12,700 jobs in March; unemployment rate rises to 5.3 percent
- Review: Chevrolet Trax is an affordable SUV option
- Glaxo to close Moon office, affecting 274 workers
- PPG axes 1,700 jobs as part of global restructuring
- Hearings set on new environmental rules for gas, oil drilling in Pa.