Battery or Starter? How to tell!


Old 05-23-13, 03:08 PM
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Battery or Starter? How to tell!

I am working on my gf's 99 passport, however the model isn't really important. My question is more about how to tell whether the starter, or battery is the culprit for the car currently not starting.

The car does a loud click when starting, similar to a dead battery in the winter. At first, sounds like a starter/dead battery problem to me. To make sure it wasn't something easy like the battery, I took my battery out of a 2006 Nissan titan, which is a relatively new battery from this last winter, and put it in the passport. After a few attempts, thing starts right up! The current battery in the passport is the OEM one, with nearly 130k on it.

My question is this, could it possibly still be a bad starter and the larger battery from my titan is simply "pushing" the starter better? Or, should I be celebrating that my all day fix of replacing the starter just got replaced with my 5 minute of a new battery.

TIA, sorry if its a stupid question just want to make sure I am not replacing a good starter.
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Old 05-23-13, 04:48 PM
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(You stated) I am working on my gf's 99 passport, however the model isn't really important.
Well, I’m sure you have a perfectly sound and logical reason for not feeling it’s necessary to post the model of your girlfriend’s car.

Point is if you take a look at your above statement, you’ll see that you have already posted the model. In other words a 1999 “Passport” (as you stated) is the model, and that would make the manufacturer of your girlfriends “99 Passport” a Honda..

As for the rest of what you are asking and saying here (about the no start issue).

What’s your level of skill?

How old is the battery?

Do you know how to test the battery?

Do you know how to rule out a defective ignition switch?

Have you confirmed a circuit to the starter with a “Volt-Meter” and not a “Test-Light”?

When the “Passport” won’t start does it start with a jump?

Is fuel reaching all the plugs?

Is spark reaching all the plugs?

Have you ruled out cylinder compression issues?

Have you ruled out excessive exhaust back pressure issues?

Are the fuel injectors firing?

What error codes are set (if any)?

I have much more for you, but for now can you please answer these simple and basic questions.

Thank You
Old 05-23-13, 04:57 PM
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Going need a new battery. May as well drive the car to just about any place that sells car parts and they will not only check the old battery and charging system and starter but replace it for you.
Old 05-23-13, 08:05 PM
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sounds like a bad spot in the starter. trying it a few times "bumped" the starter to a good spot. best way to tell is next time it happens use a volt meter on the battery posts. if the volts dont drop below 9 volts while some one holds it to crank its the starter. i have worked on cars that it took 15 clicks "bumps" to hit the good spot. which is way tapping them with a hammer normaly works too.
Old 05-24-13, 04:31 AM
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If the battery is OEM from 1999, you got more them most out of it, and I'm going to put the money on it being the battery.
As others suggested, find a local parts store that can test the battery (starter and alternator). Most will do it for free. This will tell you right away which item is having issues and if there could be other issues.
I'll normally get 5-8yrs out of an OEM battery in my area. Keeping in mind that the battery will see +35'C to -35'C in the winter (some hotter and colder temps, but that is out of the ordinary).
Old 05-24-13, 05:29 AM
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I agree with iceman, but need more information.

When you try to start the vehicle, do you get a loud click followed by the sound of an engine trying but failing to turn over, or do you just get the loud click.

The click is from the solenoid that is activated by turning the key. The solenoid then activates a switch to engage the starter.
The engine noise is the starter trying to get the engine to start.

If you only hear the click, then the switch on the starter is not being engaged. This isn't totally uncommon.

Think of the solenoid as being a saucer on the face of a clock. There are prongs on the clock at 12:00 and 6:00 that the saucer presses on to engage the starter. If the saucer is broken, it might only have enough material to span between 2:00 and 4:00. That will never engage the prongs at 12 and 6. But if you keep trying to start it, eventually the saucer will spin a little bit and sometimes catch onto the 12 or 6 and the car will start.

Replacing the solenoid isn't all that difficult, but it does involve working in tight places with a heavy object just above your head.

Again, this a possible solution only if you don't otherwise hear the engine trying to engage when you turn the key.

EDIT: As Northern Mike and TowGuy said, the car is probably overdue for a battery anyway.
Old 05-24-13, 05:30 AM
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I agree with Mike. I lost count a long time ago of people who called to have their car towed because they were sure the starter was bad. More often than not I jump them off and send them to their mechanic or parts store for a battery. The starters in Japanese cars are generally pretty reliable; in 35 years of driving Toyotas, I've never replaced a bad starter and only had to replace contacts in one, wife's previous Camry @ about 150k.

Having said that, your remark that "After a few attempts, thing starts right up", needs clarification. Does that mean when you dropped the other battery in, the start attempts mirrored those of the old battery? If so, then that may in fact point to the starter.

Problems aside, you are almost certainly going to need a new battery soon, whether it is the problem now or not. Fourteen years on an OEM is almost unheard of; most times if you get 5 or 6 years, as Mike mentioned, you are doing good. Probably a silly question, but you're sure that it is the factory-installed battery?
Old 05-24-13, 05:33 AM
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And Michael makes good points, too; he jumped in while I was typing.
Old 05-24-13, 09:49 AM
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Not being fimiliar with Honda's product line (I know the current common vehicles), I did a quick google image search. That is no chainsaw motor in there. Probably requires a fair bit of juice to turn it over.
Old 08-16-13, 06:15 AM
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This isn't really rocket science, the car is a 99, that would make it what 14 years old. A battery life is expected to be like 3-4 years and some last 5. A simple voltmeter is all you should need to perform a voltage test and a voltage drop test and theres your answer. Now that we have the auto parts store testing for free ther is no reason to be at odds. As mentioned the battery is likely the issue, if it were my car I would just replace it as being stranded really sucks. As for the engine, it's a 3 liter v6 with 130000 miles on it so the original 9-1 compression has diminished a bit so it's not likely drawing a ton of amps to spin it so long as it has good oil in it. Get it to run and off to Kragen auto parts or who ever you like.
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