Stumped! Cleaned battery, now car won't start!


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Old 12-17-22, 07:52 PM
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Stumped! Cleaned battery, now car won't start!

This is strange. 2007 Lincoln MKX. There wasn't anything previously wrong... I was just doing some preventative maintenence... removed Negative battery cable first, cleaned post and terminal. Then did the positive terminal the same way. I've done this a hundred times on vehicles before. Was just cleaning off the bluish corrosion.

Hooked it back up (Negative terminal last) after rinsing and drying the top of the battery.. Terminals are tight... no movement if you try to turn them. Go to start it, and just get a fairly loud single click. Off/On/Off/On, loud single clicks with each turn of the key.

Battery tests fine... 12.6v, and even hooked a jump battery charger to it, so it's getting 13.5 V and no difference.

Lights do NOT dim when I turn key to start. So I don't believe it's an issue with either the battery or the terminals... I wonder if when I rinsed it, that water went down into the starter, maybe iced up or something weird like that. I've got the Nipco pointed at it right now, blowing hot air toward it.

Alternator and belts are on the opposite side of the engine and did NOT get wet.

Any ideas? I'm stumped. So much for "preventative" maintenance! More like if it's not broke don't fix it! Cuz now I have to fix it!
 
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Old 12-17-22, 08:56 PM
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Well, best as I can figure, I must have fried the starter or solenoid when I rinsed the battery off, because its directly below. And as I look down there the red plastic cover that goes over the positive primary terminals was not on. It's just sitting loosely nearby.
 
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Old 12-17-22, 10:59 PM
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Starter fuse is okay... ignition fuse is okay. This is making me crazy.
 
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Old 12-17-22, 11:57 PM
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I think you've got it - battery tests fine so it has to be a subsequent link in the chain.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 12:29 AM
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There is a starter relay in the underhood fusebox but if you are hearing a loud click it's probably the starter. If you have a helper..... try tapping the starter solenoid with a hammer when starting the vehicle.

Could check with a test light. Still need a helper....
Red is always live and brown is start positive.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 12:46 AM
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would probably do some voltage drop testing on the cables you removed, and starter solenoid see if your meter is showing an excessive drop on one of those while attempting to start.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by PJmax

try tapping the starter solenoid with a hammer
Good point- is the sound a "click" or a "clunk"? On a 15-year-old car, I'd check the solenoid

Originally Posted by alan73
do some voltage drop testing on the cables you removed
Agreed, I'd check continuity on the cable to the starter- could be something weird where the cable is bad?

My first kludge test would be to jump the solenoid with a cable from battery. Just a quick tap, spark, and see if it turns.
Second test would be to try jump-starting the car (red-to-positive, black-to-engine) using the disconnected battery and then using a running car. A cable with a pinch or nicked sheath + rust can be really finicky.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 03:50 AM
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More than likely, its nothing related to what you did. This was probably co-incidence.
I agree with other members so I cant add much but just check the basic things. When you removed the cables around handling them, if there was corrosion inside, under the sheathing, it could have caused it to stop making a good enough connection, but that's not high on my list since the lights do not dim when starting.
Solenoid is a good prospect. From there, starter.
We used to try this with the older cars but, to be safe, you need a helper. Put someone in the car to make sure the car doesn't move etc. If you can get a set of jumper cables down to the hot post on the starter, you can connect one end to a battery, then touch the other end to the starter. That will either confirm or eliminate the starter. If it clicks, bad starter, if it turns over, you eliminate the starter.

Additionally, we used to jump the solenoid with a screwdriver to test it.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 05:58 AM
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Thanks. The worst part of trying to diagnose this is that on a 3.5L engine, the starter and solenoid are BURIED. It's not like most older cars where you crawl underneath... this is seen from above. I can barely see the solenoid posts as I look down past the battery, and they are about 16" below. I can't even get my hand down there with the multimeter probe or test light. Maybe if I tape one to a long stick.... but as I drop it down then it's in the way and I can no longer see where it's going or where I'm touching it!

To get access to it, you have to remove the battery (then you have no power to test anything) remove the battery tray, remove the MAF sensor, air cleaner and hood, drain coolant and disconnect 2 large coolant hoses and bend them to the side, remove a transmission position linkage... and then you expose the TOP of the solenoid and barely have enough room to get to the 2 bolts holding the starter, and it looks like it's a puzzle trying to get it out as you turn and wiggle the starter to get it out from between everything that it is wedged between until you finally pull it up and out of there. What a pain!

So it's not easy to test OR jumper. Tried testing continuity, can't get to it. But I suppose that is what i need to work on, gaining access so I can test. So glad it's 3F this morning... and I'm out of kerosene. I'm pretty sure it will have continuity, but if it's a bad corroded cable or bad connection continuity won't tell me much.

Battery cable is the same way... once it leaves the battery it disappears. Can't get to the other end.

The no dimming of lights leads me to believe power isn't getting applied to the starter. I'd say it's more of a CLACK... but I will need to get the wife out there. It doesnt sound to me like the loud clack the bendix makes when it jumps out.

No way to load test or jumper it unless I take it out and put it on a bench. So until the store opens and I get some kerosene I'm dead in the water. Maybe I can test for a bad engine ground without freezing to death.

Sad to say, this isn't even the problem I set out to work on. I actually wanted to fix a blower door problem and now I can't even start the car!
 
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Old 12-18-22, 08:31 AM
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Ok, turns out I was freaking out and not seeing the obvious. Under the red rubber positive battery cover, I had not noticed that the cable had come out of its clamp and was just sitting beside and was barely touching the cable clamp. Enough to make contact and click the solenoid but not enough to turn the starter.

I should be able to put it back in the clamp and crimp it... problem solved. Sheesh. Can't see the forest for the trees.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 08:42 AM
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Crisis averted!! Glad you figured it out!
 
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Old 12-18-22, 10:15 AM
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... Whew..... the holiday fund is safe. .... ..
 
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Old 12-18-22, 02:07 PM
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Yeah I had visions of needing to go to the dealership (stealership) to spend all the money I don't have.
 
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Old 12-18-22, 03:21 PM
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(stealership)
I don't care who you are, that's funny!! ​​​​​​​
 
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Old 12-18-22, 04:49 PM
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Glad it worked out. Sometimes we so involved in troubleshooting the bigger issues, we often overlook the obvious. We all do it. But I learned this long ago, start with the obvious, then start at the starting point & work your way through it.
I know sometimes people roll their eyes at my basic, silly suggestions, but its the way I do my trouble shooting... basic first.

I actually thought to ask you to make sure the transmission was all the way, "clicked", into the park position. That's often over looked on 10+ year old cars. But when you said it would click... that cant be it. It wouldnt do ANYTHING in that scenario. Basic, simple things like that.

Anyway, glad it worked out & was a simple fix!
 
 

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