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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Decided to sell my Spider, took it to Alfaman and spent north of $5k. Then my starter failed and my clutch throw out bearing failed. Another $3k at my regular shop. Then I ran out of time so had to ship it east to Raleigh ($2k). Daily drove it for 2 weeks.
Now all of a sudden it won’t start. Battery has over 12v, ignition lights come on and dim when I try to start. No noise at all. Car can be bump started thankfully. Checked wires under dash (the 3 wire plug) and at starter, all seems ok.

The closest Alfa expert is 3 hours away from what I can tell. Suggestions? Exorcism?
 

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If I understand you correctly, you are in Raleigh NC. now.
There are a few members there and they will probably chime in.
Not knowing your "motorhead" level this may or may not be helpful.

You probably have a bad ground somewhere.
Also, if you can get the engine to start, a voltage check across
the battery should be something like 14.3V...
This is about normal output for alternators...

I wrote this "how to" for someone having a problem with the starter. I thought there might be some interest to others that were not following that thread.

If you have an electric fuel pump you may want to remove the fuse for the pump before doing these tests.

All these tests are done with a fully charged battery and digital volt meter..

1. Put the volt meter across the battery and try to start the car. (It doesn't matter which meter lead goes to which poll on the battery or any other test point we will be checking. We're going to ignore the - or + shown on the meter. )
The meter will show how much the battery is maintaining it's voltage during starting. It should not be less then 10 V. A battery's ability to maintain voltage here is the capacity of the battery not the voltage (charge) of the battery at rest. Capacity has to do with the total surface area (of the plates) of the battery. The CCA (number) rating is a good indicator. CCA is noted on the battery label. Batteries with the same size (H,W,D) can and do have different CCA numbers. CCA is cold cranking amps. The amount it can put out when under load. (As most with most things, size counts here.)

2. Now put the volt meter between the battery ground (-) terminal and any bolt or something on the engine. (near the battery is OK. ) Run the starter. Note the voltage on the meter. A good reading would be below 0.4 volts. Anything higher will indicate a bad/week ground between the battery and the motor. Remember any voltage here means less voltage for the starter motor. If a problem is indicated you need to add another ground to the system or fix the one that is installed. The OEM ground cable (between the car body and the starter) is located on the starter visible under the car. If the ground cable is missing or really bad you will be drawing current through something else like the tach cable or somewhere else. Not good, this can really cause big problems down the road.A good cleaning of this cable and the area it is bolted to, might fix the problem.

3. Now we're going to check the +12V (red) cable. This one goes from the + terminal on the battery directally to the starter. (the big cable.) This takes a little work. First disconnect the battery ground (-) cable at the battery (Very important !!!) At the starter loosen the nut on the big cable and add an other wire (3-4 ft long) to it. We're going to bring a wire from the starter up where it's easy to attach to the volt meter later. Now reattach the ground cable to the battery. We're going to measure the voltage across the +12 v cable while the starter is running. Attach the meter to this new wire and the +terminal on the battery. Check voltage while starter is running. A reading of 0.8 is what I have on my car and the starter runs fine. Depending on the voltage reading you may have to install a bigger wire.

4. Now we're going to check the voltage across the starter. Put the volt meter from the wire (the 3-4 ft one) you installed on the starter and any good point on the engine. Run the starter. This will show just how many volts are actually showing up at the starter.

Write down all these numbers and report back (if there is a problem,) and lets see if we can figure this out.

NB: Don't forget to secure ( you may need it later.) that wire we added to the starter. If this wire touches any thing you will get a really good spark. ::

BTW: Be aware that some batteries are mislabeled as to CCA in the stores. I always take a tester with me anytime I go to buy a battery. Below is the one I have used for years. (no stock in the company) Notice that there is two leads going to each alligator r clip. This is to insure there is a good contact with the battery being tested. There are many testers using this technology with only one wire attaching the aligater clip. Don't buy these. They are not reliable.


Amazon.com: Midtronics PBT200 Battery Tester w Charging System Test: Automotive
Buy Midtronics PBT200 Battery Tester w Charging System Test: Battery Testers - Amazon.com ✓ FREE DELIVERY possible on eligible purchases
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And , No your Alfa does not hate you.
She, like a 6 year old, is just trying to how far she can
push you...
 

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so if I read this correct, you turn the key to "start" and nothing happens (nothing at all, no noise, no click ?) and at the same time the dash ignition light dims.....
.....yet the car starts easily with a bump start.....correct?

then I suspect a sticking starter, a loose starter wire, a bad ground or the ignition switch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yes, I'm in Raleigh. My motorhead level is quite high, but I have no garage, thankfully my tools are now here.
Dom - yes, ignition lights come on, I turn the key and they dim, but there is no starter action at all.
Car started easily with a bump start. Battery is good, alternator output is good.
Starter wires look solidly on there from what I could tell (will check again), my mechanic is not one to miss silly things like that.
Bad ignition switch is possible, my mechanic suggested I bypass the ignition switch with a jump wire to test the starter, and I will, but only yesterday was able to move the car to a private garage where I can do a little more digging.

Bad ground is a very possible candidate. Some time ago I posted about my rebuild tach showing an erratic idle, and I feel it in the motor. Everything else under the hood seems good, so ground could part of the same issue.
 

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Erratic ignition switches are a known issue. The internal contacts eventually become unable to pass even the relatively small current needed to operate the starter motor's solenoid (which is the heavy duty switch that operates the starter motor). Replacement switches are not known for their durability. Adding a relay such that the key switch only has to trigger the relay - the relay then sends full power to the solenoid - is likely the best solution.

There is a link to a thread with more info in the Spider Technical FAQ Thread. Spider Technical FAQ Digest
 

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here is also a little pdf that shows how I did my starter relay on my S4.
(I take power from the starter itself. Some people take live from the power connector block on driver's side fender)
I think it took me 20 minutes.
I didn't notice any difference tbh, but then my car wasn't having any start problems..........more of preventative medicine.
 

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You decided to sell the car, and the car doesn’t want to go - literally.
Change your mind (And tell the car). Simple. 😁
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I had family out this weekend so once they are gone (tomorrow) I'm going to tackle some diagnostics.
I've been reading up on all the threads, and it seems pretty common that the ignition switch can suddenly fail or become intermittent.
Looking at the diagrams, the heavy solid wire on the center terminal is 12v as is the smaller red wire on the same terminal (that goes to alternator I think).
The 12ga or so black wire is the trigger for the starter solenoid, and should run all the way back to the ignition switch harness.
Looking under the dash twice, I saw the 3 wire connector, but did not see the black wire. I will look once again, it was hard to get under there while in a parking spot.

In order to test the starter and get the car going, I should be able to unplug the black wire and run a jumper wire from the center terminal to where the black wire goes, correct?
starter_wires.jpg
 

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Yes, the larger gauge red wire should be 'hot' all the time. The smaller back wire is the trigger from the ignition switch. It is common for the key switch to become unable to pass enough electrons to operate the starter motor. Adding a relay is your best bet - then the key switch only has to pass the small amount of current need to trigger the relay.

1692940

1692942
 

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yes or any 12V source to that spade

you could also check with a voltmeter whether that small black solenoid wire with the spade connection has 12V when you turn the key to start

"Then my starter failed "
how long ago was this?
 

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Yes, I'm in Raleigh. My motorhead level is quite high, but I have no garage, thankfully my tools are now here.
Dom - yes, ignition lights come on, I turn the key and they dim, but there is no starter action at all.
If the alternator light dims when you turn the key to the start position. The problem is the starter solenoid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
If the alternator light dims when you turn the key to the start position. The problem is the starter solenoid.
The starter was just replaced weeks ago with a brand new Bosch, factory correct unit, so if the solenoid is the problem, it's either wiring, the starter is defective, or a bad ignition switch caused it to fail. I should be able to do some diagnostics today.
 

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Spiders: 1971 red, 1971 white, 1973 yellow, 1974 Silver, 1980 Brown, 1983 Blue, 1992 and 93 Green
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Before you go too far, check the battery with a battery tester. It'll put a load on the battery and the tester will tell you if it's good.

Why do I think it's a battery? Having correct voltage means that the potential energy is high enough (think of voltage as pressure). But when you try to start her up, you need current and the dimming of the dash lights tells me that your current is low. Think of current as the size of a water pipe - too small a pipe and you don't have enough flow - the battery can't do enough work (turning the starter). Two things can cause low current, either a dead battery or something that's drawing too much current. So, the easiest test is to run a load test. Autozone should have a battery load tester you can borrow.

In July 2019, we were driving across country in our new 1973 Spider. It was having trouble starting, but the dash wasn't dimming, so I thought the battery was good. I went to a local Napa and they let me use their battery tester. Battery was good! My main objective was to make sure I didn't have a bad battery - I didn't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere. If the car starter wouldn't crank, I could always bump start her, which I wound up doing quite a few times. We would look for a hill to park - it's much easier vs pushing. And yes, I did have to push a couple times, but thank goodness these are light cars!

I never figured out what was wrong. I've started her many, many times since and there's never been a problem. Maybe she likes the California climate!

Anyway, good luck with your no start problem - and let us know how you fixed it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the suggestion. I've never had a car that with a battery over 11 volts would not make at least some noise - clicking, whirring, something.
The battery had 12.4 volts. I charged it overnight and it made no difference. Jjust for giggles (and because it was just over a year old from Costco), I will put a new one in tomorrow.

I took a closer look at my ignition switch wiring. I have a 3 prong connector where one of them has both the black and I think green wire, not a separate black. All wires look fine, no burning or anything weird.

Was going to try jumping to the solenoid terminal but it's so darn tight in there.
 

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12.6V is fully charged. 12.3V is 1/2 to 3/4 charged. More important is how many amps it can deliver under a big load (like the starter motor). A quick & easy test is to see how many volts it can maintain while cranking (voltmeter connected to the battery - a dash gauge is not usually useful for this test). EFI Spiders need at least 10.5V for the computer(s) to wake up and send the make spark/squirt fuel signals. It can sound like it is cranking over OK but if the available voltage is below that threshold it won't start. As a point of reference, our '84 Spider will show ~ 11.8V during cranking.
 

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if the battery had 12,4V and you charged it overnight and it did not get near or beyond 13V, then
either your DVM is not reading correct (weak battery cell in the DVM) or your battery is not holding charge.

your S4 should have easily over 11V whilst cranking.
My S4 has over 11,5V when cranking (and my battery is 13 years old and Goodness knows how but still a strong 12,6V+ static)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
It made no difference in terms of starting, the voltage went up above 13v yes.
Replaced the battery today, no difference. I tried jumping the solenoid but it's impossible to get in there because of the manifold, and I don't have a jack so I can't get under it.
Will try again tomorrow maybe using an insulated long screwdriver to reach the solenoid terminal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
OK, now I'm even more puzzled. I took a long length of 10ga bare copper wire, wrapped it in electrical tape so it wouldn't short, and had my son run a jumper wire from the 12v tap on the drivers side fender to my jumper. Checked there for 12v (yes), jumped a wire from there to my copper jumper wire/stick, touching the terminal for the solenoid where the black wire goes, nothing.
Checked continuity on my jumper wires, good. Checked voltage at the black wire when cranking, 11.7v.
Recapping:
  • Ignition on, try to crank, get nothing at all. Dash lights are on, dim when trying to start.
  • Battery is brand new. The starter was replaced weeks ago.
  • Car bump starts and runs just fine.
  • I am getting voltage off the ignition switch when triggered.
  • When I run 12v to the solenoid, I get nothing, not even a click.
 

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The starter was replaced weeks ago.
New does not always guarantee good.

Is the starter/solenoid getting a good ground connection? There is supposed to be a ground strap between the bellhousing & the body (under the car in the transmission tunnel). Is it present?

If you rap the starter (rest a 2' - 3' dowel or a length of broom handle on the starter and hit it with a medium size hammer) will the starter wake up and operate? Sometimes such a jolt will get them to work (for a while, maybe not forever...).
 
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