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Discussion Starter #1
I need some quick advice. I have an 85 Spider over the last month I have experienced (3) no start situations in particular after the car has been driven about 30-40 minutes. (When I mean no start I mean no clicking, engine turn over, etc....)
The first time this happened I cleaned the ground contacts...all was fine until the second time, tonight. I pull into the gas station after a routine drive on the interstate for 30-40min at about 75mph. Filled up then the car would not start (no click, nothing). I finally got home with a push off. Home is less than 2 min from the station...then I tried again...no start. Perplexed and frustrated, I waited about 30min went back out to the garage and bam she started right up. No issues....Feels like my old MG days.

I put a new ignition in about 2 years ago for the same symtoms and all worked well from then until these incidents. I did check the battery connections and all was tight. Battery is 10mths old.

In searching on the forum, I see similar situations others have had and most threads I read state "New/Rebuilt Solenoid/Starter". That would be my last resort, besides if it was the solenoid would it just not work at all and not intermitently as I described? I thought when they die they are dead.

Any help or ideas would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance.
 

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Mine was intermitent. After the fourth or fifth time I just pulled the starter off and had it rebuilt. Pulled it off after work, dropped it off, picked it up and put it back in the next day.
Never had another problem (starter related!) after that.
About $75 at any alternator/starter repair in the phone book. Even in the middle of Kentucky....pick up trucks have starters too ya know!! :p
 

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My wife had the very same problem with a BMW 325. The temporary solution was to carry a piece of steel pipe and a hammer. When she came out of a store and the car would not start, she rounded up a helper to turn the ignition key while she used the hammer and tube to whack the starter motor. It never failed but she got fed up with the routine and got a new starter motor fitted. Of course, the hammer routine was not her idea.
Ed Prytherch
Columbia SC
 

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I had a similar problem with my '86, it turned out to be the ground connection between the battery cable & the chassis in the trunk. It looked good, but wasn't. Roadtrip suggested that I bypass the cabling and use jumper cables between the battery & the engine compartment. That did the trick.

When you get the "no start", try turning on the lights. Do they just dim, or do they go out totally? That would rule out/rule in the electrical supply.
 

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Mike, I had exactly the same problem, it was the starter solenoid. The heat soak from driving causes the solenoid to work intermittently. Replace the solenoid, easy to do, although it might be a good idea to rebuild the starter @ the same time since you have it out. Be sure to get the starter rebuilt by a reputable shop, I had mine rebuilt by an outfit that was highly regarded locally & they screwed it up, had to have it redone by a good shop. No problems since. Bruce
 

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I'm with Toptick...check the grounds, especially the body ground at the battery and the central ground in the engine compartment before you yank the starter. If those are tight and corrosion free, yeah the starter solonoid could fail intermittently.
 

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In addition to changing out the connector ends of all the wires going to the starter.......you might also try rolling the car in 5th gear for a few feet and then retest the ignition. Don't know what causes it.....but when the 78 is being tempermental...this seemed to do the trick.

Best Regards,
John M
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks all for your input. Late yesterday I had some time and looked at the body ground connection and the central ground. Both had seen better days. I went ahead and cleaned them both and their contact points then placed some dielectric grease on them for some "added" protection. I hope this was the problem.
If that did not work, I'll begin getting ready to remove the starter and get someone local to rebuild it. I really don't want to go that course since it looks like a PITA to get to and remove. All the Fuel Injection line and electricals look like too much joy in removing to get to the part, but again this was one more reason I bought the car....a learning process (or self torment)

Thanks to all of you for the help. I'll give an update if what I did clean up was not the solution afterall.
 

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Hey Mike:

If you have to go for a rebuild, that starter is not too bad to remove. You can pull it up through the top of engine bay. You do not have to remove the fuel rail....but you will have to remove the cast intake plenum and its support rod, disconnect the electrical connectors on the plenum sensors, probably some other little stuff. Disconnect the battery before starting. Worst parts of this little chore is finding a wrench to get on the shoulder bolt that secures the plenum support rod to the motor mount...and the big two bolts that secure the rod support to the plenum from underneath and the ones securing the support rod to the fuel rail.

Other things to consider while you are in there as its all accessible with the plenum out:
1. How are your motor mounts? Perfect time to replace them and save some labor down the road. Once you get that plenum and its support rod out of the way and the starter....just a matter of loosening the mount bolts and jacking the motor.
2. How is your oil pressure sending unit? It is easy to get at with the plenum out. Also a good time to replace the OPSU's wire end connector.
3. Inspect all your hoses...brake booster hose, plastic plenum pieces, vacuum lines.

Its not that bad of a job...just some time investment.

Best Regards,
John M
 

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I pulled the starter from my '87 Spider last week, and found that the easy method is to pull the distributor first. I was able to leave all the FI system intact, got the bottom two starter bolts from underneath the car, and the top starter bolt from above.

One caveat is that your '85 Spider has the larger 1.1hp starter, while my '87 has the comparatively tiny gear-reduction starter. The big starter will pass through the space between the block and plenum support, but it's tight.

Also, when you reinstall the starter, don't be tempted to test it without first reinstalling the distributor. If you haven't turned the engine with the distributor out, it will drop right back into place. If you've turned the engine over, then you'll have to mess with timing marks and proper alignment of the distributor.

Regards,

Dean
Lutz, FL
'74 & '87 Spider Veloce's
 

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I've just had a recent starter problem taken care off. From the looks of it, it might be the starter solenoid. I was experiencing exactly the same symptoms. Starts well when cold, and sometimes fails after a good drive. I had my solenoid replaced, but looking at the old one, it seems like all you'll probably need may be a good cleanup of the solenoid with an electrical contact cleaner. My old solenoid felt pretty tight and was a little cruded up. I would figure that when hot, it would really get stuck. After cleaning it up, I noticed it could slide a lot better with much less resistance.

If you want to consider this option,it'll probably be just $5 out of the window for the cleaner. But then again, you'll have to decide if you'll want to go through all the hassle again of removing it if this doesn't work out.

For your information, my experience was such:

When I started the car, I noticed a current draw. There was no click and no movement from the starter. My thought is that the solenoid is trying to pull the stuck plunger. It does move enough to close the circuit for the starter (hence no click, and no starter movement). If you hear a click coming from the starter (not the cold start solenoid), what this probably means is that the solenoid is able to engage, but the starter is unable to move. This would lead me to think that the starter motor itself is faulty or something else is drawing too much power for it to turn, although I would be surprised the it wouldn't even turn slightly, even with insuffient battery juice.

Andre
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Well, it did it again over the weekend. With my wife and I at a local shopping center. She was thrilled due to more shopping time. I convinced her hitting the Dairy Queen up the street was a better move. (More money for me to save on a starter now)
We waited about 30min and the car started right up. No problem.
In reading some other posts on this I wonder if the ignition switch is the issue and by passing the switch may an alternative (installing a push button for the starter only turned on by the key---Kind of Honda S2000 like). I intend to check on the status of the ignition switch and it's connections to see if they are the culprits. Any other ideas on how I can check the ignition function other than just checking connections?
I am still holding on to logic in finding the problem to avoid unnecessary expense (new starter and possible ignition),though it seems like I am heading down that road anyway.

Thanks for the advice on this from each of you. I really appreciate it. Of all times to have the car not want to play well it would have to be during the best time of the year for driving with the top down.
 

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Mike, I'm still betting on the solenoid. The starter & solenoid are the only things that get enough heat to be affected or changed by the heat from the engine. The various grounds & the ignition switch are not affected by engine heat, so the giveaway is that this problem only happens when warm. Art & Andre already touched on this, but the logical way to rule out the switch or grounds is to check the current at the starter when you turn the switch to the start position. If you are getting full voltage at the starter connections, then you know the switch is working correctly & it is supplying power to the starter. Check the voltage with a multimeter, or the quick & dirty, & almost as accurate, method is to turn on the headlites when the starter is acting up & see if they dim when turning the key to the start position. Or you can look at the alternator light on the dash display & watch for it dimming in the start position. Any sign of even slight dimming indicates the starter is getting full voltage & you need to get the starter/solenoid replaced. I've replaced switches as well as starters, & I'll do a starter over a key switch any day. Bruce
 

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In reply to your 1st post and your most current one, the solenoid does die... it just gets stuck, and it happens more often when it gets hot, because of the expansion and stuff. The starter solenoid comprises mainly of a magnetic 'shaft' and the solenoid itself, and a spring. The spring is acts on the magnetic shaft to prevent the solenoid from engaging the starter under non-starting situations. When you turn your ignition to the starting position, the circuit to the solenoid is closed, and it draws a current, you will notice the oil pressure light dimming a little during this process. Under normal operations, the solenoid gets charged and draws the magnetic shaft against the spring, which pulls on a lever to engage the starting gear into the flywheel. At the same time the magnetic shaft touches the other end and closes the circuit to engage the starter motor. When this happens, the starter turns and engages the flywheel, and boom! the car starts!

The problem is, the solenoid and the magnetic 'shaft' have a very small clearance between the two, where the magnetic shaft slides in. Over the years, crud builds up and fills up the gap (it's not a sealed unit). This increases the resistance to movement , up to a time when the magnetic shaft is no longer able to respond to the charged solenoid. When I took out my starter to examine the solenoid, that's exactly what I observed. When the magnetic shaft fails to move, it cannot close the circuit, which is why the starter will not even respond.

The fact that you car starts again when left to cool suggests that the problem probably doesn't lie in the motor itself (save yourself the rebuild), because if it is sitting on a flat spot, no amount of 'rest' will make a difference.

A new solenoid is just a thirty something dollar part from the vendors, or you could probably get away with just giving it a good clean up. Just remember to apply some loctite on the mounting screws for the solenoid. I didn't... and the solenoid came off after a couple weeks during some spirited driving. Thank God all I lost was the mounting screws!

My suggestion is get it done... you'll be glad you did!

Andre
 

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when we acquired the '79 Spider, it had the same hot start problem (unmentioned by the P.O., of course). It would periodically leave the driver stranded after a half hour of driving - just enough to get warmed up well. Rapping on the solenoid would work to make it start, and this is what convinced me it was the solenoid sticking. To test, get a 2 ft or longer piece of pipe and learn to stuff it down beside the air box in the correct place to get a shot at the solenoid. Rap it a few times while whoever tried to start the car, and if it goes, it is probably the solenoid or its connections.

As said above, new solenoids are not so hard to find, purchase, or replace. After the first time (yes, I replaced the solenoid, then had more of same problem, then reinstalled the old one after cleaning/lubing), I learned that I could replace the solenoid without removing the starter. Not a really bad activity, but you have to be confident about re-engaging the solenoid plunger slug and its connecting arm. You might want to do the first one outside the engine for this reason. There are three (3) flat-head screws holding the solenoid in place, and they are _tight_ (or should be, for the above mentioned reasons). Loctite is a good friend, but I used simple torque, not having seen any Loctite residue when I took it apart.

'79 has not let anyone down recently. We've had it going on 5 yrs now.

Michael
 

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Discussion Starter #17
The Alfa Masters of Alfabb.com have guided this "Grasshopper" to the right source after I took the pebble from their hand....for all Starter issues that is....
"THE SOLENOID is the meaning of Starter Life"

I did the checks with the lights dimming and on the ignition itself. All was good and the starter is getting the juice, just the solenoid was not willing to deliver. So a new solenoid is on the purchase list with other misc parts I wanted (not needed). This changes my plan and I will be taking the starter off to learn some about all the "parts" and how they work together plus this will be a good excuse to clean and replace various other items on the way to that area of the car. The weather is kind of dreary outside anyway.

Thanks very much to each of you for your help with this. I really appreciate this board for the knowledge you all share!
 

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Mike, did the solenoid clear your problem? I "thought" a new battery had cleared mine... (have an '84 Veloce). But since replacing the battery... this problem has nailed me three times. Each time, I had driven the car for 15-20 mins... parked it in my garage... then came back out 30 or so minutes later... click, fuel pump hum, and that's it.... now, here is the strange part... I have this cheap battery charger thats about 12 years old.. used to charge my deep cycle marine battery with it... anyways, I have hooked this charger up to the battery... set it to "Charge" and tried to start my car and each time, it fired right up???? Coincidence? I dunno. Also, always fires up with a short push.

All I know, is this one is frustrating me... here is what has been done so far to try and resolve this on my 84:

> Rebuilt starter... did not replace solenoid.
> When the problem has happened, before, I had had the covers off the ignition
and tried a Hot Wire with the key turned on, and a screw driver laying across a
set of wires (which ones, I don't recall, as it made no difference so I did not
repeat this test).
> Replaced the battery with a Sears GOLD, 550 CCA (hope this is ok as it was
what Sears gave me when I told them the vehicle etc... ) - Yet, when I hooked
this to the cheap charger I have - I set the charger to read, and it only showed
the battery as being 75% charged??? Should I recharge this new battery?
> Checked many of the grounds, but not yet extensively. So maybe?

Folks have mentioned that this car needs around 10+ volts to fire off... so one of the times I had the problem, I attached the voltmeter to the new battery and saw approx. 11.3 volts while someone was trying to start it... is that the correct way to check for this? Or should I be reading the voltage from somewhere else and not directly to the battery?

I'm about stumped on this one. So many times I thought, yup, that'll do it... especially with the new battery thought I was done with this issue.... nope.

Hope ya'll don't mind my continuing with this thread... but seems to be the place, as Mike has an 85.... assuming they are the same?

I don't recall if I ever tried the light test... will do so tonight and will also take the dremel to the fuse seats and clean them up.... otherwise ---> what now???

Any ideas?

As always, thanks.
 

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You said you didn't replace the solenoid. That would be the first thing I'd check on a "click, no crank." The contactor in the solenoid can get burned and cruddy and work intermittently. Get a new solenoid would be my advice.
 

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Hey John.... do you think the 550 CCA is enough though? I live in Phoenix AZ, not too cold out here. 550 CCA should be fine right? The strange thing I keep coming back to... is why has it started 3 times, immediately after I hook the charger up... don't you think thats wierd? Again, could be coincidence.

I'm thinking after work today, to have the NEW battery checked by Checker Auto and try to eliminate that right off... I guess I "could" have a bad battery?
 
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