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84 GL Wagon - Ignition/Starter/Battery problem


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30 replies to this topic

#1 JustGo_GL

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 02:46 PM

Hey folks,

 

So I've got an 84 Subaru Wagon, and it's been running smoothly for about a month now, drives basically perfectly. The other day, I parked it on the side of the street, and then when I tried to restart it I suddenly couldn't. I was getting battery power, it seemed, as I could hear the radio, use the lights, etc, but the engine wouldn't turn over. As a result, I suspected it was something wrong with the starter motor, and I went ahead and checked all the connections from the battery to the solenoid, and there was a wire that wasn't completely slotting in properly, I managed to bend the wire back properly and get it to fit snugly. This seemed to work, as I was able to get the car running again. I came back the next day to the same spot and turned it on again, just to make sure it was working, and it turned over just fine.

 

Great! Problem solved. 

 

Or maybe not. This morning I went out to the car to turn it on (in the same spot - I didn't actually drive it either of the past two days that I got it running again) and it was completely dead - the battery seemed completely dead, I was getting no lights, no radio, nothing. Now, nothing had been left on, the lights were all off, and there shouldn't have been any reason for the battery losing its charge, but somehow it had. AAA came and jumped it (they also tested the battery and said it should be running fine, they also checked the electrical system/alternator and seemed to think everything was okay). The jump worked and the car started up, so I drove it around for about an hour to charge the battery, parked it, and then shut it off with a bit of trepidation. 

I was right to be wary. It wouldn't turn on again. I was back to getting some battery power, the lights and radio, etc, but once again the engine wouldn't turn over. 

I'm a bit at wits end right now with regards to the issue, I can't tell if the battery is giving me SOME power, just not enough, or if there's an actual alternator issue, or if the starter motor is the problem. Any help would be incredibly appreciated. 

Thanks,

 

Greg



#2 Crazyeights

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 10:27 AM

The problem is most likely the large short wire that goes from the positive battery cable to the fuse link box on the fender well. This short FAT black wire with old tape on it runs THE ENTIRE CAR. By now is has an old worn out and loose spade connection on the end. Simply clean it up and tighten it, problem solved. Myself - I updated this to a better solution after the EJ swap.  Good luck and hope it helps. -Jeff



#3 JustGo_GL

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 10:53 AM

Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely try that next. This morning, before I went in to work, I just tried to turn it on again for the heck of it and it turned over immediately. Could definitely be just an old inconsistent connection.

#4 Crazyeights

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 11:05 AM

Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely try that next. This morning, before I went in to work, I just tried to turn it on again for the heck of it and it turned over immediately. Could definitely be just an old inconsistent connection.

Not just any one but that specific circuit is almost certainly your problem. Please check "the exact wire mentioned" and report back. Also maintain good battery cables and condition of course. 



#5 JustGo_GL

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 11:09 AM

Absolutely, will do, probably tomorrow morning before work. Thanks again, and I'll report back how it goes.

#6 JustGo_GL

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 12:00 PM

Oook, so this morning I had the same issue where it would click, but the engine wouldn't turn all the way over. I had full battery power, etc. I went ahead and tightened the connections and tried to clean up the wiring as much as I could. I then went and tried again and the engine started right up. Now, I only was able to drive it around a little bit before I had to head to work, but when I turned it off I was able to get it right back going again. 

In no way am I certain that the problem is solved, but it seemed to have helped. I'll know for sure tomorrow when I'm doing a longer trip to Jersey. 



#7 Crazyeights

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 01:04 PM

Oook, so this morning I had the same issue where it would click, but the engine wouldn't turn all the way over. I had full battery power, etc. I went ahead and tightened the connections and tried to clean up the wiring as much as I could. I then went and tried again and the engine started right up. Now, I only was able to drive it around a little bit before I had to head to work, but when I turned it off I was able to get it right back going again. 

In no way am I certain that the problem is solved, but it seemed to have helped. I'll know for sure tomorrow when I'm doing a longer trip to Jersey. 

Good luck on the Jersey trip!



#8 roadsubiedog

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 04:12 PM

what if the battery is drained out after a couple days? could it be a bad ground?



#9 JustGo_GL

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 11:39 AM

The Battery's been fine since it got jumped on Wednesday, but that's a good point - if it happens again, that's definitely what I'll look for, especially since the battery is brand new and was confirmed to be in fine condition. 



#10 JustGo_GL

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 10:03 PM

Intriguing update: I've determined that, essentially, the car will only start with regularity when the car is cool. Basically, any time it won't start up, if I open the hood and leave it for a bit it'll eventually turned over. Sometimes it'll start just fine when it's warm (for instance, when I stopped for gas today), but it's hardly consistent. 

So yeah, I've been cleaning up the wiring, checking the fusible links, and I'm suspecting that the issue is somewhere in the contacts to the starter motor, but I'm really not sure. 



#11 TomRhere

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 06:10 AM

Starter contacts could be issue here. Starter Repair Kit; HELP #02349

 

Un-bolt the fusible link box and flip it over to inspect the underside. I have had corrosion issues there.

 

But the "open the hood for a few minutes" makes me think the starter itself is culprit. It's not liking the heat from the engine bay.



#12 JustGo_GL

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 02:47 PM

Yeah, the more research I do, the more I indeed suspect that the starter motor is the issue. Does that repair kit you linked actually fit the GL? The website seems to indicate it doesn't. 

Also, I'm not a particularly skilled mechanic, but I'm working on improving - is this the sort of swap that's not incredibly difficult if one has the right instructions, or should I just go ahead and bring it to a shop?



#13 rdweninger

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 05:29 PM

Disconnect battery.   Remove starter from vehicle.   The contacts are accessible by removing the 3 small bolts holding the endcap on.   You will see the copper contacts will have deep grooves in them.   the one on the battery side will have deeper grooves.   Replace both contacts. 

  I wrote up a post about a year ago.     Google search Subaru replace starter contacts... you might watch a youtube video.   Hope this helps.    I've fixed several starters this way.



#14 JustGo_GL

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 06:03 PM

Disconnect battery.   Remove starter from vehicle.   The contacts are accessible by removing the 3 small bolts holding the endcap on.   You will see the copper contacts will have deep grooves in them.   the one on the battery side will have deeper grooves.   Replace both contacts. 

  I wrote up a post about a year ago.     Google search Subaru replace starter contacts... you might watch a youtube video.   Hope this helps.    I've fixed several starters this way.

 

That's absolutely perfect, thanks so much, all of you. I'll give this a shot and report back. 



#15 JustGo_GL

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 06:08 PM

Alright folks, so here's the situation.

I finally managed to pull out the starter motor and swapped in the new contacts for the solenoid. I'm still having the same problem, the car will start at times and at others I'll get the clicking sound. I'm starting to suspect something along the lines of an ignition switch problem, or even something with the key. I've also read about potential neutral safety switch issue, but I'm not sure that's completely applicable, as the car does SOMETIMES start.



#16 naru

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 11:59 PM

Neutral safety switch on my 84 had intermittent high resistance.

All my starting problems went away after jumpering it out.

 

Test the NSS and ignition switches w/an ohmmeter if you really want to find out what is going on.

 

In the meantime,wiggle the shifter back and forth w/trying to start.



#17 bratman2

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 06:31 AM

Listen carefully to the click when you have no start. If it is coming from the steering column you will probably have to replace the electrical side of your ignition switch. I went through the same problem several years ago on my Brat. Lights, radio and battery power but occasionally no start.  The contacts were worn out in the ignition switch. The switch is two piece, mechanical side (key) and electrical with a wiring harness and connector. It was hell finding the right one, most places carried one but for an EA82. I think I paid around $45.00 new.


Edited by bratman2, 10 July 2014 - 06:34 AM.


#18 bratman2

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 06:43 AM

This should be the one if you need it!! Has to have the pink connector on it if you have a GL with tilt wheel. You can trace back the wiring harness to the connector to check yourself to make sure this is the right switch. Only if you are hearing the click at the steering column.

http://www.partstrai...33-1630804.html



#19 JustGo_GL

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 03:52 PM

Okay, so I'm definitely inclined to agree with the ignition switch issue, as the click IS coming from the column. Also, we can short the starter motor and it'll always go, so the starter itself is fine. Getting a replacement ignition switch tomorrow (a local mechanic has several for this version with the tilt wheel in his warehouse, remarkably enough) and will swap it in, then report back. 



#20 bratman2

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 06:33 PM

Good luck and hope that solves your problem. Never hurts to touch up your old starter and grounds anyways. I did the same thing when mine started that click crap.



#21 l75eya

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 06:46 PM

Okay, so I'm definitely inclined to agree with the ignition switch issue, as the click IS coming from the column. Also, we can short the starter motor and it'll always go, so the starter itself is fine. Getting a replacement ignition switch tomorrow (a local mechanic has several for this version with the tilt wheel in his warehouse, remarkably enough) and will swap it in, then report back. 

Wow, play the lottery that day? haha

 

I'm interested to see how this goes as my girlfriend's Loyale has done the same thing since we got it 5 years ago. I've jumped through a few hoops trying to figure it out but still haven't. It doesn't do it *too* often but it's annoying when it happens.

Usually I'll just keep trying to start the car over and over again and eventually on the 50th or 100th try it'll turn over, but by then I've gotten so in to the routine of turning the key off and on quickly I'll turn it off while it's cranking and then the next key turn it's back to *CLICK* lol

I'm not so sure it's the same issue though as I'm certain the click I get when it won't start is under the hood and there is no even slight attempt at engaging the starter motor. Just a click.

Also! Are you ever around Hoboken? If you're in Jersey often we should meet up and take pictures of our old cars society shuns.

Cheers!



#22 JustGo_GL

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 12:03 PM

So. More news. Got the ignition switch this morning, swapped it in. The problem was lessened, the car would start more often now, but still sometimes clicks and won't go for a bit. Decided to go get the battery tested just for the heck of it. Turns out the battery tested badly, and needed to be replaced. SO, I replace the battery. Still, the problem isn't solved. So, going through the checklist:

1: Replaced Solenoid Contacts

2: Tested the starter motor (jumping it with pliers, it turns over immediately if you do this)

3: Replaced Ignition Switch (seemed to help, but not solve the problem)

4: Swapped out the old bad battery for the new one. Made no apparent difference. 

I guess the Neutral Safety Switch is all I have left to check, except I have virtually no idea how to do that. To the forum search I go. 



#23 JustGo_GL

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 12:09 PM

Okay, and another edit, because I should have mentioned this:

Now, if I keep turning the key over and over, it'll ALWAYS eventually start. This was not the case before. So now I can pretty much always eventually get it started, it just might take ten or fifteen clicks. 



#24 naru

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 04:31 PM

So. More news. Got the ignition switch this morning, swapped it in. The problem was lessened, the car would start more often now, but still sometimes clicks and won't go for a bit. Decided to go get the battery tested just for the heck of it. Turns out the battery tested badly, and needed to be replaced. SO, I replace the battery. Still, the problem isn't solved. So, going through the checklist:

1: Replaced Solenoid Contacts

2: Tested the starter motor (jumping it with pliers, it turns over immediately if you do this)

3: Replaced Ignition Switch (seemed to help, but not solve the problem)

4: Swapped out the old bad battery for the new one. Made no apparent difference. 

I guess the Neutral Safety Switch is all I have left to check, except I have virtually no idea how to do that. To the forum search I go. 

 

Pull the centre console..

You will see a "combination" switch that contains the NSS and back up switches.

Unplug it and put your ohmmeter across the NSS.(black/white and black yellow wires IIRC)

You should have 0 ohms in park.

Mine was around 7 ohms sometimes.Since the solenoid resistance is so low,even 7 ohms causes too much voltage drop,

New switches are around $60-70.

Being a cheapskate,I cut the NSS wires off the switch and connected them w/a butt connector-very simple,

Starts in any gear now,but.starts EVERY time.



#25 l75eya

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 05:00 PM

Just curious, what happens if you start an automatic while it's in drive?




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