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'86 GL Wagon-Bizarre randomly-occuring won't-start issue

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Our car, a 1986 GL Wagon, has an aggravating problem, having to do with starting.


The car will start fine for any random number of times, then, with no warning or advance symptoms, it will refuse to start. After sitting for anywhere from 1 to 3 days, it will start back up again for an indeterminate amount of time, after which the no-start problem will show up again.


During the times it doesn't start, when the key is turned fully into the start postion, we observe the following:

  • No dash lights
  • No map light (front overhead dome light)
  • No head lights
  • Radio does get power
  • Overhead lights and 4-ways work
  • The horn works
  • There is no response from the starter at all, not even a click

Today we had the car towed across town. It had sat, unwilling to start, exhibiting the symptoms above, for three straight days. We tested the car before the tow … no start, no joy (the last time this happened, the problem resolved itself overnight). The car was towed, and dropped at the mechanic. When we attempted to start the car after the car was dropped, to demonstrate for the mechanic … it started normally and ran normally. After thoroughly reviewing the status of all the fuses (including the ones under the hood), It's now back in our driveway and the hard part is we paid for a tow to no end, at least for now.


Does anyone have any ideas here? Our mechanic … and us … are absolutely bewildered. Even some ideas as to diagnostic paths to explore would be welcome. Our inspirations run, so far, mostly to the ignition switch, maybe it needs replaced. After that, we're in the woods on this.


Thanks in advance for any advice, friends.



Edited by SJKPDX
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There are many connections in the path from the key to the starter. If you can get the diagrams from a factory service manual, it would help you a lot. When I was having a similar intermittent no start problem, I made up a wire with a switch and a clip and a connector. When it was being uncooperative, I would disconnect the start wire from the starter, connect my test cable, clip the clip to + battery, put the key in run and press the button.

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Seems like kind of a dumb thing to ask but how confident are you in your battery and it's connections? On my 92' Loyale the battery kept dying until I took the battery out and put brand new terminals on the positive and negative. When I had it out I also put it on the slow charger to get it up to 100% and haven't had a problem since. Figured I'd throw my 2 cents in. Happy hunting!

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Sounds like the ignition switch,but,load test the battery anyway.

Do an offical high amp load test.

My old crappy battery would refuse to start the car after self-discharging(they all do) during a week or so of no  driving.


Inspect the switch connector for overheating.


When the car is not starting:


1 Check voltage going into the switch w/key turned to start.(big pink wire?)

2 Check voltage btween the switch input and the outputs w/key turned

   #2 should be near zero,Any voltage represents voltage lost across the bad switch contacts

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Could be as simple as loose or dirty pins in a connector. But the advice above is sound, there are many things that could cause it.

I had a random start issue that was resolved by slightly bending a couple pins to make a better connection. I found the culprit by jiggling wires on the side of the road in the dark.

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Duuuuuude!!! I have an 86 gl-10 with the same issue. Ive had the no start issue three times everytime i tow it to my machanic it starts right up. I have a theory.


The second time it happened i took the fuel injectors off and sprayed them with carb cleaner. Put them back on, it fired right up. I think whats happening is the gas tank has a bunch of spoob in it. Every so often some spoob goes through the lines and clogs the fuel injectors. I was going to sell it but i dont want anyone to have the same issue or get stranded. I was think of buying a knew gas tank and putting it in. What does everyone else think of that.

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what do I think ?


I think you may not have read OP has a lot of electrical stuff going on in relation to no start - yours seems fuel cleanliness.


For the OP, check and clean, not just check ....


I have after market battery terminal clamps that cause grief as they have lock down bolts each side of the cable that are the main cable clamp, that also double as an extra cable connector. They work loose just a little and intermittently cause no starts. As they loosen of, the main pos power cable that I think is alloy strands, forms invisible to the eye corrosion under the terminal clamp - has tricked me a few times. So I cut that bit off 10mm or so, clean up with lanotec LANOTEC not IANOTEC, protecting from further corrosion, tighten up clamps and off I go ..... The fusible links can also get cracks in the terminals at each end of the links, or corrode at solder joins .Check and clean all earths as well. Could be ign module too if it has one..

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