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1998 Legacy GT- no cranking when engine is cold

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I bought the GT on Saturday and had no issues with starting it all day (it had been run prior to my looking at it) so all of the starts were with an engine that wasn't stone cold.

 

Forward fast to Tuesday morning. I realized I left an interior light on the night before, and I go to start the car and it won't crank. Thinking I drained the battery, I jumped it off my 2014 Impreza sitting next to it in the garage and it fired right up. Ran it for 3 minutes, shut it off and restarted fine and restarted fine the rest of the day.

 

Last night, I tried to start it, got a couple of clicks, then tried it again and it started. Again started up fine the rest of the evening.

 

I let it sit until this afternoon and again not turning over. Since I had some time, I grabbed my volt meter and measured 12.25 volts from the battery, and headlights are nice and bright. I compared the voltage to 3 other cars here and all the batteries were 12.2- 12.5 volts, so battery seems fine. The battery is a 10 month old Duralast Gold.

 

My guess would be a connection to battery or starter, or the starter itself. The connections are all tight, but I'm thinking of cleaning them all Saturday when I have more time.

 

I thought previous owner told me the starter was recently replaced, but if so, it's likely from Autozone, which makes me think it's pretty sketchy.

 

I find it a bit odd that it wouldn't crank at all with a cold engine, but cranks normally if it's been run in the past 6 hours, and it would be a connection or bad starter, but maybe. The outside temperatures have pretty much been in the 40's here, so not super cold.

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If you hear "clicks", check your connections. Like you said, starter might be garbage. It wouldn't be the first time someone had purchased a "new" starter, reman'd, and some short time later, the starter is acting up. Also, when the car is running, take the volt meter across the battery and check your alternator while you are at it. It should be 13.5v or above. 

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You should test the battery under load against its rated cold cranking amps. That's what turns it over.

Definitely check the alternator charge rate and the connections, plugs, etc.

if everything checks out ok, next time it starts clicking, give the starter a couple of hits with a hammer and then try to start it. If it starts, you need a starter.

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My son had the same problem with his wrx. We couldn't figure it out for a while, then I changed the ground cables (that didn't look terribly bad), but apparently were. He hasn't had a problem since.

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Whack the starter motor with a screwdriver hammer and see if that helps.  If it does, it is the starter.  Changing the contacts will fix it, if you can find them.

 

Otherwise, it might be the alternator.  Look for AC on the battery terminals when the car is running, as well as 13.5 VDC or more.  This test shows it has a bad diode.  New ones run about 30 millivolts. 

 

Grounds and connections are all good possibilities, and easy to check, clean and reterminate.

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A good fully charged battery at rest should read 12.6v. Fully discharged 12.0..

 

You have to supply 10 amps for 10 hours to mostly charge a battery with a standby capacity of around 100 amp hours. That's a LOT of driving to restore a complete draining.

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I decided to take another look at it tonight. Turned the key to start a couple of times and just heard a little noise, but no crank. The third time I tried I held the key in the start position for maybe 5- 10 seconds, then it just stated cranking at normal speed and started up. Hit a few more time and starter continued to crank fine at normal speed. Doesn't seem to indicate a generally low battery. It seems like something flaky.

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Sounds like pitted/burned/worn copper contacts to me.  It's not terribly difficult to pull the starter, open the back of the solenoid and swap in new contacts . . . a lot cheaper than buying a new or re-maned starter! 

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You mentioned you thought the previous owner said the starter was replaced. Was it?

I thought he said it was, but I didn't find it among the other receipts he gave me. It physically looks kind of oxidized, so it could be original.

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The only other thing I can think of if you've already checked your other options is the starter relay. You mentioned hearing a clicking noise so I doubt that's what it is but just to be safe you can swap it with another relay and see if it still happens.

Just so you've checked everything out before spending the money on a starter.

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Actually I hear no click from the starter (I think I was hearing a relay under the dash click and the door chime was going off when I tried previously so it was difficult to hear). Tried it again and it the start will crank normally if I hold the key in start for 5 seconds or so.

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check for voltage drop across the starter cable. (at battery end and starter end)

 

 

 

I decided to take another look at it tonight. Turned the key to start a couple of times and just heard a little noise, but no crank. The third time I tried I held the key in the start position for maybe 5- 10 seconds, then it just stated cranking at normal speed and started up. Hit a few more time and starter continued to crank fine at normal speed. Doesn't seem to indicate a generally low battery. It seems like something flaky.

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