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New battery, but won't turn over when hot

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The last couple times I've driven the car, after a short drive, the car won't start.  It doesn't even turn over - you hear the click when you turn the key, but the starter doesn't turn. It starts just fine when cold.

The last time this happened, I waited until the end of the day to return to the car, jump-started it, and happily drove home.

Not knowing the history of the battery, I replaced it with a brand new one yesterday.

Today, after my short drive (15-20 minutes, mostly in traffic), after parking and returning to the car, it again failed to start.  I called a friend to come give me a jump-start (who arrived about 20 minutes later - engine still warm, ambient temps still high), but even with the jump, it's not starting.  Always the same symptom - click but no start - much like the battery was dead.

From my quick research, this sounds like either a problem with the starter or problem with wiring to the starter. It could also be that the starter gears were in perfectly wrong alignment with the flywheel, so I rocked the car back and forth while in gear to see if that would "free" it...  No help.

Any thoughts on the issue - does it sound like starter? More importantly, recommended test procedures to help me track down the problem?

I'll be returning to the car after it cools down tonight, in hopes that it will accept the jump-start. I'll also accept tips on getting the thing started just so I can get it back home without a tow truck.

FWIW, the battery I'm using has 750/660 cranking amps (normal/cold).


Edited to add: this is a '74 Elite

Edited by BrianK
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Sounds like a classic starter solenoid, although it could be dodgy wiring.

It could even be a bad earth if the battery negative connection is poor. the starter is the highest load on the system,  so the first to fail.

Another thing to check is there's still voltage in the battery - it could be going flat due to failing alternator or some unknown load. Turning on the headlights gives an idea if you don't have a multimeter.

If it's not the battery...

You might find if you bang the starter with something, it works, as yours is borderline.

With the ignition off : It would be worth jumping power straight on to the starter live terminal on the solenoid to see if the motor works ok with direct power  - that's the large terminal on the solenoid nearest the motor body. The motor should spin but won't engage with the engine.



Also a positive voltage applied to the small spade terminal should operate the solenoid with a heavy clunk.


The other large terminal (outer with yellow connector in the photo) is the positive to the solenoid (It's  a mechanical switch). Turning on the ignition should live that up,  then a positive to the small spade should then close the switch, and then power the starter, and crank the car. this can be done with a spanner off the outer terminal.  Turning the ignition key to the start position applies live to the spade - the fact your car clunks at this point means this bit is working.

Be sure all parts of clothing, anatomy etc are clear of any moving engine parts. It's also important there's no petrol or vapour around as testing will produce large sparks.

A fire extinguisher and a helper are a good idea.

The starter motor is easy to remove - you can have a go at dismantling  and cleaning the solenoid assembly as it might just be dirty - you can also file the contact  plates flat again,  but ultimately you'll need a new solenoid,  easiest you just replace the starter as a professional repair will probably cost you more.

If you need to start it tonight and it's not a flat battery,  you can jump the solenoid switch with a spanner. Turning the ignition gives you the clunk of the solenoid engaging the motor with the engine - if you then put a spanner across the two solenoid terminals, you can supply voltage to the starter directly bypassing the solenoid switch. It could also be done with a jump lead to that inner terminal,  allowing the"electrician" to live the motor up at a safe ish distance by touching the other end on the jump battery. Hard to get a firm connection with a clip though - some cabling might be required.

See warning above though. It might just be easier and safer to bump start the car.


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 well interestingly I have 2 starter motors as my original solenoid is falling apart.

The "jump the solenoid" trick spins the motors:IMG_20190817_094926.jpg.3a28a007044c999e67aa268a9ae49ef7.jpg

But the "throw the starter  pinion"


Works on one without a live supply to the solenoid,  but not the other.

The spanner methods shown should work with live to the yellow tab...

Assuming a decent earth to the motor body.

Doing this on the bench you have to watch out for the starter jumping right off the surface and landing on your feet.

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My bet is on the solenoid as well, or a dodgy earth that faults when things are hot.

If the starter will turn the engine when it is cold, that rules out the motor itself and the gear throwing into the flywheel.

Only leaves the two things up the top as the culprits.

All we know is that when they stop making this, we will be properly, properly sad.Jeremy Clarkson on the Esprit.

Opinions are like armpits. Everyone has them, some just stink more than others.

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Thanks for the replies, all. Tom, I really appreciate the time taken to get pictures.

For what it's worth, I was able to jump-start the car later in the evening after ambient temps dropped.  I did, previously, attempt to whack the starter, with no luck (admittedly, I only had a small spanner on hand - so not much of a whack)

I'll do some testing based on these suggestions, but it's sounding like a new starter is in order.

Thanks again.

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  • 5 months later...

Hi Brian glad to hear you have sorted the electrical issues. Earth's can be very problematic especially when they are intermittent. I have installed 3 extra earths to the chassis and often use these to check wiring installations. 

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  • 6 months later...

I have a similar fault with my esprit x180 n/a. Started from cold a few weeks back with no issues. Tried restarting when hot, engine didn’t turn over. Left it for an hour or so and then it fired up into life.

Just had the same issue today, should I go through earths,solenoid or is there a particular problem for the esprit?

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31 minutes ago, Modelt said:

I have a similar fault with my esprit x180 n/a. Started from cold a few weeks back with no issues. Tried restarting when hot, engine didn’t turn over. Left it for an hour or so and then it fired up into life.

Just had the same issue today, should I go through earths,solenoid or is there a particular problem for the esprit?

In my case, at the end of the day, I ended up replacing the entire wiring harness.  It was never right until I did.  My OE wiring harness was in pretty bad shape - having been melted in several places with most of the terminals being fairly oxidized and most wires being frayed at the terminal:

The first of my starter problems. by Brian Knudson, on Flickr

Part of the old harness by Brian Knudson, on Flickr

If you want to go that route, Auto Sparks has complete harnesses.  They aren't cheap, but they are very well made:

Edited by BrianK
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Take this with a grain of salt, as I'm no expert, but I'll also add that a possible test for bad earth is to simply add another, temporary earth strap when the car doesn't start.  When the car is misbehaving, run a jumper cable from the negative battery post to the engine block, then try to start again.  If that works, you know you're not getting good earth.  If that doesn't help, the problem exists elsewhere.

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On  another car I had a similar problem , in desperation I ran a wire from the battery to a good quality push button hidden under the dash.and then to the solenoid. 
when the car was hot and starter wouldn’t turn over but solenoid clicked, I press the button and starter turns over. I think the problem is that the solenoid pulls a lot of current and all the dodgy connections in the circuit coupled with the low battery voltage when the engine is not running give an accumulated volt drop so the solenoid will not pull in.

Remember, the starter motor is wired directly to the battery so will run when the solenoid finally pulls in. How I hate intermittent faults.

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I once fitted a rebuilt engine into a mini & it fired up on first turn of the key so I run it for a couple of years without any problem. Then one morning it wouldn't start & after several attempts I noticed smoke coming  from under the bonnet & investigation revealed it was coming from the choke cable as I'd never actually fitted an earth cable. :wallbash: 

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John W

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