Author Topic: What do you guys make of this?  (Read 242 times)

Online qcbaker

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What do you guys make of this?
« on: July 06, 2018, 01:34:21 PM »
So, my girlfriend and I recently drove home from NYC in her car and along the way in NJ, I had to stop for gas. NJ is one of those wacky states that won't let you pump your own gas for whatever reason ( :cookoo: ), so I had to stay in the car and let the dude do it all. So he finishes filling the car up, and I go to start the car and it wont start. Sounds like a dead battery. Starter tries to crank, all lights in the car dim and then nothing. The car has not shown any problems in the 2 years we've had it, and we literally just got finished driving almost 200 issue-free miles to pull up to this gas station. Now, this gas station is one of those "full service" places so I'm like "Hey, uhh... the car won't start now... Seems like a dead battery. Any ideas?" and the guy who pumped the gas immediately says "Well, it's not anything I did!" which was weird to me because I hadn't really implied that it was. The lady (man in this case lol) doth protest too much, methinks. So he asks me to try and start it so he can hear what it's doing. He agrees it sounds like a dead battery or a busted starter. He then calls over who I assume is the shop manager and we do the same thing. The shop manager goes "Well, we have batteries here, if you want one." I just ask if he can give me a jump so I can get home and tell him I'll worry about replacing the battery once we get home. He jumps me, and the car starts up perfectly. So, not the starter. Car idles fine for a few minutes, so probably not the alternator either. So, if anything, it has to be the battery. So I decide, well I'm driving directly home, so the next time the car is off, it'll be right outside my house where I can work on it. The shop manager again suggests that I should buy a battery just in case. I tell him no thanks and drive home.

An hour or so later, we pull up to my house. I turn the car off, and then attempt to start it again, it starts perfectly fine as it always has. I then turn it off again, let it sit for a minute or two (about the same time a fill up takes) and start it again. Same thing, starts with no issues. I just kinda shrugged it off and went inside. The car also worked fine all day yesterday and worked fine this morning. So far, it hasn't shown any symptoms that would suggest that the battery is failing. But, I can't come up with any sort of other explanation for the car's behavior at the service station. I wonder (based on the way the guy reacted to me telling him the car wouldn't start and the manager's insistence that i buy a new battery) if somehow the service station guy messed with it, but how could he have? I didn't pop the hood until after the car didn't start, so if he was gonna mess with the battery, I think I would have noticed. What do you guys think?

Offline mr72

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2018, 02:17:44 PM »
Starter is going bad. Gonna get worse over time.

Offline pliskin

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2018, 02:42:12 PM »
I don't think it's your starter. You wouldn't get dim lights or hear it to turn over slow. Starters usually get a dead spot in them and they wont crank at all (you just hear click-click). You could just have a loose or corroded battery terminal. Could be a battery dying as well.

A little tip: Keep a 2x4 or hefty stick in the trunk. If your starters is bad and it doesn't crank at all have someone try to start it while you whack the starter real good with the stick.  I have used this on several starters with dead spots and it does work. 
Why are you looking here?

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2018, 02:48:04 PM »
If it was the starter going bad, and therefore unrelated to the battery, why would a jump be what started the car?

If it happens again, I'm going to have the battery load tested and replace it if it's even close to sketchy. I'll have a closer look at the battery terminals tonight but I don't remember there being any corrosion on there when I popped the hood for the jump. Didn't check to see if the clamps were loose, I'll also check that tonight as well.

Offline mr72

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 03:41:11 PM »
If it was the starter going bad, and therefore unrelated to the battery, why would a jump be what started the car?

Because when you hook to a running vehicle to jump start, the voltage at the starter is 14.4V or so, not the 12.5V or so of a charged car battery alone. The commutator and brushes are in series with the field coil in the armature of the starter. The commutator has dozens of little "plates" that each can individually connect to the brush. Corrosion on one of these little plates adds resistance, and you drop voltage across this resistance. So imagine it takes 10V or more at the armature coil to produce enough magnetic flux to make it turn, and the resistance in the commutator-brush junction is 1/3 that of the coil. So if you put 12V at the starter terminals then you get only 9V at the coil and the other 3V are dropped in the commutator interface, that's not enough to turn the starter. But if you put 14.4V on it, then you get 10.8V at the coil and the starter turns. The problem is worn brushes or corrosion on the commutator or resistive/conductive grit between the pads of the commutator causing a short to the next coil, etc., all of which is fixed with a new/rebuilt starter.

This behavior mimics a dead/low battery because it's precisely the same root cause, too little voltage present at the armature coil.

The difference is usually not all of the plates in the commutator are equally corroded or bad so if the starter comes to rest with the brush in contact with one of the good spots on the commutator, it starts like everything's fine. If it comes to rest on one of the bad spots, it won't start, behaves like a dead battery. To make matters worse, attempts to start it when the starter is in this bad spot will cause current to statically flow through this bad junction which it really is not designed to do, and will as a result increase corrosion rapidly and may also overheat the coil wire insulation and accelerate the demise of the starter. Once the coil wires short then the starter is done for, you can't even rebuild it without rewinding the coils. Oh yeah and when you attempt to start it in the bad spot like this, it also rapidly drains your battery because it draws as much current as starting current without actually turning the starter.

So when this begins to happen since there are dozens of plates on the commutator the chances of landing on one of the bad ones are like roulette. So most of the time it may start normally and occasionally it will wind up acting like the battery is suddenly dead for no reason, but you jump start and all is well. Eventually though it'll short the coil due to overheating the insulation and you will be towing the car.

A voltmeter will tell the tale. If the battery is >12.5V measured at the starter solenoid ring terminal and the starter won't turn, it's the starter. If the voltage at the battery terminals is not at least 14.4V when the car is running, it's the alternator or some other problem in the charging system. If the battery is <12.xV when it should be fully charged, it's the battery. Likewise you can load test the battery and measure the CCA to determine if the battery is going-bad without having a fully dead cell.

Given all of that, and my experience in doing this (learning all of this the hard way), once I verified the battery was good and the charge voltage was sufficient I'd replace the starter without any hesitation, particularly if the car's an automatic and you can't push start it.

Exact thing happened to my GS last fall. Exact thing happened to my daughter's car (which we bought new in 2007 as a family car) just a few months ago. I helped a friend change his starter, same thing, just a month before that. I've probably replaced a half dozen starters on my vehicles or family/friends over the past year, all exact same symptom and solution. Incidentally my wife's car when we bought it used (2012 Expedition) failed to start the 2nd day we had it even after we drove it around the previous day plenty, similar symptoms. Problem was a battery with a dead cell, full charge was 10.8V and that was enough to turn the starter but if it was not absolutely fully charged it would not turn the starter. Again, symptoms nearly identical, the volt meter tells the tale.


Online qcbaker

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2018, 03:57:18 PM »
snip

Thank you for the explanation, that actually makes perfect sense. Or rather, it would if all I heard when trying to start the car was a click. But I didn't hear a click, the starter cranked a bit each time. I would say maybe the voltage was just low enough to not turn the starter fast enough to start the engine, but if that were the case, wouldn't the voltage return to normal after the starter moved slightly (since it would be using a different commutator pad and/or a different spot on the brush), meaning the starter would turn normally after a momentary hesitation? Or am I misunderstanding?

Offline mr72

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2018, 04:15:27 PM »
If all you hear is "click" then the starter coil is probably shorted.

In the instance like I was talking about, you usually hear the starter turn a little bit just like if the battery is really low.

There may be adjacent bad pads on the commutator sufficient that it is bad for like 1/4 of the rotation. Just depends. But IME when the starter is going bad, the behavior is you turn the key and hear "Rr" about 1/4 of a second before the starter stops altogether. Bear in mind during this time the starter is actually turning multiple revolutions. It just repeatedly hits that bad spot and it started in that spot then it doesn't begin with enough momentum to really get going.

Anyway, whatever, I've said enough that you can make up your own mind. If it was my car, I would a) measure the battery voltage, b) measure the float (charging) voltage, and if those test good, I'd replace the starter without hesitation. 100% of the time I have done this, it has fixed it, and that's probably at least a dozen times. 100% of the time I had this behavior and didn't replace the starter promptly I eventually got stranded within weeks. You can skip the testing voltage part and maybe you get lucky and the problem really is a bad battery. You may be really unlucky and have a bad battery and a bad starter both at once (I've had that happen!). Point is, the symptoms alone, apart from testing voltages, are not sufficient to identify the root cause.

I think you have a bad starter and if you were my neighbor I'd be helping you change it out tomorrow morning.

Offline rscottlow

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2018, 05:14:57 PM »
Start simple (and cheap): make sure your battery terminals are tight.
Scott - Cincinnati, Ohio
2009 GS500F

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2018, 05:28:25 PM »
But IME when the starter is going bad, the behavior is you turn the key and hear "Rr" about 1/4 of a second before the starter stops altogether. Bear in mind during this time the starter is actually turning multiple revolutions. It just repeatedly hits that bad spot and it started in that spot then it doesn't begin with enough momentum to really get going.

That's pretty much exactly the behavior I experienced. Thanks for the explanation.

Quote
Anyway, whatever, I've said enough that you can make up your own mind.

I don't know if you meant this to sound as dismissive as it does, but I wasn't trying to imply that you didn't know what you were talking about, I was just trying to understand the issue better. Sorry if what I said rubbed you the wrong way?

Quote
If it was my car, I would a) measure the battery voltage, b) measure the float (charging) voltage, and if those test good, I'd replace the starter without hesitation. 100% of the time I have done this, it has fixed it, and that's probably at least a dozen times. 100% of the time I had this behavior and didn't replace the starter promptly I eventually got stranded within weeks. You can skip the testing voltage part and maybe you get lucky and the problem really is a bad battery. You may be really unlucky and have a bad battery and a bad starter both at once (I've had that happen!). Point is, the symptoms alone, apart from testing voltages, are not sufficient to identify the root cause.

I think you have a bad starter and if you were my neighbor I'd be helping you change it out tomorrow morning.

Thank you for the advice. I'll probably replace the starter if the battery doesn't seem to be the issue. Gonna check the terminals tonight and eventually get a voltmeter to eliminate the battery as the issue. I'm on a pretty tight budget for the next week so I can't really buy any new tools or parts at the moment. I looked up the process for replacing the starter on my girlfriend's car (2011 Civic) and apparently the starter comes out from the bottom, which means I'll need to get some jack stands as well, which I was planning on doing anyway since I'll need them when I start modding my FR-S, but still sucks to have to buy something I didn't think I'd need. Well, hopefully I get lucky enough that the car doesn't fail to start for the next week or two until I can buy everything I'll need to replace the starter.

Offline mr72

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2018, 06:01:55 PM »
I don't know if you meant this to sound as dismissive as it does, but I wasn't trying to imply that you didn't know what you were talking about, I was just trying to understand the issue better. Sorry if what I said rubbed you the wrong way?

I guess I just was talking to myself more than anyone else, like, hey Josh, stop trying to explain it, that's enough :) Of course others on this thread already disagree with me, so I'm not trying to win at being right about your car. Certainly I hope I'm wrong and cleaning the battery cables will fix it but I'm like 99% sure I'm right and not in the mood to argue about it. Either you fix it cheap and easy, you wind up replacing the starter and that fixes it, or it's something else and I'm all the way wrong.

Quote
Gonna check the terminals tonight and eventually get a voltmeter to eliminate the battery as the issue.

You can get a digital multimeter at Harbor Freight for like $8. Works well enough for what you need it for and is a perfect addition to your tool box. The trick with checking the battery voltage at the starter solenoid terminal is that it shows the condition of the cables, terminals, etc. all as well. That way you don't rely on visual inspection alone.

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still sucks to have to buy something I didn't think I'd need.

You can say that again.

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Well, hopefully I get lucky enough that the car doesn't fail to start for the next week or two until I can buy everything I'll need to replace the starter.

My daughter drove her Pilot for like six months with the iffy starter before replacing it, and she drove it daily. It would always eventually start, which is why they put off fixing it (my son-in-law replaced it). I drove my Miata like a year with a starter in this declining state just because it was such a giant PITA to replace it in that car, but I did push start it often. And my GS was in this state for like three months, requiring the occasional push start and it did take the battery down with it because I continued to "try" to start it with a stuck starter. You can probably get it to work for a little bit but just have a way to get a jump start if you need it, because you might, and tell your girlfriend not to "lay on" the key if it won't start because that'll hose the battery eventually.

Offline Kilted1

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2018, 11:16:31 PM »
Just a guess but while your tank was being filled with you sitting in the driver seat, were your headlights still on and maybe even your foot resting on the brake pedal? 

I can't think of anything a pump attendant might intentionally do in the time available and with you right there just to sell a battery you don't necessarily need.  But if your battery is even slightly marginal, sitting for several minutes with all the lights going could easily discharge the battery enough to not start.

I'd suggest going to a parts store and have your battery tested (usually for free!).  My bet is that it's getting weak even though it's still working.

Just noticed this thread is over a month old so it's probably been resolved by now.  :D

Online qcbaker

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2018, 12:52:59 PM »
Just a guess but while your tank was being filled with you sitting in the driver seat, were your headlights still on and maybe even your foot resting on the brake pedal? 

I can't think of anything a pump attendant might intentionally do in the time available and with you right there just to sell a battery you don't necessarily need.  But if your battery is even slightly marginal, sitting for several minutes with all the lights going could easily discharge the battery enough to not start.

I'd suggest going to a parts store and have your battery tested (usually for free!).  My bet is that it's getting weak even though it's still working.

Just noticed this thread is over a month old so it's probably been resolved by now.  :D

The car hasn't had any problems since I made this thread, but I've been monitoring it pretty closely. The first time it refuses to start, I'm planning on first replacing the battery and if that doesn't solve it, replacing the starter.

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2018, 02:16:35 PM »
So after 3 months of no issues, the car has refused to start twice in the last 2 days. I have looked into the starter replacement procedure a bit more and, disappointingly, I think this is a bit much for me at this point. I don't have the proper equipment or experience to do this unassisted without worrying that I'll break something, so I'll be taking the car to the shop as soon as I can. Hopefully I can get this taken care of this weekend.

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2018, 06:53:06 PM »
Small update: I did not get it taken care of this weekend lol. The shop told my gf they couldn't get it done this weekend, and she needs the car working so she can go to her classes (she's a grad student) so it would be incredibly difficult to go without it during the week. We bought one of those portable jump starters so I don't have to drive out and give her a jump any time the car wont start, but hopefully the shop can get it in and done this coming weekend.

Offline mr72

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2018, 09:15:34 PM »
If it'll jump start, it's not the starter. Just sayin'

Offline Kilted1

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2018, 02:54:16 AM »
If it'll jump start, it's not the starter. Just sayin'

What?!?  LOL!  Remember that two page thing you wrote up above there about how a jump start from a running car is higher voltage than even a brand new, fully charged battery?  About how the additional couple of volts can overcome the weaknesses of a marginal starter? (Paraphrasing)  No worries, man.  I forget about stuff that I wrote too but that one gave me a chuckle. 

On topic:  I'll say it again.  Get the battery load tested and go from there.  It only takes a couple minutes and can stay in the car.  You almost certainly have either a battery or starter that is on it's last legs.  One of them is easily eliminated in a few minutes without touching a wrench.

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2018, 12:29:54 PM »
If it'll jump start, it's not the starter. Just sayin'

You were the one who explained how all the symptoms pointed to the starter and said it was going to get worse over time, which it has.

Also, the car started fine this morning. I really don't think its the battery, since the car hasn't had any problems in 3 months, but I do have to admit its a possibility. I was planning on having it load tested but never did because the car didn't have any problems until now.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2018, 12:32:43 PM by qcbaker »

Offline mr72

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2018, 02:36:16 PM »
Right, my bad, yes in certain cases a jumping it can get a bad starter to turn. I stand corrected. I jumped to a response too quickly.

Carry on.

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2018, 03:17:17 PM »
Right, my bad, yes in certain cases a jumping it can get a bad starter to turn. I stand corrected. I jumped to a response too quickly.

Carry on.

Well, now you can understand my initial responses to your assertion that it was the starter. Because prior to talking to you and doing research to corroborate what you were saying, my initial reaction was also "it jump started, therefore probably not starter" lol.

But, I think you were right initially and that the starter is bad. I might still have the battery tested because its something easy and free, and I can swap a battery in 5 minutes. But, I'm 99% sure its the starter.

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Re: What do you guys make of this?
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2018, 01:28:33 PM »
Got the car into the shop over the weekend. They tested the battery and said that it was bad, and replaced it. I don't doubt the battery is in fact bad, but whether it was the root cause or it just went bad from all the jump starting remains to be seen. The car didn't need a jump when we picked it up, nor this morning. But, it also didn't need a jump all week either, so who knows. My gf said the car seemed to start "about the same" as before the battery was replaced, so we'll see if it refuses to start again over the next week or so.

I hope the battery replacement fixed it, but I'm operating under the assumption that the starter may still be bad and I'm just waiting to see if the symptoms truly are gone.