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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #1
So, I have a beater '95 Nissan Hardbody pickup. 2.4l, manual transmission, 2wd, king cab.

Late last week I drove about a mile and a half to a store, and when I went to leave it wouldn't start. I did get some kind of an odd sensation first time I tried, but it was so fleeting that I really couldn't quantify what it was. Subsequent restart attempts resulted in a single loud click/clunk from the vicinity of the starter, but no spin. I attempted to reposition the flywheel by getting the truck rolling slightly under sneaker power then putting it into fifth, no change. My wife shows up, we attempt to jump it, no start. We finally hook it to her car with a strap and roll-start it, and I drive home the mile and a half.

When I get home and back it into the workshop I shut it off and attempt to start it. Same symptom as before, loud click/clunk type noise, no rev.

I've already replaced the starter, the battery, the relay that allows power to the starter once the clutch is pushed in, and I've reterminated the battery-end of the negative battery cable, which had corroded about 2" from the connector. I shortened it and put it into a new end. So, the truck's no-start really caught me by surprise given what I've done to attempt to get this thing to start reliably.

Today, because I have the possibility of help this weekend, I went out to consider if I wanted to rearrange the workshop to make working on it easier. For kicks I put the key in, push the clutch pedal down, and turn the key, and it fires right up. No weird delay, nothing.

The shop is climate controlled, but I only cool to 86°F when I'm not out there so that my tool batteries and other things don't die in the heat.

Any suggestions for what to try next would be much appreciated. I did keep the old starter so I can immediately swap it back, and I have some heavy-gauge stranded wire and ends so that I could change the battery cables if necessary, plus I have at least one battery cable kit too. I'd rather start with something logical though, if anyone has insight into how to diagnose this.
 

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I will guess that deterioration of the cables or their connections might still be responsible. Did you check the positive side?
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #3
Not yet. Probably will do that this weekend.

Is there any kind of multimeter-based test that I could use to check the condition of the cables?

I'm really not that knowledgeable about basic electrical stuff.


I suppose that I should add that the lights in the cab worked and the dash lights worked and such. It was daytime so I didn't try the headlights. Brake lights also seemed to light up normally.
 

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Headlights are a good test. If they won't light up brightly with the engine off, it indicates a bad connection between battery and cables (if battery is good). If they dim a lot when cranking, something's drawing a lot of current. If they don't dim much or at all when cranking, there's not enough current going to the starter.

I have bad solenoid contacts in my truck's starter. They must be burned. Takes 2 to 20 tries to crank when engine is cold, but when warm, ALWAYS turns briskly and starts. Always. So the contacts heat up and expand to make better contact when hot. And when it just clicks, battery voltage is still at 12.0V, so there is no short circuit.

I just can't get the damn starter off, with the 4WD setup it's buried.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #5
It was quite a bit hotter out the day it had the problem, makes me wonder if temps have anything to do with it as well.
 

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I thought you replace the starter on your truck a year or two ago, Tannon. Did you get it at Autozone? Sometimes, the Duralast starters aren't what they're cracked up to be. Maybe swelling of the windings against the case? I know what a pain in the rear end those Nissan starters are to replace. What in the world were they thinking?
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #7
I don't remember where I got it, but I know that I have a lifetime exchange warranty.

After I had changed it the first time the exact problems I had before I changed it continued to manifest after I changed it, so I don't think that there's anything wrong with my original, which I kept. I figure that I can swap the original back in and bench-test the one that's in there right now.

I'm kind of leaning toward electrical wiring problems unfortunately. This does not appeal to me, but if I have to replace some battery cables and figure out how to route them down into there, so be it.
 

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A DC voltmeter can test for the voltage drop while clicking or cranking. With one lead to the battery post and the other lead to the large starter terminal, I wouldn't want to see more than 1 volt drop in parallel with the (+) cable.
A voltage drop is from the resistance in the circuit while it is working a load. This is resistance that wouldn't normally show up in an ohmmeter test where the circuit isn't under load or doing any real work like cranking a starter.
The same voltage drop test can be performed on the return (ground) side of the starter housing to the (-) battery post.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #9
Okay. We'll probably give that a try then.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #10
Well, we didn't end up doing a voltage-drop test, but as we were diagnosing it we found that at some point, someone had already "fixed" the positive battery cable. And by "fixed" I mean cut the cable, soldered terminal connectors on the ends, and bolted the terminal connectors together, wrapping the entire thing in electrical tape. It had failed for several reasons, the terminal connectors were too small to properly accommodate the entire positive cable, the solder job was inadequate, and the connectors should have been crimped and weren't, so only the poorly-soldered bit of one of the heavy gauge wires that seemed to be something along the size of an American 1AWG or 0AWG was making the connection. The electrical tape itself was very brittle, so I suspect that this connection was getting rather hot.

Some of the end of one of the strands had come unwoven. We couldn't find a 1 or 0AWG butt splice, so we made our own out of a bit of copper tubing. Crimped the copper tube on to the battery-terminal end of the wire, made sure the crimp was solid, slid a piece of heatshrink tubing over that and up, then after cleaning up the mess that was the side toward the starter slid the copper tube down on that, crimped it good and tight, then covered the splice with the heatshrink tubing and the corrugated overwrap material.

The starter spun much, much faster than it was spinning before, probably faster than it ever spun for me before.
 

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Glad to hear you got it worked out, man. Hopefully that will last you a long time.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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Discussion Starter #12
I just couldn't believe the ghettoness of the repair. I had considered bypassing the old positive cable entirely, but I wasn't sure if somewhere in the loom if there were any other tie-ins to positive beyond those evident at the battery terminal or if there'd be any other undesirable operation.

If it continues to start reliably I'll consider replacing the AC compressor and receiver-drier. No AC in the desert southwest sucks. I only really use the truck as a truck, but when one is done with a morning's work it's nice to have a cool drive home...
 
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