Reader Q (Sept. 12, 2017)

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Here is the latest reader Q, along with my reply!

Willie asks: I have a 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Hse. It clicks when trying to start, a couple of times, then starts and keeps running. It did this once before about a month ago and then it just stopped and was back to normal, no noise. It started back up a couple days ago and did it today and stopped again. I had the battery, alternator and starter checked out today and was informed that they were all ok. Do you have any idea what the problem could be?

My Reply:  

That click you are hearing may be the electric fuel pump – which in most modern cars is located inside the fuel tank. One way to test this is to try a different starting procedure. Instead of immediately trying to crank the engine, move the key from the Off position to Run – but not Start – and wait a few moments. Then turn the key to Start. If the hard start problem goes away using this method, you should have someone check the fuel pump.

Your LR may have pushbutton start, which will make this hard to do, though.

Another source of clicking sounds at startup is, of course, the starter solenoid. This engages when the ignition key is moved to Start – and causes the starter to spin, which rotates the engine and (hopefully) gets it started. If the starter is bad, you’ll sometimes just get a click as you try to start the engine; the starter motor won’t do anything at all, or it will seem “tired” and make sad noises as it spins. A bad ground/connection or weak battery can also cause intermittent starting problems/noises.

But let’s step back a minute. You’re dealing with the starting system here and each part has to work properly for the system to work correctly.

The first (easiest/cheapest) thing to check is that that battery cables and connections are good – and clean. Use a terminal cleaner/wire brush to remove crud around the posts and ends of the cables. The terminal ends of the cables should not be frayed and the connector clamps not loose. Look around the firewall area for any loose wires (grounding cables).

The battery is next. It must produce sufficient voltage to start the car. If it’s low, that could be the source of your problems. In the past, before computer-controlled fuel injection, you could often start a car with a weak battery. Slow cranking was your warning that the battery was dying. But in most modern cars, if the engine computer reads low voltage/not enough voltage to run the electronic fuel injection system, the engine won’t crank at all.

You sometimes get very little warning – the engine just won’t start.

If the cables/battery check out (load test the battery at a car parts store that has the testing equipment if you have any doubt about the battery) you will also want to be sure the alternator is properly charging the battery and providing sufficient power during engine operation. If it’s not, the battery – assuming it was good to start – will be slowly sapped of its power and eventually it will die and the engine won’t start or run. This can easily be tested, too.

The starter/solenoid can also be tested but it will be necessary to remove it from the engine to do the physical inspection and test.

Remember: It’s a system. Each component has to work for the system to work.

Hope this was helpful!

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  1. I’d offer my experience on the subject although I’d stop far from saying expertise. I’ve had this happen on many vehicles, my wife’s Cutlass last time. Out of nowhere it clicked and wouldn’t engage the starter. It had a good battery and the cables were clean since I had cleaned them recently. It was a hot day that had just showered and the air was muggy. Since it had never had one iota of problem and we were at the gas pumps, I reached into the tool bag and brought out my trusty old Criftsman #2 10″ screwdriver, the very one I’d started many a vehicle with by reaching up and arching between the terminals on the solenoid. One pickup went through a spate of that making me get under it at the 76 after fueling. I finally took the positive cable loose from the battery and cleaned the stud where the battery cable connected and both small wires that go to the key switch and the rest of the vehicle.

    I’ve done this many times since our vehicles tend to get really hard to see, very thin corrosion, not like battery corrosion at all but something so thin you won’t see it but cleaning all parts of the terminals will put off another episode maybe forever. That poor screwdriver has burnt places all down it but it’s started a lot more vehicles than mine and vehicles that never needed it again. To my shame, that incident with the wife’s Cutlass happened 3 years ago and I still haven’t cleaned anything but the battery terminals when one died a couple years ago.

    I know it COULD be anything but a click is frequently indicative of just a bad connection on the solenoid. I’d take the positive cable loose from the battery and remove and clean all the terminals on the solenoid and then pray like hell that fixed it…..which in my case almost always has. It could be any of the problems eric mentioned but it’s hopefully a KISS situation with the solenoid. I have had to replace a solenoid every decade or so but that was only when I had half a dozen pickups to work on.

    This is something not here nor there but AGM batteries build up NO corrosion and that works its way on down the line. I’ve had to take my batteries out of the loop for some other maintenance on my diesels and the connectors on the AGM batteries looked just like they did 5 years earlier when I installed them. BTW, I’ve had an average life of 8 years for Optima batteries that fairly much lived a tough life, especially from hard knocks and vibrations not to mention running them dead by getting up against the headlight switch and turning it on while cleaning the windshield. Good luck.

    Did you see? The new Rovers have Corvette engines. That oughta put some zip into them.


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