Jim’s Blog: When it Just Clicks

So you’re all done at the car show. You hop in your classic, hit the key, and instead of that V8 cranking over, you get nothing but a tinny click. Hit it again and it clicks again. Third time’s a charm and off you go. Sound familiar?

I’ve had my 1966 Caprice since October 1998. It’s clicked like that on me, on and off, for all these years. I’ve rebuilt five or six starters, used four different batteries, rewired the starter solenoid circuit, wired around my neutral safety switch, and installed several different ignition switches all to try to locate and fix the problem. Still, sometimes the starter works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Some will say it’s heat related, as the car’s running headers and the starter is close to them. I put two heat shields on it, one of which wraps the entire starter in shiny metal insulation like some NASA baked potato. Some will call out the battery cables. Mine are heavy-duty units with big cable and soldered ends. Some will say the stoverall-1arter solenoid is bad. I’ve had seven. Regardless of what I do to it, always, forever, on it clicks.

This weekend was the final straw. I went to move my Caprice out of my garage to do an oil change on my wife’s car, and even after sitting in my cool garage — and on a trickle charger — for the past month, it clicked when I hit the key. I snapped. Even in the best possible starter scenario, all I get is a click? That was it. I swore I’d rip into the system again and get to the bottom the problem once and for all.

Then, while I dodged cold water drips under my wife’s 4Runner, something clicked in my brain. I realized that I’ve dug into everything from the ignition switch to the starter, but I’ve never looked into the power source for the ignition switch — the wire and connections that run power from the battery to the fuse panel under the dash. A bad connection somewhere there will easily cause a drop in voltage — maybe enough to cause that click.

So, while the weather worsens and we wait for Scottsdale, I’ll be tearing apart the wiring harness of my car, looking for that long-lived bad connection I hope is there. If not, out comes the starter, switch, and all the wiring while I build a new setup.

Sometimes the car problems that make us craziest end up being the simple to solve. Ever triumphed over a long-term issue? Share it in the comments below.