North American Turbocoupe Organization

Car won't start, sometimes
Rob H Offline
Senior Member
Hi there, I am new here, and I hope I am not asking some question that gets asked all the time, but I think I am fairly safe to assume I am not.

I'll try to keep this short.
My 87 Turbo coupe was running pretty good for a while. I could tell there might be some electrical stuff to work out.
Radio keeps losing power and resetting to original settings, engine rpm whine screaming out the am station it resets to. A whining noise when the windshield wipers are not on(goes away if I turn them on)
Anyway, drove it about 40 kms, and decided to gas up as gas prices were shooting up 10% everywhere. I waited my turn(keep this part in mind, I idled for about 3 minutes waiting for the old fella to pay and get out of the way), and when I let the clutch out to shift to first, the car dies. Fortunately my cousin works for Ford about three blocks up the road in that town. She is able to immediately dispatch a service guy who pulls up about five minutes later. He throws their powerful booster pack on, and says he is going to hammer on the starter and gets me start the vehicle. It fires right up and runs fine. He tells me that I must have a flat spot in the starter(maybe a bit presumptuous) and says that it is like Russian roulette, I might get fifty more starts out of it, or none. Basically, get this car back home to the garage. I said "Well I'm running low on fuel...I dont think I can make it home, do you think I am safe to shut it down and gas up?"
He says oh yeah, I would think so. I fuel up, go to start, nothing. So I call CAA and have them tow the car three blocks up the road to Ford. At this store it's mostly younger guys, they don't work on older cars much. They check the batery and see that it is only putting out about 9 volts, and whatever tests I don't know. They check the alternator, and it is putting out a steady 14.something volts. So they determine that my battery is no good. The guy I bought the car from was a pretty honest upfront guy, told me what was good and bad. He did mention the battery was fairly new.
So anyways, they rule out the starter as it starts fine with a good charged battery, and $260 later(ouch) I have a brand new high capacity Ford battery. Whatever, at least it's fixed.
So I drive it back home, and probably put a few hundred kms on it over the next week.
I start it up after dropping my daughter at school, and right away I call my cousin and say "Are your guys sure about the battery? I just had a pretty weak start". She says all she knows is that the battery failed the test, and the alternator and starter tested fine.
So I drive it across town(small town, about five minutes. I jump out at a house to grab something(again, leaving the car idling for a few minutes), get back in, and go to head to the store I was going to.
As soon as I leave the parking lot, I realize the car has very little power. Thought I could get it into second, but quickly went back to first, and could barely rev about 1500-200 RPM.
I realize this car is about to die again, so I turn into a parking lot, and the car is maintaining a steady 1500 rpm, nothing more. As I take a left at the back of the building, all of a sudden the engine revs up like it coming back to life. For a second I think "well, maybe I am going to be alright after all, at least I can get it home".
That lasted about five seconds tops, before it dropped again. Fortunately I was on an incline and I shifted to neutral and used the slight incline to my advantage to back it into a spot.
I call my cousin and say "Guess who is sitting behind a building with a car that will not start"?
She says oh no, but doesn't know what to do.
So I purchase a brand new booster pack from Canadian Tire which fortunately is only about a two minute walk from the car, and get picked up by an employee who takes me home.
I fully charge the battery pack, and go back up about eight hours later with my fully charged(and fairly decent) battery pack. I try to start the car without it, there is a bit of a whir, basic lights etc. are still on in the car. I put the battery pack on(yes, properly) and absolutely no change at all. In other words, dead battery or not, I now have a booster pack which should be able to run the starter, and I am getting NOTHING.
I have the car towed to the local Ford, which fortunately is the parent store of the other store I originally went to. I get a guy who knows his stuff. My cousin works for the satellite store I originally went to, and her boyfriend works at the local one. They say the two guys who looked my car over as best as they can are the best, they know their stuff, including older cars.
I get a call from one of the front of the store girls(this is around closing time) saying that they checked my alternator, and it isn't putting out anything and I need an alternator.
I said please put John on the phone. I tell him what she just told me, and he says "I think she jumped the gun a bit, I'm not done looking at your car, it's the end of the day and the other guy that was looking at your car likely just put down the fact that your alternator is putting out 0 volts so he could sign off for the day. I'm going to be doing some serious digging to see if there is something else at play here"
He also tells me something else that I think is important to keep in mind. He tells me that he went out to go help the other guy push my car in, only to find that the tech has put their booster pack on it, and it fired right up, no problem at all!
So, he spent a couple hours raking his brain today and testing everything in anyway he can think of, keeping in mind his many years of experience of working on these vehicles in the past, as he has not seen one in a while. Looked for bad grounds, bad wires in general. Anything that might rule out the alternator that was just tested a few days prior.
He says that no matter what he does, down to the basics, this alternator isn't putting out anything. He says if he bangs on it, it put's out for a second, but then back to zero, and that absolutely the alternator is done.
He says likely my old battery was fine, but that given the testing procedures, he likely would have concluded it was the battery himself had he been there at the first shop. To be fair to me, he says don't worry about all the testing we did, I kind of enjoyed it, brushing up on some of the old stuff I haven't done in a while, I like a challenge he says. So to compensate me for basically installing a battery I didn't need, I got a few hours of his time for free, which is totally worth it for me.
So now we are going to put a new alternator in it tomorrow.

Now, the nagging question in the back of my mind that is what I have been building up to, the part I just don't get!
Ok, maybe it's got a brand new battery that is dead because my alternator isn't charging it. Likely it was charging, intermittently until it conked right out. So yes the battery is dead. But WHY when I put a brand new fully charged quality battery pack on it, did it do NOTHING?
I get that their booster pack is way better than mine, but I should have got something, but instead the car behaved as if there was no booster pack as far as starting goes. The fuel pump came on, the interior lights etc, but not even the faintest hint that it could even spin the starter.
I just have this gut feeling that in a week, with my brand new alternator and battery, I am going to be calling for a tow once again.
Keep in mind as I was pointing out earlier that the car died both times while it running. Starting has never been an issue when it has the juice to do so.
It's just very odd that I got nothing when I put my booster pack on it, but for them, it started up like nothing!
I feel like there has to be a bad wire somewhere. Bad ground or something, but he said he checked all that and found everything to great.
So much for keeping it short Smile , just wanted to include as many details as possible. And I will leave you with ONE last thinker...
When the second tow truck driver showed up, he asked me what the problem was. Kind of gave him the story of what had happened just a few days earlier. I showed him that the car would not start, but was making a bit of a whirring/whining sound. I told him that the inertia switch in the rear bumper HAS given me problems, but that obviously it wouldn't be the issue, as the starter should still turn, I just wouldn't bbe getting any fuel. So for fun I go back and jiggle the switch in the bumper, and with the car in neutral, no foot on the clutch, and no intention to start the car, I turn the key to the run position(not the spring loaded start position). The car immediately when turned to run TRIES TO START ITSELF!
And not a wimpy "I have a weak battery kind of start, it sounded like it would have roared to life if it could have.
John at Ford found that amusing, he said that we can take that out of the equation, that I found a very rare thing with the TFI ignition that happens once in a blue moon. According to him, when you turn it to run, it does send power, and only in a very exact situation, one in a thousand, it will actually turn the starter for a second. Says he has seen it before on other vehicles with TFI, but that it has nothing to do with whatever is going on with my car.
Again, sorry for the looong story, just wanted to lay it all out there to see if this sounds familiar to anyone.
I am hoping all it is is an alternator that was acting up. But I have my doubts based on that whole "why did the car start with THEIR booster pack, and I got nothing with mine"?
I just wonder because obviously the car got jostled around a bit in the time it was towed onto the flatbed and dropped off. Seems weird to me.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them. Again, hopefully a new alternator gets me going again for a long time!


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