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Old 08-29-2010, 06:08 PM   #1
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First Post, just got first YJ, now won't start

First off, great website. Sorry for the long post but know from the searches it helps to have detail.

Just joined today but have been trolling for months looking for tips on YJs and TJs. My wife and I bought a white 1991 wrangler base with 4.0L mpi and five speed Monday and have had it a week. $123k miles. Bought it from a ford/dodge dealer in another town.

This week I've put in new spark plugs, new wires, rotor, distributor cap, and coil. We also are about half way through a tank with sea foam as the fuel treatment. The motor doesn't smoke, struggle, or skip, and it keeps good oil pressure and runs at about 190 degrees once warm

The battery ran down at the dealership; the guy had to jump it off for the test drive. After that, it has started every time, but the starter has felt "lazy."

The battery didn't want to hold a charge, so we went and had it tested; came back as a fail battery. Bought a new one Friday, but didn't fix the lazy starter. Tested the new battery the next day, still 100% charge, indicating no evidence of parasitic drain. Alternernator turns 45 amps at idle.

Drove it a while last night, all systems go. Got home, shut it off, but then decided to move it in. Went to start the YJ, starter drug bad, everything dimmed. Let off and tried again. This time, click from the solenoid then bam no electrics at all, lights went out, everything.

Tested the battery; 100% charge and 12.9 volts. Reconnected it. Lights and accessories came back, fuel pump primed. Starter didn't go, killed everything. Reset again and jumped the starter. Solenoid clicked but starter didn't turn. I figured bad starter, pulled it, got it tested. Was right. Bought a new (remanufcatured) one and a new starter relay. Got home this morning and installed it. No dice, the new starter demonstrated all the same symptoms, still won't turn over and kills electrics. Checked all fuses, inspected underneath the upper and lower covers of the power distribution block; everything seemed fine and in its place. With the YJ off I get a reading of about 12.7 volts at the alternator and about the same at the starter connection, so I am getting power.

It rained this afternoon so as soon as it dries out I'll pull the starter and go back and have the reman unit tested.

But, I have never lost all electrics with a starter issue. I think I have another issue but I am at a loss and need help from anyone that has had this problem or could help me troubleshoot. I'd really like to get the jeep back on the road so we can enjoy it and start looking to restore it.

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Old 08-29-2010, 09:27 PM   #2
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I hate to say it - and it sounds simple and I may be very wrong, but it sure sounds like bad connectors.... Clean everything. Reconnect. Make SURE that all the wires look good. I know - sounds silly, but all it takes is a bit of corrosion....

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Old 08-29-2010, 09:36 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Got_Mud? View Post
I hate to say it - and it sounds simple and I may be very wrong, but it sure sounds like bad connectors.... Clean everything. Reconnect. Make SURE that all the wires look good. I know - sounds silly, but all it takes is a bit of corrosion....
that is exactly what happened to me, do what he says, get a 10 dollar cleaning kit from auto zone or some parts store it will have corrosion removing spray, corrosion prevention spray, a metal brush for the inside of the terminal connections on the battery and for the battery posts, felt washers that will prevent future corrosion.

Also bring the battery to the auto parts store when you get the kit and get it fully charged and checked out.

This is only a band-aid for the bigger issue of the cables potentially going bad, I would replace them as well if this solves your problem, asap.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:11 PM   #4
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Thanks for responding to me, yes that seems simple enough. I will probably take the starter back out and have the store test it just to make sure. Might as well bring the brand new battery I bought from the same store.

If everything checks out, looks like the next step might be new cables...might try that before I pay to tow it up to a mechanic. Do they sell pre-made power cables for these old jeeps anymore or do I need to make to make my own? If its more common to make your own, what guage wire should I sent to the starter and then to the power distribution block.

Is it normal to have two cables wires come off the positive terminal? I noticed someone put a gold plated positive terminal bracket at some point on this YJ.

Thanks, I'll try to clean everything really well and report back....in the mean time, I just want to make sure this isn't the symptom of something bigger, since we are green at these YJs.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:15 PM   #5
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I agree with these guys, but I would look hard at your ground wires, I would pull them off and give them a good wire brushing and make sure they are on a good grounded area. I have had similiar issues with a bad ground in the past.

Good luck
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:20 PM   #6
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golden rule for working on a yj and jeeps in general, start with the simplest cheapest parts first then work your way from there. Honestly I really think it is just a case of bad corrosion, I've heard of this issue and experienced it personally exactly as you described it. Tick from the solenoid and all.

As a quick fix try to shake the power cables as you are trying to turn the engine over. See if the interior light in the hood gets brighter or goes out. Shake the neutral and positive separately then together if nothing is happening, but make sure first there is some juice in the battery. If it turns then your issue is the cables and corrosion.

If nothing happens I would still clean, charge, and service the connectors of the battery.
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Old 08-30-2010, 08:14 AM   #7
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had these exact same issues with my cj. once i replaced my battery ground cable they all disappeared. good luck and welcome to the club!
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Old 08-30-2010, 08:56 AM   #8
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I really appreciate all of the tips. Man we hope it is just something easy like the cables. Someone in the past has already messed with the positive cable; it has a gold aftermarket style terminal at the battery. I hate those things. The battery is brand new, so no terminal to battery corrosion. The starter is also new, but I'll get my wire brush out and get after all of the solenoid and cable terminals anyway. I'll check the ground and then the ground strap on the motor too. Just puzzles me a little why I'd be reading voltage at the positive lead of the solenoid; but atmittedly I had been grounding to the battery not the neutural at the solenoid.

Assuming my new starter and new battery test out good then I'll purchase new cables, positive and negative. Any pitfalls here? Any trick to getting the lead to the power distribution block? Hopefully they'll have a cable with the right number of leads at the terminals to handle, seems easy. Looked them up and seems like positive and negative cables are less than $10 each at O'reilly. Sound about right?
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Old 08-30-2010, 09:21 AM   #9
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yep-sounds right. And remember, you were reading voltage WITHOUT a load. Load it and then you'll likely see a different reading. I can read good power off a near dead battery - without loading it.
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Old 08-30-2010, 10:21 AM   #10
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I had to have mine shipped to the local napa store (cables) BUT check the inside of the cables to battery port connections. That was where my corrosion was causing the problem even though it was on a new battery.
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Old 08-31-2010, 10:54 PM   #11
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Wanted to update those who helped me on this.

Finally stopped raining here so today after work I pulled the new starter and went back to the parts store and had it tested. Test was good. Tested battery at home with my charger and it tested out good. Like you guys said, that leaves the cables.

For the cables I bought some marine top post terminals with built in studs and wing nuts to hold the wires. This way I can disassemble the connection wire by wire and clean with each oil change. If we want to add a winch, lights etc. later, it'll be an easy way to attach those accessories to the main circuit.

I purchased four 4 gauge cables. One is positive terminal to power distribution block, one is positive to starter, the third is negative to firewall ground, and the last is negative to engine block ground. I considered making these to custom lengths and saudering the eyes on myself but I went with premade cables for the superior wire through terminal end construction.

My wife and I disassembled the cables and took out the grounding stud from the block and degreased and cleaned everything. We've got all the wires connected except for the darn positive to starter cable, which I bought way too long. I didn't realize until after closing time for the parts store down the road so will have to wait until tomorrow to see if I can fire the jeep back up. I was able to test accesories and all the lights and accessories in the jeep are getting power and the fuel pump primed so I think I'm good. We will clean up the change with some wire loom and zip ties and I think I will put heat shrink around the eyes connecting to the battery side for a little extra insulation.

Assuming it starts tomorrow I'll put up another post to update you. While I'm in there I think we will go ahead and pull the battery tray and repaint it with high zinc primer and shoot it with a good coat of factory white. I need to do the same for the area behind the battery on the firewall.

Hope it works but think you guys are spot on. Once out of the jeep I examined the old cables and evidence of corrosion existed inside the insulation of the positive cables and the gounding cables were degraded pretty badly inside the battery side terminal.
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Old 09-01-2010, 01:08 AM   #12
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If you have these problems a useful thing to do is use your jumper cables....

Connect the -ve cable direct from the battery to the starter body and the +ve jumper cable direct from the battery to the +ve on the starter. Then if it fires up you know you have a cable problem. Remove the -ve cable and try again. If it still fires up the +ve cable is your problem.
Be aware - as you touch the +ve cable to the +ve on the starter the motor will turn over, keep your fingers away and make sure it is out of gear.

If the engine does not turn over you have a battery or motor problem. You can usually tell if your battery is OK by the size of the spark as you touch then +ve on the motor!
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:22 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by 91wranglerbase View Post
Wanted to update those who helped me on this.

Finally stopped raining here so today after work I pulled the new starter and went back to the parts store and had it tested. Test was good. Tested battery at home with my charger and it tested out good. Like you guys said, that leaves the cables.

For the cables I bought some marine top post terminals with built in studs and wing nuts to hold the wires. This way I can disassemble the connection wire by wire and clean with each oil change. If we want to add a winch, lights etc. later, it'll be an easy way to attach those accessories to the main circuit.

I purchased four 4 gauge cables. One is positive terminal to power distribution block, one is positive to starter, the third is negative to firewall ground, and the last is negative to engine block ground. I considered making these to custom lengths and saudering the eyes on myself but I went with premade cables for the superior wire through terminal end construction.

My wife and I disassembled the cables and took out the grounding stud from the block and degreased and cleaned everything. We've got all the wires connected except for the darn positive to starter cable, which I bought way too long. I didn't realize until after closing time for the parts store down the road so will have to wait until tomorrow to see if I can fire the jeep back up. I was able to test accesories and all the lights and accessories in the jeep are getting power and the fuel pump primed so I think I'm good. We will clean up the change with some wire loom and zip ties and I think I will put heat shrink around the eyes connecting to the battery side for a little extra insulation.

Assuming it starts tomorrow I'll put up another post to update you. While I'm in there I think we will go ahead and pull the battery tray and repaint it with high zinc primer and shoot it with a good coat of factory white. I need to do the same for the area behind the battery on the firewall.

Hope it works but think you guys are spot on. Once out of the jeep I examined the old cables and evidence of corrosion existed inside the insulation of the positive cables and the gounding cables were degraded pretty badly inside the battery side terminal.
good luck buddy let us know how it turns out, if it still doesnt work come back and we'll work the problem some more
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:54 PM   #14
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I wanted to follow up again and let everyone know the result of this project.

I got the right length battery to starter cable today and put it in tonight after work. The jeep started right up! The repairs fixed the "lazy" starter issue and the motor starts much faster. My wife and I were so relieved. We've had the jeep less than two weeks and its been down since Saturday so it was great to hear it fire up.

While we were out there we went ahead and installed a new battery stay and we took the time to loom everything together with some black OEM style plastic conduit. I shored everything up with some black tape and black zip ties and then routed the cables away from the engine. I hope this will keep the wires, especially the more vulnerable ignition switch lead out of harm's way.

Since the new terminals are the marine style with the top stud and a wingnut holding all the connections, as a last step I used non-conductive nylon/plastic zip ties to fashion a lash to keep the wingnuts from working loose.

I can really appreciate the new starter and the new battery, and both provide piece of mind; but I think the problem with this jeep was the battery cables the whole time. All told, we spent $70 on the reman starter with lifetime warranty, $94 for the 8 year maintenance free battery, $5 for the new battery stay and hook bolts, and probably $60 in the cables and various supply.

This weekend I'm going to pull the battery and repaint the battery tray and firewall area behind the battery that has rusted from contact with the old battery stay. That will cosmetically finish the rebuild of the entire starting system forward of the firewall.

I just wanted to finish the thread on this project in case anyone else had a problem like this, maybe a search would pick this back up and help someone else. Also wanted to say thanks, and look forward to learning more about these YJs.
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:05 PM   #15
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You'll probably want to pick up an anticorrosion kit from napa or similar store, in the kit it has a corrosion cleaning spray a corrosion prevention spray, a cleaning brush for the inside of the cable connectors and top of the battery posts, and felt tips filled with anticorrosion gel that go on each battery port underneath the battery cables. I highly recommend them and they usually cost 10 bucks.

Also just a heads up, go ahead a knock on your catalytic converter and listen if you hear a rattling sound. If so you should start thinking about replacing it or servicing it as mine just went around 108k miles. Youll know if its bad if you are driving on the highway and suddenly you cant accelerate past 50mph on an incline.
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:20 PM   #16
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Thanks, good ideas on the kit, you know what they say about an ounce of prevention.....

As per the cat, I bet you are right. Actually I can smell the catalyst pretty generously when cold, I actually thought about what you are saying as I was pouring the seafoam in this tank I haven't yet finished. Fuel treatments are hard on the catalyst most of the time so cross your fingers on one that might very well be the original. The tailpipe and muffler is new, but not as sure about the age of the cat, downpipe and manifold. I meant to take a closer look while I was under the jeep but will look this weekend. I don't mind the exhaust work as much, but yeah definitely don't want to be taken off guard!

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