Intermittent starting problem

Frankia

New member
Hi all,

Has anyone else had this kind of problem with their Sprinter? I have an -08 RV with Sprinter chassis (V6 Diesel). Few times when I have started my Sprinter it won't start, starter motor is not even rotating, just a click sound. And everytime when I try again it starts just fine. I had the car in an MB service but they didn't find any error codes. They changed starter and wiper relay positions (same relay), but still I have had this problem couple of times.

At first I thought that maybe I didn't turn the key properly, but after couple of times I've been very carefull about starting and it still does this.

I'm just worried that some day the car won't start at all. And I would like to get this fixed while still under warranty.

Thanks,
Antti from Finland.
 

sikwan

06 T1N Can
A click sound may mean that the relay, that activates the starter motor, is working. I would verify the connection on the starter itself.
 

talkinghorse43

Active member
Could be an intermittent high resistance (bad) connection anywhere in the high current starter motor circuit. Most often at the battery - I'd remove and clean the cable connections at the starting battery first.
 

Frankia

New member
Problem fixed finally. The RV has been to different dealers multiple times and either they didn't do anything saying no problems found or they just say they cleaned the contacts. But still the problem existed occasionally. Mostly after car hadn't been used much. So I finally started to study the starter system by my self. I ordered the Repair manual DVD mentioned on this forum.

Checked all the components that are part of the start-system. Problem was finally found from either the solenoid or the starter. I built a "diagnostic device" of my own. Two indicator lamps, one connected to the solenoid input and one connected to the solenoid starter side terminal.

When ever the problem occurred there was voltage on the solenoid input but not on the solenoid starter side terminal. So the solenoid was not connecting, it was just clicking. First I took the old starter out in order to examine the solenoid but it cannot be opened on the contactor side. So I just ended up exercising it tens of times with direct cable from battery. This helped and the starter worked few weeks just fine. But then the problem came back and I ended up replacing the whole starter.

Starter is extremely easy to replace. It took me under 30 minutes to take it out, even the first time. All you need is a 10mm and 13mm wrenches and a number 14 star-socket.

Disconnected battery, removed the small solenoid input cable and thick cable coming from battery. Then the starter can be removed by removing two star-bolts.
 

Froggy

Member
Frankia's solution is elegant and is job one if you get a clicking sound but no start. Make a 12v test lamp with long leads and alligator clips and watch to see if voltage actually gets to the starter itself!

I had the same problem with my starter solenoid at 36,000 miles. Starter solenoid started clicking, but the starter would not turn over. I took the starter apart and discovered that the internals of the starter were bone dry.

My guess is that over time the solenoid piston could not pull the mechanical assembly easily enough to make a sufficient harsh impact on the conductor circuit inside the electro magnetic assembly and arcing occurred -- which eventually led to the solenoid failure.

I ordered another starter. Does any know of a source for just the solenoid? :thinking: It wouldn't hurt to have a perfectly good spare starter around if the solenoid can be found.

Thanks!
 

Froggy

Member
Update: Before installing the second starter, I took it apart and found it was also dry as a bone. After giving this a few seconds of serious thought, I reinstalled the original starter after cleaning and lubing it. No more clicks. Works great.... This leads me to wonder if (a) the solenoid is a bit small for the chunk that it has to move around and (b) when the solenoid cannot overcome the friction of a dry chunk, the clicking shows up. Anyway, the original starter is working well with just a cleaning and a lube.:cheers:
 

Mrdi

New member
My 2008, 30,000 miles currently has the same symptoms.
Can someone give me an idea what the cost to remove and replace the starter will be
at the local MB Dealer?
 

lindenengineering

Well-known member
Guys
Now general advise on this malady!

Always check the shift cable location against the transmission mounted bracket before condemning the starter motor, battery etc .

Held into the bracket by a funky U shaped plastic delrin clip, if it breaks or falls off; it ends up leaving the cable anchor to float about like fairy waving its hands & wings in the air!

Often left in "half reverse" when in park the neutral safety switch won't be closed --soooh No startey!
Simple road side fix !--Zip ties!
Dennis
 

Frankia

New member
Re: Intermittent starting problem (rusting flywheel)

I started this thread years ago, and decided to update it.

The problem was not the starter after all. After changing the starter (and lubricating the starter gear) it worked fine for a couple of years and then the problem came back. After thorough investigation I think I found the actual cause.

The tolerances are too small, or too weak solenoid perhaps?. When rust accumulates on the flywheel gear the starter gear is not engaged properly all the way in so that the solenoid could connect.

Flywheel gear rusting happens especially on cars not driven that much, like my RV which is not used during winter.

I eventually installed my original starter back after lubricating the gear, just to prove my theory :), and it worked for couple of years.

Actually I will need to do the lubrication again because it's acting up again. This time I will try to lubricate the whole flywheel gear with vaselin by rotating the engine by hand somehow. Earlier I have just lubricated the starter gear and the visible part of the flywheel gear.

Hopefully this will help others fighting with the same problem.
 

stephens

New member
I have had this problem with two Sprinters, a 2004 2.8 and a 2009 3ltr. V6 both at about 67000K
Some times I would have to turn the key seven or eight times before the starter motor would energise.
I was worried that one day I would be left stranded so decided to investigate.
With the starter removed and on my work bench I stripped and checked it out.
I found that the solenoid contacts were not making good contact due to insufficient forward movement of the solenoid plunger,
it was being restricted by the starter pinion hitting its stop.
The plunger has a short rod with an elongated eye that engages with a hook on the end of the actuating lever:
With a swiss file I elongated the back of the eye by 1mm and reduced the back of the hook on the lever by 0.5mm
The result is that when the starter pinion is fully engaged the solenoid plunger is free to move forward a further 1.5mm ensuring firm pressure on the solenoid contacts.
 

showkey

Well-known member
Appears post 11 and 12 are beating around the same bush.
The rust on the flywheel has real merit in my case. I had the problem early in spring after winter storage and after a short period of time the problem stop as quickly as started. In the period I troubleshot the issue with voltage drop testing, started removel, starter disassembly ( solenoid is a sealed unit). There was a lot of starting during this test period. I looked at the flywheel but did not inspect it carefully for rust.

I did the Y cable but never felt comfortable it was the root cause as it it had no measurable voltage drop and careful inspection showed no corrosion.
 

Ju1cE

New member
Good Day Everyone,

I have just joined this forum to find help on this exact problem!

For work I drive a 2010 Freightliner badged 170"WB Sprinter with 3.0 V6...

Anyway last road trip I was on had an intermittent no crank on two occasion- for was almost 20 "crank" attempts (with locking unlocking doors, gong from Park to Drive and back to Park) Never even heard the tell tale "click" from underneath.

Next was later that day, had a single "click" and failed to crank, then next time cranked off.

Priced a starter, was quoted $160ish for a new starter from a local NAPA, this was with a discount of some kind but not sure how much....I was mechanic for a few years and now how to talk to parts guys ;) But before throwing parts at a problem I wanted to diagnosis it. Got the truck home and with a multi-meter on the Solenoid connection had a helper try to start...of course it started every time...almost...caught it twice with key in crank and no crank! I had 7 volts on the solenoid, my helper didn't really hold the key long enough for me to triple check the quailty of my connections but every time it started my meter showed as high as 14 (auto-ranging digi meter, analog would have been better) connected the same way.

Little bit of digging turned up this thread:

http://thetruckmechanictoolbox.blogspot.com/2013/01/2005-sprinter-no-crank-no-start.html

Where the tech wired around a loose connection near the fuse box and spliced in a new relay...any one else seen or heard of this? From my reading looks like I will be cleaning my ground straps if nothing else. I have already swapped starter relay with another from next to it and pried the top of it for an inspection. I used to have to re-flow the solder on my old Volvo's fuel pump relays so am used to intermittent relays...must say "looks" like a very high quality relay inside.
 
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caeppinger

New member
Thank You for all of the tips and experiences.
My RV (2008 26,000 miles) started acting up (intermittent no crank) last year, I did replace the Y-cable and checked the grounds this helped but did not fix the problem. I verified that the click I hear is from the starter solenoid so I removed the starter and bench tested it with my jumper box and a short wire, it continued to be very intermittent (no crank 60% of tries). I have replaced the starter with a 100% new one from Bosch, (this has to be one of the easiest vehicles to replace a starter on). Will be taking a trip (3,000+ miles) next month and expect zero problems (the old starter will travel along for this trip just in case).
 

GerryLH

New member
I had this problem on my 2008 Sprinter 2500. It was very rare but then turned worse until it took 20 or more attempts to get the starter going. I cleaned the battery cables, etc, but that did not help. Due to the many reports of this problem I purchased an inexpensive chinese made replacement starter to have so I did not get stranded. So I installed that and walla, problem solved. Now I have to get a replacement solenoid for my bosch starter so I have that as a spare. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese made starter performs over the long term.

Replacing the starter was not difficult, but I did find access to the connections on the Solenoid difficult to get to, and to remove and replace. There is not enough room for a socket and my open end wrench kept slipping. It takes an open end with a heathy angle to get a good grip.
 

bobmac

Member
Guys
Now general advise on this malady!

Always check the shift cable location against the transmission mounted bracket before condemning the starter motor, battery etc .

Held into the bracket by a funky U shaped plastic delrin clip, if it breaks or falls off; it ends up leaving the cable anchor to float about like fairy waving its hands & wings in the air!

Often left in "half reverse" when in park the neutral safety switch won't be closed --soooh No startey!
Simple road side fix !--Zip ties!
Dennis
A good piece of knowledge to keep in mind Dennis, thanks for that!

But would it give the same symptoms? I would have guessed 'no click/clunk' if the vehicle thought it was in gear or 'half in gear', or would the permissive come from the shifter lever?
Bob Mac, long and tall 2003s in Queesland and New England
 

Mrdi

New member
I have this symptom in my 2008
Any chance of a pic where that U bracket is?
I have no clue where to look, port starboard, fore ,aft?
 

calbiker

Well-known member
This is an interesting issue. For the same symptoms there appear to be several fixes, from replacing the starter to cleaning rust off flywheel to cleaning cable connections.

It comes down to the fact that the solenoid doesn't have enough "umph" or power to engage. You can replace the starter and the problem goes away. That's because the old solenoid has more resistance to movement and takes more power to engage.

I've had many instances of no-start. I have a combiner switch that can connect the house battery with the chassis battery prior to start in my 3500 T1N MH. Pressing this switch will start the engine every time. First, I thought the chassis battery (which was 8 years old) needed replacement. I still had the same no-start problem with a new battery.

What it comes down to is that the solenoid circuit has too much resistance. Resistance is added to the circuit, caused by cable connection corrosion or relay contact corrosion. In my case, cleaning the chassis battery ground connection fixed the problem. I bet installing a new starter would have also "fixed" the problem. But that's not the root cause, at least in many cases.
 

Mrdi

New member
I cleaned my ground connection that is above / adjacent to the left front wheel
in the interior engine compartment.
Is that the connection to which you refer?
 

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