Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where do you think you are going?

Over the past week, I have been driving the mustang to work to verify that the surging idle problem is gone for good.  While doing this, I was reminded of an old nemesis that I really didn’t want to try to fix at this time.  I really didn’t want to spend any more money on this car this month.  After all, we all live on a budget and when you exceed your budget, it isn’t good.

I was on my way to work; the day was going well so far, it was a nice morning.  I drove all the way in with the top down, I thought why not grab a quick breakfast at McD’s?  Well, this is where the nemesis rears its ugly head.  The problem is that once the mustang got warm, it would be really hard to start.  It was a slow start, like the battery was dead.  It would turn over really slow and then it would start up if I was lucky.  If I jumped it, it would be enough to get it to turn over a little faster and usually fast enough to start.

I decided the drive thru was the way to go since I really didn’t want to shut the car off due to the slow start problem I would occasionally have.  The car was running well, no surging idle, great sound coming from the exhaust.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.  The McD’s that I will stop off at once in a while on my way into work has a tandem drive thru.  What this means is that there are two different mic/speakers that people can order at and it is supposed to make the process a bit faster.  Whatever…  Anyway, I place my order in the outside lane and start to move forward.  Well, as it goes with the drive thru, there is stop and go.  Well when I went to go again, I stalled it.  At this point I am like “UH OH, I hope it starts.”  Yeah, I hit the key and it barely turns over and won’t start.  I am in the drive thru folks.  I have hungry people that are probably running late for work getting really mad at me because they can’t move.  At this point the manager and one of the drive thru workers comes out to help me push it to a parking spot.

Oh how embarrassing.  Not only did I stall the car, the top was down so now everyone can see me AND it won’t start.  GREAAAT!

So I go inside and get my breakfast I ordered, pay for it and whatnot…  I give my wife a call to come give me a jump.  (She was really excited about this one)  Well, needless to say, once the car cooled down a bit, I hit the key and it started.  I called my wife to let her know, but it was too late, she was already there.  I felt bad, but there was nothing I could do at that point.  I am off to work, and I now have something to work on when I get home.

I had been battling this monster since I got the car.  I had already replaced both the starter and solenoid in an attempt to fix it.  This made it start much faster when it was cold, but I still had the problem when the car got warm.

At this point I am not really sure what to do.  I have had the battery tested several times and each time it showed that the battery was good.  I was stumped.

Lucky for me I have a neighbor that has the same year mustang as me, and he didn’t have this problem, so I talked to him a bit to see what he did to prevent this problem.  Well needless to say he spent much more money than I did to make sure this problem never happened to him.  He had put in a high torque starter as well as many other wiring changes.

Something I had noticed on my car that I didn’t like is that I had these old battery cable ends that had the bolt down clamp on them.  They were a little corroded by the bolts, but the connections to the battery were clean.  This is where my neighbor suggested that I just swap out the battery cables completely to see if that fixes the problem.  He said with the age of the cables, it could be causing a resistance problem thus causing the starter to not get enough juice to turn the engine over.

I could see that.  Not to mention it would get those bad cable ends out of there since the new ones would have the ends built into the cable.

I had learned in my first experiment with fixing this car that you don’t just jump and start replacing parts on a car without doing some research first.  Armed with the knowledge that my neighbor gave me I started looking up slow starts and with most of the Google results that I found I noticed a trend that said to check your ground connections and make sure they were good.

Well, I had already done this as it was part of the surging idle checklist.  So I started checking out my negative battery cable and notice that the rubber/plastic coating on it was starting to get really soft and bubbling.  I figured this was not good, so I needed to replace the cable regardless.  So I am replacing the cable, I might as well replace both of them.  I was off to Autozone to get new cables.

Something I learned as I was researching this slow crank problem, the lower gauge cable, the thicker it is.  In this case the better it is for keeping a ground.  When I went to buy the cables, I had a choice of either getting 4 gauge (factory spec) or 2 gauge.  I chose 2 gauge.

When I got home, I completely unhooked the battery to change the cables.  I then started with the positive cable since that was the easiest one to change.  I took this cable off and examined it to see if I could find anything.  To my amazement, I found out that there were cracks in the plastic coating that caused the wire to be exposed.  Apparently I have been very lucky that nothing has ever touched that wire and caused the battery to explode.  I took the negative cable off and replaced that one as well since I told you what I had found on that one already.  Once that was done I hooked the battery up.

It is now time to test the starting of this car.  I hit the key and immediately noticed a difference.  The starter had never kicked over that fast before.  At this point I knew things were going to be different.

I took the car for a ride and then back home.  I turned the car off and then hit the key and it started without hesitation.  I think I have the problem fixed.  Now all I have to do is drive it for a while to be sure.  Again, twist my arm I have to drive the mustang to work for a week.  It has been several days now and so far so good.  I think the slow start has been conquered.

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