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Old 10-20-2014
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Cranking Issue

Frankly, I don't really know what to call this problem. I guess the easiest thing is to describe what happens and see if anyone knows what the problem is:

Get into the truck, put the key in the ignition, and turn the key to Start position. I get 1 click of something and the system is frozen in place. When I say system, I mean just that. It's as if the truck is still trying to crank and nothing is happening. The dashboard is blank, if the door were still open, the interior light is out, headlights will not burn. It's as if the battery has disappeared.

The first time this happened, after a lot of trial and error, we eventually decided to replace the ignition switch (not the tumbler, the part under the steering column and the dash board). We quickly discovered that disconnecting the battery's negative cable and reconnecting it reset the system (used multimeter to confirm voltage at the battery), and the lights came back on, until I tried to crank it again and then it died off. Worked fine after we replaced the ignition switch.

Until it did it again. Same exact symptoms. Went to crank truck and it acted like the battery had disappeared. Decided to replace the ignition switch immediately, and it worked fine.

Until it did it again. Once again, the same symptoms. Figured, maybe the truck has a bad ground connection somewhere. Loosened and retightened all of the ground screws throughout the engine compartment. Replaced the ignition switch and it worked fine. No problems with crank.

Until it did it again. Exactly the same symptoms. Replaced the ignition switch (I now carry a spare with me), and drove it to the shop where my son works. We looked at everything trying to determine the problem. Took the old ignition switch and prized it open only to discover that it's just a bunch of copper connections with Dielectric grease inside. Found a few of the copper connecters with some burn marks on them, but this is just a switch and contains nothing like a diode or relay or anything to make you think a part could fail. The ignition switch merely connects electrical wires together (i.e.; 3 connected to 2 or 3 or whatever) depending on where the cylinder has been turned to (and a return spring to push the switch back to "run" position). We eventually replaced the ignition coil as it appeared to be the factory coil (truck has 207,000 miles on it). Everything seemed fine with the truck....

Until it happened again. This time, even though I have a spare, I decided to just disconnect the negative terminal, and pretend to crank the truck about 30 times (hoping to clean any burn marks off the copper connections by scrapping them together over and over). Reconnected the negative terminal and it cranked. It's been running fine now for 4 days, but it's driving us NUTS trying to figure out what the gremlin is.

With that as a description, anybody got any ideas?

99 Ford Ranger, 3.0 Liter V6 (Flex Fuel); 207,000 miles on it. Only owner of the truck (I don't trade vehicles very often).

Thanks,
Joe
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Old 10-20-2014
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Try measuring the actual voltage at the battery with a meter when this happens and note the voltage.
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Old 10-20-2014
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Had 14 volts at the battery. This was checking the negative and positive terminals when the rest of the truck was acting like the battery was missing.
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Old 10-20-2014
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Normal battery voltage with key off is around 12.5 volts. With key on, it can drop to about 12.0 volts. During cranking it can drop to around 10.5 volts.
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Old 10-21-2014
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Reads like bad battery cable(s)

Since removing Ground cable and reinstalling seemed to bring system back to life I would just replace it on spec.
Positive cable as well if funds permit.

And although rare, a battery terminal can start to fail internally, giving you similar symptoms.
A voltmeter can show voltage but not amps available, so battery can test with good voltage, but you should have someone try to start engine with voltmeter connected to battery, if voltage drops below 9volts battery is bad.
Yes, car battery should be 12.2-12.8 volts at rest, 14+volts just after starting engine, that is Alternator voltage recharging battery, then after about 5 minutes, 13.5-13.8volts to maintain battery charge, if it stays above 14 volts battery life will be shortened from over charging.

I would expect all lights to go out if either of the above were the issue.

There is also an NSS(neutral safety switch) on all vehicles now, this is just a contact switch that either passes the 12volts to starter relay or doesn't, when key is in START position.

On manual trans this switch is on the Clutch pedal Push Rod, clutch pedal must be all the way to the floor for switch to close and pass the 12volts.
On automatic the switch is near/above the shifter on the transmission and trans must be in Park or Neutral for switch to pass 12volts.
Ford truck column shifters are notorious for becoming loose, so shift cable doesn't pull trans in to Park enough to fully engage NSS.
A partially engaged NSS switch can act as you described, passes voltage for a click but can't support full amperage, because of past arcing.

With NSS issue only the starter motor would be effected, other systems shouldn't shut off for lack of power.
Although on some systems when key is in START position power to other systems is cut to give starter motor all the power available, so some dash lights may go off as normal operation, but return when key is back to RUN position.

Last edited by RonD; 10-21-2014 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 10-21-2014
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I think RonD might have hit the nail on the head in reference to the battery cables. A simple volt drop test will confirm or elude to other possible issues.

Take a look at these youtube videos for further explanation on how to conduct the test using a standard volt meter.


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Old 10-21-2014
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As it turns out, the negative and positive battery cables, I believe, are still factory. I did have to remove the clamps some years back due to corrosion (I guess, not sure why we removed them and replaced them, but we did). They're just generic lead clamps now. As to status of the cables... well, they are now subject to being replaced.

I learned more about checking the starter system from those two videos than you can imagine. Thank you for posting them.

I'm not clear, however, on when I should check for voltage drop. Should I check this now, or wait till I have the problem again?

Thanks,
Joe
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Old 10-22-2014
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Attempted to purchase new battery cables today from my local ford dealer. Found out that the part has been discontinued and is no longer made by ford. I do, however, have 2 options: 1. Go to aftermarket; 2. Find a used set.

Anybody know the best place to buy battery cables for a Ranger?
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Old 10-23-2014
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pull out your battery cables, bring them to local auto parts store.... they will have what you need. They come in various shapes and sizes, so make sure to get the same length & Gauge. Or go with a bigger gauge wire, just not smaller.

This sounds like battery cables to me.... I have a diesel with two batteries(86 ranger 4d55-T), same thing happens to me once and i while, i usually just go out and wiggle the cables, and it starts right up.... I need to replace them but have not got around to it.
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