Tries to crank but does not, just a clunk from the starter

Tiny
SOSA CHAMBERLAIN
  • MEMBER
  • 2000 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
  • 3.8L
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 168,720 MILES
My car will try to crank but it wont. I just hear a loud cluck from the starter. It was driving fine Last week now it does not start at all. I have replaced the starter and the battery. My security light, my battery light, and my low oil pressure lights all come on, but I just had the oil change two weeks ago. I was told that my engine is locking up which means the end of my life as I know it. Can anyone please help me I put too much into this car for it to end like this?
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 AT 11:19 AM

10 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
That single loud clunk you are hearing is the solenoid on the starter. It performs a mechanical function and an electrical function. Since you replaced the starter, with that solenoid on it, and the battery, that leaves the battery cables as the main suspects. Use a test light or digital voltmeter to measure the voltage going to the starter while a helper turns the ignition switch to "crank". Put one probe right on an unpainted, rust-free point on the engine block, and the other probe on the larger of the two studs on the starter, (not the cable terminal attached to that stud). You will find twelve volts there. What happens to that voltage when your helper turns the ignition switch to "crank"?
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 AT 1:06 PM
Tiny
SOSA CHAMBERLAIN
  • MEMBER
Thanks you are very helpful. But I am doing all this by hand. Is their any other way to check it without using a voltmeter? I will check the battery cables. I did see some corrosion on the negative cable. So that would make all the power go when I turn the key also?
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 AT 3:55 PM
Tiny
SOSA CHAMBERLAIN
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And also does that mean I have to replace the starter that was making that noise? I failed to mention that I got the replacement starter from the junkyard. I was going to go and buy a brand new if that is was the problem really, and clean the cables and hope it starts
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 AT 4:10 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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A professional would never order a new or used starter before doing the quick voltage check I mentioned. You can use a test light too, but to not do the test is like prescribing blood pressure medication when you do not have a blood pressure tester.

You might get an idea by turning on the head lights, then watching their brightness when you try to crank the engine. The problem with this is GM used to tap off the starter terminal, simply as a convenient tie point, with all their other circuits, including lights. A bad battery cable would cause the lights to dim badly during cranking. I am pretty sure on a car as new as yours, they do not do that, but I am not sure. If they do not, with a bad cable, the lights will stay bright during the attempted cranking.

If you do not have a helper to turn the ignition switch, you can do exactly the same thing with a screwdriver. When you are ready to take the voltage reading, use the screwdriver to connect that large starter terminal to the smaller one right next to it. That will make the starter spin and crank the engine.

If you do not have a digital voltmeter, Harbor Freight Tools has a perfectly fine one for under ten bucks. It often goes on sale for five dollars.
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 AT 5:31 PM
Tiny
SOSA CHAMBERLAIN
  • MEMBER
The smaller cable connecting to the starter was spliced as well and I had a helper crank it and I seen a spark. I am going to try and clean the battery cables and change the starter I have a spare. I hooked it to the battery and the fly wheel came out and spun continuously so I am guessing it is good.
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 AT 7:00 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Nope; don't assume anything. This is the huge problem too with testing starters off the engine at an auto parts store. Due to their design, electric motors draw higher and higher current as they are loaded down. That's why a jammed motor that is not shorted will blow a fuse. When you force a starter motor to spin the engine, it is under its highest load and will be trying to draw its highest current. That is when defects in the circuit present a symptom. On a test bench, there is no load, so the motor draws very little current. A defect, like a loose or corroded cable connection, may not be bad enough to cause a symptom, so you'll falsely think it's working okay.
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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 AT 9:00 PM
Tiny
SOSA CHAMBERLAIN
  • MEMBER
The smaller cable (the purple one) on the starter has been cut and tied together. An I have a used battery from interstate and a starter from the junkyard witch is on now.I switched it with another 1 I got from the junkyard and it just clicks no thump this time. So do I need a brand new battery and a brand new starter. But y I thinks it's locked is because my low oil light comes on an I just had a oil change 3weeks ago
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Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 AT 1:58 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Try turning the engine by hand or with a socket and ratchet. It shouldn't take a real lot of effort to do that.
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Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 AT 10:05 PM
Tiny
SOSA CHAMBERLAIN
  • MEMBER
The crank does move but it still doesn't work..I had autozone check the starter and it was good. The clunk noise went away when I put the other one on. Now it act's like it wants to crank but doesn't fully turn over.
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Saturday, October 29th, 2016 AT 12:45 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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Put a battery charger on it at a slow rate for an hour. After that, measure its voltage with a digital voltmeter and tell me what you find.
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Sunday, October 30th, 2016 AT 12:55 AM

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