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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
after a totally normal day of driving arrived home and park. upon trying to start the car about 20 min later, no go. there is accessory electric, but once you turn the key to start - a click, then there goes all the electric. wait about 10 min and the electric comes back but once you turn the key - click, sometimes no click, but no action.

have so far check grounds, tried to start in neutral (nothing), replaced the starter, battery& connections are clean and tight, battery good on test and was new in september, theres 12 volts in the solenoid wire, checked all the fuses (visually tho i could check with a multi?).

500432


i think the ignition relay is the far left relay switch below fuse panel inside drivers side (pictured above), but not sure as i haven't found a very clear diagram just someone mentioning it in a post. - so i took out that relay swapped it with the A/C relay (assumed good), still no action.

is it a different relay switch? some other idea? i'm stumped!

vehicle is 2002 outback limited edition AT 2.5, does have security system (red light blinks when there is electric, does not when there's no electric. no mods, aftermarket electric, or any other work done.
 

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It's not the relay. You are getting power on the small black wire to the starter, so the relay is working. The relay lets power pass through that wire to the starter solenoid. The solenoid closes and lets current pass from the positive cable to the starter motor.

I think you need to recheck the battery and BOTH cables. Using a multi-meter, you 0.0 ohm resistance from the positive POST to the starter cable lug and from the negative POST to the engine block where the ground connects. If resistance is higher than 0.0 ohm, replace the cables. $130ish from Subaru Parts departments.

You may want take that isolator out of the negative cable clamp so it will tighten down more. Just because the nut stops moving doesn't mean it's tight. The clamp is most likely stretched and removing the isolator will give you a little more bite on the post. Just take the bolt/nut off and pull the isolator off and reinstall the clamp.
 

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Check the cam/crank timing. Maybe locked-up against the valves.

How old, in miles and years, is the timing system's components? Who did the work last and what was the source/brand of parts used?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Check the cam/crank timing. Maybe locked-up against the valves.

How old, in miles and years, is the timing system's components? Who did the work last and what was the source/brand of parts used?
That would be a weird thing to go awry all of the sudden wouldn't it? and, why would the electric come and go after turning the key, in that case?

there hasn't been any work under the hood other than the battery replacement and the starter replacement i just did in quite some time...timing system work...years ago with previous owner, would have been at a subaru specialist mechanic shop in VT
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think you need to recheck the battery and BOTH cables. Using a multi-meter, you 0.0 ohm resistance from the positive POST to the starter cable lug and from the negative POST to the engine block where the ground connects. If resistance is higher than 0.0 ohm, replace the cables. $130ish from Subaru Parts departments.
can you clarify for me how to do this test - i'm brand new to using a multimeter. heres what i'm doing: turning the meter to dBm~ / --V, check resistance between leads = 0. neg lead neg post and pos lead pos post = 12.57

then, how to do pos post to starter cable lug? pos lead to pos post, then neg lead to the bolt where the pos wire connects on the starter (under rubber cap)? and neg lead to neg post then pos lead to engine block ground (having a hard time finding this ground)? thanks for your patience, electrical has always been intimidating to me but this is making me finally wade through learning it!

i'm feeling pretty confident about the battery/terminals/connection
500433
Adaptation Computer accessory Telephone Toy Label
 

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Set the meter on OHMS, Not V. You can have 12.5V on a system but the flow will suck because of corrosion, rust, broken wires, connection. The starter draws a lot of current when it's turning the engine over. If there's insufficient current, as evidenced by your dash lights going out and then coming back on when you tried to start it, then the starter can't turn the engine. You could take the cables off the clamps and scrub them down with a wire brush or sandpaper to make a better connection.
500446


Wow, that came out large. :) Oh well.

What @1 Lucky Texan was referring to is maybe the belt broke and a piston hit a valve but the engine can't turn because the valve is preventing it.
 

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yeah, just a wild guess, actually, doesn't seem to fit symptoms quite as well as cardoc's post but, if the engine were locked, it could definitely draw-down lights / power while trying to crank. probably battery cable would become warm as well. Voltage during this could be well under 9 volts too.

in those pics, neither terminal seems to be seated fully - though it does seem adequate if all else were good......

the schedule for timing belt SYSTEM service is 105K miles OR 105 months, w'ever comes first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
based on your replys @cardoc and @1luckytexan i'm wondering if i didn't explain it as clearly as i'd thought. the lights don't power down, all the electric just turns off suddenly. today, it started to turn over one time, but died (maybe because i hadn't reinstalled the airbox yet from replacing the starter). once more the electric/accessory came on, and since this afternoon it's got no power at all - nothing turning the key, nor in neutral, no lights opening the door, security light not blinking - though the battery has 12.5v. I'm renting a relay tester but...this has got to be some sort of short in the system right? or the security system?

thanks for your help and insights!

oh, and @1luckytexan - this car has about 270k on it, so it's had this done a few times. i'm pretty confident its an electrical not an engine issue but i might eat my words...knocks on wood
 

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@cardoc is this one of the models where the ignition switch goes faulty and causes the symptoms described by the OP?

Seagrass
 

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. . . and since this afternoon it's got no power at all - nothing turning the key, nor in neutral, no lights opening the door, security light not blinking - though the battery has 12.5v.
There's a number of relatively simple electrical functions that are "always on", and for which there is no involvement of relays or the ignition switch in their power source. These include the interior/ceiling light, the map lights, the power seat, and the horn(s). These are each powered through separate fuses, and as it would be odd for all their fuses to have failed, the problem is more likely upstream. Their fuses are connected to the battery positive cable coming into the fuse box at the high side (battery connection) of the main, 100 Amp fuse (i.e., they are not fused by the main fuse -- SBF-1 in the attached diagram).

That would seem to narrow the problem down to the battery itself, the connection from the battery positive post to the high side of the main fuse (there's a bolt/nut arrangement that holds the main fuse in place and also makes the connection to the downstream circuits), or the connection between the battery negative post and the engine and car body, in both cases including the clamps at the battery post, the wire of the battery cables, and the connections at their far ends.
 

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I understood what you meant about the lights going out.

When you have a poor connection to the ground side of the battery, or a poor connection from the positive side to the starter, you get what you are describing.

You had battery voltage at the starter's ignition circuit, the small wire at the starter, when you tried to start the car so the relay is/was working. When the solenoid closes to pass current from the positive battery cable to the starter drive, that closed circuit draws a lot of current as it moves through the motor unless there's a "gap" that prevents it. The gap being between the positive post and the starter lug, or the ground post and the engine. Normally, when the system is working, if you had a volt meter on the battery and started the car, the voltage would drop at least 2V down to about 10V. The ampere draw is large also which is why the battery has to have the amperes available for the starter to use. With a loose or weak connection due to corrosion, rust, whatever, the positive cable will heat up. If the connection is so bad that the solenoid doesn't click, or the lights on the dash don't come on, then you go to the battery and cabling first. If battery voltage is good, the cabling is next in line, especially if nothing on the car is coming on with the key ON. You have to check the resistance through the cables with an ohm meter and make sure it's 0.0 ohm. Like I said, you can get by with 0.02ohm, but that is still lacking. And the measurement would also depend on what your meter shows when both probe ends are put together. If you put the probe ends together and it shows 0.02 ohm, then when you check the cables and it shows 0.02, that would be equivalent to being 0.0. If it shows 0.03, that's equivalent to 0.01. 0.03 - 0.02 = 0.01 If you have high resistance through both cables, that amplifies the issues since current has to move between the negative and positive circuits for anything to function. When you get the battery and cables corrected and it doesn't start, or turn over, then you go to fuses and relays.

One step at a time so you don't go in circles.

@seagrass I don't run in to ignition switch issues at all. Every time it's been battery, cables or a blown fuse.
 

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Would the car behave the same if jump-start was tried from another car?

battery cables can be severely corroded under the insulation - drastically limiting current.

In the distant past, I had to bypass a battery cable with 1/2 a jumper cable set to drive a car a coupla days to buy a new cable.....
 

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In the distant past, I had to bypass a battery cable with 1/2 a jumper cable set to drive a car a coupla days to buy a new cable.....
You are definitely from N Texas. ;) If it works, it works.

I've seen all kinds of rigged things in an engine compartment. One example, and don't try this at home folks, was a Ford Taurus that had the engine tied down with ship rope. Mounts broke, they tied it down. Came on a tow truck with the engine and trans sitting all cocked in the engine bay. When I asked how long they had been using rope, a few years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Just came back here to say after checking the battery connections all 10 times, crying over wiring diagrams and figuring out how relays work, it was of course the simplest solution you all suggested - one measly nut on a ground cable to the neg battery post that was a turn or two loose! 😆 thanks for the help y'all!
 
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