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Nissan Sentra Starting Problem

Q. Mr. Autorepair.Guide, I'm having an intermittent starting problem with my wife's 1992, Nissan Sentra XE, (1.6 liter, manual transmission, cruise, A/C). About once a week she will try to start the car and it won't crank. The lights in the dash will come on (like when you normally start the car) but nothing else happens.

Nissan Sentra Starting Problem

When this occurs the only way I know that the car will start is if we compression start it. Then it starts just fine until the next unexpected time. I took it to a repair shop, but of course the car was working then, and they said unless the car was in that non starting state they would just be guessing at the problem. She had the same problem about a year and a half ago, and I found an article on the internet that suggested putting a shunt across the clutch switch connector, which I did. It had worked up till a month ago.

I thought now there was possibly a problem with the connector and cut it and soldered the wires together (to eliminate the clutch switch and connector), this didn't fix it. At this point, I thought the ignition switch could possibly be causing the problem, and took the dash apart and found where you could take the back off the ignition switch and start it with a screwdriver (I also inspected the wires and solder joints and they looked good).

So the next time the problem happened I tried to start it with screwdriver and it still didn't work. I tried wiggling the wires but no help. After this didn't work I tried compression starting the car but couldn't get enough speed to start it, and in desperation tried the key one last time and it started! If you have any ideas on where to look next, I would be very grateful.


A. First off, your mechanic is right. If it is working properly while he has it, there isn't much he can do except guess.

I don't think you have a problem with the ignition switch, so you can put all that stuff back together. Also restore the clutch switch back to the way it was. If for no other reason then you love your wife dearly and you don't want a chance of anything happening to her. Of course if you have a big insurance policy on here... well, anyway.

The next time it won't start, check for power at the black/white wire at the starter solenoid with the key in the START position. If there is power there, you have a bad starter. Or try tapping on the starter with a hammer. Don't beat it to death, just give it a couple of healthy taps. That will usually get them working for a while.

But I am 95% sure you have a bad starter.

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