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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello everyone. I am new to this site, just having moved over from the old one. I am having a problem with my 1989 E-250 that I just can't seem to figure out.

I have an intermittent sticking problem in my starter solenoid. I start the vehicle up and the starter engages, the engine fires, but the starter stays engaged, even after I turn off the ignition. I then have to unlatch the hood, and pull the neg cable off the batter to kill all power.

I usually have to take off the solenoid, and either replace it with the spare I have taken to carrying around, or tap it to unstick the relays inside. This works for awhile until the sol finally burns up and I have to get another. It only does it about every 4-5 starts, so apparently it is something that builds up over the course of a day or two.

So far I have replaced about 8 solenoids, one voltage regulator, the ignition switch on the steering column, and the starter from when it did this the first time and burned up the starter motor. This is over that last month and a half, and nobody seems to be able to figure out why. I have been told that it's everything from the ignition actuator lever in the steering column, to bad wires, to a faulty ground strap. I have cleaned up all the grounds, except for the ground strap, which will be today's project. All wires seem to be checking out for shorts/opens.

I ruled out the ign actuator, because when I replaced the ign switch I was able to get it adjusted to where the various systems work in the proper key positions ( acc/run/ start/dash lights, etc.). It seems to be working fine, and besides, I have not been able to find any concise information on how to replace the actuator, and I am hesitant to take apart the column without having the right info.

Like I said, this is an intermittent problem, but it seems to be happening more frequently in the last few days. My van is actually a Class B motorhome on the E-250 SD chassis, and I use it for work/living quarters when I am on the road. I need to get this fixed soon, since I am about 2000 miles from home working, and really don't want to have to nurse her across country like this. She's a good strong vehicle otherwise, and never gave me an ounce of trouble before this, other than replacing an alternator last year, which on a 21 year old vehicle I consider to be acceptable routine maintenance.

If there are any electrical gurus or Ford techs out there that are aware of and know the solution to this problem I would greatly appreciate the input. She's a great vehicle and still has years of life left in her, and I want to get her well again so we can hit the road without worrying. Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to offer.
 

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Engine size would be helpful.
Since it's a conversion van it may be difficult to trouble shoot....but we'll give it a try :)
There should be a ground wire from the battery to the engine and to the chassis. Have you checked them. There may be even more for the conversion??
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Sorry, It's a 5.8l 351 Windsor. I have checked the batt cable to ground and it seems to be fine. I have a suspicion about the line from the alt, or maybe the alt itself, though. The alt is a 100amp, which was installed last year. I asked for it specifically, but I have no idea what it had before. I'm assuming it was a 100a, since this is a Super Duty chassis motorhome, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I think that it may be overpowering my voltage regulator, which is doing something to the solenoid. Is this possible? This problem cropped up a few months after the new alt was installed, but that may be because I was at home and not using the vehicle much. I actually drove from Texas to Florida to Philadelphia before the problem started, so I'm not completely sure the alt has anything to do with it, but who knows?

I don't think there's anything on the house side of the electrical system that could cause the trouble, since there is a battery isolator between the vehicle and the house battery. It's something in the start/ignition/charging complex.

Where is the ground strap from the engine to the frame? I cannot locate it visually. or is that the neg cable to the engine?

I have been referencing a haynes manual, but it's rather useless. There's a lot of stuff that's not in that book that should be.
 

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The charging system should not have any influence on the starter hanging up.

Have you replaced the starter solenoid mounted on the fender?
Also, some re-man starters aren't very reliable. I've bought bad ones right out of the box. It could be the bendix is hanging up. If it's under warranty you should replace it again if everything else checks out.

The chassis ground may be under the truck...I don't recall where it's located. Another member here might though.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I've gone through about 8 solenoids up to this point, and I'm carrying and extra one in the cab. It seems that they stick, then I tap them and unstick them a few times, and then they go bad.

The starter is good. It is actually the 3rd starter in the last month and a half. The original went out, and I had her towed to NTB, where they installed a new one. Then when pulling out of the NTB, the replacement starter let go let go, due to the solenoid sticking and hanging up the starter. NTB replaced it with the third one, and thought they had solved the problem with the sticking sol. But a couple of days later it started sticking again, and that's when I figured out that I have to pull the negative cable from the battery to kill the system. As long as I dont rev the engine with the starter bendix still engaged I won't burn the starter. Then I either replace the solenoid with my extra one, or take the wiring off, remove it from the fender wall, and tap it until the relay opens again and replace it.

Anyway, I started talking to people and a few of them thought that the ignition switch on the steering column might be worn out, so I replaced that, adjusted it so that all key positions would do what they were supposed to do, and voila! I still have the same problem. The starter still hangs up.

So, someone else told me it might be the ignition actuator lever that goes from the key down the column to the ign switch. But the ignition switch is working fine, so it doesn't appear that I would have to take my steering column apart to replace that part. And besides I don't think pulling the steering column is a good idea, since I am camping in a WalMart parking lot, and frankly don't feel comfortable doing it without some detailed instructions, which I can't seem to find anywhere. Either way, i doubt that actuator lever is the problem.

Anyway, after all this, the problem stops for a few weeks, then about three days ago, it starts up again. I just started her up five minutes ago, to charge my house battery and run the laptop to answer your message. Started up fine, but maybe next time the starter will hang up, and I will have to pull the neg cable, take the solenoid of the fender wall, and either bang it a couple of times, or put my extra one in. Or maybe not, since there is no rhyme or reason to when it wants to hang up or when it wants to start without a problem.

In between, I have checked all wires and grounds as best I can, and while the wiring is old, there is nothing to indicate any major problem with them.
 

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The soliniod that you are replacing is the fender mounted starter relay correct?

When it continues to crank, did you try pulling the small wire to the fender mounted relay off? Does that stop it? IF it does the problem is in your ignition switch.

I know that you can get instructions on how to adjust it in a Bronco, and I'd bet that they are the same for your truck.
Ignition Problem (mechanical) - Ford Bronco Zone Early Bronco Classic FullSize Broncos
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Nope. Keeps running, without a key in the ignition, and with that wire pulled. Only thing that will stop it from running is to pull the neg batt cable.

Edit: And yes, it is the starter sol on the fender wall, actually on the grille wall, right next to the voltage regulator.
 

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mine does that, but only when the batt is low on juice
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
No, I put an AGM battery in her last fall and it's a doozy of a battery. I can run her for hours with the alt disconnected and she will still start up strong (I found that out by accident one day when they lead from the alt to the batt came loose).

Best 202 bucks I ever spent on an auto part. I highly recommend them. Optima Red Top for anyone who's interested.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The soliniod that you are replacing is the fender mounted starter relay correct?

When it continues to crank, did you try pulling the small wire to the fender mounted relay off? Does that stop it? IF it does the problem is in your ignition switch.

I know that you can get instructions on how to adjust it in a Bronco, and I'd bet that they are the same for your truck.
Ignition Problem (mechanical) - Ford Bronco Zone Early Bronco Classic FullSize Broncos
I looked at the link, and it's certainly the best I've seen yet for replacing the actuator, but I still don't think it's the actuator, and mine doesn't have tilt steering anyway. Anyway, if it turns out to be that it's got to go to the shop. I just don't have a place to do the work here in Philadelphia.
 

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When you pull the relay and have it replaced, do they match it up by looking at it? OR do they look it up for your vehicle?

Could it be that at one point the relay was replaced with one that it too light, and can't carry the load, and then you keep replacing the fused, burnt out relay with another one that is identical and too light?
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I thought that might be the case, but I have insisted on getting the heaviest duty ones they have and have even looked at their computer in the store to verify. But, in truth, I don't know if the ones I am getting are a heavy enough application or not.

I went on the Motorcraft site today to see what I could find, and did a search by my VIN# but for whatever reason it doesn't recognize the VIN. So that was no help either. It's likely their database doesn't go back 21 years, and besides, when the chassis was built it was probably shipped off to the RV manufacturer in Indiana for finishing. Thus, they never kept a record of it.

There is a difference in the new aftermarket solenoids from the original in that the new ones all come with 4 posts, 2 mains posts and 1 ignition post and one other post that doesn't apply to my vehicle, but according to the info I looked up, this is not a problem. The new design is just adapted to fit more than one type of vehicle. My original had two cable posts and one ign wire post.

I did see something awhile back on another site that said that in the new ones there was some kind of diode installed to correct this problem, or a problem similar to it, but it never specified exactly which brand and I can't find the post anymore. I called up a local Ford dealer here in Philly this morning, and he said he had the correct Motorcraft solenoid for the application, but could not tell me if it had that diode, or even whether the modification existed.

I do know that the part at the dealer is about 60 bucks, compared to 10-15 for aftermarket, but since the parts guys at the dealer don't know whether or not it will actually solve the problem, I can't tell if the extra 40-45 bucks in price is because it is a heavier-duty application, or if it is just the normal dealer mark up. I don't mind paying the extra to find out, but I have a feeling they are just going to give me one that is the same as the ones I have already gone through, except for the Motorcraft stamping on them. I was going to drive down there and find out tomorrow.

Anyway, this is how things stand at the moment:

New Starter, which is known to be good.

New Voltage Regulator, which is known to be good, even if it has nothing to do with the process.

New Alternator, same thing as the VR.

New ignition switch on steering column, which has been adjusted so that all key positions do what they are supposed to do.

A parade of solenoids, about 6 of which I finally got around to throwing out the other day.

All wiring, while old, seems to be in working order.
 

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Just for the hell of it, Try running a ground wire from the battery to the mounting bolt of the fender mounted starter relay. OR next time before you have to pull the neg cable try grounding the case.

I'm wondering if the 12 volts energizes the coil of the solinoid, and then once energized, that if the power is removed, that it may actually be getting back fed through the ground causing it to stay energized.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Just for the hell of it, Try running a ground wire from the battery to the mounting bolt of the fender mounted starter relay. OR next time before you have to pull the neg cable try grounding the case.

I'm wondering if the 12 volts energizes the coil of the solinoid, and then once energized, that if the power is removed, that it may actually be getting back fed through the ground causing it to stay energized.
Sounds like a plan to me. I should be able to just measure with a voltmeter. If I get voltage then I know it's back loading, right?

BTW, I just got off the messenger with Fords. The Motorcraft site only keeps VINs for the last ten years, but if you talk to one of their CSRs, they can look up old VIN #s through an internal site. Tried to get the guy to push the address to me, since I figured it would come in handy for finding parts, but he said it can only be accessed internally, but they were happy to look up anything at any time.
 

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Glenntwo, here is a simple question, I saw the list of things you did but I did not notice battery cables. did you at one time replace any of the cables? Reason being if you did, are all battery cables the same gauge? a lot of people will use a large gauge as a single replacement and still try to use the standard gauge from the solenoid to the starter. Its like putting a garden hose with high pressure and crimping the end to restrict the flow. Yes you will get a strong stream but eventually you will find the weakest part of the system in the hose(which will be your solenoid)
hope this helps
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
No, but actually I have been thinking about swapping them out anyway. They look like standard guage for autootive apps, and I'm sure that going up another size would probably help.

I have noticed that the engine is loping a little at idle now, so I'm thinking one of the cables might be going out anyway.

One thing worries me though. If the sol is getting too much juice and sticking, then wouldn't more current flow exacerbate the situation?

Anyway, everything is on hold while I wait for this new ultra-heavy duty solenoid that the Motorcraft guys say will solve the problem wends it way through their system to get to the parts store. When I get the call, I'll pick it and some cables up and see about soing some surgery in the rain this afternoon. :(
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ok then. I thought I read somewhere that it could be caused by current flow problems to the EFI, but hey, I've read so much stuff lately I'm not sure if I'm afoot or horseback anymore. :lol:

It's not really much of a problem right now. Just seems to do it for a minute or two on warm-up then goes away, so it may be just that she's getting a little cold-hearted in her old age. It's something I can deal with later on, I presume.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Wow, just read that bulletin on vacuum leaks. If they're in the ducting system, I guess I'm just going to have to live with it until I get home. Problem is I don't get home until October!
 

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One thing worries me though. If the sol is getting too much juice and sticking, then wouldn't more current flow exacerbate the situation?

as long as you maintain the same gauge on on the starter system, you shouldnt have any issues
 
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