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1968-2013 Full Size Vans Econolines. E150, E250, E350, E450 and E550

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  #1  
Old 09-16-2010, 08:58 PM
nalts nalts is offline
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Question Van Sometimes won't Start. Can't figure out why.

Hey all-

First off, here's my van's specs:
1994 Ford E-150 Waldoch conversion van
5.0L, automatic transmission
About 164,XXX miles

As the title states, my van won't start all of the time. What the title doesn't say is that's it's driving me crazy. This is going to be long, so please bare with me. Here's what's happening.

Occasionally when I turn the ignition over it won't fire up and start. I get just a click. It doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes it happens after I've been driving it for a bit and then stop. But not always.

Here's what I've done and what I know:
• We replaced the starter about two years ago. Appears to be working properly.
• I just had the battery tested. Nearly full cranking power
• I was in an accident with this van one year, nine months ago. Not major damage, mostly to the steering and alignment.
• When I had the front end fixed, I also had the coil spring replaced as my horn and cruise control was not working.
• When it won't start, all of the dummy lights show normal. The lights, radio, fans, and everything else works as they should.
• I just realized that there may (or may not) be a rain connection to this as well. I'll add that in below.

Here's the scenarios of the times the van has not started:

1). We were camping. Two or three times it wouldn't start. Once we were at the park, I didn't put on more than 50 miles over a three day period. It did rain quite a bit on our first day there. We mostly just drove around the small park and into a nearby town. The van just mysteriously started each time (one time after about 30 minutes or so) and I was on my way.

2). About two weeks later I was an hour into a three hour trip. I stopped to get gas and turned off the van while filling up. It started right up then I drove around the building to put air into my tires. I shut it off while filling the tires. It would not start up after this. (I cannot remember if it rained the previous night or not. My wife seems to think it did. I should believe her).

I called a service station to give me a jump. No dice. He did hear a click in front of the battery. He crawled underneath as well. He did a super quick test. It was his assumption that the starter was not getting power. (starter solenoid?)

I called my father-in-law to come tow me home with his car dolly. Sometime while I was waiting for him, I tried to start it again, and it started up. I drove it to my FIL's shop. He messed around with a few things, including soldering a possible loose ground jumper wire from the starter, as well as replacing a starter solenoid from in front of the battery. The van started but my FIL was not confident about the fix. Side note: The new solenoid didn't fix the problem. Only after soldering a possible loose jumper on the starter did the van start.

I made the three-hour trip with no problems. Of course, I didn't turn the van off either. It did rain cats and dogs for the last half of my trip. This was Saturday night. Sunday morning it started as we went to church.

3). On the way home from the trip Monday afternoon, I stopped about 45 minutes out. One child took his bathroom break. As I got to the locked door on the van, child number two opened the locked door from the inside. This set off the alarm. As my keyless entry had a dead battery, I could not shut the alarm off. I tried turning the key in the ignition, but the van would not start and the alarm would not shut off. I locked the doors and walked several blocks to an auto store to buy a new keyless entry battery. Yes, the alarm was still going off as I walked away.

I returned with a working keyless entry and tried to start the van again. No luck. I called a service station to come. This time he gave the van a jump and it started right up. He also said that the negative cable on the battery post was loose. This is possible since my FIL had the battery out while at his shop.

4). All has been fine the last couple of weeks until I was driving in the rain. I made a stop, ran in and out less than 30 seconds, and the van would not start. I checked the battery connections, and they were tight. I sat for about 45 minutes, trying to start it every 10 minutes or so. I finally called a towing service. They came and gave me a jump and it started right up. After I explained the problem, he thought it may be the battery. I went to Wal-Mart and had the battery tested. It showed as almost new, considering that it's three years old, that's pretty good. It started at Wal-Mart with no problems and I was able to drive home.

5). This past Sunday morning I was able to drive to church with no problems. After church it didn't start. I tried it a couple of times and it started on the third or fourth try. I drove it home and have not taken it anywhere since. As a side note, my wife did take it on a few short trips the week before, with no problems at all. I do not recall if it rained on the previous Saturday or not.

Are you still with me? I know that's a lot to take in, but I thought it important to have a complete understanding of what I've been through with this.

If anyone can offer suggestions, short of a sledgehammer, I'm all ears.

Thanks a lot!
Chris
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:15 PM
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precisiontile precisiontile is offline
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Thomas Reynolds
Cris,

My 1995 E250 would do the same. I could drive my van anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks and would go out and would just click and sometimes turn over slow one second then the next second great. After having battery tested I finally had extra grounds installed from battery to motor/frame and it seemed to help tremendously, until about three weeks later. I drove about 20 miles and shut van down. When I was going to leave van wouldn't start (just a click). We tried jumping it-nothing. We tried jumping solenoid-no luck. Even tapping on starter. When we were about to give up I tried the tapping on starter again and had a friend turn the key (at the same time) once more and it started! So I drove straight to my mechanic and had him install a new starter. Since then I have not had an issue with the van starting, not even once.

Now on our other van we have (1995 E150) we had a situation where one second the van would turn over but no start and the next would fire right up! sometimes it would go weeks starting, or vise-versa! That problem ended up being a faulty pick-up coil in the distributor. Thought I'd mention it cause Mechanic shop had the van for a 3 days and couldn't find an answer - would start everytime they tried!

Some things seem to work for one person, but not another, so good luck and hope you get it figured out!
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:54 PM
nalts nalts is offline
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Location: Big Lake, Minnesota
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I do appreciate the suggestions. I've thought about putting in a new starter, but hadn't thought about the distributor, but it makes sense.

I also like the idea of adding in ground wires as I've thought that this entire fiasco revolves around a ground. Something seems to be loose or loses connection after it heats up, or something else equally as strange.

Either way, it appears my biggest mistake was buying Ford conversion van with gremlins? Awesome.
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Old 09-17-2010, 12:40 AM
econoshorty econoshorty is offline
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I've had the ignition switch do that, it's cheap and fairly easy to put a new one in.
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Old 09-18-2010, 07:15 AM
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subford subford is offline
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Sounds like you have a bad spade on the wire that pushes onto the starter solenoid down on the starter.
Just cut off about an inch of wire and crimp on a new spade and I think your problems will be over.

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Old 09-18-2010, 07:15 AM
 
 
 
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