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280ZX clunks instead of starting when I turn the key.


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#1 unhh

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 07:46 PM

Copypasta from /r/cars because I figure someone here might be able to offer more specific answers.

Like the title says, my car won't start. It ran fine the last time it started, but doesn't any more. The problem began when I accidentally started the car in gear with the clutch engaged a while back, and I'm assuming that's the cause. I got a new starter for it, assuming that was the problem, but it still just makes a clunk when I turn the key to "start", and it drains the battery pretty quickly. Any ideas what the problem is?

I tried jumping it.
I tried taking the battery out and charging it.
I have not tried push starting because I've never done so and am not confident doing so, but it does have a manual transmission so I could try.
The car was involved in an accident a while before it stopped starting. I don't think that's what did it because nothing mechanical was directly affected, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

I'm willing to have the car towed to a mechanic if it comes to that, but if you guys have ideas for things I can try, I'd like to avoid that expense if possible.

#2 Laecaon

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 08:24 PM

Have you tried starting it by jumping the starter solenoid contacts?

Take something metal with an insulated handle (i used a hammer), and bridge the contacts. Does the motor turn over fast? It should.
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#3 ggzilla

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 08:26 PM

Yes, bypass the key switch for testing. If it starts, then it suggest the switch is bad. If it does the same thing, then you know you don't need to buy a new switch.
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#4 TENDRIL

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 09:09 PM

is it just one clunk and thats it? if so the starter might not be catching the fly wheel, in which case i would try rocking the car back and forth while in gear, and try to get a tooth on the fly wheel.

get back to us and let us know if you have tried these primitive methods and with any luck

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#5 ggzilla

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 09:45 PM

Don't be afraid to push start it. As long as there's nothing for a ways in front of the car to hit, it's pretty safe. Put it in 2nd gear, clutch pedal down, then key to ON, hand brake off. Have two guys push it a bit, then when it's rolling, let the clutch out quickly. It should start right up (here's where you could run into something if you aren't watching the road). Of course you might need to pump the gas (or whatever you normally do) before it starts rolling.
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#6 unhh

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 12:13 AM

Have you tried starting it by jumping the starter solenoid contacts?

Take something metal with an insulated handle (i used a hammer), and bridge the contacts. Does the motor turn over fast? It should.


Posted Image
So, just bridge these? (Just want to make sure so I don't end up frying my new starter, the one part of the starting system I know works.)
Google'd image, BTW. Mine's actually hooked up. I'm not quite THAT clueless... "Hey guys I unplugged my starter and now my car won't start, what's up with that?"

Yes, bypass the key switch for testing.


I'll try that tomorrow. (Well, today... working an inconsistent but largely second-shift schedule is messing with my sleep.) A guy on Reddit suggested my battery might be dead, so I'm also going to swap it out for one I know works and see if that helps.

is it just one clunk and thats it? if so the starter might not be catching the fly wheel, in which case i would try rocking the car back and forth while in gear, and try to get a tooth on the fly wheel.


Yeah, just the one clunk. It's been a bit since I tried starting it, so don't quote me on that, but I remember thinking "Okay, I should describe that as a 'clunk'." (The last time was when my rebuilt starter came in from Datsun Parts and I put it in the car.) My Haynes manual suggested the same thing and I wasn't successful in my attempts, but it's probably worth another try. How much force is usually necessary? I was trying by myself.

Don't be afraid to push start it. As long as there's nothing for a ways in front of the car to hit, it's pretty safe. Put it in 2nd gear, clutch pedal down, then key to ON, hand brake off. Have two guys push it a bit, then when it's rolling, let the clutch out quickly. It should start right up (here's where you could run into something if you aren't watching the road). Of course you might need to pump the gas (or whatever you normally do) before it starts rolling.


Huh, I would've thought you'd use first gear. Why second?
I don't normally have to do anything special. I just make sure the clutch is disengaged and/or it's not in gear and turn the key. Until this issue started, it always fired right up.


Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. We'll see how it goes. :D

#7 ggzilla

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 12:48 AM

Well if you bridge those two the engine won't turn. The starter should spin however. But to bypass the Ignition Switch, turn key to ON/RUN, tranmission in nuetral, hand brake on. Then on the starter, bridge the large outer terminal with the small terminal.

It can be push started in either gear. Try it and you'll see why 2nd is easier for starting.
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#8 unhh

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 01:26 AM

Text can be confusing. Let's try this again...
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#9 ggzilla

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 01:52 AM

That's correcto.

With the spade type terminal (as in that photo), it is common for the connection to be slightly corroded/dirty and then only partially work. The screw-down connections are far better and can go 40 years without cleaning.
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#10 unhh

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 03:09 PM

Well, that didn't work too well. I obviously did something wrong. I bridged those two contacts with a set of pliers, it sparked, and nothing else happened. Oh, and the car's not getting power now (lights aren't on when I open the door; they were before.)

#11 ggzilla

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 03:30 PM

For the loss of power, that is very common. Just clean your battery cables as per the procedure.

As for your test, repeat it after you clean the cables. If it still won't spin, you aren't doing anything wrong, but it indicates an electrical problem. It is supposed to spark a little, but should turn the engine too. let us know the results.
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#12 Laecaon

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 05:14 PM

GG, I have always bridged the 2 large posts, and it turns the motor over every time...

Since the battery is direct to starter, there shouldnt be a problem. Clean battery terminals, clean where the grounds go.
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#13 unhh

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Posted 07 June 2012 - 07:22 AM

Aw yea. Cleaned the battery contacts and it started right up. Did a couple pulls down the street to celebrate and parked it again because I have a tire that's losing air and still have to work on repairing the damage I did hitting a tree on Easter. BRB, taking a hammer to the left headlight mount...

#14 ggzilla

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Posted 07 June 2012 - 02:36 PM

Another Datsun saved!
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