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Fun With Starters

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Fun With Starters

The function of the starting system is to crank the engine to start it. The system is composed of the starter motor, starter relay (also called a solenoid), battery, switch and connecting wires. Turning the ignition key to the start position sends a signal to the starter relay through the starter control circuit. The starter relay then connects the battery to the starter. The battery supplies the electrical energy to the starter motor, which does the actual work of cranking the engine. This is pretty standard in most all-domestic and foreign autos.

The starter on the 1987 Ford Thunderbird is relatively easy to change out for the home mechanic; all you need is a little patience, a socket set, and a little elbow grease. If you don't know anything about auto repair then stop reading immediately and take your car to a qualified mechanic. Now for the folks with a little experience in dealing with the legendary P.O.S. that is the Ford Thunderbird, the first step is deciding whether or not you have a problem.

If the starter motor doesn't turn at all when the ignition switch is operated, make sure the shift lever is in neutral or park. The automatic transmission T-Birds of this model year comes equipped with a neutral start switch in the starter control circuit. This prevents operation of the starter motor unless the vehicle is in neutral or park. If your ride is equipped with a manual transmission, make sure the clutch pedal is completely depressed when starting. Next make sure that the battery is charged and all the battery and starter relay wires are secure. Now if the starter motor spins but the engine doesn't turn over, then the bendix or drive assembly is slipping and the starter motor needs to be replaced.

Okay, so all of that checked out swell for you. Well now we'll move on to the relay switch. If when the key is turned, the starter relay clicks but the starter motor doesn't turn at all then the problem lies with either the battery, the starter relay or the starter motor connections, or the starter itself. If the starter relay doesn't click when you try to crank the engine, either the starter relay circuit is open or the relay itself is history. To check the relay, remove the push-on connector from the relay wire. This little sucker is easy to find; it's the only wire you can take off without using any tools! Next ...

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