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Here's what I've got.

My 2007 Honda Civic (automatic transmission) will not crank. Turn the key and the starter clicks. Every so often instead of a click I will get what sounds like an incredible weak version of the car trying to start, but then it just returns to the click. The lights dim and the starter clicks.

New battery, tested before installation.

New battery cable terminals.

Starter removed and taken to the parts store. Tested good at the parts store.

New ignition switch.

New fuses, and relay.

Removed the ground wires going to the body, and the negative battery cable where it goes to the body. Cleaned them with some fine sandpaper and replaced.

All the lights on the dash are normal, Key light flashes and goes out like it is supposed to. Even had the battery in my key changed for good measure to be sure that was not the problem.

Manually turned the engine to makes sure it wasn't seized.

At this point I'm stumped. I have a strong suspicion that the problem is electrical, and somewhere in the ignition system. But I have no clue what else to check.

Any help would be much appreciated.

  • You could try to manually power the starter (in place) with some sort of isolated jumper cable? – Martin Nov 22 '17 at 10:55
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    do a cranking (key in the start position) voltage drop test on the starter b+ cable, b- to crank case and starter solenoid to starter relay. it’ll probably show you what’s goin wrong. also which engine do you have? – Ben Nov 22 '17 at 12:18
  • Could a starter that tests good, be bad? Jumping the starter did no good. When they test it at the auto parts store - do they just test the electrical functions? – Aaron Shane Ammons Nov 22 '17 at 12:19
  • it’s possible, but you need to eliminate a potential voltage drop on the b+ and b- sides of the starter. maybe the test equipment was able to overcome resistance inside the starter solenoid and your battery/cabling can’t. – Ben Nov 22 '17 at 15:26
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There is a test called a voltage drop test. The test checks for wire and contact integrity.

To run the test get a standard DMM. Connect the positive lead of the DMM to the positive battery post. Don't touch the terminal, really dig into the post itself. This makes sure that the terminal and connection are in the path to check.

Connect the negative lead of the DMM to the starter BATT post. Don't connect it to the ring terminal, try to connect it to the threaded post sticking out. This makes sure that the terminal and connection are in the path to check.

Next set the DMM to volts DC and crank the car. The voltage that the DMM shows should be less than 1V. If the voltage is higher there are high resistance problems in the positive cable.

For the negative side, the test is very similar. Connect the positive lead of the DMM to the metal body of the starter. Really dig it in. Don't connect to the engine because you're trying to check the connection of the starter to the engine.

Connect the negative lead of the DMM to the battery negative battery post. Don't touch the terminal, really dig into the post itself. This makes sure that the terminal and connection are in the path to check.

Next set the DMM to volts DC and crank the car. The voltage that the DMM shows should be less than 1V. If the voltage is higher there are high resistance problems in the negative cable.

If all that checks out, check the battery voltage while cranking. The voltage should remain above 10V or so. If the voltage goes really low then it could be a bad battery or bad starter.

To tell the difference, connect an amp clamp around the negative battery cable. Check the current draw of the starter while cranking. A Civic engine is relatively small and should show 50 to 60A of draw. If you see over a 100A then the starter is bad or there is high resistance in the engine. If you see something like 20A then the battery is bad.

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