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Old 03-09-2012, 11:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Tardis is on a distinguished road
Default 88 Sammy won't start, clicking noise, all lights on?

I hope someone can help me.

I have an '88 Samurai TinTop. Everything is nearly original, and I mean original. In nearly 25 years, I've only replaced: tires, wiper blades, battery, oil, coolant. Two months ago the very first part ever broke: my drag rod. Got that replaced, and it's been fine. The drag rod is the only part that has ever failed on me.

But yesterday I went to start my Samurai, and for the first time in nearly a quarter century, it wouldn't start! All I get is a "clicking" noise when I turn the key. The battery seems fine, as I have full headlights, dome lights, dash lights, tail lights, radio, etc.

It does tend to build up at lot of fuzzy gucky stuff on the battery posts. I don't recall ever replacing the battery cables. So they are the ones that came with the Samurai originally.

After reading thru the threads, I don't know if I have the "clicky starter" problem you gurus describe, or not, because I still have power to all lights and stuff.

If my battery cables are bad because they are so old, would they prevent my Samuari from starting, yet still allow all the lights and things to come on?

I have been told it could be the starter, or even the alternator (?)

I am utterly, completely non-mechanical, and I am hoping to use your wisdom to get my little tintop on the road again.

I have used info from this brilliant forum before, and I have to say, you guys are geniuses! When my drag rod broke, my mechanic--who like all of the mechanics around here--had never even SEEN a Samurai, swore it was the sway bar. His parts man from Advantage Auto Parts agreed. But for some reason, I wasn't convinced, and wanted to verify it was that part and not some other before I sank $$$ into it, and by looking on this forum I found PICTURES and manuals and I was able to determine it was not the sway bar, but the drag rod, so I was saved a very expensive and unnecessary replacement of that. A huge thanks to you all for that one.

Anyway, I am hoping like crazy that you guys and your incredible knowledge can help me. I love my little Samurai, and I just feel lost without it.

Grateful thanks in advance for any assistance or advice!
88 Samurai TinTop, 70k, only 1 owner--me, all original exactly as it was the day I got it.
I call it The Tardis because it really is bigger on the inside than the outside!
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Old 03-09-2012, 04:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Is it EFI? it sounds like it could be an ECU failure. Is the clicking coming from under the dashboard?
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Old 03-09-2012, 10:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sure sounds like the "clicky starter".

To test remove the Black/yellow wire with the female spade connecter from the starter solenoid. Rig up a 12 gauge wire or lower with a female spade connector and connect it to the starter solenoid. With the car out of gear, take the other end and connect it to a 12 volt positive battery post. If the start turns over good, then you are in need of the clicky starter fix.

As a safety warning, the wire should be fused with a 15a fuse or better, you should wear gloves, and make sure nothing flammable is around since it might spark a little bit.

Hope you have tools and a place to work on it, because at age 23, a lot of things are going to be needed to be replaced in the next few years. Fortunately, Samurais are easy to work on, and everything that you encounter has been dealt with many times before by others and discussed endlessly on the Samurai boards.

If it turns out that it is the "clicky starter" where the ignition wiring no longer carries enough voltage to engage the solenoid, you should think about replacing your battery cables and add a new ground 6 gauge cable from the motor to the body, while doing the new wiring for the relay.

Also might be time to do "headlight relay harness" mod to get brighter headlights.
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Old 03-10-2012, 02:41 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Remove the battery terminal clamps starting with the negative (earth) one first. This avoids short circuits if you touch your spanner on the frame of the car.
Clean the battery posts, clean inside the battery cable end clamps that go on the battery posts. Use sandpaper or a wire brush.
Check that the small wires that come off the positive battery terminal clamp are making good contact and are not corroded.
While you have the battery disconnected, clean the end of the big cable that bolts to the starter motor. Also clean the terminal on thin wire where it joins the starter motor solenoid.
Join everything back together, doing the negative (earth) terminal last.
Now see if the problem is fixed. If not it may be a bad connection at or in the ignition switch.

BTW the best thing to clean the crud off battery terminals is a little bicarbonate of soda (baking powder) in water.

Last edited by johnfromperth; 03-10-2012 at 02:45 AM.
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Old 03-10-2012, 04:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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What he^^said. Also:
Remove clean and reconnect the ground wire that lives behind the battery on the firewall. Small wire with phillips head screw.
If you remove all wire talked about here ^^ and here.
Before replacing them smear copious electric grease on them to maintain good contact and reduce corrosive buildup. Available at most parts houses.
(Parts houses sell a battery cable cleaning device with a wire brush pyramid shaped on one end and a captive brush inside a metal ring on the other it is for cleaning the inside of the wires and the outside of the battery posts. Works slick too.)
Try not to get the (gluck) on any clothing you wish to use again as it will eat through most material. It will damage good paint too.
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Old 03-10-2012, 07:14 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Had a similar issue and thought I had solenoid, relay, or starter issues but didn't know where to start. Similar symptoms: ignition accessories position allowed for all the beeping, clicking, and fuel pump noise but would not activate the starter. I finally found out that I had a hair line split in my battery cable clamp that would only allow enough voltage for the accessories but not enough to activate the starter. It was hard to see but cleaning and inspecting luckily caught it. New clamp for like $3.00 and I was good to go. Thank goodness it was that simple and easy to fix. Hopefully you have something similar or that easy. Like all the other guys said, start with the battery terminals and inspect your clamps/connections thoroughly. Good luck.
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