New parts can cause unforeseen headaches

Q. My 1996 Sonoma four-cylinder does not start sometimes. It can start flawlessly for weeks, then not start. It can happen when the truck has been sitting, or if it was just running. There's no rhyme or reason for the pattern. When it doesn't start it may take only one more turn of the key, or five minutes’ worth of attempts.

I replaced the starter, since it had a few years on it. The battery is relatively new. The connections are all good and clean. One quirk I discovered was, when I tried starting it without engaging the clutch, it should not have turned over, but it did. So I replaced the neutral safety switch. No luck. My next move may be the ignition switch. Is there anything else to consider here?

A. This is a little tough to answer without doing some of my own testing but it seems as though you are on the right track. If there is any adjustment on the clutch lockout switch make sure it is correct. There should be a starter relay in or near the power center; make sure the connections are good and if they are, you may want to try a new relay. It is inexpensive and easy to change!

We have been tricked by bad new parts before, so next time the truck fails you might want to see if the starter is getting power. Since it is so intermittent, maybe you could run some kind of a test wire inside the auto with a light on it so you will know if the starter is getting a signal or not.

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