Question about 2006 Mazda Tribute

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Mazda Tribute Intermittent Starting problem

Intermittent problem on starting cold or warm. battery 1yr old and holding charge. 2weeks ago replaced plugs at dealer with Bosch Plats. Starting problem occurred in last 48 hours sometimes when occurs, cranking is slow and truck struggling to turn over, and wont catch. Or when problem occurs dash board flashes, needles/guages flicker then go to zero, no cranking happening, seems like dead battery (but battery tested and no problem). Suspect somewhere between solenoid or starter and ground... need some help to diagnose. Can it be as simple as a fuse? clutch pedal switch? faulty ignition coil?

The intermittent nature is the challenge. example: 8hours after cold, starts no problem, or doesnt. 2 min after warm and 3 successful starts, then nothing. Wait for 5 min, then restart and it will turn over. If it doesnt turn over, all electrical flashes, odometer will reset, dash flash, etc. Sometimes attempt to turn over, then click-click-clicking as dash flashes and have heard a single hard stall/clank from the engine (like its not aligned or starter cant get it to go). 5 min later, turn ignotion key for 30 seconds, then it will start with some hesitation and drag but will start and turn over...


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  • dwilton876 May 09, 2009

    Also, forgot to mention. The above, a jump start / boost will get the truck going without issue. Have had to do that 2 times in last 2 days.

  • dwilton876 May 09, 2009

    Tks for the reply - I just spent 30 min with the truck and looked over the cables, fuses, etc.. Started fine 5 times. The 5th it started pulling more on the crank hesitating to turn over, but it did. I also checked all the cables and they all seem fine (cannot locate the solenoid though on a visual? think its under the air filter on the right but not 100% positive and dont want to pull that out).

    If it is a short in the solenoid how do I test that? need to pull it out and take to a shop?

  • dwilton876 May 10, 2009

    how would a boost then override this? example - this morning had to get a boost twice 1:30min apart from different folks to get it going. considering to replace the battery with higher cranking Amps as the problem we are encountering was same and the reason we replaced the battery a year ago.... also, took your advice, cleaned all the terminals and no issues there from what I can see.

  • dwilton876 May 10, 2009

    more info... removed the battery, inspected all cables, cleaned off and tied up some with electrical. reinstalled battery, car starts no problem. here is the interesting part - on third attempt, after turns over and is running idol, the dashboard guages jerking up and down for a few seconds before normalizing where they should. we saw this before, but this happened usually when it wasnt able to turn over and everything choked. this time the turnover happened, idol occured, guages flickering up and down, then normalize. Some sort of bigger electrical problem?

  • dwilton876 May 11, 2009

    Thanks in advance - you are great. And here are some more details that might help -- we ran some volt and ohm tests on the battery and cables. Most interesting is registering the battery at just over 12V sitting idol, nothing engaged. Then when the key is in the ignition (just before attempting to turn over the vehicle) you can see the charge drop no lower than 11.6v as we move past the accessory click, and on to the fuelpump (where you can hear and see it on the panel being engaged). Then you attempt to turn over the vehicle and if it actually succeeds, the battery volts will drop to as little as 4volts then recover. If successful, the battery shows just over 14V on charge so I assume the altnator is working as it should.

    In seeing this drop I assume its post battery so I then pulled out the battery and replaced it with a 12V which was from a new Subaru and registering 13V sitting without connection. When I attempted to turn the Tribute over again using the new battery, we dropped the voltage on the new one to as little as 6volts on a crank but then with a successful start so it had more amps for a pull.

    This also let me believe that when a jump is done on the car, the added voltage and amps from the jump is engaging the starter without issue. So the logic holds (unless I am missing something) So following that start with the other battery, I then put the Tribute battery back in and it wouldnt start up. I again was getting the click but no crank/turnover. 3rd attempt in 5min, the engine sounded like the starter realigned or moved a little just a turnover and click sound and following that attempt, the engine pulled, then turned over and started. However, same issue with the gauges all flikering when it was first running then things normalized. And as an aside I cannot locate the starter for the life of me. I followe the positive terminal and see it drops somewhere on the right of the engine, under the air filter ducts and to the left of the battery... not easy access to give a couple taps. Any ideas? Just a starter with a bad ground?

  • dwilton876 May 11, 2009

    I'll be taking it into the shop today. I suspect there is a faulty ground off the starter or solenoid. Since the Subaru battery did the exact same thing (e.g. dropped rather low in voltage upon crank, and lower on the second crank) I suspect something is happening there with excess draw, putting quite the load on the battery. Since my battery recovers when I let it sit, but even when being measured at 12.4volts strong before attempts to start, the car wont engage and turn over. Just the intermittent click problem where after a few attempts, couple pulls, and a little luck it might start. Perhaps a bad worn solenoid or even a poorly ground/shorter/jammed starter. At the shop I am certain they will test the battery which is getting beaten up with all these attempts, then move to the starter+solenoid combo and look for a short or wear pattern - which would be odd because the truck only has 35K miles on it. I'll post what they discover and what I end up paying for! And more important, if it fixes this problem which seems to be one that many Tribute and Escape owners have from time to time.


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I can think of 2 possibles,it could be a bad battery cable or an intermitent short in the starter solenoid, check or have the battery cables and there connections on both ends first not only are they a cheaper fix but the problem you describe sounds like a current flow issue.Test them with or have them tested with an ohmmeter they should show o ohms resistance,and while not attributed to the problem I do not reccomend using Bosch spark plugs of any variety,the best plugs for any Japanese vehicle are NGK's,this comes from my personal experience with them and other techs that I have worked with.

Posted on May 09, 2009

  • 1 more comment 
  • George DeMore
    George DeMore May 09, 2009

    The solenoid will be on the starter itself,and it being an intermitent problem the only way to really check is to pull it off the starter di assemble and inspect it,you can check it with an ohmmeter,disconnect the negative battery cable and place one lead to the case of the solenoid and one lead to the large post where the positive battery cable connects should yeild an infinite resistance,anything less even a megaohm of resistance will allow current to flow ,but since your battery has been keeping its charge I would say that's not the problem.Did you do just a visual check on the cables?What can happen is the insulationon the cable will get a tear and the cable will corrode inside the insulation and it won't be visisble until it gets extremely corroded and then it will bulge the insulation on the cable,the only way to really check for this is with an ohmmeter it may be as simple as pulling the negative cable off the engine block and cleaning off any corrosion where the cable mounts.The starter motor itself has a near zero resistance,maybe a .05 of an ohm when the windings charge and this allows a current flow of 280 amps,if the battery cable either positive or negative gains 1 ohm of resistance the current flow will drop to 14 amps which is nowhere near enough to crank a starter,the odd thing is sometimes a internally corroded cable will allow enough current to flow,and then will suddenly not allow it to flow.I see this problem,alot I live on the Washington coast and salt air and electrcity make for corrosion nightmares.

  • George DeMore
    George DeMore May 10, 2009

    I couldn't really say why the cluster is doing this,I checked the wiring schematics for the vehicle and couldn't see anything that would tie the two circuits together,the only thing I can tell is that all the relays that power nearly every circuit are tied to the vehicle's computer system and I don't want to give a possible solution that would put the computer at risk,if circuits that are computer controlled are tested the wrong way it can cause irreperable damage to the system,I would not want be responsible for this,I can tell you that the spark plugs may possibly be tied to the problem,the resistance of the plugs can affect the computers operation but this would be something you would need to discuss with Mazda tech regarding,I'm sorry I can't be of more assitance.

  • George DeMore
    George DeMore May 11, 2009

    Okay wich would make some sense now.The battery has gone bad,definitley have it checked at a parts store they will gladly do a load test for free, the battery you used out of the Suburua is right on the money as far as voltage,a 12V battery not under load can measure as high as 14V,the voltage drop you saw when you cranked the battery is not unusual because voltage and current are relative,so if you have a high current draw the voltage will drop at the source(battery)and likewise in reverse if the voltage is raised at the source, current draw will drop,this is why so much industrial equipment runs on high voltages 480 and 600v(my professional trade is in industrial maintenance and repair)The lack of the battery recovering to its normal voltage after cranking the starter would possibly explain the flickering of the gauges as they are turned of and on by an elctro mechanical relay and they do not operate well at voltages lower than what they are rated,the gauges.Now the reason the battery has gone bad after only one year of service could be caused by a short in the windings of the starter or a defective battery off the shelf ,to test the starter will mean having to remove the starter and disassembling it,but this could explain the possible "flat" spot that you describe in the starter.


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