Question about 1997 Subaru Legacy

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Whats a solenoid? turn key and engine won't start, all the lights on the dashboard work, the windows stll go up and down. There is a click sound when key is turned.

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It's the little unit that sits along side the starter motor which tells the starter motor to activate putting it simply. try giving it a good knock with something solid while you start it ( you might need someone else to give you a hand).if it does not work then you are going to have to take the starter motor out and get a auto electrician to look at it. i would recommend this anyway even if you get it started hope this helps.

Posted on Mar 31, 2011

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To answer your question, a solenoid is an electrically operated 'contactor' or switch. All cars have a solenoid that effectively, temporarily connects the battery to the starter motor. The starter spins the engine over and when it starts you release the key. When you release the key from the start position, you turn off the power to the solenoid and a spring breaks the connection between the battery and the starter. As such, the starter now has no power, turns off and disconnects from the engine flywheel.

It is possible for everything to be fine except the contacts in the solenoid. All electric items work, windows, fan - everything ... except if the contacts INSIDE the solenoid are burned, there will be no power passed from the battery to the starter.

What does it look like? Generally a old fashioned 35 MM film can with two big wires and at least two little wires on it. It is generally in the engine compartment. Sometimes, the solenoid is on the starter and if that is the case, it will be difficult to find.

How do you test it? Check the voltage on the starter side of the solenoid with the switch in the start position. If there is no voltage on that wire, your starter will not run. Use a Volt/Ohm meter set on DC power. Alternatively, you can use a 12 volt DC test light - a couple bucks at the hardware or auto parts store.

How do you find it? Find the + wire on your battery and follow it. It will end at the solenoid, no matter what it looks like.

Can you fix it? Maybe but probably not since you seem to be completely unfamiliar with it. Possibly, you can get some instruction from the friendly counter guy or gal at your local full service auto parts store.

Since you cant start your car, you will probably have to have it towed to a repair shop, unless you can get it started by pushing (I don't recommend this for the uninitiated, and particularly if the car is an automatic shift)

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Posted on Mar 31, 2011


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Jina, you did not say what year,make, and model the car is.
If your cars battery is good, and you hear a faint click when turning key, the starter is probably stuck and on its way out (needs replaced). I will post a couple videos for you to watch and see if it sounds like yours.
to show your appreciation press the helpful button and follow me on fixya for more tips and info.

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It sounds to me like the starter / solenoid area needs attention - I think the clicking will be the solenoid activating but the starter is not turning. Do the lights dim to zero when you turn the ignition switch? If so, it may be the starter itself at fault; if not, then the electrical connections to the starter should be checked for corrosion. If the terminal are hot after trying to start, that's a sign of corroded terminals.
Let me know how you get on.

Cheers, D

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