More ignition trouble

June 1, 2017 | By Staff


Nine out of 10 times my ’94 Suburban will start with the first turn of the ignition key and then it won’t, no matter how many times the ignition switch is turned. There is not a sound; nothing except a few warning lights. But sometimes, after a dozen or more attempts, the truck will start right up.

The premier repair shop here in Great Falls (where I drop off my copy of Auto Restorer after a cover-to-cover read) has tried a number of things including a new ignition switch. The same problem persisted. And then they put in a new battery. Same problem persisted. The truck started without a problem when in the shop so they didn’t use a multi-meter to trace circuits to ascertain the point of failure. The same thing happened again with a week’s stay at a local Chevy dealership repair shop. The truck started without hesitation while in the shop.

Just recently, when a “won’t start” episode required a call for a tow truck lift back to Great Falls, the operator noted that there was insufficient room where the Suburban was parked to get it loaded on his truck. So he lifted the hood and yanked the battery cables around. The Suburban started right up. He then loaded my truck and carried it back to Great Falls.

The wisdom became that if you yanked the ground cable around you could solve the starting problem, and I have had to do that several times since. In separate shop visits, the negative cables from the battery and the woven steel strap to the ground on the block were replaced. Same problem persists. Can anyone out there point to where the problem may be originating?


The most obvious answer would be that the ground cable is not grounding properly, however it seems that if that were the case the little warning lights would not come on either. However, it is possible that the ground contact is good enough to allow the warning lights to glow, but not adequate for the starter. When the negative cable and the braided strap were replaced, did the installer clean the surfaces to which they were attached, down to shiny bare metal? If the chassis has been heavily painted as noted in the above response, or the strap or cable is attached to a dirty, corroded chassis, the system may not be completely grounded and the starting circuit may be marginal.

I also wonder if the terminals on the positive cable from the battery to the solenoid switch are clean, bright and tight, and if there could be a fault in the positive cable. It is possible that jerking the ground cable around is enough to tweak the positive cable into making better contact. I would also examine the solenoid switch to see if it is working dependably. And I would also make sure the connections on the ignition switch and the safety switch on the transmission are operating properly, assuming you have an automatic transmission.