Troubleshooting Intermittent No Crank Starter

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Thread: Troubleshooting Intermittent No Crank Starter

  1. #1
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    Troubleshooting Intermittent No Crank Starter

    I have an 2003 passat v6 stick, 214k miles. Need a little help, I've begun following this guide

    https://www.passatworld.com/forums/b...agnostics.html @tomvw

    Today is Tues and this began on Sat AM after letting my son practice driving a manual tranny, after one of his stalls he turned the key to start and the dash lit up-but no crank, no click. I drove it on Sunday and Monday by popping the clutch on a hill, last night a coworker offered to car pool today. Since it is intermittent I checked last night before I started troubleshooting to see if the problem was manifesting itself. It was. I pulled the FP fuse and ...

    Monday Night
    jumped the clutch position switch: made no difference
    checked battery: 12.4v w/o load / 12.3v with key at Start after 5 sec
    checked ground connections: 0.00 after 5 sec.

    Tuesday night
    checked starter positive circuit: 0.35v
    checked Test#1 in the next section first time: 0.40v and the engine was cranking
    checked Test#1 a second time to confirm: 12.37v and no crank (it was exhibiting the no crank symptoms)

    Is it too early to declare a bad starter/solenoid?
    Last edited by gduncanson; 03-26-2019 at 04:51 PM.

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  3. #2
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    as I mentioned on another post,with intermittant starts two things come to mind,the forefront, ignition switch, and or the starter, usually if it is the starter (and in your climate,mileage) the little copper braid (1/2" long) (exposed to the elements) that goes from the solenoid to the actual starter body deteriorates, randomly fails, especially when hot, there are two wires that go to the starter #30 which comes directly from the battery ,it's a cable, and #50 which comes from under dash relay panel ,a size 18 wire that has a push on bayonet connector on front of solenoid. #12 & #13 relays on the 13 position auxiliary relay panel are he starting circuit relays if both of those click on when ignition switch is turned direct your attention to the starter
    gduncanson likes this.

  4. #3
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    try this , obviously in a safe manner, try starting with someone listening near as safely as possible to starter proximity to hear if solenoid on it is engaging, that eliminates alot of possibilities

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    I had a helper in the car turning the key to Start while I was facing the engine bay checking the voltage. I did not register any sound. The normal sound for a solenoid is the click correct?

    I didn't think about ignition switch.

  7. #5
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    yes, the solenoid usually is in my experience is not the failure point in the starter assembly. You probably know this already, but as a point of reference ,the starter assembly has three major components the solenoid, the starter motor,and the "bendix" gear (named after the inventor). the solenoid is an electro-magnet. When energized (#50 wire) a steel core gets pulled by the magnetic field , this projects the bendix gear forward into the flywheels ring gear and/but als engages a set of heavy duty contacts which connect the cable (#30) to the motor itself (the motor is attached to the block providing the ground connection) via that little piece of braided copper

  8. #6
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    you can pull the valence panel (hidden screws in cubby holes) and pull 12 and 13 relays (one at a time so as not to confuse) gentley pop covers off and physically see if they both are working as key is turned (assuming "bench" tested with 12 volts and are good) ,I believe if relays are engaging go downstream to starter as problem ,go upstream to ignition switch and or clutch neutral switch.
    gduncanson likes this.

  9. #7
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    go upstream if relays are good but not engaging when key is turned. I have had two ignition switches go South over past 10 years and were intermittant in the sense that after 20-50 tries it worked to get me home....

  10. #8
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    go upstream if relays are good but not engaging when key is turned. I have had two ignition switches go South over past 10 years and were intermittant in the sense that after 20-50 tries it worked to get me home....

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    I picked up a used starter and did the final test in that guide. "How to test a starter" and all I got a whirring sound, like it was spinning without throwing the gear out? So I put the junk yard starter in, replaced the FP fuse, and it cranked/started right up, drove around the block, parked it, and tried it again successfully.

    Very grateful for your help, if car repair were some eastern mystical art, tracing electrical circuits upstream or downstream to me is the most difficult "belt" in being a shady tree mechanic and I haven't mastered it yet.

    In case others stumble on this thread. It works best to address the starter bolts from behind the front suspension cross member. And the starter comes out easily through the wheel well. 16mm 3/8 socket and wrench and some kind of leverage. I use an old bike seat tube--a torque wrench would work too.
    PZ likes this.

  12. #10
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    super duper! would like to have given you guidence on it's removal but have no experience on starter removal on the V6.....more familiar with the 1.8s, as a sidebar to your comments... this forum has helped so many in two areas , obviously with the mechanical and troubleshooting guidelines, but an overlooked and hard to place a value on is the insight and confidence instilled in those who maybe are overwhelmed at first with the prospect of no transportation.... In this day and age and for many a car means work or no work.........I am not going to mention names but there are a handful of guys on here who have saved my yang yang,very grateful. And as to trouble shooting, mechanical is the easiest because you can visualize it, electrical is next but if you know the starting and ending points which a Bentley manual does,puts that in visual perspective, the hardest and there are guys on here who are coders and PLC programmers who know what the ECM ,CCM andTCM are the logic used, what sensors for instance are the inputs "looked" for on initial startup and shifting points...... glad you are on road again Passssaattttt Awaaaayyyy!
    gduncanson likes this.

  13. #11
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    as a caveat your "test" indicated the starter motor worked by "whirring" which it should unless you also in parallel activate the solenoid to get the bendix gear to engage it will just whir..... so maybe it was the solenoid.
    gduncanson likes this.

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    After a half dozen errands around town, I went to start and there was no crank, no click, nothing but dash lights.

    One of those errands earlier in the day had been to Autozone to have them test the starter I took out, it passed all three tests they run.

    Now I'm just wondering.

  15. #13
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    ouch....O.K. hopefully you by an act of God got it to start, possibly by turning key over and over.......good news if there is any ,is that the starter most likely has been eliminated from the equation, I would pull the valence and check the actions of #12 & #13 relays, test the relays and clean, with your mileage/year I would suspect the ignition switch however rather than throw parts at it,try that first. And if switch is bad replace with factory OEM. The problem (minor) with the relays is that they are switching DCs current and low voltage, a little bit of pitting (caused by arcing) and or residue and they will act goofy. Take out ,test, clean......and in this logical debugging process unlike me in many cases do a couple of things at once and once it works can never "nail" down what I actually did to solve the problem.... hang in there, has happened to many of us....
    gduncanson likes this.

  16. #14
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    Have you cleaned the battery cable connections? If not, do that. If that's not it, I agree with cchief22 that the ignition switch is next on the list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Iowegian View Post
    Have you cleaned the battery cable connections? If not, do that. If that's not it, I agree with cchief22 that the ignition switch is next on the list.
    also the engine to chassis ground, chassis ground to battery, starter grounds.

  18. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by gduncanson View Post
    After a half dozen errands around town, I went to start and there was no crank, no click, nothing but dash lights.

    One of those errands earlier in the day had been to Autozone to have them test the starter I took out, it passed all three tests they run.

    Now I'm just wondering.
    see my thread https://www.passatworld.com/forums/b...d-codes-2.html

    chief22 and i went through a bunch of steps. I am 99.9 percent sure cleaning the engine to chassis ground which is under the passengers side frame rail.

    I didnt actually get any of these off but hit them with a few healthy doses of CRC knock'er loose. The pics of the nut in between the two hoses is the engine to chassis ground, those are after pics. the starter is before.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    ccchief22, I checked the relay by the instructions below, something not right on one test so I swapped it with the horn relay which didn't make a difference. I happened to have a brand new oem ignition switch in my parts bin so I swapped it out. Below I try to show what I've done so far and hope it makes some sense to you.

    Note the phrase "Check red/black wiring through T10d/4 to the starter."
    ====

    Following the "No Crank" troubleshooting guide that I linked in the original post.

    To check the battery. [12.4 after 5 secs. I also had Autozone test the battery-passed]
    While cranking or attempting to, measure the voltage between battery posts. (Not the connectors)
    If the voltage drops below 9.5 volts within 5 seconds of cranking, the battery is under-charged or faulty. (If in doubt charge and retest)
    Note: If the battery passes this test, that doesn’t guarantee it’s good, but it should crank the engine.

    To check all ground connections in the starter circuit. [0.0v at valve cover and 0.0v at starter body-passed]
    With the key in start position, measure the voltage with the positive probe on the starter body (make good connection) and the negative probe on the negative battery post (Not the connector).
    If not less than 0.6 volts, there is a bad ground cable or connection.
    Instead of connecting to the starter body you could connect to the valve cover, this would miss one place that is very unlikely to have a bad connection.

    To check the starter positive circuit. [0.35v -passed]
    With the key in start position, measure the voltage with the negative probe on the starter terminal 30 (where the large wire from battery connects) and the positive probe on the positive battery post (Not the connector).
    If not less than 0.5 volts, there is a bad cable or connection.
    __________________________________________________ ______________________________________________


    WARNING: Be aware that the engine could start at almost any time during these procedures, unless you disable as above.

    With car in neutral, clutch depressed, and park brake applied. (Park if Auto)
    1: Check terminal 50 (Small wire) on starter solenoid, with key turned to start position. [0.0v-passed]
    If about 12V, repair or replace starter and/or solenoid.
    If the solenoid activates, go to How to test a starter:
    2: If not about 12V in test 1, check terminal 30 on ignition switch, [12.5v-passed]
    if not about 12V check circuit through relay panel to battery.
    3: If about 12V in test 2, check terminal 50 on ignition switch, [0.0v-failed] [I happened to have a new OEM Ignition switch on hand, replaced]
    if not about 12V with key turned to start position, replace the ignition switch.
    4: If voltage was not about 12V in test 1, and was about 12V in tests 2 & 3, check Inhibitor Relay 13 and associated wiring.
    Note: If there is a relay in position 12, also check it and its associated wiring.
    (When used, relay 12 is activated by the alarm system, and the contacts connect in series with relay 13 contacts.)

    Checking the start inhibitor relay in position 13, and associated wiring.

    With car in neutral and clutch depressed (Park if Auto).
    If the relay clicks when the key is turned to start, the relay coil and its circuit are good, skip 1: & 2: [relay #13 clicks-pass]
    1: Is there solid ground less than 0.5 ohm (don't check while voltage present) on terminal 85 (T9/6) ? [Skipped]
    If no, check circuit from terminal 85 through switch on clutch pedal (on gear lever if auto) to ground. [Skipped]
    2: With the key in start position, is there 12V on term 86 (T9/4) ? If no, check red/black wiring to ignition sw. [Skipped]

    Relay plugged in, and everything connected.
    3: With the key in start pos, is there 12V on term 30 (T9/2) ? If no, check red/black wiring to ignition switch. [11.96v - pass]
    4: With the key in start pos, is there 12V on term 87 (T9/8) ? If yes, the relay is working. [0.0v - fail]

    Check red/black wiring through T10d/4 to the starter.
    Note: T10d is a 10 pin connector, (brown) on protective housing for control units, left in engine bay.

    If the relay doesn't click and tests 1 & 2 pass, the relay coil is faulty.
    If the relay clicks and passes test 3, but not test 4, the relay or its terminal contacts in the socket are faulty.

    To check if you have a problem in relay 13 circuit, you could bypass it with a jumper across its contact pins 30 & 87. [car does not crank with jumper]
    CAUTION: Don’t leave a jumper in relay 13 socket, the engine can be started in gear with the clutch out (Drive in autos).

    If you have a relay in position 12, you can check it in a similar way, but the relay coil is controlled by the alarm system. [no Relay#13 in this car]
    You could bypass relay 12 with a jumper across its contact pins, could be either 30 & 87 or 30 and 87a.

    Normally:
    Contacts: Terminal 30 (Common) is supply voltage, and 87 (N/O) is output.
    Activating coil: Terminal 85 is coil ground and 86 is coil positive.
    Sometimes the wiring is reversed in one or both sections. You may need to reverse those numbers.
    The T9 numbers are for a 9 pin relay and should be correct for that relay.


    NOTE: I can't guarantee that all this information applies to your vehicle, but you can't do any harm if you follow this carefully.
    __________________________________________________ ________________________

    How to test a starter: [replaced the starter with known good, brought the one I took out to AutoZone and it passed]
    1: Put the car in neutral (Park, if Auto) and apply parking brake, switch ignition off.
    Make sure battery is well charged and the terminals & all large ground points are clean & tight.

    2: Remove connector (Small wire) from terminal 50, on the solenoid mounted on the starter.

    3: Connect a wire from terminal 30 (Where large wire from battery connects), to terminal 50.
    Don't fix this wire just briefly touch it on the terminals, if the engine cranks, the starter and solenoid are OK.

    4: If the starter doesn't run properly, and the engine is not jammed/seized, remove and repair/replace the starter/solenoid.

    If it does crank properly, check the ignition switch then go to: Checking the start inhibitor relay in position 13, and associated wiring.
    (See: Not Cranking) Refer to the wiring diagram for your car.

  20. #18
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    Just to put some context to today.

    I went out this morning and it started, drove around and stopped several times on a hill and it kept starting, after about ten minutes it didn't start so I rolled and popped the clutch and headed home to work on it. Before doing any of the above I tested that the condition was exhibiting itself.

    I just went out to roll up the windows and it started.
    .just weird.

  21. #19
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    I'm suspecting the following culprits.
    (a) Check red/black wiring through T10d/4 to the starter.
    (b) Some failure in the CCM or NSS
    (c) Bad grounds that pass resistance tests, but aren't good enough for starting.

    At relay#13, with key to start: I get click and 12V to terminals 30 and 86 and 0v to terminal 87
    At relay#13, if I jump 30 and 87, still no crank.

    At the CPP, I get 12V from the red, if I jump the two terminals, no crank.

    At relay#13, Can I safely jump 85 to 86 to see if it'll crank?

    car runs fine if I pop the clutch and drive (been parking on a slope every day)
    and it's till intermittent, 8/10 it doesn't start

  22. #20
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    With car in neutral, clutch depressed, and park brake applied. (Park if Auto)
    1: Check terminal 50 (Small wire) on starter solenoid, with key turned to start position. [0.0v-passed]
    This indicates there is a fault other than the starter or solenoid.

    If about 12V, repair or replace starter and/or solenoid.
    If the solenoid activates, go to How to test a starter:

    2: If not about 12V in test 1, check terminal 30 on ignition switch, [12.5v-passed]
    This indicates that the wiring from battery to ign sw is OK

    if not about 12V check circuit through relay panel to battery.
    3: If about 12V in test 2, check terminal 50 on ignition switch, [0.0v-failed] [I happened to have a new OEM Ignition switch on hand, replaced]
    If the tests so far have been done correctly, the ign sw is faulty

    if not about 12V with key turned to start position, replace the ignition switch.
    4: If voltage was not about 12V in test 1, and was about 12V in tests 2 & 3, check Inhibitor Relay 13 and associated wiring.
    Note: If there is a relay in position 12, also check it and its associated wiring.
    (When used, relay 12 is activated by the alarm system, and the contacts connect in series with relay 13 contacts.)

    Checking the start inhibitor relay in position 13, and associated wiring.

    With car in neutral and clutch depressed (Park if Auto).
    If the relay clicks when the key is turned to start, the relay coil and its circuit are good, skip 1: & 2: [relay #13 clicks-pass]
    1: Is there solid ground less than 0.5 ohm (don't check while voltage present) on terminal 85 (T9/6) ? [Skipped]
    If no, check circuit from terminal 85 through switch on clutch pedal (on gear lever if auto) to ground. [Skipped]
    2: With the key in start position, is there 12V on term 86 (T9/4) ? If no, check red/black wiring to ignition sw. [Skipped]
    Are you sure that relay 13 clicked (Could it have been another relay clicking) ?

    Relay plugged in, and everything connected.
    3: With the key in start pos, is there 12V on relay 13 term 30 (T9/2) ? If no, check red/black wiring to ignition switch. [11.96v - pass]
    This indicates that the Ign SW and its wiring are OK

    4: With the key in start pos, is there 12V on term 87 (T9/8) ? If yes, the relay is working. [0.0v - fail]
    If the relay clicked, and there was 11.96V on relay 13 term 30, the relayor its socket is faulty

    Check red/black wiring through T10d/4 to the starter.
    Note: T10d is a 10 pin connector, (brown) on protective housing for control units, left in engine bay.

    If the relay doesn't click and tests 1 & 2 pass, the relay coil is faulty.
    If the relay clicks and passes test 3, but not test 4, the relay or its terminal contacts in the socket are faulty.

    To check if you have a problem in relay 13 circuit, you could bypass it with a jumper across its contact pins 30 & 87. [car does not crank with jumper]
    This indicates that the relay is not the problem (you need good jumper connection)

    CAUTION: Don’t leave a jumper in relay 13 socket, the engine can be started in gear with the clutch out (Drive in autos).

    If you have a relay in position 12, you can check it in a similar way, but the relay coil is controlled by the alarm system. [no Relay#13 in this car]
    I guess you mean no Relay#12
    You could bypass relay 12 with a jumper across its contact pins, could be either 30 & 87 or 30 and 87a.

    Normally:
    Contacts: Terminal 30 (Common) is supply voltage, and 87 (N/O) is output.
    Activating coil: Terminal 85 is coil ground and 86 is coil positive.
    Sometimes the wiring is reversed in one or both sections. You may need to reverse those numbers.
    The T9 numbers are for a 9 pin relay and should be correct for that relay.


    NOTE: I can't guarantee that all this information applies to your vehicle, but you can't do any harm if you follow this carefully.
    __________________________________________________ ________________________

    How to test a starter: [replaced the starter with known good, brought the one I took out to AutoZone and it passed]


    I have added my comments in purple above.
    There are some anomalies, could you recheck?


    I suggest you connect a good jumper across relay #13 socket terminals 30 and 87, and leave it there until the problem is resolved.
    WARNING: The car can be started in gear while the jumper is in place.

  23. #21
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    I'm suspecting the following culprits.
    (a) Check red/black wiring through T10d/4 to the starter. There could be a fault there.
    (b) Some failure in the CCM or NSS If there is no relay #12 the CCM can’t have any effect. What is NSS ?
    (c) Bad grounds that pass resistance tests, but aren't good enough for starting. Not likely in this case.

    At relay#13, with key to start: I get click and 12V to terminals 30 and 86 and 0v to terminal 87 This indicates that the relay or its socket is faulty.
    At relay#13, if I jump 30 and 87, still no crank. This shows that the relay is not the problem.

    At the CPP, I get 12V from the red, if I jump the two terminals, no crank. What is CPP ?

    At relay#13, Can I safely jump 85 to 86 to see if it'll crank? NO DEFINITELY NOT

    car runs fine if I pop the clutch and drive (been parking on a slope every day)
    and it's till intermittent, 8/10 it doesn't start

  24. #22
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    hi, got creative with acronyms
    CPP , clutch pedal position switch and NSS is neutral safety switch

    long story short, after not working at all for three days, it started after work on Friday.
    Drove home and directly onto ramps. Tried it again right away-no crank, jumped 30-87 on the relay#13 socket-no crank.
    Had a helper try to start while I under the car listening for the solenoid-no Crank, no solenoid click.
    I reached up and lightly pressed my palm against the solenoid and asked her to try again (thinking perhaps if I couldn't hear it I would feel it)-the car started. That was 10 secs after the attempt with no crank.

    I ended up crimping the female connector to Terminal 50 on the starter and it has started normally the last 24 hrs.

    I watched a youtube video on relays which helped, and I took the cover off of #13 to test and understand it better. And the manual has a troubleshooting section for "No Crank". Will see how long this stays working.

    Thanks.

  25. #23
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    Terminal 50 on the solenoid is one of the more common causes of your problem.
    Keep your fingers crossed, with a bit of luck you may have solved the issue.
    Let us know how it goes.
    gduncanson likes this.

  26. #24
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    At relay#13, with key to start: I get click and 12V to terminals 30 and 86 and 0v to terminal 87 This indicates that the relay or its socket is faulty.
    FYI There was about 12V at terminal 87 in this test.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomvw View Post
    FYI There was about 12V at terminal 87 in this test.
    Yes, I realize that now. Watching the video on how relays work and testing mine with the cover off was a very helpful illustration.

  28. #26
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    sorta lost here,what starter do you have in your car now ? as a caveat to all of the above ,just as the starter worked in your car (albeit randomly) what is to say when they checked it at the auto store that it would work over and over......,couple of things come to mind, one the cable coming from the battery #50 is corroded inside, you will get 12 volts on a test ,but cable will not transmit amperage needed all the time , the inside of a cable eroding is not uncommon in harsh environments ,the other since I am now confused (not hard to do at my age) is the brushes in the starter are toast and the end there life so acting randomly, tapping the starter while it is not working can often jar them loose enough to get needed contact

  29. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by cchief22 View Post
    the cable coming from the battery #50 is corroded inside,
    FYI: The wire to terminal #50 on the solenoid is from the relay/s & ignition switch.
    The large cable from the battery, connects to terminal #30 on the solenoid.

    The short braided wire connects positive voltage from the solenoid to the starter motor.

  30. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomvw View Post
    FYI: The wire to terminal #50 on the solenoid is from the relay/s & ignition switch.
    The large cable from the battery, connects to terminal #30 on the solenoid.

    The short braided wire connects positive voltage from the solenoid to the starter motor.
    absolutely correct , #30 is the cable.....and #50 as you pointed out is a weak link, exposed to all the elements and not very well thought out,just a simple bayonet mount

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