1988 Mustang 2.3 won't turn over

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Hey guys,
I'm having a problem with a 1988 Mustang 2.3 LX (standard). It began running very hot so I did a little tinkering. The radiator fan relay was fried, so I replaced that. There was a leak in the radiator overflow resevoir, so I changed that, and there wasn't any flow through the radiator, so I replaced the thermostat. It was also running rough, so I changed the spark plugs and wires, and the air filter.
I started it up and it began smoking under the hood about half-way down on the drivers side. I immediately turned it off to see what I fried. The wire that is connected from the voltage regulator (I think that's it (the positive battery terminal runs into it on the side under the hood)) and runs to the alternator was burnt. It didn't sever the wire, just burned the casing somewhat. I wrapped it with electrical tape real good and tried again.
This time it didn't turn over. I tried a few times, and it just wore down the battery. I got some jumper cables and tried again with the cables connected to my other vehicle. Still nothing. The battery is new, and the alternator and starter are working. I have no idea why this would happen out of nowhere. The gas tank is pretty low, and I added a gallon just to make sure that it was getting fuel. Still nothing. The only thing I can think of is maybe the fuel filter, but outside of it running rough, there's been no problem with it turning over.
If someone out there can shed a little light on my problem, I'd really appreciate it. I'm stumped right now. I have a basic knowledge of cars, and have replaced water pumps, starters, alternators and such, but I'm confused right now with all of the variables that could cause this to happen. Thanks.

posted by  BobDammit

You fried something. But what? What was this wire exactly you burnt up and wrapped with tape? That will be the key to the problem.

posted by  DodgeRida67

The wire that got fried runs from the voltage regulator to the alternator. It wasn't split in half, just a little discolored, and the sheathing was melted. I took that in to AutoZone to replace, and I was told that the wire was still good, and just to wrap it up with some electrical tape. He said that that wouldn't be the cause for the car not turning over, but I have no idea what it could be.

posted by  BobDammit

I get the idea that this voltage regulator your speaking of is a starter relay.

posted by  DodgeRida67

If it is, as it sounds, the starter relay, it doesn't go to the alternator but the starter motor. If it fried there was a short. inside or external to the starter.

By not turn over do you mean it spins on the starter and doesn't fire or do you mean the starter does nothing, i.e. no cranking at all?

posted by  HighWayMan

Wait a minute BOB, let's get out terminology straight first.....you said the following in an earlier posting:



Now you go on to say



So my question is WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? Is the engine spinning over (hence wearing the battery out) but not firing....or is it not even turning over? Those are TWO totally different things and you've contradicted yourself throughout this posting.

Was the smoke DEFINITLY coming from the wire that you fried or something else? Why did that wire fry when you cranked the engine and had it running? In all your tinkering, did you mis-connect anything if you disconnected some wiring to get to the area that you were working on? Sounds like either a short to ground or backfeeding voltage. I'll agree with the earlier comments....you fried something, you need to figure out what first, then why and address those before you worry about having the engine running again. :thumbs:

posted by  cmeseadoin

The engine is spinning and not firing. The wire that I'm describing is coming off of the starter relay (I thought this was the voltage regulator, but I stated that I wasn't sure (It is bolted to the inside wall under the hood, drivers side, and has two bolts for mounting wires. Both starter cables + and - are coming off this along with other wires on the + side)). The wire that got fried runs off of the + terminal and plugs into the alternator. This is the only thing that looks like it was fried. I don't know if the sheathing on this wire was exposing the wire beforehand and was touching some metal, or if it was ok.
If what I am describing is the starter relay... is that the source of my problems? I was thinking it was the voltage regulator, and didn't consider that to be the problem because it still wouldn't fire when trying to jump it.
I'm not trying to sound contradictory by any means. I don't have all of the terminolgy and parts down, and I apologize if I sounded that way.
I build and fix computers for a living, so I know what it's like to get inaccurate information while trying to help someone troubleshoot their problems :banghead:
Thanks for the responses!

posted by  BobDammit

No problem Bob, now that I know you are spinning over and not firing, you do not have a starting problem at all. If there was anything wrong with the starter relay, that would be evident because the started would not engage and even spin the engine over. You can eliminate that. Here's my educated idea on something close to what might have happened. You shorted something, we know that because it super heated a wire and started to burn the insulation causing smoke. In doing this, you now have created a situation by where you either have a fuel delivery or ignition system problem, NOT STARTING SYSTEM problem. My vote is ignition....pull off a plug wire and stick another spare plug in or something like a screwdriver that you can short against the block or something metal AWAY from the fuel system. Have someone crank the engine and check for spark. Do this on all cylinders to eliminate ignition as the problem for the "no fire" condition. It is a SIMPLE test. :-) If you HAVE a problem with the ignition system, my guess is that you might have burnt up a diode or something in the alternator by backfeeding voltage to it from the original short out, however, I am not sure if there is anything in the wiring of this particular car or the alternator that is "ignition dependant" to where you could damage something in the alternator that would cause an ignition problem like you "might" be having. In other words, making an open circuit in the alternator that would cause a no start condition. These are my first suggestions.

Another thing that I had happen to me on my 1976 Buick Electra when I was doing some work to it was that I accidentally shorted two connections on my alternator (with built in Voltage reg.) and once this was done, I have NO POWER to ANYTHING in the car, EXCEPT the headlights. I started reading manuals and determined that there were two fusable links in the starter wiring harness(yes on the underside of this 6,100pound car dead in my driveway) that were main power feeds to every electrical system in the car. I had blown them both. I had pulled in the driveway and not gotten in the garage yet because I wanted to run the engine and have it sit in the driveway to do so. I shorted those wires right after I cut it off and I was dead in the driveway for two days till I got it up on jacks, secured safely and I had cut out the old and tacked in the new fusable links underneath. TALK about a BITCH to get to them too constantly afraid I was going to get crushed by this thing falling on me even though I had every jack within a ten mile radius under it, LOL. The difference between this and you problem is that I had ZERO power to the starter, NOT a no start condition. Still though, you might have blown a fusable link to the igntion system somewhere so you'll want to explore that too. I can guarantee you though that your problem is FUEL or IGNITION as long as you have a solid engine. Let me know what you find out! :thumbs:

posted by  cmeseadoin

cmeseadoin,
I'm heading out there right now to check it out. Thank you for the in-depth troubleshooting tips. I'll let you know what I find.
Thanks a bunch!

posted by  BobDammit

No problem, let me know what you find out....further questions or findings! :-)

posted by  cmeseadoin

Cmeseadoin,
There is no spark from the plugs at all. I grounded the wires to the engine block while cranking with a long screwdriver, and nothing happened. In fact, I removed the plug going from the distributor to the coil to see if it sounded the same, and it does. There's an in line fusable link on the wire (on the alternator side of the diode) that looked like it was a little melted, and I replaced that with no luck. I can't get another diode (it's a plastic piece that has 3 wires going out to the alternator (one of which has the fusable link that I already replaced) and one that was slightly fried going to the starter relay) today. I was told that this was a diode by the guys at Autozone. I am going to replace the coil. Not sure if this will help at all, but it was only $15 and if it doesn't work... well, I have a new coil. There are many wires, and many of those with fusable links in them, that run from the started relay to what looks likes the area that the ignition might be going through the firewall. If it's one of those, and none of them looks melted at all, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. There's at least four of them.
Well, that's all I got so far. For now, I'm going to replace the coil. Let me know if I'm an idiot for doing so. And if you have any other suggestions, please let me know. I have never taken this car to the shop, so far, and I'd like to keep it that way :mrgreen:
Thanks again!

posted by  BobDammit

You should seriously invest in a Volts/OHM meter (VOM)

posted by  DodgeRida67

Bob,

Sounds like you definitly experienced backfeed current and/or shorted something causing some wiring damage. I agree with Dodge on the fact that you need an ohmmeter(digital multimeter) because that will help you sort this all out. This is where it gets a little tricky because depending on the wiring, you could have fried many things. First of all I would look for obvious signs of burning or damage and trace them to make sure you see all the damage. If the wires at the firewall are cooked, you may have to go up under the dash inside and continue looking.(Can be a PAIN in the ass due to all the factory wiring wrap used) Also, is the diode on your alternator external to the alternator? I am more familiar with the diode packages and rectifier bridges inside the alternator for the voltage regulation. You might have to pull all that down too and determine if the diode(s) is/are still good. Not being able to see the car, it is going to be hard for me at this point to really give you any more useful info at this point because of the nature of the problem. i just knew it was ignition though. Trace all your wiring and test it and replace anything burned or fried. A new ignition coil at 15 buck ain't no great loss if it does not replair the problem, so that might be a good idea. You've definitly fried something or several things that are causing no spark condition. Let me know what you find as you continue looking into it.

posted by  cmeseadoin

I'd like to point out that your ignition module located on your distributor is directly linked to your started relay which had a wire fried coming off it you said. When you turn the ignition key, the ignition module actually gives power to close the starter relay. It's a big possibility in my mind that it's your problem.

posted by  DodgeRida67

Very possible.

posted by  cmeseadoin

Ford's ignition modules in the 80's were renowned for dieing most people just store and extra one in there glove box
they normally only cost from 5 - 10 dollars so go buy one and replace it it's a fairly easy job and without an multimeter I cant help you out anymore

posted by  Pieface

It wasnt the ignition module itself, it was the fact they put them on the distributor. A location that fried the module from heat.

They are around $30 for his car. For mine, its around $70.

posted by  DodgeRida67

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