How to Troubleshoot a Ford Ranger Starter

by Don Bowman

All of the late-model Ford Rangers have a starter with a solenoid, and the older models have a remote starter solenoid. Both are covered. The remote starter solenoid is located on the passenger-side fenderwell. This means that a small-sized starter can fit in tighter locations. It also allows for a cheaper repair if just the solenoid goes bad.

Check for power at the starter. Start at the starter and work backward ending up at the switch. Using the voltmeter and with the key off, check the voltage on the main large 4-gauge wire where it attaches to the starter solenoid. On a remote starter solenoid, this is the terminal where the 4-gauge wire goes from the battery directly to the solenoid. The same applies on a starter-mounted solenoid. There should be 12 volts. If not, check the wire for corrosion, a loose terminal on the battery or a dead battery. Check the voltage at the battery and make sure it is 12 volts. If the voltage is correct, go to the next step. If the voltage is not correct, clean the corrosion and charge the battery.

Check the small wire on the solenoid. The small wire is the switched power to operate the solenoid. It should have 12 volts when the key is in the start position. Have a helper turn the switch to the start position while the voltage is checked. If there is 12 volts in the first step and there is 12 volts when the key is in the start position, the solenoid or the starter is bad. On a starter with a solenoid attached, the whole starter gets replaced. If there is a remote solenoid, check the same small wire on the remote solenoid for power when the key is in the start position. If it has voltage, a loud click will be heard every time the key is turned to the start position. If no click is heard then check the opposite side of the solenoid at the 4-gauge wire going to the starter. If there is no voltage, the solenoid is bad and needs replacing. Since the starter system is being checked, make a check on the starter by using a screwdriver and jumping the solenoid between the two 4-gauge terminals. When these terminals are jumped it sends power to the starter and the starter should activate. If it does, a solenoid is all that is needed. If it does not start, both the solenoid and starter are bad. If there is no voltage at the small terminal on the solenoid, test the solenoid by jumping the small terminal and the battery-side 4-guage terminal and this will activate the solenoid if it is good and operate the starter. If it does not work, then the solenoid is bad. If it does work and there is no voltage at the small terminal go to next step.

Check the fuse and the relay. The problem is between the ignition switch and the solenoid so everything in between must be checked. If the fuse is good then check the starter relay. Pull the relay out. Using the voltmeter (with the key off) check the terminals for one that has power. Remember this terminal. Have someone turn the key to the start position and check for another terminal to get power. If no power, the wiring between the relay and the ignition switch is bad. If there is power, have him hold the switch in the start and put the relay in and listen for it to click on. If not, the ground could be bad. Using the ohmmeter (with the key off) test the two terminals that had no power for continuity to ground. If there is no continuity to ground, this terminal needs to have the ground repaired. If there is a good ground then check the other terminal that had no power and check continuity from this terminal to the small wire on the starter solenoid. If there is power at the relay on two terminals then the wire is bad and should be replaced between the relay and the solenoid. The wire can be cut at the relay and another wire attached and run to the solenoid. If there is no power with the key in the start position, the ignition switch is bad or the yellow wire from the ignition switch is bad between the switch and the relay.

Remove the steering column cover and check the yellow wire from the ignition switch for power when the key is in the start position. There should be power just when the key is in the start position and no power when in the run position. If there is power the wiring from the ignition to relay is bad or in the case of a standard shift vehicle, the clutch pedal switch is bad. This is the switch on the arm of the clutch pedal that prevents a start with the clutch out.

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About the Author

Don Bowman has been writing for various websites and several online magazines since 2008. He has owned an auto service facility since 1982 and has over 45 years of technical experience as a master ASE tech. Bowman has a business degree from Pennsylvania State University and was an officer in the U.S. Army (aircraft maintenance officer, pilot, six Air Medal awards, two tours Vietnam).