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1991 Ford F-150 won't start


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Daelomin
User

Dec 9, 2013, 10:26 AM

Post #1 of 38 (4539 views)
1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

1991 Ford F-150, 5.0L EFI, Manual transmission, 147,000 km (91,500 miles).

Alright, so I bought this truck off of my neighbour in August. He's a good guy so I know he didn't try to fleece me or anything, but he bought this truck off of an older fella who took good care of the vehicle (provided all receipts for repairs and maintenance done on it, low mileage for a 91 pickup, etc.). He wanted it for himself, but when he brought it home his wife pointed out that, being a single cab, it wasn't big enough for their young family (they have 3 small kids). He knew I was on the lookout for a pickup so asked me if I wanted it before he put it up for sale on the market.

A little more context to the situation, I live in a rural area where despite being just a 20 minute drive from a major town of 20,000 people, you have to take a small ferry to cross a river to access the properties on the other side of the river. In the winter, when the river water level really drops and it freezes up, the ferry shuts down and is not available again until spring. When the ferry is inactive, people get across via a cable car/air tram. People purposefully get old vehicles for the "other side" for use in winter so that they can drive from the ferry terminal to their homes to stay out of the snow, lug groceries, etc. It just takes some planning: bring your vehicle across on the ferry before it shuts down, have a good sized tank of gas to refill the truck for the winter, and ride it out til spring. For anyone interested, you can see the setup here: http://www.mwpr.ca/go4879a/NORTH_USK_RESIDENTS_RELY_ON_CABLE_CAR.

Now to my problem: my winter vehicle won't start, and the whole point of my context given above is that I have to figure out how to fix it myself, because I can't get it towed anywhere or taken to a mechanic until the ferry opens up again in spring!

Here's how it all went down. I've had the truck since late summer and it's worked great. It's actually the first time I've owned a standard tranny vehicle, and have had fun learning how to drive it. It seems to have a really forgiving transmission, as I was able to get the hang of it quite quickly. I only stalled it maybe twice in total, and neither time was it a wrenching, cringe-worthy event. I only mention it in case it might be relevant.

After a couple months of no issues, we finally got a cold snap around -12°C (10°F). I plug in the block heater when the vehicle is at home, but unfortunately when you have to go into town and drive to the ferry terminal to take the cable car across the river, there are no sockets there, so when you leave the house for any length of time the vehicle has to sit somewhere where it can't be plugged in.

At the end of the day, I headed for home. Crossed the river on the cable car and started the truck, and while it did start up with no issues it was making a strange sound. I can't even really describe the sound, it was almost a rustling, crackling kind of sound that seemed to be coming from the heat vents/under the hood. I thought it was just some strain because of the cold, so I didn't think much of it, let the vehicle warm up for a couple minutes, then drove home (it's only like a 5 minutes drive from the ferry to my house). It continued to make the weird sound the whole drive, and then when I got home it got even weirder. When I shut the truck off (keys out of the ignition and everything) it was still making this weird sound! The sound continued for a few seconds, then stopped. BUT, about 5 seconds later, it started up again! It lasted another few seconds, stopped, made the sound again one last time a few seconds later, and then stopped for good. As confused as I was, I didn't think much of it because it was cold as hell, late, and pitch black out. I plugged in the block heater and went inside.

The next day, I went to go into town again and more weirdness occurred. I unplugged the block heater, hopped in the truck, and the first thing I do before even putting the key in the ignition is depress the brake and clutch so that I can take the e-brake off. Well, as soon as I depressed the clutch, the weird sound happened again! It lasted for just a couple seconds, then went silent. I put the key in the ignition, turned her, and the truck wouldn't start. I just get a "clunk" sound. I'm certain it nothing electrical related, because the lights and air all still work if I turn them on. When I turn the key and hold it, you get a clunk, and when I let go of the key you hear a clunk again.

Any help in diagnosing this issue would be extremely appreciated. I don't like the thought of having to walk from the ferry to my place carrying my groceries all friggin winter!


Hammer Time
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Dec 9, 2013, 10:50 AM

Post #2 of 38 (4527 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

After typing that whole life history, the only usable information that you gave us was that it makes a "funny" noise. I'm afraid that doesn't tell us much of anything at all.

You could try recording a video and uploading it to utube and at least figure out where the noise is originating from.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Daelomin
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Dec 9, 2013, 11:00 AM

Post #3 of 38 (4524 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Sorry for the "life story", but in general I've found that most posts lack any kind of context or detail about the problem, so I tried to provide that.

As for the noise, that's not the only information I provided. I also provided when and how it came about (in particular, how it came back when I depressed the clutch the next day), the fact that it continued even after the vehicle was turned off, and that it's not anything to do with the battery. I'm no mechanic, but if I was I would think that that's a lot more information than just simply saying that it's making a "funny noise".


(This post was edited by Daelomin on Dec 9, 2013, 11:03 AM)


Hammer Time
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Dec 9, 2013, 11:09 AM

Post #4 of 38 (4519 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

 

Yes, the background is nice to know but without actual symptoms it's impossible to diagnose your problem. We don't have the truck to inspect. All we have is your very vague explanation of what the truck is doing with absolutely nothing checked or tested at this point to tell us anything at all about what may be causing your problem.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



(This post was edited by Hammer Time on Dec 9, 2013, 12:30 PM)


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 9, 2013, 12:28 PM

Post #5 of 38 (4507 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

? Enough oil in it?

Single click then not turning. I say may be seized (noise of low oil pressure) bad battery completely or connections to it especially if all electric quits when you hear that click trying to start at the same time but the noise if more of a concern. Could be Spring or try to turn the thing by crank bolt or perhaps jump start but that doesn't explain the noise when running if it did start,

T



Daelomin
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Dec 9, 2013, 1:22 PM

Post #6 of 38 (4498 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Oil level is normal and coolant is fine as well. Electrics stay on when turning the ignition.


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 9, 2013, 1:53 PM

Post #7 of 38 (4491 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

I think you have two belts on that engine or one with a tensioner - just look. If you take easy one off first spin components for noise at pulleys then the next if nothing found.

I'm sure you lack tons of equipment and fast parts or rentals but oil full is good but oil pressure is the key. If a light it should go out even while cranking if a good tight engine. If gauge should show pressure but not cranking right now for either. First things first or you'll never know.

Starter might just need a whack with a hammer but if that works you need a starter and if not inconclusive.

Unless alternator is both making noise and not charging enough but some perhaps the two problems may not be related at all.

Belt alone can make wild noises with nothing wrong but since it isn't right that's not the whole problem if at all,

T



Daelomin
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Dec 9, 2013, 2:37 PM

Post #8 of 38 (4484 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Well, I did some Googling and figured out how to identify the starter itself as well as the starter solenoid. Checked both, everything looks ok from outward appearance. However, I then tried giving the starter a few good whacks with a hammer, and when I tried to start her up after that I got the usual "clunk" upon turning the key, but this time I also got a fast rattling kind of sound for a couple seconds before it stopped. Engine did not start, but since I appeared to get something new happening after whacking the starter, I tried whacking it a couple more times, but the sound never came back again and she's still not starting. I should also mention that since identifying where the starter is, the "clunk" I hear when turning the key seems to come from the same area: when sitting behind the steering column, it's coming from the lower right (passenger side) of the engine block.


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 9, 2013, 2:51 PM

Post #9 of 38 (4477 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Just that fast rattling: That is about always low amps for starter so stop whacking starter. Solenoid needs enough power to pull a plunger against a spring or will flutter like that.

You need to know battery is charged first and tests good. Then that it's well connected and charging when it does start and find the noise.

Yes, I read you life's story and there are places somewhat like that and if you live there you have spares for everything, tools to do it. Looks of parts as mentioned means nothing it's how they would test out or just know the sounds from hearing so many over some years,

T



Daelomin
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Dec 9, 2013, 6:54 PM

Post #10 of 38 (4462 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

It's not the battery... confirmed that this afternoon. I borrowed my Dad's charger and it checks out good. I even tried the ignition with the charger hooked up to the battery on the "engine start" setting (100A, 12V). Still just getting the "clunk" upon turning the ignition. When my fiancee gets home, I'll get her to turn the key while I'm under the truck so I can confirm whether or not the "clunk" is coming from the starter.


(This post was edited by Daelomin on Dec 9, 2013, 6:55 PM)


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 10, 2013, 2:33 AM

Post #11 of 38 (4451 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Sport - your charger doesn't verify a good battery just that it makes it to the range of voltage. You could do that with two 9V household batteries in series and get ~18 and get a good or green light but they wouldn't start the thing.

AMPS delivered is what counts for cranking. You check for voltage drops at right locations to see where it drops out and it is if solenoid is rattling away like a machine gun or AMPS inadequate to begin with.

If you have to "Google out" what a starter and solenoid look like you are in trouble to check this out yourself IMO. That truck and a 1960 Ford Falcon with a V8 were about the same all those years!

Remember that AMPS drop drastically with temps. If engine is too tight for any reason for starter to turn you won't have enough amps. Have you tried to turn this engine by hand yet? It would be harder just from the cold but should turn as already mentioned. Lack of tools and test equipment may stop you in your tracks just to find the source problem,

T

(typo fixed)



(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Dec 10, 2013, 10:19 AM)


DanD
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Dec 10, 2013, 5:57 AM

Post #12 of 38 (4443 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

I think Tom hit on something that maybe wasn't followed through. Pull the belts off and check for a seized accessory. An alternator that has seized and the belt still intact can hold the engine still for the starter not to crank it.
If all the pulleys turn freely, get a socket wrench on the crankshaft bolt and try and turn the engine by hand. If it does turn, turn it a full 360 degrees or more; just to make sure there isn't something mid way to stop the engine from a 360 turn.
That's enough for now; check out the above and get back to us.

Dan.

Forgot to mention STOP WHACKING THE STARTER MOTOR!!!!
This is a permanent magnet starter (Like fridge magnet) Keep hitting the starter and it will crack these magnets; if the starter wasn't an issue it might be now.

Canadian "EH"






(This post was edited by DanD on Dec 10, 2013, 6:03 AM)


Daelomin
User

Dec 10, 2013, 8:39 AM

Post #13 of 38 (4428 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In


In Reply To
Sport - your charger doesn't verify a good battery just that it makes it to the range of voltage. You could do that with two 9V household batteries in series and get ~18 and get a good or green light but they wouldn't start the thing.

AMPS delivered is what counts for cranking. You check for voltage drops at right locations to see where it drops out and it is if solenoid is rattling away like a machine gun or AMPS inadequate to begin with.

If you have to "Google out" what a starter and solenoid look like you are in trouble to check this out yourself IMO. That truck and a 1960 Ford Falcon with a V8 were about the same all those years!

Remember that AMPS drop drastically with temps. If engine is too tight for any reason for starter to turn you won't have enough amps. Have you tried to turn this engine by hand yet? It would be harder just from the cold but should turn as already mentioned. Lack of tools and test equipment may stop you in your tracks just to find the source problem,

T


Thanks Tom,

I appreciate what you're saying about the charger. However, as I mentioned, I tried cranking her over while the charger was hooked up on the engine start setting, so it was delivering 100 amps to the system with still nothing but the "clunk" on turning the key.

As for googling things, I'm no mechanic, so that's how I have to figure some of this stuff out. Lucky for me, I'm a quick study and can usually figure things out pretty quick. The most likely roadblock I'm going to encounter is not being able to do something because I don't have the right tools or equipment.

When I have the time, I'm going to try taking the belt off and turning the components by hand. Thankfully the cold snap has passed and we're into temps of about -2°C (28°F) now.


(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Dec 10, 2013, 9:30 AM)


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 10, 2013, 9:48 AM

Post #14 of 38 (4417 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Fixed a typo of mine above, meant voltage and spelled it wrongCrazy

OK - How could you know AMPS available? Even if you did know you had 100 AMPS that alone wouldn't start this engine.

Think of AMPS as volume and VOLTS as push. A spark plug sparks at 40,000 volts and up but wouldn't start anything like a motor by electric motor which starter is.

Just FYI - electric motors can get hot and fail with improper current (AMPS) for any reason and a working solenoid will not allow it so it rattles away. Motor means electric BTW, engine is the fuel burning thing.

Test AMPS available without tools trick: Turn on headlights. Crank engine and watch how dim they get while cranking. They will some while actually cranking but not the world. Some designs they shut off just during crank request so may not work for this.

So, we have volume and push in electricity. Same like a garden hose in a way. A fire hose could fill a swimming pool with far less pressure/push than common garden hose. Same idea is ever put too many sprinklers on one hose? None work well if too many/much but one may work great?

A problem with this is still accurate testing of what is possible. Really good jumper cables can start a vehicle without a battery in it at all but so expensive you don't have those.

Anything about it is only as good as the weakest link. Finding it is the game but must have knowns, known like you have a good battery to begin with then on to what else,

T



Daelomin
User

Dec 11, 2013, 10:32 AM

Post #15 of 38 (4389 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

  
Ok, some updates to this.

First off, while talking to my fiancee yesterday she mentioned that the first time the problem appeared (when we drove home, parked it, shut it off, and it was still making that weird sound despite being shut off) she noticed an electrical smell. My sniffer is terribly insensitive so I didn't notice it, but she did, although this is the first time she mentioned it to me.

A buddy came over yesterday and helped me check some stuff out, plus I borrowed some tools from my Dad. Tested the voltage coming across the battery terminals and it comes out at 12.5 V. Also tested the solenoid post where the cable connects the solenoid to the positive post of the battery and it also checks out at 12.5 V.

My buddy, who is also no mechanic but has a lot more experience than me, suggested that we could try bypassing the solenoid/ignition switch altogether by directly connecting the solenoid posts with something conductive. This, apparently, should provide direct current straight from the battery to the starter motor. We tried it and absolutely nothing happened... not even a spark. My buddy said he saw someone do this before and that it should spark or something when you short the 2 solenoid posts together, so we thought maybe the screwdriver we were using wasn't conductive. Well, after testing out the conductivity by using it to short between the positive and negative terminals of the battery we found out that it definitely IS conductive. Should this have worked?

Also I managed to pull off the belt (single serpentine with tensioner) and checked the rotation of all the parts. Everything is free. I also tried rotating the main crank by putting a socket on the crank nut but I can only seem to manage to turn it somewhere between a quarter to a half turn (I can't turn it a full 360). I can't tell if this is because something is stopping me, or if I just can't get enough torque on it from the position I'm limited to. How easy should it be to turn it a full 360?


(This post was edited by Daelomin on Dec 11, 2013, 10:34 AM)


DanD
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Dec 11, 2013, 10:45 AM

Post #16 of 38 (4383 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Depending on the condition of the engine, it does take a bit of force to turn the engine. You may want to pull the spark plugs; this will allow the engine to turn much easier; not having to fight against compression.

Dan.

Canadian "EH"






Daelomin
User

Dec 11, 2013, 10:48 AM

Post #17 of 38 (4380 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Here are some photos of how the battery and solenoid are set up in this truck:

http://imgur.com/a/XcKvf

Edit: tried using forum image attachments, but it wouldn't work


(This post was edited by Daelomin on Dec 11, 2013, 11:01 AM)


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 11, 2013, 10:55 AM

Post #18 of 38 (4378 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Man you need some help - this isn't that hard. Now shorting battery positive direct to battery negative!!!! NO! Never!

You could empower trigger wire post at solenoid to see if starter worked or if nothing while doing that test for power going on to starter.

Smell? These did have trouble with the plug at some types of alternators melting up badly and could short out, be a real drag on engine but most of those were obvious and killed the battery, wrecked the alternator too.

IDK about not being able to turn the engine all the way around. If just fighting compression fine but not a dead stop.

Right now, just pull off trigger wire while someone turns key to crank and see if it lights a test light on just that wire, small gauge. Let's start with that much before you blow this thing up,

T



(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Dec 11, 2013, 11:13 AM)


Daelomin
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Dec 11, 2013, 11:06 AM

Post #19 of 38 (4374 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Tom, I really, really appreciate the help... sincerely. But please don't talk to me like I'm an idiot (Man you need some help - this isn't that hard). I could describe to you what I do for a living, and you would have no clue what I'm talking about. It's not that hard, but I wouldn't talk down to you about it because you have no experience or training in the field. I'm not stupid, just ignorant, because I have no experience or training in this. That's why I came to the internet for help. Normally I would just take it to my mechanic... that's what I pay him for. However, this is not an option, which is why I described my situation in my original post. I have to either fix it myself in order to be able to use it as intended for the winter season, or I have to wait til spring to get it towed to a shop.

Edit: I suppose I should ask, since two mods now have talked to me as if I shouldn't be here. Is this forum only for experienced mechanics trying to figure out a difficult problem? Are complete newbs trying to figure things out on their own not welcome here? If that's the case, I apologize, and I'll take my inquiries elsewhere. Just let me know.


(This post was edited by Daelomin on Dec 11, 2013, 11:09 AM)


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 11, 2013, 11:27 AM

Post #20 of 38 (4366 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

No harm meant towards you personally but some wild mistakes are being made.

Site is for questions and for us to describe as best we can - all volunteers doing this stuff.

When I say this one isn't that hard trust me as things go this is a cake walk. If not your thing that's fine, just don't make something worse. I'm not doing the testing for where power is or isn't when it should be so need you to report what you find. Volts alone show OK but will they stay there while cranking or not? That matters along with other observations.

If you had VERY strong jumper cables you could jump bat+ right to larger terminal on solenoid that goes right to starter and good cables should make it crank OR if a hard reaction problems at starter or engine too tight OR jumpers not good enough. If nothing happened the starter connection of that wire could be the whole problem OR starter itself. If motors (electric) don't get enough current/amps really, they get hot - perhaps the odor and might make funny sounds??

My fear is in that you direct shorted battery that with unknown odor it could be gassing (hydrogen) and pull a Hindenburg on you - deadly dangerous so let's not let that happen.

If you really opt to let this sit till Spring you really should stabilize fuel, small squirt of oil in cylinders and take it all up later. I doubt this is that much in trouble to wait all Winter and deal with long term storage issues especially is just left outdoors.

What do you want to do?

Tom



Daelomin
User

Dec 11, 2013, 11:38 AM

Post #21 of 38 (4362 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

Thanks Tom, I appreciate that mistakes are being made. However, that's the best way to learn, right? I actually tried to sign up for a basic automotive course earlier in the fall so that I can gather some knowledge that I'm lacking after being in university for 8 years. Unfortunately, the local community college is so strapped for cash that they don't offer courses like that to the general public any more... you can only take courses like that if you're planning on entering that trade.

That being said, I don't want to wait it out til spring. The whole reason I picked up this truck was for winter use over here, driving grocs/supplies in from the ferry to the house, etc. without having to carry everything on our backs all winter. I'm a patient person and I'll keep trying as best as I can.

Unfortunately I don't have anyone around to help out by turning the ignition while I try testing different wires with the meter. It appears to me right now, though, that no power is getting to the starter motor. I'm going to try to direct connect the positive battery terminal to the starter motor.


Tom Greenleaf
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Dec 11, 2013, 12:12 PM

Post #22 of 38 (4351 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In

PLEASE BE EXTRA CAREFUL IF YOU GO DIRECT TO STARTER! YOU CAN'T ALLOW WHATEVER CABLES TO TOUCH ANTHING GROUND!!!! BE READY TO DISCONNECT FAST.

IF YOU SMELL ANYTHING AROUND BATTERY JUST DON'T DO THIS! Hydrogen is the gas they can make - kaBoom - really! Blind you, no telling if that happened.

I understand not having comprehensive basics on how things automotive work and many don't. If this was newer it would be harder. Not sure if you can get a basic guide to basics on line that's worth a damn or not. Takes years to really get it and then things change plus tool costs are insane.

One last wild maybe trick: Leave it alone for now - no tools just good gloves. Pull on the cable that goes from solenoid to starter - just a tug - don't try to move the engine with it. Sometimes if a bad connection of the eyelet of cable is poor it might allow it to crank - might! Means nothing if it doesn't change anything.

Any of the cables and things you think you might need to replace or clean put some penetrating oil on them now. Studs at solenoid, starter with nuts could easily just snap off to even try to clean them up and might anyway.

Teacher mode now: When messing with even possible positive items like the positive battery cable for cleaning or removal always on this have the negative battery cable off battery. Vehicle is now dead and if a tool touches ground won't short out on you. Put neg cable back on a battery last when all done.

Anything about electric or fuel items when in doubt find out or don't till you absolutely know. This stuff can get dangerous and never mind the truck, don't get hurt or worse,

Tom



Discretesignals
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Dec 11, 2013, 1:22 PM

Post #23 of 38 (4343 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In


Quote
I can only seem to manage to turn it somewhere between a quarter to a half turn (I can't turn it a full 360). I can't tell if this is because something is stopping me, or if I just can't get enough torque on it from the position I'm limited to.




I'd follows Dan's advice and remove the plugs. Disconnect the battery just encase of accidental starting, which wouldn't be fun to watch with a breaker bar and socket on the crank bolt. Make sure you can turn the crankshaft by hand in a clockwise direction two full revolutions. If the engine is locked up, you'll probably smoke check the starter motor jumping stuff. Starter in a bind can pull over 600+ amps causing things to get really hot fast.





Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.

(This post was edited by Discretesignals on Dec 11, 2013, 1:26 PM)


Hammer Time
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Dec 11, 2013, 1:43 PM

Post #24 of 38 (4334 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In


Quote
However, that's the best way to learn, right?


No, not when people's safety is at stake.

We are mechanics. We aren't Psychics, we are not therapists either. We are here to answer technical questions and provide instructions and advice to people that can actually understand what we are saying. If your feelings get hurt when someone tells you that you are over your head, then you probably should be reaching for the yellow pages and not the computer. We are just people donating our experience and we have no obligation to anyone.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Discretesignals
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Dec 11, 2013, 2:05 PM

Post #25 of 38 (4327 views)
Re: 1991 Ford F-150 won't start Sign In


Quote
We are just people donating our experience and we have no obligation to anyone.



You forgot something about obligation to someone...lol. Remember it's "I will", not " I do".








Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.

(This post was edited by Discretesignals on Dec 11, 2013, 2:08 PM)






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