The starting system consists of:
- Starter relay
- Starter motor (including an integral starter solenoid)
Other components to be considered as part of starting system are:
- Battery cables
- Ignition switch and key lock cylinder
- Clutch pedal position switch (manual transmission)
- Park/neutral position switch (automatic transmission)
- Wire harnesses and connections.
The Battery, Starting, and Charging systems operate in conjunction with one another, and must be tested as a complete system. For correct operation of starting/charging systems, all components used in these 3 systems must perform within specifications. When attempting to diagnose any of these systems, it is important that you keep their interdependency in mind.
The diagnostic procedures used in each of these groups include the most basic conventional diagnostic methods, to the more sophisticated On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) built into the Powertrain Control Module (PCM). Use of an induction-type milliampere ammeter, volt/ohmmeter, battery charger, carbon pile rheostat (load tester), and 12-volt test lamp may be required.
Certain starting system components are monitored by the PCM and may produce a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC).
The starting system components form two separate circuits. A high-amperage feed circuit that feeds the starter motor between 150 and 350 amperes (700 amperes - diesel engine), and a low-amperage control circuit that operates on less than 20 amperes . The high-amperage feed circuit components include the battery, the battery cables, the contact disc portion of the starter solenoid, and the starter motor. The low-amperage control circuit components include the ignition switch, the clutch pedal position switch (manual transmission), the park/neutral position switch (automatic transmission), the starter relay, the electromagnetic windings of the starter solenoid, and the connecting wire harness components.
If the vehicle is equipped with a manual transmission, it has a clutch pedal position switch installed in series between the ignition switch and the coil battery terminal of the starter relay. This normally open switch prevents the starter relay from being energized when the ignition switch is turned to the momentary Start position, unless the clutch pedal is depressed. This feature prevents starter motor operation while the clutch disc and the flywheel are engaged. The starter relay coil ground terminal is always grounded on vehicles with a manual transmission.
If the vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission, battery voltage is supplied through the low-amperage control circuit to the coil battery terminal the starter relay when the ignition switch is turned to the momentary Start position. The park/neutral position switch is installed in series between the starter relay coil ground terminal and ground. This normally open switch prevents the starter relay from being energized and the starter motor from operating unless the automatic transmission gear selector is in the Neutral or Park positions.
When the starter relay coil is energized, the normally open relay contacts close. The relay contacts connect the relay common feed terminal to the relay normally open terminal. The closed relay contacts energize the starter solenoid coil windings.
The energized solenoid pull-in coil pulls in the solenoid plunger. The solenoid plunger pulls the shift lever in the starter motor This engages the starter overrunning clutch and pinion gear with the starter ring gear on the manual transmission flywheel or on the automatic transmission torque converter or torque converter drive plate.
As the solenoid plunger reaches the end of its travel, the solenoid contact disc completes the high-amperage starter feed circuit and energizes the solenoid plunger hold-in coil. Current now flows between the solenoid battery terminal and the starter motor, energizing the starter.
Once the engine starts, the overrunning clutch protects the starter motor from damage by allowing the starter pinion gear to spin faster than the pinion shaft. When the driver releases the ignition switch to the On position, the starter relay coil is de-energized. This causes the relay contacts to open. When the relay contacts open, the starter solenoid plunger hold-in coil is de-energized.
When the solenoid plunger hold-in coil is de-energized, the solenoid plunger return spring returns the plunger to its relaxed position. This causes the contact disc to open the starter feed circuit, and the shift lever to disengage the overrunning clutch and pinion gear from the starter ring gear