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[Datsun 1200 encyclopedia]

Starter Testing

From Datsun 1200 Club

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Category: Diagnoses and Corrections

Having problems with the Starting Motor?

Also see: Starter Troubleshooting



First, check your battery voltage. If it is below 12.0 volts, swap the battery with a known good one, or charge the battery, before proceeding.

The starter only needs 3 things, which you can measure with a voltmeter or test light:

  • Earth/Ground. The Neg. battery cable should bolt directly to the engine. Measure the voltage between Positive Battery terminal and the starter housing. If it is less than the battery voltage, remove the cables and clean the connections.
  • 12V supply. The Pos. battery cable should bolt directly to the starter. Measure the voltage between Positive Starter terminal and the Battery negative terminal. If it is less than the battery voltage, remove the cables and clean the connections.
  • Starter wire. 12V should appear when the key is turned to Start.

Easiest way to test it is set the hand brake, put it in neutral, reach down beside the engine and touch a screwdriver on the solenoid -- from the Pos. cable to the S terminal. If the starter, battery cables and battery are good it will crank.

CAUTION: Ensure you are free from the fan belt and alternator.

Small Black wire with Yellow stripe (BY): 'S' terminal of ignition switch.

Automatic Transmission

On 1200s with an Automatic Transmission, the Starter wire goes through the "Neutral Switch" (inhibitor switch) which is on the transmission.

Ensure that the shifter is in P or N. It should not start in any other position.

Unusual Noise

Does the starter "zing" briefly after the engine starts? The starter overrun clutch is bad. Replace the starter, or repair it.

Does the starter occasionally "grind" and not spin the engine? The flywheel has a bad spot. Replace the flywheel.

The starter begins to turn the engine, but then goes click-click-click. This multiple click indicates the battery is low. Jump-start your vehicle, then fully charge the battery.

Starter Does Not Spin

First Check

First, check the battery out. Is the top of the battery spotlessly clean? If not, now is the time to clean it. Remove the battery cable and clean them with a wire brush. Do likewise to the round terminals on the battery. You want shiny metal on both parts. Wash them with a solution of water and baking soda (e.g. Arm & Hammer). This will fizz and nuetralize the acid film on the parts.

After thoroughly clean the battery cables, try it again. If it now starts, congratulations.

Systems check. When you turn the key to ON (before you start it), do the expected dash lamps light up? CHG and OIL lights should both come on. If neither light up, it is likely a power issue. Check the Fusible Link. Check the battery -- if it is below 11.5 volts, charge it up using an external charger (or jump start it).

Pull the headlight switch to ON. Check to ensure the headlamps light up. Now turn the key to START. Do the headlamps dim or go out?

  • The headlamps dim. There is a heavy load in the starting circuit
  • The headlamps go out. There is a bad connection in the main electrical feed
  • The headlamps stay bright. You need to troubleshoot the starter.

If these first checks do not uncover the problem, start troubleshooting.


If battery and main power checks out, troubleshoot the starting circuit.

  • Turn Key to START
    • The starter clicks or turns
      • If the starter turns, it is working correctly.
      • If the starter clicks but does not turn, remove the negative battery cable, tighten all three nuts on the starter wires, and try again. If the problem continues, replace the starter or inspect it.
    • There is no response. No click, no sound, nothing.
      • Pull the START wire off the starter. It is the small B/Y wire. Connect voltmeter to this wire, and other lead of the VM to the battery Negative post. Have an assistant turn key to START and hold it there. What does the VM read?
        • The voltemeter goes from 0 to 12V when key is turned to START. Starter is suspect. Remove the starter for inspection.
        • The voltmeter stays at 0 when key is turned to START. This indicates a wiring problem. Do not replace the starter. Instead, trace the wire using the Wiring Diagram and fully inspect it.

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