Troubleshooting advise needed: Just replace starter-unit or what?...

Wondering if anyone with relevant experience might suggest anything of help here. '91 Dodge Colt with 165,000 miles on the odometer. Drivetrain generally still in respectable shape and getting me around except for one
major inconvenience of late: when I turn the key, the starter will sometimes work and at other times just not respond at all. And when it doesn't respond, it will continue to be that way no matter how many times I retry, except until after the next trip down the road, after which it will mysteriously respond to a turn of the key just fine again (provided though I don't let the car sit idle for more than a couple of days before I attempt start). (The possibility of a failure of electrical power due to a low battery has long ago been ruled out. Booster cable jump start doesn't do anything.) So, the car being a standard transmission fortunately, I will then get out and push the car to get it rolling fast enough and then quickly jump back in to engage the drivetrain, starting the engine from the car's motion. (If there's no incline in the road to help keep the car rolling while attempting this, it can be a real pain getting this to work.) What I'm asking for help with is in trying to assess whether or not this problem [bearing in mind the fact that it is only intermittent in that the starter will behave, either, flawlessly or exclusively fail to do anything at all per given occasion] would/should /might typically be remedied by simply replacing the starter-unit?
TIA, Ken
PS: BTW, whereabouts on the engine is the darn starter in this car supposed to located anyway? I've never had any difficulty intuitively finding the starter in any other car that I've owned. But then none of those were front-wheel drive, transverse-mounted engine, models, in case that accounts for the difference. <g>
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Ken Moiarty wrote:

How much of a rush are you in and how much money do you have to toss at it? :)
Intermittent failure to engage (does it "click"? do the headlights dim when you try and start it?) leads me to think maybe the ignition switch is going bad?
I would definitely start by checking EVERY connection at the battery, starter, firewall, ignition switch, computer, etc...
If you're handy with a voltmeter and you're willing to "experiment", keep it in the car and check for voltage when it won't start - work your way through the starting circuit - is there voltage at the starter, switch, etc...
You could wire in a remote start type switch under the hood and see if it works when your ignition switch doesn't - if they're both dead, it's probably the starter.
I'm not sure if a 91 Colt has any kind of ignition security immobilizer or anything, but that may be something to check as well - how about an aftermarket remote start?
Intermittent failures are the hardest to troubleshoot - I'd rather it just died instead of sorta dying once in a while.
Another thing - if it's a stick shift, the switch to make sure the clutch is down could be bad - on my Jimmy it started intermittently failing and I ended up jumpering it to get home one day. The sign for that is when you turn the key you get NOTHING just as if you hadn't pressed the clutch. If it's an auto, it could be the neutral safety switch - try (carefully) wiggling the shifter and/or trying in neutral instead of park while trying to start the car - I say carefully because it can be possible to start the car in drive which could be a very bad thing in your garage if you don't have your foot on the brake.
Ray
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wrote:

Before you go to the trouble of tearing out the starter, you might want to check the clutch safety switch. Might be wearing and intermittantly non-functional. You should find it mounted on the clutch pedal arm, similar to the brake light switch.
Regarding the starter... easiest thing to to is start from the battery and trace the thickest cable from the positive battery post. It will lead to a starter relay, and from there down to the starter... It's how I've always located the starter no matter what vehicle I've owned. Never failed me yet.
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wrote:

Keep it simple. Next time it won't start one person holds the key in the crank position, the other person hits the starter with a hammer. If it responds replace the starter.
Don www.donsautomotive.com

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