Maybe you have a loose connection down on the starter. If your lights
don't dim and the voltage gauge stays in the same place when you hit
the starter then no current is being pulled into the starter. Hence,
the bad connection theory or a dead starter. If you could tap on the
starter with a hammer, rubber hammer, or a heavy piece of wood while
someone cranked that might elicit a start and comfirm the bad starter.
And if it has over 100K on it then I would just go get another starter
to begin with.
Don't pull the starter yet. That is a pretty good little
job if you don't have to do it. Check the ignition wire
connection to the starter solenoid on the starter. They
sometimes get loose or corrode a bit. The fix is to clean
it and use pliers to tighten the connector. Once you are
sure it is clean and will be tight, give it a good coat of
silicon or some kind of water proof grease or sealer to
prevent the corrosion.
I sure can't argue with your idea of looking for the easy connection
If I sense something is near the end of it's useful life, like a
battery, starter or brakes, I tend to go for the more complete changout
to provide longer term reliability. In the short term this costs more.
The poster did not state what the mileage was or his economic
constraints so he will have to judge which way to proceed. Diagnosis is
always the first move.
I don't know if the starter on that 4.6L is a three bolt or
not but, if it is, the top bolt is a royal PITA to get out
requiring a couple of feet of extensions and as much
patience as sandpapering a wildcat's ass. I have seen that
connector bad on several occasions.
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