Renault Clio – no starter motor activation

I’ve had this problem on and off for a while, a few wiggles and it just went away so didn’t give it much thought.  The problem symptoms are that when the key is turned to start the engine nothing happens, the lights in the dashboard dim slightly but no starter motor activity at all.

Today it decided that it wasn’t going to start no matter how many times I tried, luckily I had parked on a hill so was able to let the clutch out in second gear which starts the car really smoothly (handy having that hill at work, wouldn’t want to be stuck there!)  I looked up the fault online when I got home and found that it was a known problem, there being two possible causes and solutions..

  • The small wire connected to the starter motor solenoid makes a poor connection, wiggling it will enable the engine to start;
  • The battery in the key fob is running low, although it will operate the door locks remotely, there isn’t enough power to release the engine immobiliser.

I didn’t have a replacement battery for my key fob (CR1220 3V, a half-size version of the more common CR2012 watch battery) so decided to look for this solenoid wire.   On my Clio it is right at the front of the engine, very easy to see and access; I gave the connector a wiggle and hey presto!  The engine starts straight away, I tried it several times to be sure.  Now I intend to clean the connector and get some petroleum jelly to stop it corroding again.

UPDATE: I ordered a replacement battery for the keyfob and fitted it today, the key just worked straight away for opening the doors and starting the car, it didn’t require matching to the car or anything like that.  I performed a little experiment which confirmed something – the top half of the keyfob (which contains the button and battery) does work the engine immobiliser, as when I attempted to start the car using only the lower half of the keyfob (which only has the key part) there was no starter motor activity at all, attaching the rest of the keyfob enabled it to work as normal.  It is probably just a proximity thing, the battery probably powers a small transmitter in the keyfob.

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