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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 2003 CRV automatic. When I turn the key all I get is the dash lights and seatbelt bell ringing. I've replaced my battery (about a month ago), cleaned the battery terminals and cable, replaced the starter (about 2 weeks ago) and the starter switch. The last time it started (after the new starter was installed) I heard a buzz and smelled a slight electrical smoke of something burning. I also checked the battery with an ohm meter and still has full power. I checked all the engine compartment fuses (manually removing the smaller ones and looking in the windows of the bigger amp ones) and the 15amp interior starter fuse below the steering wheel.

I've been trying to remove the starter relay and ended up ruining it. I need to get a relay puller. Any suggestions for removal without the puller? Have I overlooked something?
 

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Was the buzzing sound in the cabin? If so it maybe bad electrical contacts in the ignition key switch. Luckily you only need to replace the contact module mounted on the key switch. It could also be a bad start relay under the dash.

 

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I've been trying to remove the starter relay and ended up ruining it. I need to get a relay puller. Any suggestions for removal without the puller? Have I overlooked something?
the starter cut relay is quite annoying to remove. Even relay puller tools are going to have a difficult time at it because there isn’t much to grab onto. I think it takes a person with 3 or 4 hands and a lot of patience to get it out.

look for the two plastic retaining clips at the sides of the relay socket that you have to push apart, and the bottom of the relay is recessed down a little … might be easier if you removed a bunch of the fuses just under the relay to give yourself some more room.

Once you get it out, don’t miss the opportunity to test the power and grounds at the fuse box relay socket, as well as the opportunity to jump the load side of the relay socket. It’ll really cut down your troubleshooting.
 

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It may be time to replace your ignition switch. 20 years of turning the key can wear out the internals of your ignition. That’s more true if you’ve done several trips per day.

A heavily loaded key ring can create a lot of force against your ignition switch internals every time you “bounce” your vehicle while traveling. Not having to worry about that is a blessing for the modern keyless ignition systems in use today. 2021 Camry rental which I’ve used still requires a key, so not all late model vehicles have gone the keyless route.

Of course, keyless ignition systems have their own problems which is a topic for another thread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Was the buzzing sound in the cabin? If so it maybe bad electrical contacts in the ignition key switch. Luckily you only need to replace the contact module mounted on the key switch. It could also be a bad start relay under the dash.

Thanks Traylaw for your reply. Yes the buzzing sound was in the cabin but I only heard it 2 different times. I watched the video you posted and replaced the ignition switch and no longer hear any sounds at all (as long as my seat belt is secured over me).

I've tried replacing the starter relay and it was so fragile it broke before I could even get it out. I ordered a relay puller but have heard from others the relay is still going to be tough to remove! It might be best to just break a small piece of the side of the fuse box so I can pry the relay out. I am starting to wonder if the mechanic who installed the new starter in place didn't tighten down properly or if the electrical wire from the starter relay has been damaged.
 

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I happen to have a fuse box on one of my workbenches. In case you can’t see well under the dash, it’s cramped down there, I took a few pics so you can see better what you’re dealing with.

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So here are two closer views, you can see the two plastic tabs that need to be pushed out off to the side. And then you can see that the two 7.5 amp fuses sort of block the area where you can get a tiny pocket pry bar/screwdriver in there to start pry the relay out.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks AJChien for the photo and explanation on the two tabs holding the starter relay. I'm actually keenly aware of them. I have tried everything from flat head screw drivers to tiny saw blades to unlock the two tabs and pry out the relay. Here's a photo of my fuse box that is located in a small opening under my steering wheel. In the photo I have a long piece of thin metal that I slid between the tab on the right, and there is a small saw blade in between the left hand tab. How do I get my hand up there and pull the relay out? I tried using different screw drivers to pry under the front side of the relay. But it would not move.
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I have a 2003 CRV automatic. When I turn the key all I get is the dash lights and seatbelt bell ringing. I've replaced my battery (about a month ago), cleaned the battery terminals and cable, replaced the starter (about 2 weeks ago) and the starter switch.
Did you follow negative cable to chassis ground and clean that contact point? Starter switch? Do you mean the ignition switch?

The last time it started (after the new starter was installed) I heard a buzz and smelled a slight electrical smoke of something burning. I also checked the battery with an ohm meter and still has full power.
Just to be correct, one uses a volt meter and not an ohm meter. Using an ohm meter on a battery will short out the battery and destroy the meter. Sorry, just thought it should be said so someone else doesn't use an ohm meter to measure voltage on a battery.
Did you measure the voltage when key is in crank position?

I checked all the engine compartment fuses (manually removing the smaller ones and looking in the windows of the bigger amp ones) and the 15amp interior starter fuse below the steering wheel.
Smell of smoke?? That worries me. Did you check the bigger fuses (ones that are held in by screws)??

I've been trying to remove the starter relay and ended up ruining it. I need to get a relay puller. Any suggestions for removal without the puller? Have I overlooked something?
Transmission range switch? Main relay? Check all the fuses using a voltmeter or test light?
Use a voltmeter (DVOM or digital meter)to see if the engine has a good ground. I saw a trick once where the mechanic drilled a small hole into the case, being careful to not let the drill go into the inside components. Then used a pick (bent sharp instrument) to pull the relay out. Have also seen where the mechanic has a set of needle nose pliers that that bent at the ends to grab at the relay at its base.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Did you follow negative cable to chassis ground and clean that contact point? Starter switch? Do you mean the ignition switch?

My reply: I haven't cleaned that yet, but I did attach jumper cable to the negative post and the other end to engine block. I did hear a click for the first time that sounded like it was coming from the engine compartment fuse box. I heard this same sound when a friend tried to start the car while I listened inside engine compartment (before I replaced the starter)

Just to be correct, one uses a volt meter and not an ohm meter. Using an ohm meter on a battery will short out the battery and destroy the meter. Sorry, just thought it should be said so someone else doesn't use an ohm meter to measure voltage on a battery.

My reply (AlpineMt): I misspoke. I used a digital multimeter. Was that okay? It showed the (newly installed) battery was good. And of course I have bright headlights and windows etc all work fine.

Did you measure the voltage when key is in crank position?
My reply: No, just checked to be sure the battery itself was fine.


Smell of smoke?? That worries me. Did you check the bigger fuses (ones that are held in by screws)??

(my reply): As stated originally, I visually checked (and tightened) all the fuses including the bigger ones. They look fine. Is it possible one or more is bad and yet still have the small wire in the window intact?

Transmission range switch? Main relay? Check all the fuses using a voltmeter or test light?
Use a voltmeter (DVOM or digital meter) to see if the engine has a good ground. I saw a trick once where the mechanic drilled a small hole into the case, being careful to not let the drill go into the inside components. Then used a pick (bent sharp instrument) to pull the relay out. Have also seen where the mechanic has a set of needle nose pliers that that bent at the ends to grab at the relay at its base.

[My reply) : Will multimeter work to check these components? I doubt I could fit a drill under the fuse box area unless I remove the paneling under the drivers wheel? I considered doing this but only could find one phillips head screw. I saw in a youtube video where a guy broke off (a small portion) of the side wall of the fuse box so he could access the starter relay and pry it out. He said that's all that worked for him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Avisitor- I did mean I replaced the ignition switch attached to the steering column (not the starter switch). Sorry if I confused others out there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It may be time to replace your ignition switch. 20 years of turning the key can wear out the internals of your ignition. That’s more true if you’ve done several trips per day.

A heavily loaded key ring can create a lot of force against your ignition switch internals every time you “bounce” your vehicle while traveling. Not having to worry about that is a blessing for the modern keyless ignition systems in use today. 2021 Camry rental which I’ve used still requires a key, so not all late model vehicles have gone the keyless route.

Of course, keyless ignition systems have their own problems which is a topic for another thread.
Thanks for the suggestion, but I already replaced it. I'm stuck trying to remove the starter relay under the dash.
 

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How do I get my hand up there and pull the relay out?
I don’t think you can get your hand in there unless your wrist can rotate 360 degrees. It’s a combination of something pushing the tabs apart, a pair of pliers to push/shift the relay back and forth, a small pocket screwdriver/pocket prybar to pry up, and most importantly the patience of a saint, as you’ll probably make a millimeter progress every 10 minutes.

edit: just read a reply of yours saying that you haven’t taken out the lower dash. It’s two screws, one is under the cover for the fuse box cover, the other screw is in the little cubby under the main cruise control buttons. it is then held on my a whole bunch of panel clips.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I don’t think you can get your hand in there unless your wrist can rotate 360 degrees. It’s a combination of something pushing the tabs apart, a pair of pliers to push/shift the relay back and forth, a small pocket screwdriver/pocket prybar to pry up, and most importantly the patience of a saint, as you’ll probably make a millimeter progress every 10 minutes.

edit: just read a reply of yours saying that you haven’t taken out the lower dash. It’s two screws, one is under the cover for the fuse box cover, the other screw is in the little cubby under the main cruise control buttons. it is then held on my a whole bunch of panel clips.
Okay, so what feels like a miracle- I was able to pry out the lower dash and that opened up a lot more room to access the fuse box and I was able to remove the starter relay and the identical relay next to it (that I plan to swap out to see if that will fix the no start, no crank issue). Before I do that I want to test the starter by placing a wire into 2 of the sockets that held the relay in place. I've seen video of it being done. In that example, the guy said to put the wire diagonally across from each other. My starter relay has 4 pins (2003 CRV) but they are not marked on the outer case what each pin goes to. I don't want to insert the wires in the wrong slot!

Here's my newest photo of the fuse box after removal of the 2 identical relays that were plugged in side by side:
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Anyone know for sure which pair of receptors do I plug the wire into in order to test if my starter is actually good or if it actually failed out of the box? Thanks! I don't want to swap relays immediately without first diagnosing if my starter is good or not.
 

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Regarding the fuse box where the relay inserts into...

Look at the relay you pulled out. There are 2 smaller pins and 2 larger pins. The smaller ones are the relay “control”, and the larger ones are the “load” side. You want to make sure you have power and ground on the control side, and you jump the load side.

if you are missing control power, then you troubleshoot the circuit back to the ignition switch.
if you are missing control ground, then you trouble shoot the circuit to the transmission range switch.
When the control side receives power and ground, the load side then sends ignition switch power to the starter solenoid.

before you do this though ... I think you should probably to learn as much as you can as to how a relay works and what it does, as well as why you’re jumping the load side. Don’t just “do”. You should understand “why“ you’re doing it … Because not understanding might cause you to misdiagnose your problem.

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Did you check the larger fuses in the engine bay fuse box?
I visually inspected inside the windows of all the larger fuses. I removed the 100amp one and visually inspected the pins and it was super clean. I also pulled all the smaller fuses in the engine compartment fuse box and all but 3 in the upper right corner under the dash. None of them were blown.
 

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How did putting a jumper between the two larger pins of the relay socket go?
Did the engine crank? The other smaller pins are the control side.
One should be hot when key is in crank.
The other side should go thru the park neutral safety switch
To see if there is a good power and ground, best to use a test light
A volt meter can read 12 volts at a pin
but it may not mean that it will carry enough current to activate the relay
And the same applies to the ground side thru the park neutral safety switch.
 

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Not quite sure why you don't just put in a new starter relay. I understand you are trying to troubleshoot, but you have to replace it anyway since the old one broke. If that doesn't work, move on to more troubleshooting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
How did putting a jumper between the two larger pins of the relay socket go?
Did the engine crank? The other smaller pins are the control side.
One should be hot when key is in crank.
The other side should go thru the park neutral safety switch
To see if there is a good power and ground, best to use a test light
A volt meter can read 12 volts at a pin
but it may not mean that it will carry enough current to activate the relay
And the same applies to the ground side thru the park neutral safety switch.
Thanks for identifying the correct starter relay pin slots for me to attempt the jump the starter. I now realize AJChien also identified the correct pin slots as well. I'll let you know as soon as I try it.

I have a test light ordered and supposed to arrive Tuesday. Thanks for your valuable input!
 
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