By October 31, 20073 Comments Read More →

1989 Jeep Cherokee Engine Will Not Start Sometimes

Reader Question
Re: 1989 Jeep Cherokee Limited, 4.0L, automatic, good battery, intermittent start issue.

Intermittently, when I insert the key and turn to start, all the accessories items (dash lights and radio, etc.) come on but the starter does not engage.

Headlights shine brightly. The only sound after rotating the key is a very quiet whir, located forward of the dash gauges, that pulses every second or two. (What is that?) There is no solenoid or starter sound.

The battery is excellent. The short-term solution is to wait: four times out of five the car will start perfectly after waiting a half hour or more. When it starts or doesn’t is not (engine or ambient)-temperature dependent. I’m guessing the issue relates to a 1) relay or 2) sensor.

Q: Do you know of a history with this model that might help?
Q: How do I test?
Q: Suggestions?


Hey there Stan,

My first guess would be you probably have an intermittent starter motor problem. The starter is located under the vehicle on the passenger side, and sometimes you can LIGHTLY tap the side of the starter with a block of wood AS someone holds the ignition key in the start position. PLEASE make sure the vehicle is in PARK and the emergency brake is on if you do this.

You can also try moving the gear shifter around and try starting in neutral. There is a “neutral safety switch” that will not allow the engine to start in gear. The switch can fail and not send battery current to the starter motor.

You can sometimes wiggle the shifter and move it through the gears AS you hold the key in the start position. If it starts, you might have a bad neutral safety switch or a switch that is out of adjustment.

Austin Davis

Posted in: Won't Start Issues

3 Comments on "1989 Jeep Cherokee Engine Will Not Start Sometimes"

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  1. Jon says:

    I’ve heard as well it could be the CPS ( crank position sensor) that you may have to change

  2. Maxine says:

    That totally worked! Thanks it’s been a mystery for so long.

  3. Ray P says:

    My 1989 does this and if I shake the wire going to the crank shaft sensor on the driver side of the engine at the back it will immediately start. (Turns over but does not start)

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