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Ugh, Double Ugh, and Somebody Help Me Please!

My wife drives a 1997 Suburuban which over the last three months has given me the fits. The vehicle will be behaving just fine until one day she walks out of a grocery store, turns the key, and nothing. No clickclickclick, just nothing. The lights come on nice and bright, seatbelt buzzer, etc. Just nothing turns over.

Three months ago was the first problem. She's coming out of a store with frozen goods when the truck won't start. The truck is towed to the shop and they replace the alternator ($360). Everything seems okay until another day when the vehicle won't start. Truck is towed to the shop again, they replace the battery ($100).

Things are fine until last week when the truck won't start again. The AAA guy did the "touch the battery and the starter with a jumper cable" trick and it didn't work. The truck is towed to the shop, and when the technician starts to work on it, lo and behold it cranks right up. The tech said that the starter cable "seemed" a little loose, and that maybe when the truck was towed it tightened up on the way to the shop. Me, I'm skeptical--wires tend to get looser when jostled, not tighter, but what else can I say?

Yesterday morning coming home from church, we stop off at a grocery store for a couple of items, come out to go home and you guessed it. Dead, zilch, nada. I jog hometo get my car to rescue my wife and son. We had to just leave the truck at the store since the shops are closed on Sundays. Nine hours later on the way home from work, I stop by the grocery store just to check, and sure enough the truck started right up.

What could possibly make this vehicle start only 99 times out of 100? At no other times does the starter act sluggish, or does it crank a lot before finally turning over. No, just flawless behavior until my wife has ice cream loaded into the back, then nothing.

I thought maybe something was getting 'hot' and failing, then 'healing' itself when it cooled off, but my wife says that she has made plenty of short trips, long trips, short pauses between trips as well as long, and it always starts. We can't figure out what is the common denominator with these failures. All four times my wife has been at a grocery store, but it can't be some funky magnetic forces emanating from the earth, because the failures have been at different stores in different parts of town at different times of the day. Plus these are the stores she shops at a couple of times a week, and the truck starts fine the rest of the time.

If the truck was going to be towed to the shop today, I was going to have the starter and solenoid replaced, but I'm getting REALLY tired of buying auto parts that don't need replacing. Why not just have a new engine installed? Does anyone have any idea what's going on here?

James, who is extremely happy he signed up for AAA this year.
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