Update part deux: sadly I was under my Jeep as the clock struck midnight, hammering at my starter. I’ll be experimenting with a remote starter switch when it’s light out.
Update: thanks to everyone who pointed at the starter relay despite my resistance (get it?). It’s difficult to prove that my problem is fixed, but apart from one brief scare where I might not have had the clutch fully depressed, it has started easily every time since I swapped it out for the identical horn relay.
Of course my horn seems to work every time too, but it may have more generous tolerances than the starter. Or perhaps the problem simply is lurking, waiting for me to be stuck in the middle of nowhere (which I’m not far away from at the moment, at a lovely small cabin in southern Indiana).
I’m about to replace my starter for the 4th time in 5 years, the 2nd time in 2 weeks.
I have no shortage of electrical gremlins, but the temporary remedy each time is the classic: hit it with a mallet.
Is there any plausible electrical explanation for this? I’m tempted to buy a beefy aftermarket Jeep starter instead of the reman ones I keep getting (lifetime warranty, hurrah) but I don’t want to go that route if there’s a circuit problem that will just leave me stranded again.
It wouldn’t be so terrible if I could reliably get it running without assistance, but frequently it takes someone trying to start it while I apply my mallet.