Ricciardo made it only halfway around the Jerez track before his RB10 rolled to a stop and began spouting smoke from the back.
After team mechanics tended to the car, Ricciardo went back out for a mere two trips around the circuit before calling it quits.
That gives Red Bull a measly total of 14 laps through the first three days of testing, which ends on Friday.
Fernando Alonso's new Ferrari also stopped after 26 laps just before the Ayrton Senna chicane. His Spanish fans cheered him on from the stands as he was ferried back to the pitlane.
But after a quick fix in the garage, Alonso was back out and adding up the laps to finish his first day of testing with 58.
"It was good to get back behind the wheel," said Alonso, who added that he expected Red Bull to have worked out the kinks by the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 16.
"It's not our focus what others are doing," the former two-time champion said. "They have little running so far but plenty of time before Australia. They will put things in place."
Kevin Magnussen impressed in his F1 debut for McLaren by posting the day's fastest lap at 1 minute, 23.
McLaren has rebounded nicely from its no-show on Tuesday due to an electrical problem and has clocked the quickest lap time for two straight days, with Button doing so on Wednesday.
Felipe Massa also had a strong start to his stint at Williams with the session's second-fastest lap, 0.424 seconds behind Magnussen.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was the busiest driver, putting in a day's high of 62 laps and showing no jitters after Tuesday's crash.
Red Bull's sister team, Toro Rosso, also had a bad day when Jean-Eric Vergne's car stalled in the pitlane. After it was pushed back to the paddock, it ground to a halt in the pitlane a second time.
Marrusia finally rolled out its new car shortly after it arrived on a trailer.
Ricciardo was debuting for Red Bull after four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was limited to just 11 laps over the first two sessions.
Vettel's run on day two was cut short when engine-maker Renault reported a malfunction. The Austrian team said "similar issues" still plagued their new vehicle.
"The measures we took only partially solved the issue," Red Bull engineer Andy Damerum said. "And, as with yesterday, it's more sensible to stop and dig deeper into finding a solution. It's obviously not where we want to be and naturally the whole team is frustrated."
All teams are struggling to get their cars ready after F1 made a sweeping revision of the rulebook that included a shift to a turbo engine and integrating more sophisticated energy recovery systems.
But, so far, traditional contenders Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren are dealing better with the new regulations than the titleholder.
After testing in southern Spain, two more tests follow in Bahrain.