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Auto, Car, Truck Starter Repair

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Starter Replacement: $125-$250 (Prices good for most domestic or import cars and light trucks)
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What your starter does

Your starter is what gets your car going: it "spins over" your engine.

TAKE NOTE: if your engine "turns over", in other words makes the r---rrrr---rrrr sort of noise it normally makes when you turn the key all the way to "start", YOU DO NOT HAVE A STARTER PROBLEM.
Some folks have towed a car to me and said they may have a bad starter because their car won't start. I get in the car, turn the key, and the engine proceeds to turn over just fine: it just doesn't start up and run.
The ONLY thing the starter does is turn the engine over.

In cars with manual transmissions you can turn the ignition switch on, roll down a hill, release the clutch in gear, and the engine will start just fine, even if the starter was removed from the car! (Top fuel drag racers don't have starters on their cars: they use an external starter that is held against the supercharger pulley then removed when the engine starts.)

NOTE: BAD STARTER SYMPTOMS ARE VERY CLOSE TO BAD BATTERY SYMPTOMS AND BAD ALTERNATOR SYMPTOMS You MUST have a fully charged battery for your starter to operate properly. The ALTERNATOR keeps your battery charged.

Symptoms of a bad starter:

Starter problems fall in several categories:


Slow turning over of the engine

(1) Your motor turns over very slowly. Dash lights get really dim while cranking engine, battery terminals get hot, along with the entire battery cable

If your lights are bright with the engine off, but they get really dim when you turn the engine over with the starter, and the engine turns over very slowly, you may have a starter problem. If freshly cleaned battery terminals get hot along with the entire battery cable (positive and negative) you probably have a bad starter.

A starter doing this has worn out brushes, bushings, or shorted windings or commutator. It need a complete rebuild or replacement.


You turn the key and nothing happens

2) You turn the key to start, and either nothing happens, or there is a very quiet single click . Sometimes if you keep trying it will start.

This starter is probably worn out also. There could be a wiring problem, anything from the key switch to any number of safety interlocks and antitheft devices, but most of the time it's the starter. On starters with the solenoid on top (GM, most others) the solenoid grounds through the starter brushes, so when the brushes make bad contact you get the "silent treatment" when you turn the key. The small wire going to the starter solenoid shouild get 12 volts or so when the key is turned to "start". If 12 volts is there and there is no action, then the starter is probably bad.

A CUTE TRICK

Often you can tap on the rear of a starter that does NOTHING: (that is, you turn the key and get only silence: no rr-rrr-rr sound) and make it start one more time. Use a regular hammer, and tap lightly on the side of the starter towards the rear.while an assistant holds the key in the "start" position. Very often the starter will spin the engine over one more time.


What happens is the brushes wear out in the starter, making a bad electric contact. Tapping on the back of the starter with a hammer jars the brushes back in place, where they'll make contact one more time. DON'T BE SORRY! USE THE FREE START TO GO GET IT FIXED!

After you do this the car may actually start a few more times, but IT WILL FAIL AGAIN! FIX IT!

SPECIAL NOTE: FORD STARTERS

Many Fords use an external starter solenoid, mounted on the fender or firewall. In a "dead silence on key turn" no-start situation, this solenoid could be bad.
A bad chassis ground at the battery can make a Ford solenoid not operate, so make sure a Ford solenoid has a good ground as well as 12 volts from the key switch to the "s" terminal. Many Ford type solenoids get their ground through the bolts which hold them to the vehicle body, so when replacing a solenoid, make sure the bolts are clean and tight, and making a good ground.

Another way Ford starter solenoids fail

Sometimes a Ford solenoid will "weld it's contacts together" . In this case the starter will keep turning the engine over even after you have released the ignition switch from the "start" position. Sometimes the only way to stop it is to remove one of the battery terminals!

I've had cheap brands of solenoids do this out nof the box, so make sure to get a name brand solenoid when replacing one. Also make sure the ground is good where the solenoid bolts down: free of rust and bolted down tightly.


You get a single loud click or clunk, but no motor turning over

3) If you get a single fairly loud click when you turn the key to "start", but the starter doesn't "turn over", you may have a bad starter solenoid. A solenoid is just a switch which is operated by electricity. The starter draws so much power that to switch it directly would take a huge switch, like a Frankenstein movie!

So cars use a solenoid, switching the large starter current with a small current from the ignition switch.

On some cars the solenoid is on the starter. Others (Fords, mostly) have an external solenoid , usually on the fender or radiator core support. On all cars the starter solenoid is at the other end of the large positive battery cable.


Starter Drive or "Bendix"

4) Another way starters fail is in the "bendix" or starter drive. Your car will start to turn over with the starter, then suddenly make a rrrrrrr-ing! kind of noise, and the engine will stop rotating while the starter motor keeps going! Althiough it's possible to relace the starter drive or Bendix, usually when it fails the brushes, etc. are about gone also. With this along with other starter failures you're usually better off rebuilding the entire starter, or buying a rebuilt unit.


THINGS THAT SOUND LIKE STARTER PROBLEMS BUT AREN'T

> If you get a single loud click and all power goes off in the car (lights, radio, everything: like you took the battery out of the car) then you just have a loose or dirty battery terminal or connection.

If you get multiple rapid clicks when you turn the ignition key to "START" you probably don't have a bad starter. You probably have either a dead battery, or a bad battery terminal or connection.

click here for some pictures and diagrams of car and truck starters



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Thank you for visiting the ECONOMECHANIX WEB SITE. Please feel free to comment. We also serve the surrounding communities of Alachua, High Springs, Hawthorne, and Newberry! Gainesville has been my home since 1974, and I've loved Gvl and the Gators since I came here in the fall of 1974 to attend the University of Florida. I loved it so much I stayed and opened my car repair business. Originally it was out of the back of a 1963 Chevrolet wagon, but in 1977 a fellow mechanic and I opened an auto repair shop with actual walls, etc. I stayed in the same location for 26 years, and recently moved my operation to property I bought 15 miles east of Gainesville. I am doing most all the repairs myself now, having reduced my overhead from $1500 per month to practically nothing. I do work by appointment only. I mostly work only on my established customers cars, but I will occasionally take on new clients. E-mail me and I will either make arrangements to look at your car, or I will recommend you to someone who will.

George G. Scott, Jr.


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Auto, Car, and Truck Article List

A
ABS: Anti-Lock Brake Systems
ADVANCE: Car ignition timing
ALTERNATORS and Car Battery
AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS
B
BAD CAR DESIGNS
BATTERIES: Auto, Car or Truck
BELTS AND HOSES
BEARINGS
BODY AND BUMPER REPAIRS
BRAKE REPAIRS: Car or Truck
C
Car Washing and Care
CARBURETORS:Car & Truck
CHECK ENGINE LIGHT
CLEANING: Engine Cleaning
CLUTCH REPAIRS: Car & Truck
COMPRESSION: Car Engine
COMPUTER CAR CONTROLS
CV JOINT OR CV AXLES
D
DISTRIBUTORS (IGNITION)
E
ELECTRIC WIRING REPAIR
ENGINES: Car & Truck
ENGINE CLEANING
EXPANSION PLUGS
F
FREEZE PLUGS
FUEL AIR MIXTURE
FUEL INJECTION: Car & Truck
FUEL PUMPS: Car & Truck
G
GAGES AND "IDIOT LIGHTS"
GASKETS AND SEALS
GLASS: WINDOWS AND WINDSHIELDS
H
HEADS & HEAD GASKET
HOSES AND BELTS
I
"IDIOT LIGHTS" AND GAGES
IGNITION TIMING: Car & Truck
J
AUTO JACKS: lifting cars safely
K
L
LEAN "Car runs lean"
LIGHTS: WARNING OR "IDIOT LIGHTS"
Limp Home Mode
M
MIL Light
MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS
N
NO START: Car Won't Start
O
OIL CHANGES
OIL: What's right for your car?
OIL LIGHT ON OR GAGE LOW
P
PCV Valve
Q
R
RADIATORS: Car and Truck
RICH: Car runs rich
S
SEALS AND GASKETS
SERVICE ENGINE SOON LIGHT
SPARK PLUGS
STARTERS: Auto, Truck
T
THERMOSTATS
TIMING: IGNITION TIMING
TIMING BELT & TIMING CHAIN
TIRE REPAIR
TRANSMISSIONS: AUTOMATIC
TRANSMISSIONS: MANUAL
U
V
VACUUM ADVANCE
WARNING LIGHTS OR "IDIOT LIGHTS"
Car Washing and Care
W
WATER PUMP REPAIR
WINDOWS AND WINDSHIELDS
WIRING REPAIR
X
Y
Z

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