Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Electrical System -> Starter
General Diagnosis and How to bench test an electric starter:
Starter motor problems usually are indicated by the following symptom: Turn the key to the START position and you hear a loud click, or sometimes you hear nothing. The headlights are bright and don't dim when you turn the key to START, and everything else electrical seems to work fine. It could be a bad starter neutral switch or a bad key switch but about 99% of the time it's a bad starter or starter solenoid. Here is the procedure for checking out a starter motor and its solenoid.
Problems in a starter motor normally involve a "bad spot" on the commutator, the electrical section of the armature that contacts the brushes. They get dirty and worn down. The brushes sometimes wear out but not normally. Open circuits can occur in the armature or in stator windings. You could fix these problems but the normal procedure is to replace the starter with a rebuilt. If the starter motor armature just happens to stop on a "bad spot" the circuit is open and the starter won't turn. Sometimes you can "rock" the engine by hand (be careful - make sure the ignition switch is off) or in a standard transmission car you can put it in gear and "rock" the car by pushing it forward or backward a few inches - this can move the starter motor off the "bad spot" and get you on your way, but it's a crap shoot as to when it will happen again. Sometimes rapping the starter with a hammer can make temporary contact where the contact was flaky, but you can do more harm to the starter than good if you hit it too hard!!
You can diagnose the starter by measuring the current draw. You can purchase a small "clamp on" ammeter that you simply lay on the cable to the starter - you don't have to disconnect anything. Crank it and watch the little needle tell you what the current is. If there is a high current draw then you know that the starter is at fault. There is one main reason for a starter to fail when it is hot - worn bearings, especially in the tail-shaft. The heat generated in the starter by the engine and the exhaust pipes (sometimes) causes the armature to expand. If the bearings are worn then the armature drags (actually contacts) on the stator causing a short circuit and a high friction drag. Sometimes just replacing the bearings can fix the problem.
When checking out a starter motor it is a good idea to remove it from the car and lock it firmly in a vice. If you don't hold it down securely, like in the jaws of a vice, and it turns out to be good, it will twist rather violently when it spins and possibly fall off the bench. You can do the following test with the starter in the car but it makes it a bit more difficult and there is a chance of shorting out the test jumper cables to ground.
Referring to the above diagram, the "big terminal" on the starter solenoid is where the battery + cable goes. There are one or two smaller terminals on the solenoid, one going to the "start" position on the ignition switch.
On a bench test, the negative battery jumper cable goes to the vice that is holding the starter by the frame. The Positive goes to the "big terminal" on the solenoid. Jump from the big terminal to one of the smaller ones with a jumper wire or a screwdriver blade to actuate the solenoid. It should click and the starter should whirrrrr. If it does, don't get carried away and let it spin freely for a long time - it's not good to run a starter with no load for extended periods of time, especially an old and tired one.
If it doesn't spin, look for another "big" wire going into the starter. You can see it at the other end of the solenoid - it goes into the body of the starter. Carefully touch the + jumper cable to it and the starter should immediately whirrrr and you should get a good sized spark - that is normal - the starter is a heavy current eater.
If you get no whir from that test then the starter motor is fried inside. You can take it apart and see if it is fixable (new brushes, a clean-up of the commutator and possibly new windings, but at that point I would suggest a rebuilt starter/solenoid assy.
If the starter did whir on the last test then you can remove the solenoid and either rebuild it or replace it, the later being a good idea. The new starter will come with a new or rebuilt Bendix drive which is probably next in line for failure.
When going for a new starter make sure to bring the old one along with you. First, you can match it up to make sure the computer picked the right one for your vehicle and second, they charge a "core charge" for the old one - they want it back to be rebuilt and sold again. Just to make sure you got a good one you should bench test the new starter - it wouldn't be the first time a bad rebuilt was shipped.
Tip from George (70's-80's):
Chrysler generally only made two starter motors during the 70s/80s. One for the six's/small blocks and one for the big blocks. The only difference being a larger motor on the big block starter (for extra cranking torque).
As for getting one out of the car:
1. When you unbolt the solenoid lead at the starter, 50/50 chance it will break off. Not a problem.
2. Remove the torque strut (between block and tranny) for some clearance.
3. Moving the steering arm around for clearance is a good start, but you will also have to 'cork-screw' the starter around to get it through the frame/susp/steer/etc. (try about 10 positions, curse, repeat)
4. Pop the tie-rod end or center link off if it looks like it will help. The starter is attached to the tranny through two mounting ears. One goes over a stud coming out of the tranny and the other uses a bolt. The stud coming out of the tranny is a real handy place to hang the starter while your wrestling w/ it as it gets heavy. Problem is, it often unsrews from the tranny while your removing the rusted nut.
As for getting the new one back in:
1. See #3 above.
2. Try to align the starter gear w/ the ring gear while the starter is hanging on the tranny stud, then tighten the two attaching bolts equally. If you just hold it up there and drive one bolt home you'll misalign it.
3. Occasionally the starter gear and the ring gear don't mesh. Turn one of them (by hand) until they do.
4. Generic rebuilt starters generally fit fine, but once in a while you'll get one with a starter gear that doesn't quite mesh w/ the ring gear 100% of the time. A little goofing around w/ the mounting bolts generally straightens it out, but I'd say try it a few times before putting the steering back together. If you think you've got problems.... I have headers on one of my small blocks. Because of the size/location of the starter, one of the exhaust tubes has to loop around the tie rod end and another one must be 'dimpled' to clear the starter motor. The heat from the headers shorten the life of the starter significantly and the only way to get the starter is out is to swing the header out of the way.
Tip from Dick (1981-1983):
If your starter motor "whirrs" but the engine does not turn over (fan doesn't move), then the ring gear many have a problem. Before you reinstall the starter, get under there (or have someone do this) with a strong flashlight and a dentist mirror and INSPECT THE RING GEAR! The bad area may be only in one small part of the ring gear, but even so, you will be playing Russian Roulette with the car every time you turn it off. The starter drive is supposed to be dry. Do not lube it unless you think it is actually hanging up due to some interference, in which case find the cause and file off the burr or whatever.
More Tips from Dick:
#1. test: Take a clip lead and run it from the (+) side of the battery to the large brown wire on the terminal marked "S" on the starter relay. Alternately, you can take a screwdriver or the like and short between that wire and the terminal labeled "B", which has one or two very large red wires on it. This will make the starter crank the engine unless there is something wrong with your starter, the battery, or the cable/wire connections, regardless of what else is wrong somewhere else. You don't need the key on or the car in neutral to do this, so be sure it is not in gear with the key on, because it WILL crank when you do this! There will be some arcing and sparking when you make contact with the two terminals (you don't have to disconnect the wires to do this either) but don't be startled, you aren't damaging anything and you will not get a shock. Given that the above test made the starter crank the engine, we know your starter, cables, battery and the like are all OK. We need to investigate the ignition switch, the neutral safety switch (you did try jiggling the gear lever, right?) and the starter relay itself (yes I know you just replaced it, but these are common failure points, so don't assume it is OK because it is new.)
#2 test: Verify that the neutral safety switch is OK by running your clip lead from the (-) terminal of the battery to the "G" terminal on the starter relay. This terminal will have a thin brown wire on it, it is the only flat blade terminal that is parallel to the long axis of the relay. You don't need to remove any wires to do this, but you can slip the connector up a ways to make room for your clip lead end. Now try to crank the engine with the key. If it cranks, your problem is a bad or misadjusted neutral safety switch or a bad wire to same, just inspect the wire or replace it with a new one, or replace the neutral safety switch, as applicable. Temporarily, you can just leave the clip lead on this terminal and use the car this way, but remember, the car will now start in any gear. Dangerous if you forget!
#3 test: Assuming you did not find the trouble above, move your clip lead to connect the terminal labeled "I" on the starter relay (this probably has a yellow wire on it), and temporarily connect the other end to the (+) side of the battery. Everything else on the starter relay needs to be hooked up for this, and the car needs to be in neutral or park, with the key on. When you make contact with the (+) terminal of the battery, the car should crank. My guess is that it will not, but you may or may not hear the starter relay click. If this is the case, go get another starter relay, that's your problem.
#4 test: If it DOES crank during test #3, you have a problem in your ignition switch or the wiring from it to the starter relay. Use your test light and see if you get 12 volts at the "I" terminal when someone holds the key in the START position. Everything needs to be hooked up to do this. If you do get 12 volts at the end of the wire to the "I" terminal, we missed something, go back to step one and start over, we missed something here. If you do not, follow the wire from the "I" terminal back toward the start contact on the ignition switch. You either have a bad wire, a bad connection at the switch or at the firewall bulkhead connector (probably terminal 31), or a bad ignition switch. Let me know how you make out. The wire colors I quote here are actually out of a 69 FSM, but are very likely the same for many years either side of 69. Other than color changes, these tests will be exactly the same for all MOPARS for many, many years, probably from the first 12 volt cars to the late 80's. They do not apply to non-Mopars, however.
Why wouldn't my newly rebuilt engine start by Dick Benjamin:
A freshly rebuilt engine should be pretty hard to turn by hand, even with a long handled "breaker bar" on the crank bolt, so if you can turn it over yourself, I don't think there's anything wrong with the engine. You can check the torque required if you have a torque wrench. I don't really have a number in mind, but I'd guess around 30 to 50 FT LBS is normal for a fresh rebuilt engine, especially if it has sat for a year without being turned.
Turning it without the plugs installed is a very good idea, by the way, because you remove all possibilities of hydraulic lock.
I don't like the idea of Mystery oil, though. I think just plain old SAE 30 would be the thing to coat the bores with when it has sat long enough to have all the lubrication drained away. So turn it a few times by hand to spread out the Mystery oil, then put a tablespoon or so of SAE 30 in each hole and turn it some more. You should only turn it clockwise (from the front) so that you are also pumping oil to the bearings.
By the way, do you happen to know if the person who assembled the engine ran the oil pump for a while with the distributor removed, to verify the engine has good oil circulation and oil pressure. If he didn't, and it has sat for a year, I'd recommend doing that before trying to start the engine, just so you know the bearings are all well lubricated.
When you do get around to trying to crank it with the starter again, leave the plugs out, and with a good mechanical gauge installed temporarily in the oil pressure sending unit hole, crank it on the starter until you see good oil pressure, before you put the plugs in.
Why doesn't the starter turn it? I dunno, except that if you can turn it at all by hand, even with a pretty good grunt on the wrench, the starter should spin it easily. Measure the voltage on the actual starter winding (the big terminal that is right on the main starter housing, while grounding your meter to the case of the starter) during your attempt at cranking.
You should see at least 9 volts there while cranking. If not, you have a bad cable, a bad battery, a bad ground (check the bolts from the starter to the block for clean and bright on all surfaces), or all of the above.
The charger is not beefy enough to help here, regardless of what they tell you. You need a good, well charged battery. The charger can replenish the battery on slow charge overnight, but the "Start" or "Boost" position usually is a joke. If it is a very good professional charger, I withdraw the previous, but the "homer homeowner" variety are usually little more than frustrating experiences with the inadequate windings and clamps they use. You don't need a "high torque" starter.
Question from Steve (30's through 50's):
I've got a 46 New Yorker with a flat head 8cylinder. I am looking for any info regarding the carburetor. This carburetor has 2 wires that hook to it, one wire seems to go from a switch mounted on the carburetor (that is activated at wide open throttle) to the starter relay. The other wire is missing but, there's a terminal at the top of the carburetor that looks like some sort of solenoid. Any sort of info/explanation would be greatly appreciated
Reply from Dick:
You have a Carter carburetor which has the "Starterator" device. This was to actuate the starter when you step on the accelerator with the key on, if there is no intake manifold vacuum. The Vacuum lockout function is performed in the carburetor itself. These were used by Packard, Buick, and perhaps others in the 30's through the 50's, before the common ignition key start type switch became universal.
Follow-up from Steve:
Can you help me wire this thing? All the wiring has been disconnected. The wire that's hooked to the start switch on the carburetor is about 2' long and has a large 3/8" eye on the end of it. I cannot hook this wire to any large terminal at the starter relay because this will just start a fire. It would have to hook up to the smaller start (or command) wire. And also the switch on the carburetor can only make continuity from the wire to the ground or eng. block. In order for the starter to crank from this switch it would need another wire from the ignition or battery to get the starter relay to energize, the same way the start button on the dash does right? unless the starter relay only requires a ground. One other thing is there is a electrical connection on top of the carburetor with no wire on it, is this part of the starter lockout system or is the lockout strictly done mechanically with vacuum?
Reply from Dick:
I am not sure that this option was offered on the Chrysler cars in the 50's. If it is a carburetor that someone has installed from some other car, the wiring may not be compatible with the type of starter control your car has.
Let's determine what type of starter control you have:
There are two types of Solenoids. One type is energized internally from the battery hot lead, and requires only a grounding of the single small terminal on the case to make the starter engage and crank. This is identified by there being only one single small wire terminal on the solenoid assembly.
Note that we are not talking about the big wires, one from the battery, and one that goes to the starter field windings, probably a strap not a wire, but in any case these have mighty big nuts holding them on, usually either 9/16 or 5/8 nuts. What we are talking about here is the small, probably round head conventional screw type terminal, usually a 3/16 or 8-32 threaded screw.
The second type is energized from some external source of 6 volts, usually the ignition circuit. This will have two of the small screw type connections on it. One gets 6 volts from some switched source, the other must be grounded to operate the starter. Polarity doesn't matter to this type, so it can also be hooked up so that one terminal is permanently grounded, and the hot terminal comes via the "starterator" and the switched source in the ignition system, this is the method used by Packard.
If your car also has a starter push button, and it is the original type, then most likely you have a one terminal starter control solenoid, and all the push button does is ground the one wire to the control. If this is the case, pushing the button will crank the engine even if the ignition is off, a situation which was quite common in that era. If this is the case, the "starterator" is not original to your car, and while you could hook it up to work, I think you would be happier to just use the push button to start your car. The "starterator" is a delicate and difficult to adjust mechanism (and, to answer your question, yes the vacuum lockout is entirely mechanical, vacuum and gravity operated, no electrical items involved.) When they are finally set up right, they are kind of a cute deal, but I wouldn't go out of my way to put one on a car which didn't originally have one.
If you have the only type of "starterator" I have ever seen, as used on Buicks and Packards, there are only 2 wires associated with the device. The third wire you see on top of the carburetor is a mystery to me.
Maybe the first thing you need to do is to identify which carburetor you have. There is a casting id in the throttle body, and perhaps a tag still fastened to the air horn or bowl cover screw. If you can get us that number, we can see if it is the right one for that car.
Question from Wayne (1951):
In my perpetual quest to ressurect the '51 Crown Imperial Limo, I have had the 6 volt starter rebuilt and have just gotten it re-installed. It just "clicks" when I turn the starter switch (through the key), and although I have hand turned the motor, it doesn't turn easily. Is this a starter problem or a motor not turning over problem?
Reply from Kerry:
I don't know if this will help or not but my 50 has the same problem, ie the starter clicks but won't crank the motor. If I keep turning the key, it will eventually click and then start. An old Chrysler dude told me it is a very easy fix. Apparently the starter solenoid ( on top of the starter) is just a plunger. The end of the plunger gets rusty and does not conduct the current. According to him, all one has to do is remove the solenoid and sand the end a little. I haven't done this yet on mine.
Question from Teresa (50-s - '60's):
I was told by more than one parts outlet that the starter for the 1959 was unique to the 1959, that a 1960 may work, but the 1961 that lives not far from me does not have the same starter. Please enlighten me if you know otherwise.
The fact that your sources tell you that the "early" 1960 starter will fit and "late" 1960 starter won't leads me to believe that they are inaccurate. 1960 starters are all the same. I have never owned a '59 or tried to buy a starter for one, but I do have two '60s, one of them for over 40 years (Mom bought it new). I have replaced the starter on both of them. Electrically there was a change during the 1960 model year. That was the switch from a generator to an alternator.
I have been told that 1956 through 1961 starters are all the same. I have an extra 1956 starter, and it does look the same as the 1960, but I have never tried to install it on the later car (probably won't either). The engine was changed significantly between 1958 and 1959. This engine was used for many years, but due to a change in the transmission for 1962, that year's starter is totally different. Even so, I have been told be some that it will fit in the early cars, but I have not ever tried it either.
The big change in starters in 1962 was not due to the change in the transmission, but a brand new starter design. The A-727 Toruqeflite was new for 1962, but the A-904 was carried over from 1960-61 and it, too, used the new starter, in most cases.
Up to 1961 Chrysler used direct drive starters, usually purchased from Autolite, which became Prestolite when Ford bought a chunk of Autolite and the rights to the name. The new Chrysler starter was a reduction gear design, giving that unique whine when the starter is engaged. As a result of this, the number of teeth on the ring gear changed. Thus the two starter designs are not interchangeable.
The Chrysler reduction gear starter was used on all American-built Mopar cars from 1962, with the except of 1962-64 Dodge 880 and Chrysler cars with a manual transmission. Those cars held on to the direct drive starter.
In Canada the reduction gear starter was used on all Chryco products with a V8 engine. The slant six Valiants, Plymouths and Dodges continued to use the direct drive starter, supplied by Prestolite, until the end of the 1966 model year. With the 1967 models, Chrysler Canada switched to the redcution gear xtarter.
Thus Imperials from 1956 to 1961 used the direct drive starter and from 1962 used Chrysler's reduction gear starter. According to my interchange book, the starters are the same from 1959 to 1961 on Imperials, using Chrysler part number 1889 200. This unit was also used on 1959-61 Chryslers, 1959-61 DeSotos (except Firesweep), 1960 Dodge with 361 or 383 V8, 1961 Plymouth with 361 or 383 V8, 1962-64 Chryslers with standard transmission, and 1962-64 Dodge 880 with standard transmission.
The book also says the 1957-58 starter, 1842 562, will fit. This unit was used on 1957-58 Imperials, 1957-58 Chryslers and 1957-58 DeSotos (except Firesweep). It should also fit Canadian-built 1958 Dodge Custom Royal models (they used Chrysler's 354 poly engine).
The reduction gear starter was new for 1962 and to my knowledge was not used before then. The new starter was used across the board in 1962, regardless of engine or tramsmision, with the exception of the Dodge 880 and Chrysler models with manual transmission. (Also Canadian-built slant six cars)
The 1960 Valiant had the altenator as standard equipment right from day one. It was optional on all other Mopar models and made standard equipment in 1961. In Canada the alternator was standard with the 1963 Canadian models and optional on 1960-62 Canadian models, including the Valiant. Imported models, such as the Imperial, had the same equipment list as in the U.S., including the alternator.
Question from Joe(1956):
Who should I go to for this and about how much for a rebuilt one?
I took mine to a local shop that rebuilds starters and generators, etc, and they charged me $36.
Unless the windings are bad and they usually aren't, I think rebuilding a starter amounts to putting in new brushes and recutting the mica. The mica is the material on the armature between the copper plates.
Question from Dave (1960):
If a starter relay has gone bad, can it short so the starter motor turns . This is only happening when the charging circuit is under load. The faster the car go's the louder & faster the wirring from the starter.I have ruled out the Auto pilot & speedo cable.
Reply from Neil:
Yes the starter relay can stick in, if this happens the unscientific way is to give it a thump with something heavy (hammer handle or wheel brace), this will jolt the burnt contacts back apart. The normal cause of the relay going bad besides old age is that the battery output is low with resultant high current across the contacts burning them in the process of starting the engine. (I'm sure DB will give a better description).
Is the relay on the side of the starter motor i.e. pre-engaged type or mounted on the flitch panel? If it is the remote type mounted to the flitch then it is cheap and easy to change.
The ignition switch may also be bad giving the same symptom though! Have a sniff at the ignition switch as close as you can get, does it smell burnt? if it does smell bad this could be the cause of your starter engaging at random due to worn contacts, if the worn contacts arc you end up with a switch with loose contact and bits of contact material shaking around doing their own thing.
Once a ignition switch or starter relay has started going bad replace it quickly as it is a fire hazard, the ignition switch may go up in smoke at any time or the starter relay could drop in at any time and start turning the starter, if this happens while your car is locked up in the garage it will keep tuning until something gives or catches fire.
The best bet is to leave the -ve lead disconnected until you have traced the fault.
I haven't intended to scare the life out of you just to let you know of the possible ramifications of a severe electrical dead short.Follow-up from John:
I think you mean starter solenoid, not starter relay. If the relay was always on, the starter would keep cranking till something burned out.
Question from Dwayne (1960):
Can anyone help me? I've just got a starter motor for my 1960 Imperial, the shop sent me an AC Delco model # 12303037 and it doesn't look the same as the one I've taken off. Can anyone tell me the correct part number?
According to my interchange manual, the part number you want is 1889200. Suitable for '59-'61 Imperial. Have you tried A-Z Motor Accessories in Watford? The have obtained some very useful parts for me in the past.
You may want to try having the one you already have rebuilt. They are the same from '59-'62. You may also want to try getting a used one. I've had better luck with used then buying rebuilt off the shelf. I bought a used one once for a '63 Imperial I used to own, & it was in there for at least 11 years & still working fine when I sold the car. I do have a rebuilt one that I bought in 1989 according to the date the store wrote on the box for my '60, but haven't yet needed it. The number on the box & tag on the starter is; 34-1043. It was rebuilt by Arrow.
Question from Dave (1960):
Can the heat from the down-pipe against the starter cause slow cranking. On our 60 after it's been idling and then switched off, I sometimes have to let it cool down for a few minutes before it will crank over. Does any one have any ideas on how to cure this problem.Replies: From Chris:
Yes, it can, but usually it's an indication of an aged starter when it becomes so susceptible to heat. I would bet that rebuilding the starter would be your easiest solution to try first. As I mentioned earlier, it totally solved my '67's hot-start problems.Follow-up from Dave:
The starter has been rebuilt. It has had the following parts replaced.: Armature, Field coils, Bendix, Selonoid . But I am wondering if the down-pipe is too close to the starter.
I had the same problem with my 68 imperial. When it got hot, I had to let it cool down before it would start. A friend of mine came over and adjusted the timing and now it starts perfectly all the time, so I would suggest that you check your engine's timing.
Another idea might be that you have an under powered battery. It happened to my big old 60 Bonneville. Took the longest time for them to figure out what was wrong.
Question from Dwayne (1960):
Is a starter motor for a '61 is the same as a '60?
Reply from John:
Yes, they are the same.
Question from Joe (1961):
Does anyone know a trick to remove the starter on a '61? It has dual exhaust and there isn't enough room to get the starter out. Looks like I might have to remove the exhaust pipe.
Unless the exhaust is closer then normal, you should able to just barely get it to fit through. You may need to twist & turn but it should fit.
Chrysler made those starters to last, and that is why it is a dirty job to get it out of a '61, or in my case a '62.
The bottom nut is no problem, but the best, least profane way to get the top stud out is to remove the autopilot from its base and move it up out of the way. Then go in from the top, on your belly, with your feet dangling. Once both starter nut and stud is free, and the wires are disconnected, pull the thing straight forward six or eight inches until it clears the exhaust and the torsion bar and wiggle it out.
Question from John (1961):
I put a new starter relay in the car and everything is hooked up. I haven't tried it out yet because I have one final question before I do. At the bottom of the relay is the positive cable. Just above this cable is a screw terminal that had a small, flat, square plate. With the wire
installed under the screw, this plate touches the installed positive cable. I took this plate off and now it doesn't touch the positive cable. Is this supposed to touch or not? I don't want to have a dead short and have another fire again.
Any information about this would be greatly appreciated.
When the 2 terminals touch, that is what completes the circuit & engages the starter. The terminals should not touch.
Agreed. That terminal with the wire with the spade lug definately should NOT be touching the terminal that has the positive connection. This is the wire that supplies power to the starter solenoid when you turn the key.
Shorting it to the positive connection with the blade of a screwdriver, however, can allow a person to operate the starter from under the hood.
Question from Bob (1961):
Can anyone tell me what the correct starter is for the 1961 Imperial?
The Mopar part number is 2875560. Not sure what vintage in the 60's it is, but is in the 60's. Chrysler used the same starter for just about everything except the 426 Hemi 4 speed, which was a direct drive starter. Some of the 6 cylinders in taxis also used a direct drive but different then the Hemi. These are easily found at any discount auto parts stores unless Tony want to stay NOS, then Mopar still has them also. They also sell a Nippendenso smaller, compact, lightweight starter that is great if you have clearance problems. This is what I have on the Road Runner because of my Headers.
My Hollander's interchange manual only goes up to 1965. It shows Imperial starter motor # is 1889200 for 59-61. This interchanges with:
Chrysler 62-64 with 3-speed standard transmission
Desoto 58,59 excluding FireSweep
Dodge 61 8 cylinder excluding 318
Dodge 62 with standard transmission
Dodge 63,64 880 series with 3-speed standard transmission
Plymouth 61 8 cylinder excluding 318
Plymouth 62 with standard transmission
Question from Jay (1962):
Does anybody have any tips for replacing a '62 starter motor? (I know, I know, disconnect the battery is the first step.)Reply from Joe:
The starter has its own built-in solenoid. It has heavy solid copper contacts which eventually become pitted from use. You might be able to find replacement parts for this part of the system at a local parts house. The easiest is to replace with a rebuilt starter, but, you might want to save the old one and try your own hand at reworking it. Don't overlook the possibility of a bad ground between the battery and the engine block. The chances are that the battery ground wire to the block is old and may never have been replaced. The crimped lugs at the block end can become corroded inside where you cannot see and cause a high resistance connection. Also check the ground strap to the firewall from the block. Some models have a smaller ground lead at the battery post to the body at the fender. Check it as well. A bad ground there may cause the starter relay not to pull down. The starter relay could itself have a bad ground (through the mounting tab and screw). On these old cars, it pays to check all connections and grounds whenever intermittent problems occur.
Question from Ed (1964):
The first time I start the car after a few days, there is a loud whacking sound (like wood being chopped) when I turn the ignition on. Once the car starts, I can turn it off and the noise does not reappear.
Reply from Patrick:
Sounds like a replacement is due. Something inside wants me to say to send it my way. I have a few cords of wood to chop in the yard. But I wont since it'll bring a mixed reaction.
Question from Johan (1965):
I'm removing the starter (first starter I've ever pulled) and I found 3 bolt heads facing forward (the same direction the starter points) at the base or rear of the starter. Seems that there would be more.
Are these 3 bolts all I have to take off to pull it?
I'm going to leave the wires connected to it since I just need to replace the core plug behind it.
Also, will it just pull out of the housing the bolts are screwed in to?
IF memory serves, Yes!!
The starter weighs enough to pull your wires. Take the wires off. If you slip, the force will cause you to visit the parts store.
Question from Jay (1966):I am having a problem with my 1966 starting. Here are the symptoms: All map lights and cockpit illumination function properly and at their maximum brightness. The Sentry Signal lamp operates at maximum intensity. When the ignition held at the "start" mode to engage the starter, no sound is heard. No clicking, buzzing or straining of the starter motor is heard. Absolute silence. The interior lamps and Sentry Signal dim ever so slightly when the key is turned to the started position, but not significantly as a dead battery would indicate. Inspection of the engine compartment reveals nothing obvious. Battery terminals are cleaned and greased. Cables are in good condition. All electrical connections are tight. All fuses in the fuse box are intact. Two weeks ago, the transmission kick-down and throttle linkages were adjusted to specs along with the fast and curb idle speeds and air/fuel mixture. The carburetor was cleaned and inspected. While on a routine test run to verify performance, the vehicle lost ignition halfway up the Conejo Grade (4 lane freeway, 1 1/2 miles, 8% grade.) This was due to a tachometer lead that was routed across the intake manifold to the coil. When the manifold got hot enough to burn thru the insulation, the ignition was bypassed with a short circuit. After the cause was identified and fixed properly, the vehicle ran fine. The vehicle was then driven for about 2 hours without incident, then parked for one week. The next time the starter was "called to duty", it was obvious that the battery was dead. Weak interior lights and the fact that they dimmed terribly when the starter was cranked. Inspection of the "maintenance free" battery revealed that it had boiled dry! An attempt was made to resuscitate the battery with heavy doses of distilled water and a charger, but it was a lost cause. The battery was replaced with a new one on Sunday March 9. The vehicle was driven around town on routine assignment again without incident, then parked in the motor pool for 1 day. Anyone want to diagnose this problem?Replies: From Stephen:
I had the exact same thing happen on my '67 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. I pulled the starter out and apart and found that the rebuilders had used the original internal wiring when rebuilding the starter. The wiring insulation was french fried (several other internal parts had not been replaced; and this was a "factory rebuilt" starter), so I had a mechanic friend rebuild the starter himself using new wiring and ALL new parts. I never again had any problems starting the car.
Moral of the story: 1) Check the starter for problems; 2) Don't always trust rebuilt parts.
When the battery is up and well connected, the sure way to start the car (assuming the starter is OK) is to short (I use a screw driver) between the two screw terminal connections on the starter relay [the bathtub shaped thingy that is gold colored, has 4 wires on it, two of which are push on terminals (about which more later) and two of which are screw on terminals, and have heavy wires on them].
The two wires you should short between are on terminals labeled "B" (which has two red wires on it, one large and one a little smaller) and "S"( which has a large brown wire on it). These are the only wires on the relay that have screw terminals on them. The relay is either on the left inner fender near the battery, or on the cowl up near the left hood hinge. Assuming the key is on, the car will start immediately when you short between these two connections. You will see a small spark, don't panic, its only 12 volts and can't hurt you or anything else.
Now, to discover what caused the problem, there are two equally likely causes that account for probably 99 percent of these cases.
1. Inoperable or disconnected Neutral Safety switch. To determine if this is your problem, temporarily connect a grounded wire to the terminal (labeled "G") that the small brown wire is pushed on to (you can leave the brown wire on it or remove it, it doesn't matter). If the problem is the NS switch, you can now start the car normally, but be aware, the car will now START IN ANY GEAR so be careful. If that doesn't bother you, you can leave the car this way indefinitely.
To learn more about this problem, put your VOM or Test light on the terminal push on pin that normally has the brown wire on it (on the same relay). The light should light (or the VOM should read approx 13 volts) when someone turns the ignition key to start, when the small brown wire is NOT connected. The light should NOT lite when the small brown wire IS connected (and the car is in Neutral or Park). BTW, you did wiggle the shift lever during the no start mode, didn't you? Another question- do your backup lights work OK (I mean do they come on only in reverse?)
If the Neutral safety switch is the culprit, (or if you just don't want to get involved with sorting out the problem now), you can just bypass as described above. The car will now start normally, and you are not hurting anything.
To troubleshoot, trace the small brown wire back to the 3 terminal switch on the transmission, left side behind the other lineage, see the push on wire bundle, if its hanging loose, push it back on the pins and your problem is fixed. If all appears OK with the wires, the switch may have failed, but I have never seen that to happen.
2. The other, about equally likely problem, usually begins intermittently, in which you might have to try the start position numerous times but finally it goes. Sometimes, though, it comes on suddenly, so its another possibility--that is, a failed starter relay. These are notorious on all MOPARS, and your local auto parts place will have one on the shelf (take the old one in for comparison). To verify that this is the problem, check that the wires are all connected to it, and that the neutral safety switch is grounding the small brown wire during attempted start (as described above), and that the Yellow wire to pin "I" has about 13 volts on it when someone turns the key to start. If all of these things are happening and the starter is not cranking, you starter relay has failed.
I suspect that you will have gotten going by the time you get this far, but if not, I'll be here, and anxious to get that beautiful machine back on the road.
Question from Greg (1967):
Does anyone know any tricks on getting the nut off of the top bolt that secures the starter to the engine/tranny? As best as I can tell from feel alone (can't see a thing), one edge of the nut is flush against it's mounting surface and I'll have to use an open ended wrench (5/8th"), but that's not working too well either. A socket will not fit over the nut due to that clearance. I'm having a devil of a time getting that sucker off.
It sounds like you need a starter wrench. A starter wrench is an open end wrench bent into a "C" shape. You can either buy one or take a cheap wrench of the correct size, heat the shaft, and bend it to the needed shape. I am quite surprised that a socket won't fit over the top nut by itself, I seem to recall that my main problem was that the head of the ratchet wouldn't fit in that space with the socket. MoPar starters are a pain to get off, I had to remove one exhaust pipe to get mine out, loosening it off was the easy part.
I've used both an open and box 5/8th to get it off. It's a little turn at a time. Yeah it can be a bear sometimes. Its a piece of cake with the motor/trans out of the car!!
Try a Claw foot attached to a 3/8 drive extension.
I've replace the starter on my '78 (twice) using just combination wrenches and sockets. I can't remember what I used on the top bolt but I remember it was VERY tight to get something in there. I think I used a socket and an extension maybe 6" or longer, from the front. Stay with it, it is possible and once you find the magic key, you'll know for next time. I do know that not all sockets are created equal. Some have thicker walls than others. I don't have any ultra thin walled sockets but mine are about medium thickness. Maybe your socket is just too thick.
I think the only thing I have replaced that required even more contortions is the brake booster.
I use a box end turned backwards (so its angled towards firewall). I never had a problem getting them off. Seems like the last one took about 10 minutes really, but I am not a big guy with big hands, that makes it easier. On thing I have always done is to take this one off first, then you don't have the weight of the starter up against the bolt making it a hard to turn bolt. Mine will usually loosen off within a few wrench strokes and then I finger it off. Then I move to the bottom one and hold the starter in position as I remove it so it isn't up against the bolt.
Gee, I guess I was lucky... the biggest challenges I encountered were gravity and light.
My '67 Crown's starter finally cranked its last crank on a Sunday evening when I had driven it to the office (squeezing in a pleasure drive with having to work on a weekend) and parked it two floors underground, where no tow truck could get to it if I wanted to go that route.
Thankfully, I had the new starter in the trunk and my tools on board. The car had long presented a hot-starting challenge that suggested excessive draw when the engine was hot (and everything expanded). I had been planning just to replace it for some time, but procrastination got the best of me.
Besides working upside down and in the dark, the biggest challenge was the lack of clearance under the car for me and my blood-drained arms. It took me about 15 minutes to undo all the hardware, and then another half hour to find a place the 300-pound starter would fit out of the engine compartment. (OK, it's only about 35 lb, but things weigh more when they're being held over your head by arms that needed a few more universal joints for elbows).
I was finally able to pass it to the front of the engine and drop it just between one of the transmission cooler lines and the idler arm (or was it the pitman arm), holding the tranny lines apart with my third and fourth hands while I twisted and turned the starter with my first two hands. It was like juggling with an anvil.
Only once I got the new one back into position did I realize that the top bolt was actually a stud, so I had to remove the starter (no place hang it), fetch the stud from the old one, and once it was reinserted into the bell housing, it gave me a place to hang the starter while I reattached all the other bolts.
The most remarkable result was hearing the long-forgotten sound of the "Highland park hummingbird" when I cranked the new unit. Oh, my, how long had that old, slow starter been ready to give up the ghost? In daylight, inspection of the original starter revealed it was just that: the one that UAW workers in Jefferson installed in 1967, some 124,000 miles earlier.
And while doing car repairs in the office parking garage didn't seem like the ideal condition, had the original starter given me just one more start, I would have had to do this wherever I stopped the car for gas on the way home... like somewhere in the general south LA area. I thanked the car for its caring nature and, best of all, never had a hot-start problem again.
Lesson learned: replacing the starter in an Imperial teaches Zen patience, strengthens your arms, and builds character!
The timing of the whole '67 starter discussion is rather eerie to me -because when I backed my '67 Convertible out of the garage yesterday AM to go to the Southern California Imperial Owners meeting, I turned the car off momentarily while I closed the garage door, and when I got back in to drive away, I got the dreaded "click-click". On about the 10th time, it finally cranked and fired, but I didn't want to chance it, so my chore for today was to pull the starter and rebuild it (I had determined by the old "screwdriver across the terminals" trick that the problem was the starter, not the much more common starter relay problem).
I used my starter wrench to get the top bolt, but had no further trouble dropping the starter. I did have to move the transmission cooler lines out of the way (the bracket which holds them is on the lower starter bolt), and I had to position the steering so that the Pitmann arm was swung toward the center of the car, but the starter fit out between the Pitmann arm and the torsion bar, just forward of the left side downpipe. This car is totally original, including exhaust pipe, so I don't know if another car would have enough clearance if the exhaust system has been replaced, but at least this single exhaust car gave no real trouble.
I rebuilt the starter (the solenoid's copper contacts were pretty nasty looking, about 84,000 miles worth, I'd guess!), and the brushes were about 1/2 worn, but everything else just needed a good cleaning and a tiny bit of high temp grease on a few moving parts. When I re-installed it, just for giggles and because of the questions today, I used a standard box/open end combination 5/8" Craftsman wrench on the top bolt - it can be done that way, although you only get 1/16 of turn out of each bite with the wrench.
That's the report from here, anyway.
To the guy with the busted off main terminal: You can remove the remaining nut, put the cable end under it and re-install it - it will wobble terribly when the nut is off it, but if you are even slightly careful, it won't fall into the starter. That way, you can use this starter until the next thing fails. Be sure you don't turn the main terminal, as it only fits properly the way it is already installed.
To the guy who talked about "pot metal" around the terminals: That stuff is plastic, not pot metal, so don't be mean to it or get it hot!
Otherwise, good luck with your starter repairs. These starters are as close to a bulletproof design as ever came down the pike, and this design was used for many years, so any parts store will have a rebuilt one on the shelf, if you don't like the idea of rebuilding one yourself.
Question from Kenyon (1973):
I replaced the starter in my 1973 with a chain parts-store "heavy duty" unit. -Lifetime warranty!
When the car is stopped after a prolonged run on the open road of 20 minutes or more, the car will refuse to start until the engine compartment/block has cooled significantly, maybe 40 minute-worth. This does not happen in stop & go around town stuff, and the starter works strongly and well otherwise.
When the symptom occurs, the relay on the solenoid can be heard to lightly click, but no physical movement of any sort occurs in the starter. No audible click as heard when the battery is low, so I'm assuming that the entire thing's expanded so far that it is just seized up. Works great upon cool-down immediately after.
I'm suspecting that the starter is not defective, but is being exposed to too much heat from the non-stock exhaust pipe that runs within inches of the starter.
Before I go and try to fiddle around with fabricating a sheet-metal heat shield or buying heat insulating wrapping for the pipe, is there something that I'm not understanding here?
I had this happen in my Pontiac when it had the wrong size battery in it. Not saying that's your cause but a comment.
I had the same problem with my '57 starter!! After a long driving, if I stop the car for a while, the solenoid "clicks" but the starter hesitates a few 0.5 s before cranking. It doesn't happen when: the engine is cold (after 5 or 6 hours) if I start immediately after 1 or 2 mn. Yes, the ignition timing is right ... I've arrived at the same conclusions as you: too much heat from pipe (but I've stock cast iron manifold). I know that '55 or '56 hemi have heat shield starter.
Reply from Ted:
My '55 does the same thing after a drive. Let it sit for a few minutes and it won't start, but turns over slowly. After cooling, it will start (if there is any juice in the 6-volt battery left!) and it will also start when cold. I wonder if the car is vapor locking at the carb-especially if the carb leaks a little gas down the manifold--
Had the same problem on a 70 Dart, stock iron manifolds. Problem was the solenoid on the starter.
There are several things which could effect no start when hot. First of which is the possibility of heat expansion due to the non stock manifold/ exhaust. You may try to rig a temporary heat shield to see if that improves the condition. Failing in that I would suspect the starter itself. You say it is a rebuilt from a chain store. They are not the best place to buy a rebuild from. I have have some failures when I went that route. There may be some misalignment or warpage in the shaft in the armature which when it heats up causes it to bind. There is also the possibility that the rebuilder did not do a proper job cutting the commutator. Which you would not know with out disassembling the starter. I assume you did not have this problem with the old starter before it gave up. Since it is life time I would next proceed to getting a different starter.
Heat has nothing to do with it. The rebuilt starter is probably defective, or starting the vehicle numerous times with low battery voltage can damage the contact points within the starter. The starter relay can be checked by using the screwdriver jumper test between the hot post and the starter lead. If the starter actuates, its the relay.
Before you spend any money at all, do the following test:
Next time this happens, leap out of the car with a screwdriver in hand, and jump from the "B" terminal on the starter relay to the wire which goes down to the starter (it is probably a brown #10 but check me on that, I don't have a 73 manual). You should see a healthy spark when you make connection, and the starter should spring into action. If you've left the key on, the car will start. If doing that makes the car crank, you have the dreaded and all too common MOPAR starter relay problem. The cure for that is to go to your friendly local NAPA store with the old relay in hand, and match it up as closely as you can.
All of us MOPAR drivers have had this happen, sooner or later.
If doing the screwdriver dance doesn't elicit a spark or if the starter sparks but doesn't crank, you have either a bad starter solenoid, or a bad starter (respectively), and the cure is to rebuild or replace the starter. I just did this exact repair on my 67 Convertible (in my case it was the starter solenoid - the copper disk was corroded about 84,000 miles worth. I turned it over to use the other side, cleaned and lubed everything else, and Bob's my uncle again!).
One thing to remember that is VERY important when you do this test is to make SURE the trans is in Park or Neutral. If not and you hot wire the starter by this technique, the car can start in gear. Don't ask me how I know this....
Not quite related to the starter, but I've been warned against header wraps because they keep so much heat in that the pipes might warp. Headers are expensive.
If you have room for it, you might want to put a small heat shield between the starter and the pipe, alternatively, get a small Dakota starter as it would give you a little more room.
I wonder if the starter maybe is out of lubrication, if you've had it a small eternity, maybe the slight thermal expansion and lack of grease makes it bind. Could be time to remove and go through the starter.
Question from Boyd:
We have a problem with the starter motor. It worked just fine but for just to be sure we had the starter engine checked at the local electrical shop. After reinstall the motor, it just won't stop starting after turning the ignition key to the starting position and release it. It keeps starting, also if we removed the terminal post connection of the solenoid. We connected the terminal post switch to the battery terminal, also to be sure that the problem cannot be the ignition contact switch or the neutral safety switch. When trying it, after removing the starter motor of the car, it just works fine. Any ideas?Reply from John:
It sounds like you need a real good engine flush and or radiator rebuild--- after that many years those radiators and heater cores can get really plugged up....
Question from Rob (1982):
I am now pretty certain that my starter is messed up. Won't be able to mess with it too much over the next week or so. I tried the fuel down the wing nut trick, once it seemed to work and once it didn't. Is there any reason I shouldn't use starter fluid? I really don't want to carry gas around.
The car has a moderate shudder at highway speeds. Particularly on coasting. Is this likely the lock up converter? I'm wondering if that may be related to the starter problem, since it occaisionally sounds like the teeth are off.
I seem to recall that your starter would stop turning even after it had been engaged, - and while you were still holding the key in the start position? - Is that correct? If so, - then there is definetly something wrong, - with the starter itself, or perhaps the starter relay, - or maybe even the ignition switch. Coudl also be the neutral-safety switch in the transmission I suppose. Easy enough to check, - using a test light, - hold it on the starter relay connector that goes to the starter (that is probably a brown wire, - about a 12 gauge). As long as the relay is energized (key in the start position), - you should have voltage here. If it goes away, - the starter will stop turning. If it does go away, - then hook the test light to the small (18ga) yellow wire. This wire should also show battery voltage whenever the key is in the start position. If it goes away, - suspect the ignition switch. If this stays on, and the starter still quits turning, - then you need to check the signal from the N/S switch. You can do this with the test light too. Connect the "ground" end of the light to the battery POS terminal. Now anything "grounded" that you touch with the end of the test light will show "voltage". Touch the small brown with yellow tracer wire (20 gauge, - very small), - this wire supplies the ground to the starter realy via the N/S switch. If you lose a voltage reading here during cranking, - then replace the N/S switch on the transmission (there is also a 3-way connector over on the pass side of the engine, - near the firewall, - this wire is one of these three. Be sure the connector and it's wires are OK). If all the above checks out, - then the problem is either with the starter itself, - or for some strange reason, - you are losing the battery feed to it (you might check the BIG connection at the starter, - it comes directly from the battery POS post, - and be sure that the battery "end" is OK). On a possibly related note, - I have noticed that these cars have just barely enough wiring to reach from the firewall area (more specifically the starter relay) to the battery, and anytime a battery terminal has been replaced (where they cut off the old one and install one of those "temporary" ends (that's what they are - "temporary"), - that after that has been done, the wiring becomes even shorter (no matter how many times you cut it off, - it's *still* too short) - all you have to do is "lean" on the wiring over in that area (driver's side, - under the hood), and you will pull the starter feed wire (the 12ga brown one) right off the starter relay, - so check this first. I have been successful at moving the wiring around enough to make up for this, - with no further problems. Probably depends on how many times the battery terminal has been replaced though............
"Shudder"? The torque converter clutch is often the cause of "shudder", - but not unless you are "on the gas" some, - won't do it if "coasting" (de-cel), - or even just "cruising". Could be a brake caliper starting to cause problems (seizing up some).
Starting fluid would indeed work just as well as dribbling a little gas into the throttle body, - but might be more of a hassle getting it in there (taking the air cleaner lid off every time *would* be a hassle). Might be OK to just slide the fresh-air hose off and spray it in the "snorkle" I would suppose.
If your starter is refusing to crank when you twist the key, the problem could be anywhere in the various lockout and safety features. Before you spend money on a new starter, check those items yourself.
The main thing to verify is whether or not there is 12 volts on the large brown wire which goes from the starter control relay down to the starter. This is the only brown #12 wire (large!) on the relay. Get your test probe on that contact while someone tries to crank the car. If you see 12 volts there but the starter ain't crankin', you have a bad starter. If you DON'T see 12 volts there, the problem is elsewhere. I don't recall your name, but I think we went over this for someone else with starter problems a week or so ago - if that was you, dig out what to check in what order.
Further on the starter - I've only guessed at what you mean by "messed up". If you mean you hear expensive sounding noises from time to time from the starter/ring gear interface, that is another kettle of fish - you must investigate this and SOON, because if you screw up your ring gear, you will really be "messed up"!
The fuel down the wing nut trick is a way to sort out whether "refusal to run" problems are fuel or ignition related. If your problem is occasional refusal to CRANK, that is what we were discussing above. If you have a separate problem such as ---: the starter cranks OK but the engine does not start running on its own,---- then is the time to try the fuel in the air cleaner trick. If that is what you did and it worked once, but not another time, I think you're having intermittent ignition problems, not fuel problems, but try it a few more times and keep records - we'll dope out what is happening when. Please don't use starting fluid - it is very hard on the bearings, and you don't need it. By the way, "starting fluid" is ether - much more flammable than a small container of gas. I can understand your reluctance to carry a few ounces of gas with you, but I think that is more due to years of being warned not to do this.
I personally do not worry about 2 ounces of gas in a small metal screw top can (like a brake fluid can). No matter what disaster you contemplate, there are so many other sources of flammable substances in your car that this is truly worrying about fly specks in the pepper. That's an opinion - others may disagree, and that's fine, lets not have a flame war about it (pun intended).
Any noise from the starter/ring gear area needs a quick look to see what is happening there. While I am used to having to shim 454 starters, I have not had that problem on any mopars, although the earlier cars with 413/440s have shim plates. I think you can remove the dust cover and just look to see what the situation is if you can get it up on jacks stands or trustworthy ramps.
Shudder on coasting has nothing to do with the transmission, except possibly in the last few seconds when it is downshifting to first as you come to a stop. The shudder that is related to the transmission is caused by a worn lock-up clutch in the torque converter. Worn lock-up torque converters begin to groan and maybe shudder a little on engagement. This happens when accelerating gently at the speed when the lock-up clutch is supposed to engage - usually around 45 MPH, depending on throttle position. It is a symptom of wear and slippage of the lock-up clutch. It is not a serious problem, you can drive for years with this symptom. Someone on the list was pulling his engine for some other reason, and I advised him to have the converter rebuilt at the same time since he had already done 90% of the labor involved.
Shudder on coasting sounds to me like a bent wheel or perhaps tire with a blister on it. If you have the snowflake wheels, they don't bend (they break instead!), but if you have the steel wheels (the ones with the fake wire wheel covers), they are normal steel wheels and they will bend when they hit an obstruction. It's also possible that your front end is so loose that you have shimmy coming in at some road speed and surface condition. So take the car to an alignment shop and have them inspect the wheels, tires and front end for problems. If that doesn't get it, next you need to check into motor mounts, possible bent driveline - and the list goes on. I can't imagine a way in which the starter could be involved, but I learn something new every day, so if this turns out to be related, please tell me how. I don't understand what you mean by "teeth are off", but if you suspect the starter is touching the ring gear when the engine is running, check that out right now - see above.
Question from Rob (1982):
You may remember that my car has several issues. For one, the car would not always crank. Pursuant to instructions from Dick B and Dave Grove I used a test light on the relay and determined juice as getting to the starter. I ordered a mini-starter from Mancini. Well, when I finally got the old starter off I found out at least one tooth is missing off the ring gear. How big of a deal is this? The gear on the old starter is fine, but this can't be good. What am I supposed to do now? How the heck does this even happen?
I have some time to decide about this because the ear broke off the brand new ministarter when I was putting it on. Just past finger tight it just snapped. To Mancini's credit they said to ship it back and they will send a new one. Almost no questions asked. Needless to say, I spent the weekend on my back, cursing. Be glad you don't live near me.
Missing teeth on the ring gear for an automatic is a pretty big deal. Ring gear is welded to the torque converter and to replace one needs to pull the transmission to get the converter out. When going that far, I think I would replace the converter with a new one rather than replace the ring gear on the old converter.
Many cars that are on the road have "a" missing tooth on the flywheel. One way that happens is when the car doesn't start easily, and the starter is actuated and re-actuated many times without letting it fully stop in between. Another way is that the Bendix drive begins to fail and doesn't engage properly. This can "nick" a tooth, and eventually break it and others until starting the car becomes nearly impossible, either from the lack of teeth on the fly wheel or the total failure of the Bendix drive.
One tooth isn't so bad, but there are times when the engine stops in just the right (or wrong) position to make the starter only partially engage in the tooth. That puts stress on the next tooth, and sometimes even break it. The more teeth that break off, the more often the starter will not engage, until finally you find yourself sitting in a parking lot hitting the key over and over again hoping that it will engage.
This is a disaster waiting to happen. You might as well bite the bullet and fix it while you are young and healthy.
Question from Neal (1983):
My Imperial's little sister has conked out, in about the worst possible place. I put my '83 Cordoba in the underground apartment garage I use to store the Imperial and Riviera, when I took the Riviera to Chicago on a road trip last week. When I returned on Monday, the Cordoba wouldn't start. The lights, radio, clock, windows, etc. work fine. When I turn the key there's one click, and no other life. It doesn't try to turn over at all. I tried jump starting it with the Riviera, and with a charger box that a friend has, and tried in park and in neutral. I moved the shift lever back and forth too. Nada. The car has 156,000 miles, and the battery is exactly 5 years old. It has given no indication it's failing, and if it was, then why do the lights work? I suspect the starter, but have also heard from friends that it could be a ballast resistor or a neutral safety switch, which I had to replace in the Imperial two months ago. Do I have these in this car, with a 318 cid v-8?
Trying to get the Cordoba out of the garage will be a real b**ch, with a curving driveway up an incline, and a couple of turns and forward/reverses to get it out. She's my daily driver, and I really have to stop using the classic, show-car Riviera for commuting. Any thoughts, guys and gals?
Before you buy any parts, try to bypass the starter relay. On an Imperial, it is on the firewall just outside of the brake booster. My guess is that the 'doba will have it in the same place, or nearby. It will be the square electrical box with 6 or 7 wires going into it. Find the heavy one that goes down to the starter, and run a separate wire directly to that terminal. That should make your starter crank - if it does, you've narrowed down the problem to either the relay itself or the logic that enables it. Next, get someone to try the key while you listen to the relay. If you hear a click, the relay is bad. NAPA has them, for around $30. If you don't hear a click, the problem is in either the ignition switch, the neutral safety switch, or the wiring to one of those items. To start the car, turn on the key and use the bypass wire mentioned first above - drive it out in the daylight and finish your trouble shooting with a test light. If you don't have an FSM for the car, e-mail me directly and I'll tell you what color wire should have which signal on it (at least for an '81, which is probably the same).
Check your starter relay switch on the firewall.
The brown wire on the starter relay is the one to check. Mine came loose once and all I got was a click. Thought it was a dead battery.
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