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Your Starter worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Starting in all-weather with the starter
The starter or starter motor can be found in every engine of a car or truck. It engages the engine and makes the car ready for driving.
Construction and position of the starter
In most cars the starter sits easily accessible on the top or on the side of the engine block. It can be identified by the two cables and its cylinder shape. The main three starter components are: pinion gear, solenoid and electric motor. The electric motor of a starter is very powerful and generates a high torque. This is sufficient to move the car several metres in case of emergency.
The turning of the ignition key switches on an electro-magnet, causing the solenoid to engage a lever that pushes out the drive pinion on the starter drive shaft and meshes the pinion with the starter ring gear on the engine's flywheel. As soon as the cogwheels make contact, the transmission is established. A circuit is closed and the engine is started by the starter motor. A small, though very strong electric motor runs the engine as long as the ignition key is kept in the starter position. Modern cars therefore have an on-off switch, preventing damage to the starter when the key is held in the starter position too long. When the key is disengaged, the magnetic field collapses. A spring pulls the starter drive gear in and the starter stops.
Defects of a starter
Starters are generally very robust components, not particularly susceptible to wear. During their short function period they are exposed to high forces. Therefore is possible that the pinion breaks off, the gear wheel wears or the electric motor burns through. In most cases the cables are the cause of a non-functional starter. The high voltage necessary for starting advances corrosion of the electric contacts. It makes sense to clean the contacts before replacing the entire starter.
Repair and replacement of a starter
In very exceptional cases the starter is installed at an awkward location. In the Cadillac Northstar for example it sits under the exhaust manifold. In most cars the starter is very accessible. It is fixed to the engine block with four to six screws. It can simply be unscrewed and replaced by a new component. Repairing a starter is almost impossible. Its housing consists of die-cast aluminium which is generally riveted. In case of a burned coil of the electric magnet or motor a repair makes no sense at all, because it would turn out to be more expensive than replacement. Starters have a tendency to react sensibly to penetrating fluids. Whether it is oil, water or petrol: if the engine leaks, the starter can get damaged sooner or later. However, it should be able to withstand an engine wash. Replacement of a starter requires repairing all possible leakages. This considerably contributes to a longer life span of a new starter. If you notice corroded electric connections at replacement of a starter, the contacts of the ignition coil and the battery have to be checked. The corrosion can be very advanced here too. By polishing the contacts and applying a bit of grease for sealing, these weak points are quickly resolved.
Purchase of a new starter motor
Before the internet age, the only option in case of a defective starter in an older car was a visit to the recycler for repairing the car in a more or less affordable manner. You paid half a days' wages for a used component of unknown age and durability. These times belong to the past. Prices for starters have come down drastically. Installing a used starter is therefore useless as well as unnecessary. Prices for new branded quality start at ca. 80 EUR (c. £71). In view of these cheap prices a defective starter is no longer the scrapheap signal for a car.