Tech / Tech Articles

Starter Sleuth: Solving Common Aftermarket Starter Problems

 

Summit Racing Protorque Starter

What’s more frustrating than an old, worn out starter that just won’t turn over? How about a brand new starter that won’t crank over…or engage properly…or fit correctly?

We don’t wish that on anyone, especially after you’ve spent part of your weekend installing the new starter. That’s why we’ve worked with the tech advisors at Summit Racing to put together this quick guide to troubleshooting starters. You’ll find that you can diagnose and fix many new starter-related issues right in your home garage. Start with these common problems:

Problem: Starter does not turn or turns over slowly when key is turned.

Solution #1: Check the rest of the electrical system for the correct voltage, grounds, and wiring. Often, the starter is misdiagnosed as the culprit for electrical system problems when the problem really lies in some other area of the system.

Solution #2: Check your battery voltage and make sure it is sufficient to turn your new starter. Most starters require at least 9.6 volts to turn over correctly.

Solution #3: Check your battery cables and make sure they are in good shape. Bad cables will not deliver the full current flow needed operate the starter.

Solution #4: Clean the starter mounting surface. Most starters are grounded through the mounting block, and if there is excessive oil or paint on the block, the starter will have a faulty ground.

Solution #5: If your vehicle has a neutral safety switch, make sure it is operational. If this switch is bad or not properly wired, the starter will not operate correctly. You can check by attaching a jumper wire between the safety switch terminal and the main terminal on the starter. If it turns over with the key, the switch is either bad or wired incorrectly.

Solution #6: Confirm that you purchased a starter designed to work with your engine’s compression ratio. Engines with 11:1 or higher compression generally require a high-torque, gear-reduction starter. Otherwise, the engine will turn over slowly.

Problem: Starter does not engage or disengage properly.

Solution #1: Due to variances in design between manufacturers, you may need to install or remove starter shims between the starter mounting block and engine. If the starter is engaging too hard, install shims at the mounting point. If there’s not enough engagement, the starter is not catching enough teeth on the flexplate, and you’ll need to remove the shims.

Solution #2 (Ford only): Confirm that your starter was designed to work with your transmission. Ford uses two different offset starters, depending on the transmission being used.

Solution #3 (Chevy only): Confirm that your starter was made for your flexplate or flywheel. Chevy engines uses two different tooth count flexplate/flywheels—the 153-tooth and the 168-tooth.

 

Problem: Starter failed shortly after installation.

Solution #1: Confirm that you purchased a starter designed to work with your engine’s compression ratio. Engines with 11:1 or higher compression generally require a high-torque, gear-reduction starter. Otherwise, the engine will turn over slowly.

Solution #2: Check the position of your starter in relation to your headers. If your starter is continuously heat soaked from exhaust heat, chances are it will fail early. You’ll either need a different starter design, or you’ll have to install a starter heat shield with your next starter.

Solution #3: Clean the starter mounting surface. Most starters are grounded through the mounting block, and if there is excessive oil or paint on the block, the starter will have a faulty ground. This will cause the starter to pull excessive amps, making it overheat and wear out.

 

Problem: Starter does not bolt up correctly.

Solution: General Motors used two different mounting patterns on Chevy blocks: inline and staggered. If you have a Chevy engine block, make sure your starter has the correct bolt pattern for your engine.

             

Problem: Starter does not fit with my headers.

Solution #1: For starters with “clockable” mounting blocks, you’ll need to experiment with the different mounting positions. If this doesn’t work, you may need to swap your starter for an adjustable mounting block starter.

Solution #2 (Chevy applications): Confirm the mounting block of the starter is attached to the engine correctly. Often, these blocks are installed upside down, making it impossible to achieve the correct starter position.

 

 

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21 Comments

    • Alison, thanks for reading! It sounds like your starter may be turning a bit slow, and there can be a few possible causes for this: The reserve capacity of your battery may be insufficient, so make sure it is sized correctly to the needs of your vehicle or at least sized to industry recommendation. There could also be high resistance in your starting system, causing your starter to turn a bit slow. Resistance is often caused by old battery cables or poor connections at the battery, starter, or engine block (grounds). Bottom line is if the starter motor can’t turn the engine fast enough, it has to endure the loading and unloading of each compression stroke.

  1. I have a 1969 camaro ss with 5 he stock engine with headers, my starter seems to work good when starting a cold engin3, but after it hearts up and I turn off the car, the starter seems to turn very slow,any ideas

    • OnAllCylinders says:

      Tony, this appears to be the typical heat soak of the stock starter due to the headers. You could try wrapping a starter blanket around the starter to reduce heat soak or go with a gear reduction starter. They do not seem to suffer the heat soak issues the factory starters do!

  2. i have a 1970 gmc 1500 with a 350 and i replaced the starter in it. i have done any where from no shims all the way up to 7 shims at once and it will start at least once with these and then will just grind on the flywheel there after until adjusted. i purchased a Starter w/ Solenoid – Remfd – Standard from NAPA for it (part # 2464795) what could be this problem because i have been told it could be the wrong starter.

    • AARON, I ALSO HAD THE SAME PROBLEMS. AFTER MUCH MEASURING, AND THREE STARTERS, I FOUND TWO FLYWHEEL TO CONVERTER BOLTS LOOSE AND ONE STRIPPED. REPLACED THE STRIPPED ONE AND TIGHTENED ALL. STILL WOULD NOT ENGAGE. FOUND THE STARTER DRIVE WAS NOT ENGAGING THE FLYWHEEL. DIDN’T GO TO END OF THE SHAFT. REPLACED THE STARTER, NEEDED NO SHIMS, STARTS EVERY TIME AND DOESN’T MAKE ANY NASTY NOISES. HOPE THIS HELPS.

  3. Just replaced the starter in my 2000 GMC Jimmy, it had intermittent problems where it wouldnt catch, would grind, shifting to neutral and rocking the car, then starting would often get it going again. New starter works great, old starter had the half of each tooth on the gear worn off, and the gear was loose, could slide back and forth freely on the pin. (what on earth would have caused this, and why would the old one have worked for so long?) Glad I replaced it, just wish I knew what caused it, and why it even worked the way it was.

  4. I have a 1985 Ford ranger with a 2.8l v6 . When I try to start my truck all I hear is the starter make a whizzing sound . Any advice ?

    • OnAllCylinders says:

      Thanks for reading, Geoffrey. There are a lists of tests you can do, but it is too lengthy to share here. Call the Summit tech line at 330-630-0240 as we have shared you issue with them.

  5. So if the starter isn’t touching the block that means its not grounded and that will keep it from turning over right? I installed a brand new high torque starter on my sbc and after I tried to start it with no luck, I notices it still had space in between the starter and the black and that I need to install some shims…

  6. My third replacement starter works fine when the engine is cold but has trouble engaging when restarting a hot engine, make an awful sound when starting hot. I installed a shim on the outboard mounting bolt but still have the trouble. Any suggestions? Had the same problem with the two previous new starters.
    Thanks, Pete

  7. My 92 chevy 1500 4×4 with the 350 700r4 trans is acting up. I can replace the starter and it will work perfect for a couple of days then it will start grinding horribly out of the blue. I changed all battery wires and grounds. I changed the starter bolts. Nothing is working. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? This has been going on for 5 starters now. Any help would be much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

  8. WILLIAM E. SMITH says:

    Have same problem as Issac,s 350 700r4. Please help.

  9. Gary albritton says:

    I have a new 350 chevy pre 86′ crate motor with a new high torque starter. the starter will not disengage from the flywheel. Good clearance between the starter gear and flywheel teeth, any suggestions?

  10. I have the same problem as Gary Albritton except we have a 400 motor a new high torque mini starter and it hangs in the fly wheel. Can anyone help? Driving my Husband???/

  11. My starter will not disengage without disconnect of battery. How do I fix a grounded out starter. Or do I need to replace it?

  12. Just replaced engine on 2007 charger. All back together and there is not enough voltage to engage starter. What did I miss?

  13. So I have a 94 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup and I recently replaced the starter but when I start it up it sounds like the engine is running way too hard to just be idling any ideas?

    • OnAllCylinders says:

      Jake, you’ll need to provide a few more specifics. We’d suggest you call our partners at Summit on the tech line: 330-630-0240. They can get your questions answered quickly and help you narrow down your focus.

  14. I jane an 85 z28 camaro with the 305 tpi and i made sure the i had the right starter and i used the shims that came with the starter but it is like the bandix just runs into the flywheel and the old starter had horizontal cracks in the housing when it broke the engine was running up until the starter broke. I need some help with this one.

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