How to Replace the Old Starter?


A car or truck starter is a vital system component for all modern and semi-modern engines. Before the days of starters, engines were cranked by hand – an inconvenient and sometimes dangerous activity given the ability of engines to backlash and break arms. However, even with the convenience of starters comes the truth that they do break down. Replacing an old starter is not normally a difficult process and this article will help you locate, remove and replace your starter.

1. Finding the starter

Engine starters work by turning the flywheel, a large gear connected to the crankshaft, which sets the internal combustion process into motion. By using power from the battery, the starter gear moves into place to meet the flywheel and the starter motor cranks the engine. After the ignition is turned from start to run, the starter motor ceases to turn and the gear returns to a rest position. Because this process occurs literally thousands of times during a starter’s lifetime, the part does wear out eventually.

Two clues to starter location will help you find it – the starter must meet the flywheel and the starter must have power cables. In rear-wheel drive vehicles, the starter should be toward the rear of the engine and underneath the flywheel assembly. In front-wheel drive vehicles, the starter is usually to the front of the engine, between the engine and transaxle assemblies and underneath.

2. Removing the starter

Prior to all work on engine starters, disconnect the battery and isolate the cables in such a way that they will not ever contact the battery, even accidentally! Safety should be your first priority – starters are cheap compared to medical bills.

Once the battery is disconnected and the engine has no possibility of cranking with you underneath it, remove the power cables to the starter. Take note of which cables were attached to which terminals – the new starter should be installed the same way the old one was removed. If the cables are disconnected, unbolt the starter from its housing on the block. Remove the old starter but retain the bolts used to reattach the cables and starter housing.

As a special note, now would be a great time to take your old starter to a parts supply store or mechanic to have it tested. If it still works, there is really no sense in buying a brand new starter to fix a problem that you do not have.

3. Installing the new starter

Installation of the new starter should be the absolute reverse of removal. Most starters require only to have their housings bolted into place and their power cables reattached in the proper locations. Don’t mix up the cables – you don’t want your starter to attempt to run in reverse. After the starter is firmly in place and correctly wired, reattach the battery cables to the battery and attempt to crank the engine.

4. Notes about buying new starters

New starters do not have to be original equipment; in fact, they can be after-market parts and do just as well. Just be sure that you are aware whether you are purchasing a new starter or a re-manufactured unit from your supplier. While re-manufactured units often are cheaper than brand new units, they also pose a greater risk for premature failure than to new units. If you can afford the extra cost, the longer warranty period and the unnecessary nature of having to get back under the car and work on the starter again may be worth it. If not, be sure to get some reviews about particular re-manufactured brands before purchasing one.

Replacing the old starter in your car or truck is not a difficult task if you feel up to the challenge. Keep the tips mentioned above in mind as you tackle the job and you are sure to be successful. Remember, if in doubt, safety first and read the manual!

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