How to Replace a Starter Motor
Skirt Under the Engine Compartment
Starter Motor Clicks but Nothing Happens
You get into your car and turn the key the normal whirling sound of the starter motor engaging is missing instead what you hear is the dreaded click, click, click. Dam you mutter a dead battery. Ok jump start the car and get going. Nope that does work. Now you’re getting angry and frustrated. You realize this is probably more than a dead battery. You could have starter motor problems. Replacing a starter solenoid can be expensive; money you need for other things like food, mortgage payment, gas and medicine. It is at this point that you need to step back, take a breath and clear your mind. This is not a major problem. You can fix it yourself for the cost of the part. So what is the first step?
Splash Guard for the Starter Housing
Analyze the Starter Motor Problem
Analyze the problem. The Car won’t start but the starter motor is getting some electricity otherwise it would not even make the clicking sound. Get your volt meter out and check the battery voltage. If the voltage is low take the battery to the auto parts store and have them check it and charge it. The battery checks out but the car still won’t start. You still get the clicking sound. Now what? This is the point when you change into work clothes and break out the jack, jack stands, and wheel chocks. You are going to be going under the car. You may need to replace the starter.
Starter Motor Bolt Holes
The Two Bolts
How Do You Replace a Starter Motor?
Changing the starter motor is one of the easiest repair jobs you can do yourself and it will save you a lot of money. Repair shops and dealerships are charging anywhere from $45.00 an hour (extremely cheap) to over $100 an hour (outrageously expensive) in labor charges. Then they hit you for the parts. If you tackle this simple car repair job you can save a lot of money.
Removal and replacement of the starter motor in most vehicles is almost as simple as changing your battery. There are two mounting bolts which attach the starter motor to the engine block and two leads which send power to the starter motor. If you can use a wrench you can do this job.
Preparing The Car
First thing you need to do, whenever you are working on your engine or any of the components, is to disconnect the negative battery cable. Second; following all safety procedures for jacking your vehicle (chock the wheels), jack up the front of the car and place your jack stands under the frames. You are now ready to begin work.
Most cars have a skirt running along the front of the engine compartment. It is a piece of hard vacuum formed plastic held in place by wing nuts. Remove the nuts and remove the skirt. With the skirt removed you can now see where the starter motor is located. On most rear-wheel drive engines it is located on the passenger side of the engine compartment. On front wheel drive engines it is located in the back of the engine compartment. You can miss it. It is bolted to the engine block right in front of the flywheel.
Starter post terminal
Other Terminal Post
Remove and Replace the Starter
Once you have located the starter motor, you will notice three wires connected to the rear of the starter motor, these have to be disconnected. Two of those wire go on to the same terminal post. After the wires have been disconnected, inspect them for corrosion and rust if they are dirty clean them with fine sandpaper. Inspect the posts look for the same thing and clean them if necessary. Reconnect the wires, connect the negative battery cable, make sure the car is in park or neutral and try to start the engine. If it starts then you’re your starter problem was most likely a bad connection. If the car doesn’t start disconnect the negative battery terminal and wires to the starter motor. You now need to remove the starter motor and take it to the auto parts store. There are numerous causes of starter motor problems the auto parts store has a machine that can pinpoint a lot of these problems and save you time.
There are two bolts holding the starter motor in place. Locate those bolts and find the correct size socket and remove them. On late model cars starter motor are extremely heavy so be careful. On new model cars starter motors are fairly light and easy to handle with one hand. With the two bolts out and the wires disconnected the starter motor just has to be removed from the engine compartment. Know that you have the starter out, have it checked and buy a replacement if necessary. Installing the starter is the reveres of the removal procedures. Bolt the starter to the engine block. Attach the wires, connect the battery and you are ready to go.
Front End of the Starter
A trained mechanic can do this job in approximately 30 minutes depending on the year make and model of the car. It will probably take you about an hour again depending on the model of the car. A starter motor can cost you anywhere from $140.00 and up on American made cars. So factoring in labor, approximately 45 minutes, at $80.00 an hour, the part at $140.00, the tow at $25.00 and tax you would have spent at a minimum $240.00. Doing this repair yourself will cost you the price of the part; approximately $140.00 plus tax.
Always follow proper safety procedures and repair instruction stated in the repair manual for your particular car. Repair procedures differ from car to car. This article is informative only and should be used as a general guide to completing this type of repair. All cost are estimates at the time of this writing.
More by this Author
One of the frustrating things about unclogging a pipe is the fact that a hand held plumber’s snake just can’t penetrate massive clogs. You keep pushing the snake in and all it does is coil up...
On the Chevrolet (GM) 3.1-l engine, intake manifold gaskets can fail and damage the cylinder heads. DIY replacing the gaskets and removing the heads is possible with the right tools and manual.