Trouble shooting a starter

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    As a former city kid, I’m learning to be a mechanic. I was starting my Pierece, the starter growled a few times then nothing. All my connections to the battery are tight,I tried pushing the starter button on top of the starter by hand and nothing. What else can I do to see if I can get the starter to work,the battery Is new, and I have power. The starter always turned slowly, rotated many times before the car ‘fired up”

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Robert Krauss”



    I think you need to remove it and take it apart. The first thing is to check the brushes and make sure that they are not hung up or are too worn to touch the commutator.

    Next you should look at that starter switch that sits on top of the starter. You’re likely to see burned areas on the copper cup that contacts both the starter and the end terminal when the switch is pressed down.

    I would also remove the armature from the starter so that you can check the bearings, clean everything and oil the bearings.

    Good luck,



    Thank you Bill, I’ll give It a try



    The problem may well be in the starter, but before you go to that level of work, try a few more simple things. 1. Is the battery good under load? Do you have a load tester to actually test the battery? Not just turning the headlights on. These starters draw a lot of current, and a marginal battery may be simply unable to provide the stall current needed to get the engine turning. 2. You said the “connections are tight”. But, are they clean? If the battery tests good, it is easy enough to remove the battery clamps and clean the posts as well as the inside of the clamps so you have nice shiny non-oxidozed surfaces. Then, check the other end of the ground cable where it connects to the frame. Is the ground cable really grounded to the frame through a nice shiny patch of steel on the frame? Perhaps with a star washer that is biting into the steel? 3. Do you have good stout cables on the battery? Not wimpy little 4 AWG cables. They need to be large cross section copper cables. Some guys are using 00 AWG cable or larger to carry the starting current. Any excess resistance in the starting circuit is a problem that may prevent starting.

    If you are convinced that all the connection points are good and that you have good conductors between the battery and the starter, and the battery tests good under load, then I agree with Bill, the problem is probably in the starter….liely the brushes.


    I will highly suggest you make an additional ground cable from the + post over the transmission, and install the soldered-on loop under one of the 3 starter mounting bolts. If properly routed, the additional cable is not noticeable.

    The reason for this is that the original ground cable attaches to the right side steel frame rail. The engine mounts are riveted onto the frame, the engine is then bolted to the frame mount. The starter is then bolted to the engine. With each of these connections, there is inevitably some corrosion, loose or partial electrical connectivity. The result is poor current carrying ability.

    Installing a stand-alone battery-to-starter ground cable usually results in a NOTICEABLY faster cranking speed.

    Once you have established a good, high-current capable electrical supply, then see if the starter cranks the engine. Usually the commutator is coated in oil, or the brushes are worn, or hanging up [sticking] in their guides.

    Let us know how the repairs progress.

    Greg Long


    Greg, the extra ground cable is a great idea.

    Chris’ suggestions of making sure you know you have proper electrical connections going to the battery before troubleshooting the starter is also a great idea.

    Solving electrical problems can sometimes seem like voodoo science but good practices and a logical progression from source to load can greatly reduce troubleshooting headaches.


    Thank you all for the great Ideas. It may be a week before I get to It, leaf raking and wood cutting Is a high priority at the moment, as I try to heat our house with wood, It’s cheaper than electricity.

    Bob Krauss

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