The starter is the single largest power user in the car, and is only used a few times a day. The starter uses a DC motor to turn the engine crankshaft through the flywheel. This starts the combustion process by creating compression in the cylinders. This is powered directly from the battery and is controlled by a relay and/or solenoid operated from the key switch.
Starters vary in design and type, from permanent magnet types designed to reduce size and weight, to old-fashioned heavy starters. However, no matter which you use, they all function the same way. There are plently of starters out there with useful stuff that comes with them though, for example gear-reduction for higher torque.
A slow cranking engine may be a sign of a bad starter and with age, that's more and more likely. However, some cars today get this problem due to low battery voltage, poor electrical connections at the battery or a failed relay/fusible link.
Starters, on a new car, tend to live-out the car's warranty easily if it isn't overused, if it's not overheated through dirt and grime build up, and good connections are maintained.
When switching your motor on, try to switch off such power-hungry components such as the stereo, AC compressors and the like. This way there is less strain on the starter. However, some cars do come with "lock out" relays to stop this from happening, but it's a good idea anyway to stay on the safe side.
Although the starter drive can be replaced separately from the starter assembly, it's rarely recommended anymore. This is usually due to the starter involuntarily causing other parts to overheat and wear out as well. It's quite common to replace the starter drive only to have to buy another starter in a few months because the brushes wore out, a magnet broke, the solenoid failed, among other things. The starter should be replaced as a unit, and the electrical system should be checked at that same time.
Prices for rebuilt combination starter/solenoid units go from $72 (Car Quest) to 89.99 (Auto Zone). The job itself is quite quick, and should only take a few minutes as the starter literally drops right out. Be careful that it does not hit you in the forehead :). If you want it done down a a mechanic's shop, you may have to pay for the labour. This may vary from shop to shop, so check first.
As a safety precaution, Be SURE to disconnect the battery completely before replacing the starter!
Remember to tighten the retainer bolts to 15-20 foot pounds as well.
If you get stuck, here's a step by step guide:
First, you will need:
- 10mm Socket
- 15mm socket deep
- 13mm socket deep
- 3/8 Wrench
- Plently of wd-40 or liquid wrench
- Screwdriver or small prybar
If you don't know what these are, the clerk at any hardware store should be able to help you.
Now, first you have to know where it is. It really isn't that hard to locate it if you know what it looks like (the actual location may vary with different cars). It is connected up to the ignition switch via two or more wires, and is also connected to the battery. The best way I can describe it is that it looks like a cheap sci-fi gun. I'm being serious. It should be round and resemble a printing press. If your still having trouble, follow this link to some pictures of different types of starters:
Step 1: Make sure the Frickin' Battery is disconnected! I can't stress this enough.
Step 2: Starting with the front(nose) of the starter, using the 15mm socket, remove the nut on the starter holding two cables in place. This is a bolt/stud combo fastener.
Step 3: Now using your 1/2 inch socket remove the bolt/stud.
Step 4: Now find the second front starter bolt, it is 1/2 inch also. You may be able to get a better perspective by working on the starter by facing the front of the car.
Step 5: Now begin on the other side of the starter. Remove the positive lead from the starter. It is a 3/8 inch bolt. Make sure the battery is disconnected first!!
Step 6: Next remove the bolt on the back of the starter. It is a 10mm bolt. This will free you from a holding bracket. The other side of the bracket is attached with a 10mm bolt also. Loosen it.
Step 7: You should be able to remove the old starter now. It might be tight, so keep trying if it doesn't come out at first (however, this may be because you forgot something from the prevous steps). I should also let you know that you may have to to use a breaker bar on the two 1/2 inch bolts. No rust either.
These should not be that tight.
Step 8:Remove by pulling toward the front of the vehicle. Once you know where everything is, it isn't hard to place a new one in and connect it up. When connecting, run through the steps backwards for help.
Things to watch out for: O2 sensor and oil cooler. They are easy to bump.