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Replacing Starters Solenoids

By: · August 17, 2009

One of life’s great ironies is that you generally don’t know you need to replace your starter or solenoid until you’ve already gone through the trouble of checking out your battery and cables for wear and corrosion, and perhaps having the battery charged. Such a clean up is a good idea before beginning a starter replacement. Vehicles that have starter-mounted solenoids should have the solenoid replaced as well…

Don’t start the job until you’ve completely read these instructions.
Gather Together

Wrenches and sockets
An appropriate screwdriver
A battery-terminal puller
The starter and, if needed, solenoid specific to your vehicle and engine
Jackstands or drive-on ramps, if needed
Installing the Starter

Make sure the engine is cool.

If you need to work on the starter from beneath, roll the vehicle onto ramps or jack up the front end and lower it onto jackstands. Observe all recommended safety precautions and make doubly sure the rear wheels are blocked.

Check that the ignition key is in the OFF position.

Loosen the negative battery-cable bolt and remove the cable from the terminal with a terminal puller.

Detach the battery/starter cable from the solenoid or starter.

If working with a starter-mounted solenoid, remove any additional wires, noting their respective positions.

Usually two or three bolts attach the starter horizontally through the mounting flange. General Motors vehicles use vertical bolts, and you may find shims between the starter block and the engine. If this is the case, don’t lose them (or it)—you’ll need it (or them) to mount the new starter.

If there is a support bracket on the front of the starter, remove it.

Drop the starter out of the car. This can be a chore. You might have to turn the wheels, or, on some Fords, disconnect an idler arm. Oil pressure sending units, transmission oil cooler lines or brackets, the ground strap, the exhaust pipe, a crossmember, or the housing cover for the flywheel may have to be loosened or removed to provide adequate clearance.

Mount the new starter, reversing the procedure used to remove the old one. You GM do-it-yourselfers have no doubt reinstalled the original shim(s), and have done a fine job of doing so, but if there is any extra engine noise or starter whine when you crank it up, shim adjustment may be called for. A starter noise when you crank the engine means you need to either remove one full-length shim or add one short shim to the outboard pad. A high-pitched whine after the engine is running calls for adding full-length shims one at a time (but no more than four) until the whine disappears.

Re-hook the battery/starter cable, along with the additional wires that may be present in starter-mounted solenoid situations.
Installing Solenoids

For panel-mounted solenoids:

Disconnect the negative (grounded) battery cable, the line to the starter, and any small wires, noting their locations.

Unscrew mounting screws, and pull off the solenoid.

Install the new solenoid, reattach all wires and cables, and tighten all connections.
For starter-mounted solenoids:

Remove the starter.

Locate the field coil strap on the solenoid terminal, and remove.

Unscrew mounting bolts and screws and remove the solenoid. Rotating the housing may be required. You may find the starter’s plunger and spring to be loose. On other solenoids, the plunger stays in the unit, and the end will have to be jimmied off with the starter shift lever.

Reversing the order of removal, install the new solenoid. For plungers attached to the solenoid, engage the plunger with the starter shift lever, making sure the spring is properly situated between the plunger and solenoid shell. Holding the shell in place, tighten the attaching screws and/or bolts.

Reattach all wires and cabling.

Installation Tips

Make sure all of your supplies and tools are close at hand before starting the job.

Take your time.

Raise and secure the vehicle properly using jackstands, tire chocks and the vehicle’s parking brake, as necessary.

A repair manual specific to your vehicle may provide valuable details that this article cannot address.

If the car hasn’t cooled adequately, wait, and in the meantime, beware of hot objects.

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