Starter Motor Repair




Introduction: Starter Motor Repair

About: Fixer, Finder, Fabricator. I teach engineering to high school students, at St Marys Secondary College in Nathalia VIC Australia

This instuctable will show you how to repair a starter motor off a Toyota  Corolla FXGT. with a 4AGE engine. don't worry if your car is not the same, most Japanese starter motors are very similar and this guide will get you through most of them.

Step 1: Stuff You Will Need.

First thing to is to check out the price of a new starter motor, There is no point repairing the old one, if it is going to cost you more than a new one.  Ebay is a good place to look, also your local auto electrician is worth a phone call.
Tools required
1. socket set
2. set of spanners
3. screwdrivers
4. soldering Iron or torch
5. pliers, side-cutters
6. hammer
7. oil
8. rags
around 3 hours

Step 2: Diagnosis

A faulty starter motor can sound like a flat battery, the engine turns over slowly or not at all, sometimes you can see the battery terminals and leads smoke or get hot due to the high currents been drawn by the faulty starter. First thing, check for other faults. The best way to check the battery is with a load tester but these are expensive, and there are ways around it.  Put a volt meter on the battery, it should read, around 12.6 volts.  If it is as low as 12.2 volts then charge the battery. Check battery cables are clean and tight and in good condition. If all is good then the best way to check the battery  and starter motor is to remove the battery and put it into another  vehicle. If the fault moved to the other vehicle, then you have a problem with your battery, Charge it or replace it . If you have eliminated everything else chances are that the starter is faulty.
On page 14 of this instuctable there is a guide to testing the starter motor, this can be done on the car, if you can get to the back of the starter. This can be helpful if the starter is completely dead, not clicking or anything and can help diagnosis a wiring issues with the vehicle or a dead solenoid

Step 3: Starter Removal

First thing to do when doing any repair that involves the high current cables on a motor vehicle is DISCONNECT THE BATTERY, if you skip this step you could end up injuring yourself or setting the car on fire.
Some vehicles it is easier and quicker to remove items that are in the way, rather than try and work around them. I removed the clutch cylinder, battery, O2 sensor cable and cooling fan, this didn't take long and made the job of reaching the starter bolts and physically  removing the starter much easier and required much less swearing.
On this car is was the battery cable and solenoid wire was removed from the starter after it  was pulled out. On many vehicles you should do this while the starter is still bolted on.

Step 4: Stripping the Starter

Now that you have it out find a clean work area and a container to put all the bits into. Now would be a good time to clean the outside of the starter, I just wiped it over with a petrol soaked rag, so its not all that clean
Make sure you mark the case and solenoid the  so it makes it easy to resemble as some parts can be assembled around the wrong way.
1. remove the 2 screws that hold the back cover and brushes in place
2. remove the clip and spring
3. remove the heat shield
4. disconnect the motor cable from the solenoid
5. remove the long blots that hold the motor together
6. remove the brush cover
7. carefully unclip the 2 brushes that are attached to the field windings by pulling back the spring and removing the brush.
8. remove the brush holder
9. remove the field windings
10. unbolt the solenoid and remove the armature and solenoid together.

Step 5: Assess the Damage

Thoroughly do a visual inspection of the field windings, and armature for any burnt or broken insulation, broken wires corrosion or other damage. Also check the commutator on the armature for broken or missing segments If these parts are damaged it may be cheaper to replace the whole starter motor.  The pinion gear and solenoid can also be checked for wear or damage.
This starter was quite corroded in places due to the recent flood we have had here, the brushes and bushes are worn, but the rest appears to be in reasonable condition

Step 6: Repairing the Armature and Field Windings

Remove any corrosion with wet and dry sand paper, and the commutator can be sanded and the back of a box cutter knife can be used to clean out between the segments. The insulation between the segments should be under cut to work correctly. Than an oily rag is used to wipe everything to help prevent any future corrosion.

Step 7: Purchase the Parts

After inspecting and  cleaning up everything it was decided to only replace the brushes and bushes. The bushes can be removed with socket and a hammer. The bush in the nose of the starter has a cap which can be carefully knocked out with a 1/4" drive extension. A little heat on the alloy nose will help remove the bush. 2 of the bushes are crimped on and can be carefully uncrimped and the brush removed. Take the parts and the identification plate on the field winding and the vehicles chassis number to  an auto electrical shop and they should be able to match the pars up total cost should be around $20-$30.

Step 8: Lubricating the New Bushes

The bushes are made from phosphor bronze which is porous and has to be pre-oiled or they will not  last very long. This is not to difficult just put it on your finger and fill with engine oil then place your thumb on top and squeeze. Do this 2 or 3 times until you can see the oil coming out the sides of the bush.

Step 9: Fitting the New Bushes

This step can be tricky, and if you have access to a press then use it, as you a much less likely to damage the bushes. First  make sure that the housing where the bushes fit into is clean, then fit  the bush to the end of the armature and gently tap it in to the housing with hammer. Make sure that the armature is straight and you tap the end of the  armature flat with the hammer or it could be damaged. Again a little heat on the alloy end will help fit the bush. Once you have got the bush in about 1/2 way you can use a drift or large punch to drive it into its final position. Again if you use a hammer to do this step, be gentle and get everything straight and flat.

Step 10: Checking the Bushes and Pinon

I like to make sure the bushes are not damaged by fitting the armature without the field windings and checking it all spins without binding. If the pinion needs to be replace simply slide the sleeve down and remove the wire clip. The pinion will slide off. Don't remove it unless you plan to replace it as the wire clip it difficult to remove without damaging it. Some people will tell you not to lubricate the pinion as clutch dust can get into the starter motor and combine with the  oil and make the pinion sticky. This maybe true of some older vehicles, I find a small amount of oil help keeps corrosion away and keeps everything working.

Step 11: Fitting the Brushes

Look carefully at the brushes how they are fitted and there orientation.  2 brushes are crimped on, they could be carefully uncrimped with side cutters and new brushes crimped back on. 2 brushes are spot welded on. these 2 were carefully pulled off and a little solder melted on the braid on the end of the brush and on the copper where it was  spot welded. The brush is then sweated into position. I use a small gas torch but a large soldering iron would also work.

Step 12: Assembling the Starter

Assembling is straight forward if you know a trick with the brush plate. Don't put the brushes in properly have them half hanging out with the spring jammed against the side of the brush, that it, that's the trick! you can now assemble everything without having to fight with springs. The armature and the solenoid need to go in together and make sure you get the fork in the right spot. If you have been paying attention you will see I've put the solenoid in upside-down, whoops! the bench test will pick that up. The field windings can be fitted and the mark on the side of the motor can be lined up to make it easier to assemble.

Step 13: Assembling the Starter Part 2

The brush plate can now be fitted, and the bushes on the field windings are  inserted into the brush holders. Make sure the bolts all line up and then the brushes can be pushed in properly so the springs are pushing down on them. The back plate or brush cover can go on next and the long bolts inserted and done up finger tight. Put one screw into the brush holder to make sure everything is lined up and tighten it all up. Make sure the armature turns freely. The spring and clip can go on next and a little oil on the shaft before screwing the end cap on. The nose of the starter can also have a little oil on the shaft before refitting the cap which is carefully put into position and punched on. The motor cable can be connected to the solenoid and all the bolts and screws re-tightened and re checked

Step 14: Testing

The starter motor can be tested without fitting to the car, and this will find problems like me putting the solenoid in upside-down.
you will need a battery and some jumper leads.
first connect the leads to your battery, and then the negative lead to the case of the starter.
Test 1 checking the motor.
connect the positive lead to the bottom terminal on the solenoid this should make the motor spin, at high speed.
Test 2  checking the solenoid.
connect the positive lead to the small terminal on the solenoid this should make the pinion slide out and engage the ring gear. (this is when I noticed the solenoid up side down as it failed to do this)
 Test 3. checking both motor and solenoid.
connect the positive lead to the top terminal on the solenoid. The starter motor should do nothing it shouldn't  spark or click. Connect another positive  lead to the small terminal on the solenoid the starter should fire up throwing the pinion out and spinning the motor.
If all is well refit the heat shield and it ready to go back on the car  and you've saved yourself a couple of hundred $

Step 15: Reduction Box Starter Motor

Reduction box starter motors are becoming more common and have a few differences. They a set of gears inside and use bearing rather than bushes
Just a quick note on solenoids. The type that is fitted to is fitted to our 4AGE  starter in the rebuild  is not repairable, it doesn't come apart, thankfully they are very reliable. There is another style of solenoid fitted to reduction box starters that is repairable but seem to give more problems, I would definitely be replacing the  starter contacts and plunger.

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    3 years ago on Step 6

    Do NOT wipe the commutator with an oily rag. Oil and grease should NEVER touch the commutator or the brushes. It will turn the graphite dust of the brushes into a conductive paste that can short the commutator pads to each other. The brushes and commutator should always be DRY graphite and BARE copper touching each other.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Good point, that starter motor had been under water and badly corroded, I usually don't sand the rust off or wipe everything with an oil rag.


    4 years ago

    A masterful rebuilding of armature with a sanded commutator with new brushes

    (I advise to turn a com, sanding is prone un-round and bouncing brushes)..

    Care marking orientation on the take apart, a very detailed photo documentation and most excellent instrucable which offers a real view of a complicated motor refurbish.. Kudos..


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks, Iceng. I didn't have access to a lathe at the time and you need to be damn carefull turning the commutator, its very easy to rip the segments off.


    5 years ago

    If your Toyota starter "clunks" when you try to start your car, it's usually copper contacts that have flat spotted. There used to be repair kits for this. If you have a straight shot at the starter, you can keep a baseball bat or a piece of 2x in your car. If it acts up, give the starter a couple of whacks. It helps if you have someone hold the key in the start position, but it usually works if you hit the starter, then turn the ignition key. This will work for a while, but you'll have to eventually repair or replace the starter. Happy motoring!

    Forn Man
    Forn Man

    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is going to be very helpful to me. I bought my Aunt's 2000 Acura RL, and it has some starter problem. I think the bendix is not engaging with the flywheel sometimes. Do you have a way to check to see if the bendix is failing, without removing the starter from the car? It's way under the motor mount and driver's side front suspension.



    Reply 6 years ago

    Not sure what you mean by "bendix", John, but another possibility to liquidhandwash's suggestion is that the pinion simply needs greasing* to make the pinion slide out and engage the ring gear. See Step 10 in this Instructable.

    This is exactly what happened with my step-son's Morris Mini (a cute car, but an absolute sod to work on - give me the engine bay of an old Ford Falcon straight 6 any day!).

    I took the starter off, eventually..., disassembled the motor, and only had to grease the pinion shaft for it to work perfectly again.

    * "Some people will tell you not to lubricate the pinion as clutch dust can get into the starter motor and combine with the oil and make the pinion sticky."


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    hi John, You are going to have to take the starter off to check everything, but it sounds like the pinon gear, or ring gear could be worn out.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Not easy to do, unless you've the right skills. If you were able to refurbish that, you could refurbish any motor based part or even tool.

    Good job, please upload for us more tutorials like this one.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    This is whay do you think. I've worked with people who have say they are fixing machines for 15 years and they not know how to hold a screwdriver.

    When I've got my car, Civic '97, I didn't knew how to fix anything but after few turorials and a good logic - I'm repairing almost anything in my car. But then again you've got good repairing skills, I'm know when I'm seeing one :-)

    Suraj Basnet
    Suraj Basnet

    7 years ago on Introduction

    can i make it long lasting by rewinding it for gokart project


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice do-it yourself instructable. Our car starter motor got burned out recently, but here in India the entire new assembly for Maruti-Suzuki cars costs about Indian Rupees 2500 only ( that is about 40 dollars). We completely changed the entire assembly. Now I have removed all burned out coils and cleaned the parts. Can you suggest any use for these parts please..?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hi antoniraj
    There is not much you can do with a starter that is burnt out like yours, (boat anchor perhaps?) You may want to keep the solenoid and the pinion, for spares.
    If it has the pull type solenoid, I have seen them used for an actuator to unlock doors, gates or a boot (trunk) release. There is a little bit of copper in the armature and the field coils that you use or sell.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! This is a very thorough and neat instructable! Thanks for contributing! Now I know how to deal with a starter motor!