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Stranded! (Starter Problem – Auto)


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I was driving my 73 auto 2002 around today, and everything was going great. Its still new to me, and nothing feels better than driving around with the windows down, staring down the hood with the slight flare down the sides. Man I (think I) look so cool!


Alas, it didn't last. I got in the car leaving my last stop, ready to head home, and she wouldn't start. I got her towed home, and the best I can tell is that the starter isn't engaging the engine.


When I turn the key, I hear a whirring sound, the engine doesn't even try to turn over. When I let off the key, I can hear the starter wind down.


As far as I can tell, its either the solenoid or the clutch in the starter. I dont think its the flywheel or the gears on the starter because they worked fine 15 minutes before.


So, what are the usual suspects for this? What are the recommended brands for replacing my starter/solenoid? Any other info?


Thanks guys!

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You can get an OE Bosch starter from Blunt Tech, or one of the other suppliers.  There's no clutch in the starter.  If the starter motor is turning, the solenoid is probably OK.  However, there is a yoke, controlled by the solenoid, which moves the starter pinion gear into engagement with the ring gear.  Possibly a pin has come out/is broken...........  anyway, save yourself some grief and just exchange that starter for a remanufactured starter, or just buy one outright.  Starters are generally very reliable, so replace it and forget about it.

Bud Osbourne

'72 2002A

'75 2002

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A test to determine if the problem's a bad solenoid...


Have someone turn the key to "start" while you smartly rap the starter solenoid with a small hammer or the plastic handle of a big screwdriver.  If the solenoid suddenly engages, then it's either weak or failing.  If nothing happens, it's well and truly dead, so you can probably figure on at least a new solenoid. 


The fact that the starter actually turns, even if it doesn't engage, rules out bad contacts at the battery or starter, and also rules out a bad neutral switch.




Edited by mike

'69 Nevada sunroof-Wolfgang-bought new
'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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OK guys, I just ordered a remanufactured starter. Seemed easier than trying to fix the solenoid, and i didnt see JUST the solenoid anywhere. I know Osbourne said starters are usually very reliable, is this everyones experience? Is there anything i might have done to kill this one, or is just a matter of it probably being 40 years old?


Ill get it in there soon and hope that fixes the issue. Thanks for all the info.

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A 40 year old starter is a 40 year old starter!  I still have the original starter in mine (43 years) but have replaced the alternator twice.  When the cars get to be that age, things will break, no matter how well you take care of them.  Good luck!

1970 Granada 1600 "The 16",  2000 528i Siena Red "The 5",  1968 Mustang 289 Muscle Car Blue, 

1999 318ti M Package Green,  1982 633CSi 5 speed Blue,  2011 550i M Package Black (6 speed manual)


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On my E9, when starter trouble came around for a visit, it was that the solenoid would not throw the pinion gear into the flywheel ring gear. I verified that the starter itself worked by jumpering two terminals on the starter and it spun without engaging the flywheel. Thus I proved the starter was good. I removed the starter and solenoid, cleaned and lubed the pivot between the solenoid and starter, bench tested to verify proper operation, reinstalled and good to go.

If you did not similarly test your starter either in the car or on the bench you may find you have spent money for nothing (much) and really don't need the new unit. But... it's your money.

Shame someone did not suggest this simple test earlier, I thought better of the level of advice here.  Osborne came close, as did Mike, but starters are a hassle to remove (much more so in the E9) thus definitive testing should be done prior to removal or purchasing a replacement. To simply say "it's old just replace it" could be well applied to any 2002.

Early E12 starters also work and spin a 2002 motor quite well.


Rant mode off.

Edited by Honolulu
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OK update time:
I started removing the starter, and when i had just about gotten that last bolt off, it occurred to me that in order to replace it, i was going to have to actually get it out of the engine bay. As far as i can tell, this is going to require either removing the carb/intake manifold or the steering assembly. It doesnt look like i can drop it out or finagle it out any other way.

2013 08 05 19.09.41 1


So what does everyone think would be easier? intake or steering?



In response to Honolulu, i appreciate your comment. I actually got kind of lucky (or thought i did before i started working on it) in that BofA screwed up my order and denied the charge for the reman'd starter. I was planning on letting it go, following your advice and trying to fix the starter myself before purchasing a new one. Now that im getting an idea of how much work its going to be, though, im thinking all just get the new one rather than put the old one on and have it potentially fail again. I think its worth the ~$100.

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Definitely carb - no hydraulics involved, just a few bolts. Make sure you put it back without vacuum leaks though - i accidentally clamped something between the carb and the intake flange, and spent days figuring out why the car wouldn't idle.


Good luck!

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