time to replace the starter?

jasper_60103September 5, 2006

Yesterday, when I turned the key, no sound.

I tapped the starter and she started right up.

I turned it off then waited a while just to see if the starter would fail.

Again, she started no problems.

Also, this morning, she started up with no problems.

My car is a 95' chevy lumina w/ 158,000 miles. This is the second starter. I think it was put on a year and half ago.

Do you think its time to replace it? I didn't have any problems prior to yesterday?



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When I last replaced a starter, it was from problems you describe but they were intermittant. I'd swear if I parked on a hill, it wouldn't start but on level ground it would. After a few months of this nonsense, I finally gave in and got a new starter and that worked.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 10:21AM
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IMO, a starter must last far longer than this.
Are we talking of so-called "cheap" rebuilds ??

I usually go 100K to "forever" miles on one, the one on the '50 Buick was repaired by my step-father using masking tape on the armature,IIRC, - the bushings were worn out, I forget what we did there....If the armature shorts severly to the field windings, the unit is burned out.
If it is but a "leak", tapping or rapping with a sledge will work for a while....

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 2:04PM
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A starter, rebuilt or otherwise, should last a whole lot longer than 1.5 years...... unless it wasn't installed properly. Check to see its still under warranty. The one I purchased for my 88 Chevy van has a 2 year free replacement warranty on it and its a rebuilt not a new one. Cheers:

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 2:56PM
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Thanks for all the responses.
Yes, its a rebuilt starter. I will check with the mechanic on the warranty.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 4:59PM
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Yes, you have a starter problem. The main causes of the symptons you describe are 1) power contacts operated by the solenoid not making circuit, and 2) motor brushes either worn out or hung up in the brush guide. Apparently, this starter has not lasted as expected. I suspect the brushes are stuck in the brush holders. However, most shops don't bother with servicing the brushes. They can change out the starter with another rebuilt at equal or less cost than trying to fix the existing starter, and the replacement should have at least a limited warranty. (Think $95/hr at a dealership garage.)

In rare cases, the problem may be the battery cable. If you have a split battery cable (two lead battery cable, one large lead to the starter and a smaller one to the remainder of the electrical syste), it is possible to have a continuity problem in the starter lead and yet the rest of the system behaves normally.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 11:24PM
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Well, I had the starter checked out. Its definitely on its way out.
Whats most troubling is the cause. My mechanic discovered the starter problem was likely due to a leaky intake gasket. The starter and solenoid was just soaked with oil. It appears oil may have gotten inside. The starter passed the electrical test though. Haven't been able to reproduce the problem I saw a couple days ago.

My mechanic says the intake gasket is problematic on GM 3.1 engines. I did a google search last night and confirmed what he is saying is true.

Now, I have to decide whether to fix or replace my old car. My car has a 158,000 miles on it. Its a costly repair ($750), but I'm not ready to buy another car yet. I would like to drive it couple more years. Its been a great car otherwise.

thanks for your help.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 10:27AM
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The cost of replacing the intake manifold gaskets need not cost $750 IF you are willing to do the work yourself. If you are handy with wrenches, you can do it in one Saturday morning. The cost of the parts isn't much, but there is quite a bit of labor and that is where the shop charges are. I've done this repair in two GM 2.8 L V6 (Citation). The 3.1 L engine is similar.

The intake is cast aluminum and doubles as a valley cover. These intakes also carry some water passages between the heads. These manifolds tend to loosen with time and thermal cycling. If caught in time, sometimes all that is needed is re-torquing the nuts. However, yours has been leaking for some time and In my opinion, a new set of gaskets and sealant should be installed.

The oil leak has minor consequence compared to a coolant or air leak. The usual place of the oil leak is at the corners where the heads meet the block. Chevy had trouble sealing here. The intake manifold is tightened down between the heads that are angled 60 deg with each other. The intake manifold may not sit tight on the engine block (valley). Sealing to the heads is the most critical; sealing to the block depends on soft gaskets and very good sealant. Pay close attention to the corner pieces.

What you need:
Gasket set
RTV or shop manual recommended sealant
Torque wrench
Repair manual

Antifreeze mix for refilling
can of water pump lube

Engine oil for an oil change
Oil Filter

Optional: digital camera

Camera! Why? Take pictures of the layout of everything before disasembly, so you'll have a reference when it comes time to re-asemble all the tubing and whatnot on top of engine. You'll probably need to photograph the stuff in layers as it comes off. If you are very familar with your car and have a good set of illustrations in a repair manual, you probably don't need photographs. I mention this as an aid.

Drain the coolant. Some may spill into the crankcase even though it was drained. Plan on refilling with new coolant mix and a can of water pump lube.

Plan on doing an oil and filter change.

Taking the manifold off isn't hard. The difficult part is removing all the stuff on top of the manifold, and putting it back at the end.

Remove all the nuts holding the manifold in place. if it is stuck in place, some tapping with a rubber mallet should loosen it. I suspect yours is already loose. Since it is cast of aluminum, you should be able to lift it without a hoist.

Clean the gasket surfaces - follow the installation instruction in the manual.

One recommendation: If the installation calls for RTV type sealant, do not use any old kind of RTV. It should be rated as "not harmful to catalytic converters" and it should be of the highest *hot oil* resistant RTV you can find. Repair manuals usually will recommend a sealenat type. Many corner leaks in these GM V-6s are due to the RTV washing out.

When you begin to tighten the manifold, you will discover the problem - creep. I did mine slowly going through the bolt pattern multiple times, and it took about 10 trips through the pattern before the manifold snugged up.

I waited for a period that was less than the set time of the RTV and went through the bolt pattern once more - yep, it had loosened. (Once the RTV sets, further disturbance may cause the RTV to loose adhesion.)

Change the engine oil and filter before starting the engine. This is done to drain out any foreign fluids that may have dribbled down into the engine when the manifold was removed.

Wait the recommended setting time for the sealant before refilling the coolant system and starting the engine. (The sealant around the coolant passageways may be different to that of the valley. Judge accordingly.)

After this gasket replacement, I had no more problems in this area.

About oil and electrical contacts:

An oil film is death on power electrical contacts. If oil got inside the solenoid, that is a problem. How do I know this is bad? I worked in an industry for 38 years that made elecrical contactors, relays, pushbuttons, and circuit breakers. Most power contacts are designed to operate "dry". There does exist a class of devices having contacts submerged in oil, but these are always buried in oil and not exposed to the atmosphere.

If you do not wish to tackle this repair yourself, at least you will understand what is generating the shop labor.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 4:38AM
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thanks for the detailed information. If I have another car to fall back on, I would have been tempted to give it a try.
Anyway, I just picked my car up from the shop. Things look good so far. Wish me luck.

thanks again,

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 7:29PM
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