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2004 Mazda RX-8 starter

I have a 2004 Mazda RX-8 that had a recalled starter (factory) starter. I bought a new one from autozone and swapped them out, however when I try to start it all you hear is the starter motor running. It does not engage the flywheel at all. I took it off and put it back on to make sure it was seated properly. Same result. Took it back to autozone and had it bench tested and everything was working. Had them replace it anyway just to be sure. Put it back on and I still have the same problem. You can hear the starter running but it doesn’t seem to be making contact with the flywheel. Any suggestions on what I should do?

Here is a YouTube link of how it sounds when trying to start it.

If the starter was recalled, why did you buy your own and install it?

Do you still have the old one, or did it go in for the core charge refund? If you still have it, can it be reinstalled and the car brought to the dealer for the recall?

Hopefully you still have the old one. There must be something different that causes the gear that pokes out when you turn the key to “start” to not quite reach the flywheel. Compare the mounting surfaces, and measure carefully how far the gear pokes out when the starter is activated. This test is done on the work bench, not under the car.

Here’s something else to check. One time I was purchasing a starter motor at an auto parts store, I had the old one with me, and when the staff guy came out from the back with the new one in the box it looked ok at first, but he pointed out after comparing to my old one that the teeth count on the gear was different. He took it back and brought another in an identical box with the same part number out and the teeth count matched this time. Very weird, but stuff like that can happen.

I think George has it correct, the starter may be the incorrect application. I would also remove the starter and inspect the teeth on the flywheel to be sure they are not damaged.

Mazda regularly made design changes to these engines, more so than most, to enhance the robustness of the design. An application error is a very real possibility.

So, do you still have the old one?

It’s just about going to have to be an incorrect starter drive fit or missing teeth on the flywheel.

With a no start maybe what should be done is remove the starter, and look inside that hole with a flashlight to make sure all of the teeth are there; or most of them anyway.
Then maybe a short ruler to measure the distance from the starter flange to the teeth and then do the same with the starter motor flange to the approximate area where the starter drive teeth are extended. It’s not exact but should be in the ballpark.

The small steel pocket rulers with the sliding measuring “T” work great for this stuff. You can buy them at any hardware store for only a few bucks.

I do not have the old starter I turned it in for the core. The teeth on the flywheel are all there and just have the normal wear and tear on it. So how is it that I am getting the wrong part? Autozone only has one starter for the automatic and one for the standard, and like I said I already swapped it once. I guess this is an issue I have to take up with them? There is a thread on that just kinda ends but I think the conclusion is that it is indeed not the correct part.

This goes back to measuring the flanges to the teeth on both the engine and the starter motor.
If those measurements don’t mate then there’s a starter fitment issue.

Sometimes revisions are made in the production of parts and things get lost in the paperwork bureaucracy.

Example. One time I had to replace the reverse gearset in a manual transmission on a new Subaru.
The gearset arrived, the trans was torn down, and the set did not even come close to matching.

The parts dept. ordered another gearset. It was also like the first; wrong.

They ordered it again. Same thing; wrong.

I told them to get Subaru involved because there’s a weird problem. They chose to order the gearset again. Same old, same old; wrong again.

By the computer that gearset was correct but none of the 3 gears were even close.

They finally had the Subaru parts rep come around and he was baffled. “Well, it should fit…”.
Well it don’t as you can plainly see.

It took the rep about 6 hours of heating the phone up before it got sorted out. Subaru had made an internal change of the gearset on the production line with that wrong gearset only fitting cars made before a certain month in a certain year. Anything after that was different. In this case the change was made in the middle of the year so the earlier production models of the same year were different than the later ones of the same year.
To make matters worse, Subaru failed to tell anyone about it or update the parts department.
Even their factory parts rep had no idea.

Thank you for the insight. I can only imagine the headache I am going to have trying to sort this out with autozone. Any idea on what would be the fastest way to resolve this? I guess maybe start with an email explaining that they are giving me the wrong part?

GeorgeSanJose Stuff like that can definitely happen. Over 30 years ago the water pump in my 1971 Mustang MACH 1 started making noise. I drove it to the NAPA store and requested a pump. I was 29 years old. The counter guy looked about 5 years younger. He looked in the catalog, went in the back and set a box on the counter. I opened it mainly to check if the gasket was present and informed the counter guy it was a Windsor pump and my car required a Cleveland pump. He had the usual “deer in the headlights” look. I tried to explain that Ford produced 3 351 cu in engines. Windsor, Cleveland, and M (modified) which was based on the Cleveland but installed in trucks. Of course he re-checked the catalog, compared the boxes’ part number, and declared. “Nope. This is the right part.” I told him my car was parked out front if he would like an education free of charge. I had him bring the pump. I opened my hood and pointed out the water pump. He declared. “Hey! That pump is nothing like the right one”! Have you noticed that some people’s density exceeds that of a spent uranium fuel rod? I asked if there was another “right” pump on the shelf. He said there were 4 or 5. I asked if I could see another one? He asked why? I replied “just humor me.” He retrieved another box with the same part number, opened it, and Surprise! There was a beautiful Cleveland pump with gasket!

Good story @sgtrock21 … years ago I had a breakdown out in the boondocks involving a Windsor water pump, but I lucked out as the part time gas station gas-attendant/windshield-washer/candy seller/floor sweeper/tire changer/mechanic there took one look at the pump and said to his buddy , tell Jeff we need a “Windsor pump”. I still have no idea who Jeff is, but the mechanic said to me “go over to the bar across the street and rest your legs, I’ll have it fixed in a couple hours”. True to his word, two hours later I had a new pump, no leaks, and on my way. The moral to the story I guess: Experience matters. As does work ethic.

Take your starter to the Mazda dealer. Have them pull one so you can compare mounting, gear position, tooth count and gear thow. If it does not match, buy the Mazda one and take the Autozone one back along with you Mazda receipt.

With the starter off my suggestion is to still measure from the flanges on both engine and starter motor (with the starter drive gear in the extended position) and see if they mate up.

@sgtrock21, that water pump story is funny. “Nothing like the right one…”. Good Lord. The Windsor and Cleveland are completely different engines; heads, intakes, even the thermostat housing is mounted differently.

More than once I’ve gone into a parts house and asked for a part for a Merkur XR4ti.
No. Merkur.
What year Mercury?
No. Mer…kur.
Is that a Lincoln?
No. It’s a German Ford.
Sure it’s not a Mercury?
Pretty sure according to the badges, the VIN, and the title.
At this point I begin spelling it out real slow. M E R K U R…


ok4450 Even I know what a Merkur XR4ti is. Way cooler than any Mercury of the same vintage.

heavymetal You have not even attempted to explain why you went to the trouble (now much trouble) and expense of replacing a starter that was covered by a factory recall. If you suffer from dealership phobia it is nothing to be ashamed of. Many people do for very good reasons.

Heavymetal, no disrespect, but you also haven’t told us whether you still have the original starter. If you do, it’ll give you some valuable dimensions to compare the replacement part with.

You could even measure the extension of the starter motor gears when the solenoid is energized by just applying 12VDC. I’ve never tried it, but if you’re uncomfortable using the car’s battery and don’t have a separate source (like a power pack), two 6VDC lantern batteries connected in series might be just enough to operate the solenoid long enough to take a measurement.

Or, since the original was still working properly, perhaps you could just install the original back in and return the new one for a refund.

I cannot envision any way the motor could spin unless the bendix assy was activated and the contacts engaged, so it almost has to be either

  1. insufficient gear extension,
  2. improper shimming,
  3. missing ring gear teeth, or
  4. a center-to-center dimensional problem between the starter housing mounting holes and the starter motor shaft such that when the motor is mounted the starter shaft is too far removed from the flywheel centerline to allow engagement. You’ll need to check some measurements before returning the assembly.

If you’re not sure how to measure the dimensions from the bolt holes to the starter motor centerline, just clamp a piece of scrapwood to the benchtop, drill a hole the same size as the starter shaft (or gear O.D.), stick the starter in it, mark the mounting hole locations, drill them out on the wood, set the starter assembly aside, and measure the center-to-center of the holes on the bench.

You can get a pretty accurate measurement by sticking drill bits into the holes, measuring the outside-to-outside dimension (tangents), and subtracting the total of half of the radii of the drill bit at each end of the measurement. That’ll get you well within the tolerance necessary to tell if the bolthole-to-motorshaft centerline dimension is consistent with the original assembly.

The key to doing this is having the original assembly. Once again, do you still have it?

Post back. We do care.

I already stated that I dont have the original starter anymore, I turned it in for the core charge. I had to buy a starter myself because the recall has been over for years now… The replacement starter was about $130. I will take some measurements, take some pictures, and I am going to do what @knfenimore said and give the dealership a call and see if I can’t compare the two parts. Thank you for all the input. I will update as soon as I can.

Apologies, my friend. I thought I’d looked through the thread, but I missed the comment that you no longer had the original starter.

Good luck and let us know the outcome.