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87 Bonneville Starter Motor Nightmare

87 Pontiac Bonneville 3.8L Front Wheel Drive, Auto Trans w/ A/C.

I followed the Haynes Guide diagnostic procedures, which indicate the starter motor is bad. (Symptom is Solenoid clicks once, but starter does not crank engine at all. Battery is good, ground and power connections are good. Remote starter connected directly to ignition terminal on starter produced same solenoid single click with no starter cranking). Same result.

Looking over the location of the starter, it appears I am going to need to remove the front exhaust manifold with its plethora of rusted-on bolts, as well as loosen the engine mounts and raise the engine considerably to get at and remove this starter. That is going to be an enourmous pain.

Anyone done one of these before on this particular model? Any words of wisdom?

As an ironic aside, this starter motor went out the very day after I replaced a starter motor on my 96 Taurus that was doing the same thing.

Oh, and odometer has 65,000 original miles.

Have you actually looked under the car to find the starter motor? According to my repair manual no removal of the exhaust manifold or raising of the engine is required. It only mentions removing the splash shield and maybe one of the cooling fans for greater access. Get under there and take a look if you haven’t already done so.

To reiterate from my original post, "Looking over the location of the starter ". “Looking over” meant I examined the position of the starter motor from all possible angles.

Now, to expand a bit. Directly underneath the starter motor is a welded-in cross member which the only way I can see to remove is to cut it out with a plasma cutter. I am reluctant to do that because I would think that woud compromise frame integrity. Directly in front of the starter motor is the exhaust manifold and crossover pipe replete with its rusted-together bolts and studs. The starter motor bolts (two of them) come in from below, one of which has about 1/4 inch clearance between it and that frame cross member.

The repair guides, even my factory service manual, are pretty vague about the removal procedure. My FSM says NOTHING about any cross members, or exhaust manifolds being in the way, but they clearly are. The closes thing to reality is the guide on, which mentions possibly having to remove the exh manifold. But that will provide access to only one of the two start mounting bolts.

Well, I am going to have to eat a bit of crow. Boy do I feel dumb. I got under the car for the third time last night. I had my son there, too, with a video camera, so I could make a youtube of the situation down there so people could see what I was talking about. Maybe as I was planning the video shots I was making better use of the light, but I see now I can remove a plastic shird blocking acess to one of the bolts. Also, I don’t know why I couldn’t see this before, but once the starter is loose it appears it can be angled out through a u-shaped part of the front exhaust pipe. If I do end up needing a bit more room I think I can jack the engine up a bit.

So now I will eat even more crow. I got under the car to unbolt the starter and replace it. While I was down there I realized that, though I had tested battery voltage, I never tested current. So before doing the starter replacement I figured in lieu of testing the amperage output of the battery I’d just try jump starting the car. I jumped it and it started right up. Boy am I gald I didn’t replace the starter.

I put my trickle charger on the battery and brought it to full charge. The car has been starting fine ever since.

I did notice, though, that the car has a parasitic energy drain upon some further testing as to why a new battery was discharged.

But anyway for now I once again nominate myself for bonehead of the year award.

Pop Of 9, Write Back More Often. We Like People With Problems Who Talk To Themselves And Then Take Care Of It Themselves.

Reminds me of that “Cheers” episode where Norm is complaining that his undershorts are riding up on him. When the other guys show some concern, he annonces, “Don’t worry. They’re self-correcting.”


Well, one of the complaints of people who post back with helpful advice is that original posters do not post back with the results. When I post with a question or problem, I have tried to do that, so people, such as Xebadaih in this case, know that their advice did not go unheeded.

If making snide comments such as yours makes you feel important, well, you have your reward.

Pop, I Apologize. I Didn’t Mean Any Ill Intent. I Was Just Joking.

Your comments were great and helpful to others. Please keep posting here. I learned from your remarks, too. I’ve been in that exact situation and appreciate the feed-back and you’re absolutely correct, many folks don’t get back to us. Thank you.

Please accept this apology.

My apologies to you for misconstruing your intent. Such are the limitations of discussion boards, I fear. No worries, and I do sincerely appreciate you and all the other gracious and knowledgeable posters who take of their precious time to provide needed help to those of us who are trying to take care of some car repairs ourselves.

No Problem. Thanks For Responding, Again. I Hope I Can Help At Some Point In The Future.
Good Luck.


P.S. I drive a Bonneville, but I’m only a Pop of 2.