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HyperActive Zombie Starter wants to Eat My FlyWheel

Ok, here another brain buster that I cant let go a minute longer(i’ll explain later). I just got back inside from replacing the starter in my 02’’ VW Jetta tdi. The starter is for a 97" VW passat TDI manual. A little over a year ago, I had my auto transmission swapped with a manual passat so its the right starter. Regardless, i just replaced the starter and and upon start up the starter is making a WWWZZZZZing sound after start up.

I’ve been down this road before, its partially the reason for the swap in transmission. About three years back i replaced a starter on the original trans and this familiar sound was present after start up. During the coarse of a year i went thru 3 starters and and they eventually ate my fly wheel. By that time the trans was starting to grind when it down shifted from 2nd to 1st. not all; three four replacement starter made this sound.

fyi…Starter had no shims on it to begin with. could there be a alignment issue. awwwwwwww HELP.

It could be a shim issue, it could be an install issue. You can try reseating the motor, worked for me. I got nothing but grinding and binding, was going to take the motor back, Then I thought I should video it to document the problems, put the starter motor back in, fired up video attempted a start and life was good.

If there was no shims to begin with, how do I know how much to shim it by? Now I’m thinking if there is a wwwzzzzing sound then I should position it closer towards the fly wheel?

I’m not sure of the complete cycle of the starter but i assume the bendix pops out, engages, cranks and returns. somewhere between crank and return the buzzing wwwzzing sound occurs. it could happen the whole cycle but i cant hear it. its getting dark and ill have to try to realign tomorrow.

You might do some digging and start comparing interchange parts such as the clutch assembly and even parts such as the engine crankshaft.
Things may often look the same between years but may have subtle differences that can throw a monkey wrench into the works.

I think the 97 and 02 clutches are different but cannot say at all about any crankshaft differences.

my 02 was automatic, was swapped with 97 passat manual trans

If this is a rebuilt starter, be sure to compare it carefully to the old one. All the dimensions and number of teeth on the drive gear need to be exactly the same.

It could be a bad starter too. I got a bad rebuilt one last year that caused me no end to the grief. Eventually I returned it for a refund and took the old starter to a local auto-electric place and they fixed it for me. Since then I’ve had no difficulties.

And fyi, there are plenty of complaints here about the quality of rebuilt parts coming from offshore rebuilding factories. Starters, driveshafts especially. If this is a rebuilt unit sourced from one of these offshore places, ask the place you bought it if they have a test fixture to verify it is working correctly.

I totally agree that the crap american businesses import is junk.

Lifetime warranty only means life of the part. You spend a lifetime replacing this part every 6 months. I’d trust a one year warranty over a lifetime product.

This Starter is the same one that i took out. I replaced the brushes in it, thats it. before installing i took it to parts store to have them bench test. It Tested OK.

I think it is good you are keeping the existing starter. Avoids the rebuild quality problem. But what is causing your problem then? … hmmm … well, the first thing I can think of is that it is pretty unusual for the brushes to go bad on a starter. This is what the auto-electric shop told me anyway. The place where they fixed my Corolla starter. Usually something else fails first. Are you sure the brushes were bad?

Next idea: Does this starter have the selenoid contacts as part of the starter ass’y? Most modern starters are configured like this. If so, these contacts might be somewhat burned or corroded. The increase in resistance might cause the starter gear to not extend fully, so it fails to engage properly with the flywheel. Consider to replace those contacts with new ones. They are usually inexpensive, but auto-parts stores often don’t carry them, and they may have to be ordered by mail. But if you secured the brushes, the place that sold you the brushed may have the contacts too.

Another idea: When you turn the key to “Start”, 10-15 amps of current is supposed to flow through to thin wire on the starter, which powers up the starter’s pull-in coil, and causes the selonoid contacts to engage, as well as pushing out the gear to meet the flywheel. At least that is how it works on my Corolla. If there is extra resistance in this circuit – anywhere between the ignition key switch and the thin wire where it connects to the starter motor – this could prevent this sequence from working correctly. With 10 Amps, even a 0.2 ohm resistance would cause a 2 volt drop, and could make this operation fail or only partially extend the gear. One way to testif this is the cause is to measure the voltage on the thin terminal during attempted cranking. It shouldn’t be much below the battery voltage (during cranking). ( If either the battery voltage or the thin wire voltage is below 10 volts during attempted cranking, that’s usually an indication of an electrical problem before the starter, not the starter failing.)

I had a problem w/my Corolla a while ago where both the ignition switch and the clutch safety switch were failing because of burned contacts and corrosion and just too many uses, which was causing the starter motor to click but not engage. But sometimes it would engage but only partially, and I’d hear unusual metalic sounds like the gears weren’t properly engaging. Replacing both the ignition switch and the clutch switch fixed the problem.

respecting most eloquent response, but…

The wwwzzzzz noise is coming from the overrunning clutch on the starter. The overrunning clutch does two things. It pulls the starter drive gear away from the flywheel once the engine starts. And if that should fail to happen, the overrunning clutch prevents the armature of the starter from spinning at 10,000 RPM’s while the engine is at 1,000 RPM’s.

The overrunning clutch is that bearing looking component behind the starter drive gear.


When an car has a manual/automatic transmission swap made it can be difficult to ever get the proper starter installed. That situation once cost me a day wasted chasing down all the pieces and required replacing the flywheel and starter to put things in order. Good luck.