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Leland's 1989 Cavalier: How could starter gear hit firewall?

From the show.

1989 Chevrolet Cavalier

Starting problem. Leland’s car has begun making odd screechy, metallic noises when starting and on turns. He thinks it’s coming from behind the firewall. It’s also having trouble starting now. Ray thinks it’s his starter drive – the drive is broken, or a gear has slipped so it’s hitting the firewall.


I would have never thought of this. Just curious, how could a bad starter motor cause noises when turning? And how could the “starter drive” hit the fire wall? Maybe I don’t know what a starter drive is. The starter motor – that’s the only thing my two cars have – bolts right where the engine meets the transmission, and the only gears involved are the flywheel teeth. It’s nowhere near the firewall.

Is there something about the configuration of this particular car’s engine/xmission and starting system I don’t understand?

Once somebody has a look at things, we will know what happened. Once I thought a comet landed in a cymbal factory but it was just a freight train derailment.

I guess the screetching could be the flywheel or the starter’s gear not fully engaging the flywheel.
Not sure how it would hit the firewall. tho…

If the starter is not fully engaging, or the starter gear or ring gear on the flywheel are worn enough that they are grinding and not engaging, it will make a horrible noise, worse than fingernails on a chalkboard and probably second only to someone jamming a car into gear without using the clutch. (though squeaking stryofoam pieces together has my vote too)

If somehow the starter bolts are loose so it is bouncing up and down, this will make an awful sound too. Either of these can easily fool someone that doesn’t understand where the starter is/how it works into thinking that the noise is coming from somewhere that it isn’t. And to be fair, unless the engine is transverse-mounted (sideways), the flywheel is pretty much right under the firewall on most cars, and this is where the sound may seem to be coming from.

He said “flywheel”, not “firewall”.
“Flywheel” makes perfect sense for the symptoms, “firewall” makes no sense whatsoever.

The ring gear on the outside of the flywheel is what the starter motor’s drive gear engages to when the car is started. If it isn;t engaging properly…see Oblivion’s excellent post.

@thesamemountainbike is correct. I went back and listened to this segment, and Ray didn’t say the starter hit the “firewall”, he said its hitting the “flywheel”. The website notes for this segment must be a typo. Ray said the reason it happens when turning is that the part of the starter that pushes out a bit to engage the flywheel when starting must be broken, and loose, and the add’l force on it from the car turning is causing it to poke out – when it shouldn’t – and hit the flywheel.