Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Nissan flywheel/ starter help!

I have a 1996 Nissan Sentra 200SX.

I had the starter replaced about 2 weeks ago, and at that time found out from my mechanic that the flywheel needs to be replaced as some of the teeth are chipped. Well, two days ago my car wouldn’t start. It was clicking, but the car would not start, so I had to get it towed back to the mechanic. Of course, the mechanic was able to start the car each time he tried (at least 6 times he tried, and each time it started up w/ no problem.) He explained to me that to replace the flywheel they would have to take out the transmission, but not only that, this car has been discontinued and there are no longer parts being made for it! He said that to fix the flywheel I would probably have to get a re-furbed, reconditioned transmission installed, and that the expense would probably not be worth it. This seemed strange to me and I would like to get a second opinion. In the meantime, is there a trick to get the car to start if I get stuck somewhere? I have a feeling that when the tow truck guy put the car in neutral and backed it up to tow it, that that somehow shook up the gears/flywheel and therefore the car was able to start once the car got to the mechanic.

Thank you for any suggestions or explanations you might have to solve this puzzle!


Loyal Nissan owner

Very strrange! We have a 1994 Nissan Sentra and all parts are still available. It’s true that the transmission has to be removed to replace the flywheel; that is true for most cars, including rear drive US cars.

True also that taking out the transmission and replacing the flywheel is expensive on a front drive car, and may not be worth the cost.

I would get a second opinion on this and an actual cost estimate.

Thanks! Yeah, it does seem suspect to me too, but I, admittedly, know very little about cars. Thanks for your post. I’ll see what others say.

A flywheel (manual transmission) is shown to be available. A flexplate is not, so should it be assumed this car has an automatic transmission?
Flexplate failures are rare and there is not much of a market out there so in cases like this a salvage yard, eBay, etc. may be the answer.

Let me add this. A clicking and no starter operation could point to something other than the flywheel. A clicking starter solenoid could be due to a corroded battery cable end. (something which should be part of a starter job in my opinion)
A click sound from a starter relay if so equipped could point to a faulty relay, etc.

To be honest, I think your mechanic is being a bit overboard by stating that you must get a rebuilt transmission to get this flywheel or flexplate, whichever is the case.
A rebuilt transmission (manual or automatic) does not come with this part at all so I don’t know where he’s coming up with this. I consider it absolutely ridiculous to even make that kind of suggestion to a customer. Get another opinion.

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. Yes, it is an automatic car. If the battery cable end is corroded, could I clean it with baking soda and toothbrush to help get rid of the corrosion? Thanks again, and I will be getting a second opinion, most definitely.

deleted by author

No, that method of cleaning won’t fix this potential problem. The ends need to be removed from the battery and cleaned where they make contact with the battery posts.
I’m not sure on this but you might even check with someone like a Wal Mart auto service center. They will test your battery for free and odds are if you ask them to clean the terminals they will do this for a very small fee.

As to a flex plate here you go, and the price is right.

I have no idea why this mechanic is telling you that you need a rebuilt transmission to obtain this flex plate as no transmission (rebuilt or new) comes with a flexplate or flywheel. The only thing I can figure is that he doesn’t know how to do this job or just doesn’t want to do it and is telling you this to brush you off.

Just to dig a bit deeper, do the current symptoms of an erratic clicking and no-start condition match the symptoms BEFORE the starter replacement?

The mechanic did admit that he had no one on his crew who was able to take out a transmission and replace the flywheel, so at least he was honest about that! He is definitely out of his league with this problem, though, and I will be going to my regular mechanic to try to solve the problem.

The way the whole thing started was that I went to the grocery store about three weeks ago, came back out after 20 minutes, tried to start the car, and it would not start. No clicking, no noise, nothing. The radio and the electronic stuff all worked, but the engine would not start. My husband tried to jump the car just in case the battery was low, but that didn’t help. So I had it towed and the guys at the shop replaced the starter.

When I picked up the car after they replaced the starter and turned the car on, it made a grating sound that it never had made before, so I went back into the shop and described the noise to them, asking what it was and why the noise was there. The guy said that the noise I was hearing was the flywheel missing teeth. He also said that I would eventually have to get the flywheel replaced but led me to believe that it would be fine for a while. He did say that the damaged flywheel would eventually wear out the starter but also suggested that for the time being, I should be fine.

So three weeks later, the car won’t start again. This time it does make a clicking noise. The radio, windows, and A/C work, but the engine won’t turn on. I try several times to turn it on; it clicks, but won’t actually start.

You know the rest. Car gets towed back to the shop and the car magically starts for them each and every time they try to start it.

I’ve had both the battery and the alternator replaced within the past year, if that helps.

Thank you so much again. I am so grateful to kind people like you who know about cars and are willing to share their knowledge.

I think that I might back up a step or two here as this story is starting to raise a few questions about this repair or whether the starter was even needed; or if the car even needs a flexplate at all.

If this grating sound did not occur prior to having the starter replaced and if it hasn’t happened since my gut feeling is telling me that the grating could have been caused by someone not tightening the bolts on the starter motor.

The original problem when you came out of the store could have been caused by a faulty neutral safety switch. (this allows the engine to only start in PARK and NEUTRAL)
The best way of determining this (after the fact maybe) would be to shift the transmission into NEUTRAL and attempt a start. If it’s fine after shifting into NEUTRAL or after going back into PARK this points to a faulty neutral switch most of the time and this is not a rare problem with any make of car.

A look at a wiring schematic shows this car also uses a starter relay. This relay is controlled by the neutral switch and it’s possible this problem could be related to burned contacts in the relay, although the probability is higher for the neutral switch.

I hate to insinuate the starter motor change and flexplate thing is wrong but starters are often needlessly replaced due to not thinking the problem through. Starter won’t work? Bad starter is the initial wild guess and unfortunately, that guess is often wrong.

As to the last episode and the clicking noise let me say this. If the click sound is from the starter motor this could point to a battery cable end problem. If the click sound is coming from the starter relay (should be underhood in a relay/fuse box) this would likely point to a faulty relay.

Pardon the length of this post. I’m just trying to cover as many bases as possible here.

Thanks again. The car is still making the grating sound every time I turn it on but it has been successfully starting since I got it back from the shop. Thank you for offering so many possible solutions. I am really curious as to what the problem actually is and will let you know what they say once I take it to my regular mechanics (the people I took it to for this repair were not my regular mechanics, but their shop was close to where the initial non-start occurred). I’ll keep you posted.

Just a follow-up question. Did the starter not make any grating noises before it was replaced?

This is correct. It never made any noises whatsoever, and I never had a problem starting it up until that initial time three weeks ago when it would not start (it didn’t even click at all the time I couldn’t start it-- it was completely silent). The grinding noise did not start until after I had the starter replaced. Does this clear anything up or shed a different light on the situation?

I wished I could be more precise but this problem has a real stench to it. A grating sound due to a faulty flexplate, starter drive, etc. is generally something that comes on gradually and worsens over time.

What really makes me question the shop is why nothing was said about a damaged flexplate until after you came to pick up the car and paid the bill. They ran it out the door like this and said nothing until you came back in and pointed it out.
To add insult to injury they essentially have the gall to tell you to drive it until it dies.

If they noticed damaged flexplate teeth as claimed they should have stopped then and there and gave you a call before proceeding any further.
It’s also posssible that if this starter is a rebuilt one the starter drive could be faulty. Some rebuilt units may be of dubious quality; much like the shop from the sound of things.

What would I do if the car were mine? I’d have to remove that starter and examine it myself along with the flexplate teeth; paying close attention to the starter drive while the starter is off.
I could be dead wrong about this shop but based on this story and some of the things that transpired this problem does raise some questions about the repair.

Bad teeth on the flywheel won’t make a starter just click. If the starter is trying to engage missing teeth you should hear a zinging sound as the bendix drive fires the starter out into empty space where the teeth were.

Hi there,

I’m writing to follow up on a question that you helped me with back in July about the Nissan flywheel/ starter issue. I realized that I never told you the final story, so I wanted to tell you how it ended up!

So I took the car in to my regular mechanic who reported that the first shop had installed a bad starter which was what was making the grinding noise, and that there was nothing wrong at all with the flywheel. So, the case is solved and was much simpler than we thought. The first shop did completely reimburse me the total amount of the starter, no questions asked, but in the future I will never take my vehicle there again.

Anyways, thanks again for your help and have a great day!

I love it when people report how things turned out!!!

Thanks :slight_smile: