Occasional rough sound while starting

Hi, I have an 89 Subaru justy. Carbureted, 3 cylinder, manual.
Every once in a while for the last few months, when I turn the key to start it, it makes a kind of grinding noise. I imagine it sounding like a piston moving in a rusty cylinder. It turns over fine like this but will not start.
I let go of the key for a second, and try it again, and it turns over a couple times without the grinding noise and starts like normal.
Any ideas what could cause this? Thanks

Are you sure the engine is turning over, and it’s not just the starter making this noise? How many miles on it?

There is a strong likelihood that the 32 year old starter needs to be replaced.

The solonoid may not be pushing the pinion gear all the way to the flywheel. Or some of the gears on the flywheel are damaged. If it was me, I would clean all battery and starter connections, inspect the flywheel. If that all checks out, I would replace the starter.


Rockauto (and probably parts stores near you) have starters for this Justy, all under $100.

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The noise is from the one way clutch in the starter drive slipping, replace the starter assembly.

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Thanks, the engine was rebuilt 2 years ago and the starter replaced 3 years ago. It was a cheap starter so maybe it’s going bad.
The engine is definitely turning over. it’s not the sound of the teeth on the starter not engaging the flywheel, I’ve heard that sound before.