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Rebuild your own starter?

I assume the starter in my '93 F-150 is going to fail pretty soon. Occasionally, when I turn the key, instead of the engine turning over I hear a loud metallic revving sound that takes a couple of seconds to wind down after I release the key. I assume the starter gear isn’t kicking out to engage the flywheel to crank the engine and it’s happen more frequently every day. So far it’s always started on the third or fourth key turn but I have to believe it’s going to leave me stranded some day.

I’m not too worried about replacing the starter itself. I can get the Alldata instructions and my diesel mechanic brother-in-law swears it’s not that complicated of a job. Add the fact that I have another vehicle and it’s not much of a problem if the truck is out of action for a week or more. My question is if it’s possible to rebuild my current starter or do I have to pay for a completely re-manufactured unit. I know that it used to be a common practice for independent shops to repair parts like this in house but that this hasn’t been the case for many years now. Do you know of any online sources for parts and information that would enable me to rebuild this starter myself or do I just have to bite the bullet and trade in the unit for a professionally rebuilt one?

I’m unaware of any. Let me suggest that based on your description you may have a few teeth missing from the flywheel ring gear.

The assenbly that engages the starter motor to the flywheel also closes the contacts to complete the starter motor circuit when it does this. The fact that the starter motor is spinning indicates that that assembly is functioning. Were it not, the starter motor circuit contacts would not have closed and the motor would not be spinning.

See if you’re missing some teeth before targeting the starter motor.

You might be able to replace the bendix gear the engages the flywheel without getting a new starter. It sounds like your problem is either a worn gear or worn teeth on the flywheel. If you can buy the bendix gear it just might work.

Rebuilding the motor itself is tricky since the motor case is sealed and you’d have to replace the brushes and test the windings for proper specs or rewind it. Getting inside the electric motor part of the starter would require some previous experience.

I suggest you consult your local phone directory for a company that rebuilds starter and alternators. There is such a place right down the street from where I’m sitting right now, and I don’t live in a huge metropolitan area.

You should compare prices from a rebuilder in your area vs your local parts store.

A good service manual, like a factory Ford manual, would probably have step-by-step instructions for rebuilding the starter yourself, but the cost of a manual might almost pay for a starter.

Installing a rebuilt starter is so simple I don’t know why you’d really want to go to the time and trouble of rebuilding one yourself.

Your Ford will use an external starter solenoid mounted on the inner fender. It’s where the positive battery cable terminates. The starter uses a 'Bendix Drive" to run the gear forward and engage the flywheel. This part can be purchased separately and used to repair your starter. Go to any online parts house and enter “starter drive” in their search window…When you remove the front starter housing, try to leave the armature in the rear of the housing so as not to disturb the brushes…If you pull the armature out, the brushes will fall out, and they can be somewhat tricky to reassemble…

Many thanks to all for the kind replies. I’ll try to check the flywheel teeth tomorrow morning. Assuming the teeth are damaged could that damage have been caused by improperly installing the current starter? It’s only about nine months old. I asked about the flywheel teeth at that time and the mechanic said they were fine.

It could have been, but there’s really no way to tell without a look-see. Teeth can also be damaged by repeatedly trying to start a motor that’s already running. I’ve known someone that did that too often. These nice, quiet motors in some sedans can fool you into thinging they’r not running.

The fact that a 9 month old starter is failing to engage the flywheel teeth is not a good sign that the problem lies solely with the starter drive. Now I see why you just want to fix the drive,the rest of the starter is only 9 monts old.

You could have posted" I replaced my starter 9 months ago and now experience periodes of starter non-engagement,do you know what could be the problem"?

Phrasing your question this way would have given us the information to get to the root of the problem,instead you asked if its possible to rebuild the starter.

Point taken and thanks for the input. I’ll attempt to keep this in mind in future posts.

I used to rebuild all my own starters and alternators. I stopped as I no longer feel it’s worth my time, including the “down time” needed to open it up, see what’s needed, drive around to get the parts…

I fully support mcparadise’s suggestion to look for a local company that rebuilds starters and alternators. You’ll pay more than a rebuild from Autozone, but the quality will be much much higher. The one I use all the time is “Chelmsford Auto Electric” in Tyngsboro, Mass.

Starter rebuilding is pretty basic. It does require that you have the rebuild parts available so check. You will need the bushings, the brushes, and the bendix. Also you will need some way to check the field windings and the armature windings although I don’t think you will need to do that in your case. If you are meticulous and have the parts you should enjoy doing this job. After all, the rebuild shops use fairly unskilled labor to rebuild the cores you send back.

I personally find this sort of work fulfilling.

It can’t be missing teeth on the flywheel. If that were true, nothing short of the driver getting out and turning the engine a few degrees by hand would ever get the engine off the missing teeth.

It’s FAR more likely that that the gear in the starter that engages the flywheel, and which contains an over-running clutch for when the engine does start, is failing. This is, in fact, a pretty common mode of failure for that part. It’s called a starter bendix, also called a starter drive, and you almost certainly will need one pretty soon.