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Starter grinding even AFTER new starter put in

I have a 2003 PT Cruiser. On cold mornings after sitting overnight the starter on my car would make a grinding noise for a second after the engine cranked. The colder it got the worse the noise was. So I did what everyone says to do and put in a new (used) starter. Now it’s doing exactly the same thing. When it sits and is cold I get the grinding noise, when it is warm or been running recently I don’t.

What do I do now?

Used starter?

Get a remanufactured starter. The overrunning clutch for the starter gear is sticking when the starter gets cold and is holding the starter gear into the flexplate.


+1 for @Tester. You might want to inspect the teeth on your flexplate. If they are badly chewed up then they could make the starter gear (bendix) stick as well. Grinding is never good for your starter gear or flexplate.

It could also be a sticking ignition switch.

If the first starter made a grinding noise, that grinding of gears may have damaged the flywheel teeth (which mate with the starter gear teeth), which in turn will make the second starter make a grinding noise. I’m not sure if this is the same thing as the “flexplate” concern mentioned above. It’s easy for a mechanic to inspect the flywheel teeth when the starter is removed, and some cars allow you to inspect the teeth even without removing the starter I think.

It would be the same thing if your bicycle chain got damaged and made a ginding noise, so you change to a new chain, but it still made the grinding noise because the sprockets got damaged by the first chain.

George: But if the teeth were damaged why would it only make the noise when cold? Why would being colder make the noise worse?

Tester: I know that’s the answer if your starter is sticking, but this is the second starter. So is it really possible the second starter is sticking in exactly the same way under exactly the same conditions as the first starter? To me that means it’s probably not the starter. Just go with me here… imagine it is not the starter, what else could it be?

@GeorgeSanJose…The flexplate is used on an automatic transmission. A flywheel is used on a vehicle with a manual transmission. It’s where the clutch is mounted.

Ignition switch?

There is a starter relay in the Power Distribution Center, which is under the hood on the driver’s side that could be sticking. Also, the ignition key could be bad. The flex plate should be inspected.

The flexplate is used on an automatic transmission. A flywheel is used on a vehicle with a manual transmission. It's where the clutch is mounted.
@missileman .. thanks, I looked up a u-tube vdo which shows the difference.

(To see the utube vdo , Google transmission flexplate, it should be right at the top, titled “How flexplates work vs flywheel”)

Edit: After watching the vdo, I still don’t understand why it flexes ! … lol … says something about preventing it from “bottoming out”, but what does that mean? and why would it be a problem on an automatic and not a manual? Car parts are sometimes very puzzling to us auto-repair diy’ers.

@Feasle … metals have a coefficient of expansion ; i.e. they expand and contract w/temperature. The gears on the starter motor need to mesh perfectly with the teeth on the flexplate (for an automatic, or flywheel if a manual xmssion). A flexplate is like a big flat disc-like-thing. The teeth are on the circumference. When the flexplate is cold, it will have a smaller diameter, so the starter gear will have to reach further to engage with the flexplate teeth. If the flexplate teeth are already ground down a little from before, then with the cold temperature contracting the whole flex plate, the starter gear might not quite reach the teeth. And if the starter gears don’t reach far enough to robustly engage, the gear will slip, and make a grinding noise…

edit: I’ve heard of people shimming their starter motors to address this problem, provided the flexplate/flywheel teeth are in working order.

Your car is 10 years old, and you believe the starter might have some kind of an issue

Putting in a used starter doesn’t make sense to me. How do you know that starter wasn’t giving the previous guy problems?

@GeorgeSanJose is correct. Many starters do require shims. I’m not sure if that is the case here

I have a hard time believing that the same problem is happening with two starters in the same car under exactly the same conditions. Plus the used part is guaranteed to have less than 50,000k on it. Is it possible? Sure. It’s also possible that spending 220 dollars on a new starter is going to have the same effect as putting a used starter in… nothing, except then I’m out 220 dollars.