This darn car!

For our anniversary I bought my wife a 1978 Camaro. (305 engine) It drove fine for about a month, then we started to have trouble getting it started. Sometimes we would hear this god awful “wheeeeee” sound whenever it failed to crank. my wife was not happy. I crawled under and discovered that it was the starter making the noise. So i pulled it off and had it tested. sure enough it was failing most of the time. I handed the starter over to the guy at the parts store and said i wanted another starter exactly like this one. he checked the numbers and pulled one off the shelf. It looked the same to me. I went home and installed it. cranked beautifully. took it off the jacks and drove my wife around…she was pleased. Next morning it made the “wheeeee” noise again. So i shimmed it and it started perfectly. Next morning, “wheeee”. Again…angry wife. Me = dog house. I noticed the starter seemed a little short when attached. the cog inside the starter only came up to fit half the width of the flexplate teeth. Now…no matter how i shim it, it won’t start. (and its chipping/grinding flex plate teeth) I also tried to turn the torque converter/flex plate…wouldn’t budge. Any clue as to what is going on with this car?

You are going to have to start at “square one”. It’s possible the original starter was the wrong one for your engine to begin with. You just compounded the problem by asking for a duplicate starter. The next thought is that the original starter was correct but you got a very similar starter but not the one for your engine. I would pull the starter back off and go down to the auto parts store and ask for a starter for your year Camaro with the 305 engine. Compare the starters at the counter. Do they match? The flex plate teeth should end up in the center of the starter teeth in an ideal situation. You might have to get the help of a good mechanic to straighten all of this out. Make sure the flex plate teeth are in good shape and not ground off.

It is possible you have broken teeth on the flywheel. Temporary fix is to advance the engine manually so there are teeth where the starter needs them. I am sure this is totally unsafe and not recommended but making sure ignition is off, pressing on fan belt and turning the fan was how we used to do it, but it sure sounds daNGEROUS in retrospect.

You don’t describe the noise as a gringing (indicating some type of interference) but just as I would expect someone that is describing the sound of a non- engaging armature (but your “sometimes works” description rules out incorrect wiring connections). Shimming will only help if you have “binding” symptons,in other words it sounds like you are going the wrong way.

I also vote for a “by the book” starter and one from a different manufacture, don’t go for lowest price.

Chevy V8 engines have starters that are installed with SHIMS. The starter is not that difficult to install correctly if you know how to adjust the SHIMS. The WHEEEE sound is your flywheel being chewed up by the incorrectly installed starter and the pinion not engaging correctly. On my 305 in a Caprice, a shop installed a rebuilt starter incorrectly and ruined the flywheel; something i’m sure happened to yours.

I would take it to a GOOD SHOP and be prepared for a NEW flywheel and a new rebuilt starter, for about $500+. My shop ended up geting a GM rebuilt starter which installed OK.

Many rebuilt starters don’t work for some reason on these cars.

Parts store says this is the correct starter for a 78 camaro with a 305. Flexplate is about 95% good. Just a few teeth ground here and there. Also noticed that there are holes drilled for both diagonal bolted and front bolted starter. That seemed odd. Engine is original 305 but previous owner installed 350 vortex on top. (not that that makes a difference. Just wondering why?)

First I will make sure the motor will turn. If it will, I’m going to try to pick up a GM starter after work tomorrow and see if that helps. The current one just dosent want to line up right.
Will update tomorrow.

Are you sure the engine is a 305? You said it had diagonal and front mount holes for the starter. The 78’ came with vertical mount bolts. Earlier version of Chevy’s had horizontal mount bolts. I’m wondering if this Camaro has an old model bell housing. If it does it’s going to take a good shop to sort this out. Another thing to consider is that the 78’ 350 has a different starter for manual and automatic transmissions.

I really don’t know myself, but I did have someone look at it and say it was a 305 with a 350 vortec upper.

I’m not sure why it has both diagonal and horizontal bolt holes. Theres no telling whats been done to this car.

If it were an old model bell housing would it require a longer nosed starter?

Here is a pic of the starter in place. You can see where the starter only comes up enough to cover a little over half the width of the flex plate teeth.

This is a really blurry pic of the torque converter/flex plate.

Here is an overview of the engine.

Side view of engine

And this is the beauty we’re talking about.

If you installed the starter with shims, you may want to try it without shims. Some aftermarket starters for GM are not intended to be installed with shims, although, oddly enough, they are still sometimes needed. If they don’t require shims and you use them anyway, that can cause the starter to grind on the flywheel.

The only other possibility I can think of, and it looks that way in the pictures, is that you may have either the wrong starter or the wrong flywheel, whichever way you want to look at it. If memory serves, GM used two different flywheels at one point, and the difference was about five teeth. It’s possible you have the smaller flywheel, and the starter for the bigger one. I would try installing the starter without shims first, though, before counting teeth on the flywheel.

I couldn’t get the motor to turn more than an inch or two. Looks like I have bigger problems than just the starter.

Sorry to hear about your trouble, you now see both the limitations and caveat’s too having your car diagnoised over the internet.

You could be told you need a “good shop” and must spend many hundreds of dollars to have this fixed, wait, now you probably do need a good shop and must spend many hundreds of dollars, right but for the wrong reason.

I wanted to add that you should not immeditaly assume that the reason your engine will not rotate is internal, perhaps a bolt on the flexplate is hanging out preventing rotation, just use a stratagey in making your conclusion, the problem may or may not be internal to the engine.