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When starting, a loud sound before the engine starts

1987 Acura Integra Automatic, 160k

I have been noticing - mostly for every start (there are a few in between that did not have that sound).

When starting, a loud sound (some what unbearable) heard and was hesitant and then the engine starts. Once started it runs fine. It is not the usual sound that the ignition makes when going bad.

What seems to be the issue?

Right after I drained and filled AT fluid, it heard the first time. I have been doing AT fluid since nearly 10yrs ago with Honda fluid. I only did drain and fill and it went smoothly. In 2007, the tranny was replaced. After starting, the car runs smoothly - it is only when starting or just before engine try to start. Batt and alternator tests fine.

It hardly did it today - I might have once heard a girding sound just before starting.

Is it a grinding metallic sound? If some teeth have been broken off the ring gear on the flywheel, the starter gear will spin and slip and make a grinding noise when it encounters the missing teeth. Have a mechanic check the flywheel for missing gear teeth.

Thanks @jesmed1‌

How urgent is it fix this? Can it cause other damages?

What kind of money to fix this?
Is this rare issue?

Yes, if teeth are missing on the flywheel, the starter will continue to chew up the other teeth until eventually it will be impossible to start the car. This will happen gradually, not tomorrow or next week, but you should have it looked at as soon as possible.

It’s a fairly rare issue but with so many cars out there, it happens. I don’t know about cost but it involves a fair amount of labor to remove the transmission and get at the flywheel to replace it, so it won’t be cheap.

Well - self healed!
It starts smoothly again - without any fixing!

A forums states:

"Starter motor noisy or excessively rough in engagement

  • Pinion or flywheel gear teeth worn or broken.
  • Starter motor mounting bolts loose or missing."

What paid inspection is worthwhile - what should I ask the m/c to inspect? I went to the m/c who did the timing belt - at that time it didn’t do it so he did not say much. The m/c who replaced the tranny said hourly rate if he had to hunt for the issue.

“Well - self healed!
It starts smoothly again - without any fixing!”

Engines tend to stop at a spot where one piston is coming up on its compression stroke. Your 4-cyl engine has 2 such positions. It could be a while before the “bad” position recurs (if the “bad flywheel gear” theory is correct). You could certainly just wait until it happens again. Pulling the starter and checking the flywheel teeth shouldn’t be a huge job.

@insightful - thanks

One question - if one or so teeth turned out to be broken, then what is the next step - I hear that the auto tranny needs to come out - expensive repair? So if it is not doing it anymore, should I just drive around? Question is, if ring teeth is broken, is prolonging it without repair cause other issues - in other words, is it critical that I repair it? Appreciate your thoughts?

It a tooth is broken, sooner or later the starter will end up there and it won’t start.

on my pickup I had a similar sound. it turned out that the gear ring had broken loose from the fly wheel and was actually rotating around the flywheel. it would not happen every time and I assumed it was broken teeth or something but It eventually would not catch at all. the gear ring would justspin around without turning the whole flywheel. I could not believe it did not separate worse

I heard of a guy that carried a breaker bar and socket so if the starter wouldn’t engage the flywheel, he would manually turn the crankshaft a few degrees (in the normal rotation direction) and start it. Did this for years.

Thanks all

I drove today to fill it up - everything sounded perfect - pressing on the gas pedal there is instant power on the wheel - this makes me to think that the ring might have just slipped a few times, as a result of me jacking up the front, and it is no longer doing it - I might be wrong.

Starting the car was fun too - just fires - Auto tranny is shifting better after the AT fluid change. Turned out it did 27mpg for the last tank. It is a 1987 car. Is @knfenimore‌ saying that this issue can damage the starter? Is it only if it continue to make the rough noise? Otherwise, I might go slowly on the inspection.

BTW: I noted that the AT drain bolt does not have the magnetic tip. Newer models have them. I am interested in buying an aftermarket one - any tips, or places to look for?

It is starter going bad - will be replacing.