How to Rebuild a Car Starter

Written by david mcguffin
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The car starter receives an electrical charge from the battery and converts it into mechanical energy by turning the flywheel. When the starter breaks down, it's usually because the teeth of the gear that engages with the flywheel break down. Starter rebuilding kits offer a cheap alternative to taking your car to a mechanic or shelling out money for a new starter. A rebuilt starter can work just as well as a new one, although the parts of the starter that remain are used.

Thus, it's more likely that a rebuilt starter will fail before a brand new unit.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Socket wrench
  • Starter rebuild kit
  • Axle grease
  • Wire wheel
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Air compressor
  • Soldering iron
  • Electrical tape

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  1. 1

    Disconnect the negative battery cable from your vehicle's battery. Remove the starter. Most starters are mounted with two or three bolts that can be backed out with a socket wrench. If you have trouble finding your starter, trace the positive battery cable from your battery and it will lead to the starter.

  2. 2

    Unbolt the starter's housing from the field frame and armature, which are secured by two bolts. Clean the bolts with a wire wheel or bead blaster. Carefully separate the components from the starter assembly by removing the C-clip. Unscrew the three bolts from the magnetic end cap located near the starter's terminal. Remove the end cap and the plunger and spring components. Be careful not to misplace the pieces as you work on the rest of the starter motor. Unscrew the bolts that secure the contact brushes, which surround the plunger mounting within the starter motor. Use an air compressor to help clean out the inside of the starter near where the brushes are located.

  3. 3

    Inspect the armature of the starter. If some of the threads are worn out, you can either replace the armature or use 80-grit sandpaper to smooth out some of the high spots. This will allow the new brushes to grip the armature evenly all the way around it.

  4. 4

    Replace the four contact brushes with new ones from the starter's rebuild kit. Be sure that you are reinstalling the contact brushes just as they were removed, using the same insulator, washer and bolt to reattach it to the starter's frame. Reinstall the spring and plunger on your starter and replace the cover with its three bolts. If your kit includes a new plunger or spring, then install new parts rather than reusing the older parts.

  5. 5

    Remove the rear brushing, which may need to be coaxed with a small chisel, and be careful not to damage the casing. Tap a new rear brushing component into place using a socket wrench.

  6. 6

    Push out the bushing from inside the aluminium casing by using a socket. Install a new bushing inside the casing, being careful that it is positioned correctly.

  7. 7

    Apply axle grease to the starter's plunger lever. Use a rag to clean excess grease once the pin is pushed back into place on the plunger lever.

  8. 8

    Solder new brushes to the field coil. Use a multimeter to check the continuity of the brushes once the solder has had time to cool.

  9. 9

    Apply axle grease to both ends of the armature shaft and place it back into the casing. Reinstall the C-clip, retainer, washer and bolt. Wrap 3/4-inch electrical tape around the outer seal of the starter as a vapour barrier, offering extra protection for the starter motor.

  10. 10

    Install the rebuilt starter motor on your vehicle. Reconnect the negative battery cable. Turn the key in the ignition and test the starter.

Tips and warnings

  • Connect jump leads to a 12-volt battery and connect the cables to the starter battery before installing it in your vehicle. If the starter instantly begins to rev, then it is ready to be installed into the engine.

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