How do you get a starter to engage just right? [Archive] - Chevelle Tech

: How do you get a starter to engage just right?

Dec 28th, 10, 4:01 PM

I've got a 65 Elky with a 700R4. The flexplate appears to be in good condition, but won't be for long.

I stuck a modern GM starter (like a 95 truck) on the 1987 small block.

The starter has always had problems engaging. I messed with shims quite a bit. recently I was moving the car around and the starter stuck to the flex to the flex plate and made a huge squeeling grinding sound. I may have gotten some dirt in it as I drove over a gravel driveway.

Now I can not turn it over without major noise.

This is an ongoing issue: I start the car, let go of the starter, but the starter stays stuck to the flex plate. I added a .060 shim which seemed to be decent but never perfect. If I add any more shims the whole thing just grinds and slips.

I'm looking at the starter right now, gear stuck to the flex plate. The teeth are not fully engaged (all the way into the flex plate) The angle does not seem right (gears not fully parallel).

Any ideas on the best way to set this up?

Should the teeth on each side fully engage (deeply) or just barely touch?

The starter housing is really close the the flex plate, maybe I should grind it off a bit so I can get closer?

Dec 28th, 10, 4:11 PM

Sorry Dean ,to much to type ;)

Dec 28th, 10, 5:35 PM
I am a fan of getting a stock starter with the appropriate brace. I was having issues with latemodel starters on my 475, seem to get out of alignment...back to stock with the brace!

Dec 28th, 10, 5:53 PM
Thanks, these are good tips. I think this is a mounting bolt issue. I've got a 1987 crate motor GM block, but I think the late model starter used different bolts that are metric. I really thought this would work, but now I am not so sure.

On the other hand, Rock Auto sells this same starter as stock on a 1987 truck.

I need bolts that are knurled near the threads. The knurls work their way into the block to help position the starter in the correct location.

Unfortunately the stock bolts that I have appear to be too long for the starter.

Using generic grade 8 bolts allows the starter to shift in odd positions, which causes gear alignment issues.

Dec 28th, 10, 5:59 PM
There are numerous issues than can cause your problem and they've all been covered here before. One thing I've run into using a modern starter is your need the modern metric bolts. The threads are the same but the newer starters use a slightly thicker bolt. Using the earlier style bolts can allow the starter to twist enough to louse up it's alignment.

Dec 28th, 10, 6:00 PM
Yes ,you do need the bolt's with the knurl.
Usually there in the 'HELP' section in the auto parts store.

Dec 28th, 10, 6:11 PM
Thanks Mike, ya been there. The problem is that the HELP bolts that are the right thread are just a little too long for the small modern starter. I crank them into the block and the starter is still 1/4 inch from the block! It would take a lot of shims for the starter to be snug.

Surely people are putting these are putting these late model factory small starters on older blocks, no?

fred's old chevelle
Dec 28th, 10, 6:47 PM
I understand that the more modern starter is nice BUT, I agree with the other members, use a stock old style starter, with the correct knurled bolts. It would be best to use a "high torque" gm style. You can tell by looking where the copper lug comes out of the windings area. The closer the lug (little thing sticking out of armature area that is screwed to the solenoid) is to the end of the case or bushing plate, lets you know it will be a higher torque unit. Use the brace or bracket too, it bolts to the top armature bolt and to the engine block. If you can't find a high torque you can use a normal torque unit but the correct part is the high torque for a big block.

fred's old chevelle
Dec 28th, 10, 6:52 PM
I forgot, shim it just until you don't hear the "zing" when the engine is cranking or starting, this means it is too tight. You can also twist the bendix in to the ring gear with your fingers and check the tooth engagement depth , if I recall it should not be less than halve the depth of the teeth. anybody else remember what the correct depth is ? I recall some starters would come with a factory shim to get you in the ball park.

Dec 28th, 10, 7:07 PM
You might need to get the bolt's from a GM dealer.

Dec 28th, 10, 8:30 PM
You might need to get the bolt's from a GM dealer.

exactly what i did.

Dec 29th, 10, 12:36 PM
Thanks for the help gents. It was the bolts. I am documenting what I did so that others might be able to use it in the future.

I am using the GM high torque modern starter used on big blocks at least as late as the 1999. These starters work on older small blocks as well. Like this one:

My motor is a 1987 350 with a one piece rear main seal, but I think it will work fine on older blocks as well.

Any late truck with a 454 probably used this starter. You can get a Remy (25485) remanufactured one for $125.

GM Part number of the starter 9000852. It is a staggered bolt pattern starter for 168 tooth, 14" flywheels or flex plates. These starters are super light and last forever.

I had to get some special bolts from the Chevy dealer to make this work. They have a knurled shoulder just after the threads that register the starter just right on the block. The unique thing about these bolts is that they are about 1/4 inch shorter than the standard long bolt you would use on a normal chevy starter. The part number for these bolts is 12338064. They measure 3/8-16x4.33.

Standard Chevy long starter bolts (like HELP bolts) measure 4 5/8"

They cost me $3.50 for two. Hard to believe I've been putting up with a grindy starter for years before I figured out that straight bolts don't work!

I mounted the starter with these bolts, cranked em down to 40 lbs/ft (also important). I used no shims. The starter fired perfectly. Woohoo.

Thanks again.

Dec 29th, 10, 1:13 PM
Another option...I purchased the correct GM mini starter bolts from my local starter/alternator rebuilder.
Been using these "truck" mini starters on everything from a higher compression 540 down to a mild 350...never any issues.

Dec 29th, 10, 3:43 PM
i've had bent bolts cause starters to not engage right..

when i first put the LT4 Corvette mini starter in my Nova, i ran into the problem of my old bolts being too long by about 3/16" or so. my solution to just get the car working and movable was to just put 1/4" of washers under the bolt head to take up the slack. it worked so well that i never bothered to get the "correct" bolts for the next 4 years that i owned the car.. i kept the starter when i got rid of the car, and when i put it in my 84 Regal T Type 2 years ago, the stock bolts were the perfect length..