NOV 29

I replaced the starter on my car this weekend, which was a bit more time consuming that I had planned, but was ultimately very successful (and economical). Here's how it went down:

For the past several months, my trusty Integra had intermittently refused to start. It took me a while to narrow down the relevant symptom, which was that a single click come from under the hood followed by silence. Repeated attempts (sometimes more than a dozen) would eventually lead to a successful start. It was gradually getting worse, so I knew I would have to do something soon.

The root cause of this ended up being that the copper contacts inside the starter had worn down and become corroded so much that they were no longer making contact and conducting electricity. I discovered this after reading the discussion forums on numerous Acura support web sites. After a failed attempt to find the necessary factory parts online, I eventually made my way to the ClickerFixer (whose web site has an excellent animation showing the problem) and ordered a kit.

While I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I located the Integra shop manual online. I read and printed out the relevant sections on removing the starter. The shop manual was essential, it would have been a lot harder without it.

Getting the starter out was by far the toughest part. The starter is wedged in the middle of the engine compartment amidst cables, hoses, vents, and, of course, the engine itself. Getting a wrench down inside took some work and most of the time I had to do it by touch since I couldn't see. The whole thing was pretty murderous on my knees owing to the awkward angle of approach.

It would have been nice if the shop manual had included bolt sizes. I accidentally removed the wrong bolts at first and ended up taking apart the starter solenoid. Not only did this make it harder to get the starter out, but I then later had to learn how to reassemble the solenoid. The whole solenoid experience probably added an hour or more to the total time.

Once the correct bolts had been located, and after the sacrifice of some skin on my knuckles, I finally had the starter in my hands. The replacement of the failed parts was quite trivial. The old copper plates were badly worn and pitted. It may have been possible to sand them down and try to reuse them, but I had already bought the replacement parts and I didn't want to have to take the starter out again if it didn't work.

Getting it back into the engine was a lot easier now that I knew what was I was doing. It was still a challenge, and I was sweating by the end, but it was all rewarded when I turned the key and the engine roared to life on the first attempt!

Total cost, $28 for parts and about four hours of time. I could probably do it in 2 hours or less now that I know what I'm doing. I also feel good that I was able to repair the unit versus going to a mechanic who probably would have wanted to replace the whole thing.

tags: do-it-yourself car repair
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