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Starter Problems: Check the Battery First!


Rebuilding the Starter Motor

Rich F: "I had asked while back about rebuild kits but wasn't able to find any. So I just took the starter motor apart cleaned it up and lubricated it. But it still will not engage the flywheel. It is a '62 CJ-3B with the Bendix Folo-Thru drive starter. If I fully extend the drive before reinstalling, the engine will start right up -- once. But it will not restart again. The starter spins but the starter drive gear does not fully extend. Any ideas on the problem or any fixes? My service manual states that 'No repairs or adjustments possible on this drive and a complete new unit must be installed...' And of course I can't find a new unit!"

Starter testingBob: "I would take it to a Pep Boys or auto parts house and have them test it. When 12 volts is applied it should kick the Bendix out and look normal. You may have a burr on the shaft or a binding Bendix. The motor sounds to be good, but the Bendix does not seem to slide out to engage the flywheel. Also make sure you have a good ground and a good 12-volt supply line. Sometimes a drop in voltage will not spin the motor fast enough to engage the Bendix."

Note: diagram (right) shows the procedure for testing a starter motor, from the Automobile Electric Association Tune-Up System.

Jyotin: "I'd replace all cables from the battery to the starter with 00 or 0 gauge cables. Go to a NAPA or other quality store and get the cables. A low end chain parts house probably never heard of 00 or 0 gauge cables. This is especially important if you have a 6-volt system. Clean all connections with a wire brush -- be sure the the ground cable is connected to a really clean spot; they sometimes get overlooked since they generally connect to a nearly inaccessible spot. Remember it can take 50-100 amps to run the starter. If you have only one ohm of resistance in the circuit you cannot get more than 6 or 12 amps depending on your electrical system.

"If you live anywhere near a larger city, and if you do some digging around, you will find the shop that rebuilds starters/generators for the local auto parts stores. We have two around here (Cincinnati) -- Hamilton Electric and OEM Electric. The rebuild outfit can rebuild yours in a day.


Bendix"Be careful of applying 12 volts to the starter while it is out of the flywheel. If the Bendix does come out it can be problematic to make it go back in again. Shops have an electric motor setup to get them back in, but you probably don't."

An anonymous reader stated: "Rebuilts come with the Bendix out, it is supposed to be out when you install it. It returns after the engine starts."

Bob: "You should get a rebuild for somewhere in the $60 range; it depends on what needs to be done. Sometimes it's less, sometimes it's more. I've had mine rebuilt twice, once due to it being old and in need of a rebuild, and once due to a mistake the rebuilder made. Each time it came back to me with the Bendix in. The guys at the shop told me that it will not function correctly if installed with the Bendix out. Once the motor starts, it forces the Bendix back into place for the next start.

Ernie had the manual: "It says in the last paragraph on Bendix Folo-Thru Drive under I-61, page 142:

'Reassemble the starter motor to the engine with the drive in the extended position. Carefully mesh the pinion with the flywheel ring gear before tightening the starter motor mounting bolts. When the engine starts the drive pinion will automatically demesh from the ring gear and return to its normal position.'

So I went ahead and put it in and all works great."

Bolt-in Replacement

Dan: "Is this a good 12V starter for a 134 F-head engine? From a '64-'83 Toyota Land Cruiser 4.2L engine - OE# Nippondenso 02800-2362/4, with cast iron drive end. Lester rebuilt #16224 and ACE #649."

Tom Callahan: "I've been using one for about 3 years with no problems whatsoever. Mine was a direct bolt-in. They are more compact, and have a softer engage on the flywheel. I got the tip from a fellow that built swamp-racing Jeeps, and he swore by them."

Jeff Heidman installed a Toyota starter in his 1953 CJ-3B:

Toyota starter"My 6-volt starter was acting up, so instead of rebuilding it I installed a Toyota Landcruiser starter while finally swapping over to 12 volts. I bought mine at O'Reillys Auto Parts -- it's an Ultima brand. It turns the engine over fast. I have big cables on it; for a $50 price it is a reliable option for the F head.

"Fits into the unmodified F-head bellhousing -- will not work in an L-head bellhousing. If I recall it can be fitted to the L-head; just need to install a 3B flywheel as you know, and use the 3B bellhousing. The drawback is the 3B flywheel doesn't have the earlier timing marks so you may need to install a 3B front cover and belt pulley on crankshaft.

"Mated up the new starter to see where I was going to have to mod it. Drilled up the mounting holes to 1/2" and filed the lower hole in the starter flange just a bit to be able to install the original bolts.

"The bendix pivot bolt has to be removed slightly to allow the head of the orig bolt to be installed, not much clearance so the upper bolt will take a while to install using a flex socket and 12" extension. Wiring is simple I plan on using the floor switch to keep the look of the orig setup. The engine starts right up compared to the old 6 volt setup."
 

Rus: "Manufacturers or parts availability sometimes change, especially for an older vehicle. So, at O'Reilly Auto Parts I typed in 1982 Toyota Landcruiser (where it asks for your vehicle) and then clicked on "Starter" and saw 2 starters. Ultima Starter, Part #R612250B looked like the starter above -- noticed it says 'Remanufactured' which makes me think the original starter may have gone away.

"I repeated the part search with Advance Auto. Same vehicle, same part search, and got CARQUEST Starter -- Remanufactured, Part No. 16224S. The brand CARQUEST is known and that part number is on Jeff's starter above. Both indicate 9-tooth bendix gear."

Sunnyboy: "I installed a Toyo starter on my 3B, although not the gear reduction one. I did the filing of the bolt hole to fit but a big deal. While it did work I found it cranks very slow; all terminals were good, ground, etc. I used it for 2 years and finally took it off because of the cranking and installed a 6-volt one which as you know cranks fast on 12 volts and it starts instantly with no harm to the starter if not cranked continuously. I bought the Toyo starter at O'Reilly's for a little over 50.00.

Toyota starterMichael: "Been working great for two years now. #16828 Advance Auto offset gear reduction starter. I find it cranks over a bit faster than my stock starter did. It is very quiet compared to the stock starter.

"Some advantages of a gear reduction starter over a 'straight' or non-gear-reduction style would be size, weight, and torque. You can build a more compact unit by offsetting the gears and using torque multiplication to equal the force applied to the flywheel ring gear that a conventional starter would apply. My Toyota starter is about one half to one third the size of the original and about a third of the weight. I haven't actually measured how many amps it draws vs the original but, I believe it to be less and it spins the motor over a bit faster than stock.

Goose: "Got my LC starter in today. Funny how it's the same number as Jeff's but looks altogether different. It seems much smaller than the one in his pic. I did have to elongate the mounting holes but did not need to switch out the top mount bolt for a hex drive -- the OEM bolt was very accessible. I don't like that it is a remanufactured starter from China but at $45 it'll be cheap to replace. Starts well and is as fast or faster than the original."

Dick: "I am not a Jeep guy that likes to put out-of-the-USA parts on my Jeep, so I try to find USA-made parts for it. I converted my '54 CJ-3B to 12 volt back in 2003. I kept the 6V original starter with the 134 F-head. I had the 6V starter rebuilt and it has been the starting motor ever since then. If you have a good ignition system or converted to an electronics system you do not need a Toyota starter for the F-head. My F-head will start with only about two or three bumps of the starter to get it lit up. The starter fits like it was designed and will last a long time too.I am glad I did not go to any other starter for my high hood. I can rebuild it with over the counter parts from my parts store."

John: "Like many who have a 3B converted to 12V, mine still has the 6V starter in it. Just don't sit and crank for a long time, you may overheat it. Since my ignition and fuel systems are up to spec, it starts right up after only a couple or three turns of the crankshaft. In very cold weather, it needs a little choke to fire.The best thing you can do for your starter is keep the ignition and fuel systems in good shape. Then it'll start right up with no abuse of the starter motor."

Note: Mac's Jeeparts in Oregon manufactures a heavy-duty replacement starter.

Starter Switch Conversions

CircuitBen: "I'd like to get rid of the foot starter and go with a keyed setup. My ring gear has a bad spot and the starter spins when it lands on it, so now is a good time for me to convert. Anyone know what starter and ring gear will swap?"

Ernie: "If your starter uses an electric floor mounted switch, all you need to do is get a remote mounted solenoid, a key switch and wire it up. I used a later model 12V starter and it had a spot to mount the solenoid right on top of the housing. I think that all of the ring gears are the same."

Bob Christy: "There are a few solutions to your problem. I have a regular starter button in my '53 right now because the foot switch went bad; I just got the new one in the mail yesterday. I have a regular solenoid in mine and a simple button. My Jeep is converted to 12 volts but I have the 6-volt starter in it. As long as you don't crank it for several minutes, everything is fine with it. As far as your ring gear goes, this is what I've been told by a guy who has been working on F134's for many years: the engine stops in the same place every time it shuts down, and if you take your flywheel off and freeze it, you can get the ring gear off and just rotate it around the flywheel to a different position and put it all back together. I know it sounds strange but he swears it works."

Note: See also Ring Gear Installation on CJ3B.info.

Jyotin: "If you have a simple foot-operated starting switch (not the mechanical foot-actuated kind), you can purchase a solenoid and wire it around the switch. If everything works now, you can leave the solenoid wired in or replace the foot switch. I personally don't like foot switches -- I had one that would short to ground if tightened too much. If you are really in love with the foot switch, have it fused and use it to control the solenoid rather than make the direct connection to the starter. That's a nice, safe compromise."

Ed Wilson: "My variation on this conversion was to use the remote solenoid as well. Since my '54 is still 6 volts, I bought a solenoid for an older Ford tractor, still available through many parts stores. I mounted it on the firewall just above the starter, then wired it to a dash-mounted push button and to the starter and battery. With this, I just turn on the ignition switch and push the button."

Buddy Belzer: "Maybe I can throw in my two cents. I did such a conversion last weekend when my floor starter switch gave up on me. I went to the NAPA store and purchased the following to complete the job:

"It a great way to go and works with no problem. As a matter of fact I had this setup on my CJ-2A done when I restored it in 1976 and it's still working great. I did this on my second CJ-2A and it will probably outlive me on my second conversion. Both are 6-volt starters on a 12-volt system."
 

Wiring the Starter and Solenoid

StarterJohn asked on the bulletin board: "I have a 1953 CJ 3B and must have the starter wiring messed up. I have a key switch and bypassed the floor starter button. The solenoid on the firewall has no wires attached to it. The plug and coil wires are there and in place, but the rest of the wiring isn't done yet. Also, the coil and generator are 12-volt. Now, what wires go where? There are 3 wires from the generator to the voltage regulator. How can I start the jeep just to hear it run?"

Jimmy responded: "All you need is a wire off the + battery to the + coil and take a jumper cable from the + battery to the starter to get it to spin, or push start it. If the coil doesn't have an internal resistor you need a ballast resistor to knock the voltage down or you'll burn the points."

Jyotin commented: "There should be a wire from the + side of the battery to the ignition switch. When the ignition switch is "ON" there should be 12 volts to the + side of the coil. This is electricity going through the ignition switch. When the ignition switch is in the "start" position there should be 12 volts to the solenoid COIL connection (small terminal). The solenoid should be grounded well to the fender via the mounting bolts -- scrape off a little paint if you have to in order to get a good connection to ground. There should be 12 volts from the battery to one side of the large terminal on the solenoid. There should be a cable from the other large terminal on the solenoid to the starter. So, when the ignition is on, the coil gets power, and when you turn to start, you turn on the solenoid and electricity flows from battery, through the solenoid and on to the starter."

Ken inquired: "Is there any way to tell if the coil has a resistor or if you need to add one?"

Jyotin added: "The F-134 did not call out a separate ballast resistor for the coil circuit, therefore it is not an issue. Didn't have one, shouldn't need one. What will burn out the points is a missing or bad condenser."

Jimmy answered: "The coil will often say on it if it's internal resistor and no ballast resistor required."

Jyotin continued: "It may be different for other engines, but there is no part number for a ballast resistor or resistive wire in the f-134. A six-volt coil (p/n 649712) is not the same as a twelve-volt coil (p/n 933160). Condenser and points (p/n 917128 and 923146, respectively) are common between six and twelve volt systems. Put the correct coil in, wire it up and don't worry about a ballast resistor or wire."

Oldtime said: "The Ignition coils used with the 12-volt systems are specially designed 6-volt coils which operate with a resistor connected in series with the primary ignition circuit. The purpose of the resistor is to prolong the life of the distributor breaker points. The resistor is either internal or may be external. The original F-134 coils would be calibrated for a set ohms range. This must also be within the condensor's range of capacitance."

John concluded: "First off I bought a new coil, one that doesn't need a resistor, and put it on. Second, followed your overall instructions concerning starting with the jumper cable to the starter and she kicked right over."


Thanks to Tech Editors Doug Hoffman and Andy Stock, and all the contributors on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board. The drawings are from the Jeep Universal Service Manual which has more details on this topic. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 24 February 2017 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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