small blcok chevy! The ultimate starter problem! S.O.S.
Hello fellow motor heads! Im seeking some major help regarding a small block chevy 350. I have a fully restored (and modified) 1979 Trans-am. It originaly had a stock 403 olds. block under the hood. When it came time to pricing engine parts for a 403 and 350 chev. there was no contest! Small block parts a dime a dozen.
So the 403 was pulled and my 350 was built to be a powerplant. the stock 2.73 rear end ratio was removed for a more favorable 3.73 richmond set. In the middle of the drive line it houses a turbo 350-automatic done up right with shift kit. Paint was redone with the decal package. Engine beutifly detailed and the interior flawless.
So i have this 79 beauty that will NOT start with a damn! I originaly had a rebuilt starter (boch)
That starter worked well for about a month (just long enough to break the cam in and get some miles on the freshly rebuilt engine)
Ive been reading on car forums until my eyes have bled regarding others that have been in my shoes regarding chevy starters. Unfortunatly I haven't been able to solve this pain in the ***!
I have tried 4 different rebuild starters. Everything from el-cheapo's to a genuine AC-delco. all had the same results. Finaly i purchased a powermaster mini starter. same damn result! I get about 4 GOOD starts out of the starter then it seems it goes out of alignement. after 4 good starts i get the IN-famous grind that the entire neighbourhood reacts to by covering their ears.
Then i climb under the car, readjust the starter and again get 4 good starts just to have it croak again!
The ouvious steps have been taken. Shims, No shims it just doesnt seem to matter. I even purchased a starter brace from GM. That didn't solve the problem either. I then decided to proceed with the daunting task of replacing the flexplate while my new engine was still in the car. I have the 168 tooth that is SUPPOSE to match the 168 starter. All my starters have had the staggered bolt pattern. 168 tooth flexplate for stagered bolt pattern. 153 tooth plate for straight bolt pattern starters (or so ive been told) After a flexwheel replacement i still get the same result! The old flexplate looked just fine. no cracks, no worn teeth. And YES i triple checked to make sure the flexplate is on correctly not backwards.
This is when the story gets interesting..............
I decided to pull the header (no thats NOT causing a heat issue for me in my situation) and spotted the problem! The bolt located closest to the passenger side header was completely visible! Meaning, the Cast around that bolt had completely snapped off and crumbled. This was not visible before because the header was obstructing the view. Just for the record when we put the motor in the car the cast was there with no signs of cracks or wears. This explained why that bolt would come fairly lose causing the starter to shift. A friend of mine that has been playing the motor game for 30+ years came over and welded back the missing cast pretty close to perfection. It wasn't an easy task with the block still in the car by any means so my hats off to him. The ministarter bolts are shorter then the stock ones. our game plan at that point was simple. Use the longer (stock) starter bolt on the mini starter. This allows the bolt to go all the way through the welded and re-tapped hole. We could now put a nut on the end of the starter bolt preventing it from moving.
With the header still off and bolts tightly in place we pulled the disributor wire allowing the motor to turn without firing. We tested our fix job by rotating the motor 30+ times. All seemed great! After 4 cranks the starter didn't seem to be coming lose like before. It seemed to still line up with the flexplate. starter sounded quiet and smiles were on our faces. but..............NOT so fast!
After putting the header back on and the distributor wire back on we fired up the car and timed the engine. All still good. Shut off the engine and tried starting it again. again..........all was good. Tried starting it 15 + times then shutting it down. All still worked great! High fives and champaigne.
Until we went for a spin! Started up the car like a breeze. cruised around town for about a half hour in pride as onlookers checkout out my restored 79 rod with fresh paint, tires, mags and a mean sounding engine. As much as we wanted to play with the N.O.S. bottle we decided the motor needed more miles before we start shooting spray down the carb. We then returned home and turned off the engine. Could this be it?? fixed?? Shut down the engine and tried starting up the car again. DAMN! here we go again! grind! god i hate that sound! back to square 1 , sort of. my buddy grinned and said "what a tease she's being" for sure! Anyone who says vehicles don't have attitudes, i dis-agree!
both bolts still feel good and tight between attempts when before that 1 bad bolt felt lose between attemps. what seems to be happening now, after re-adjusting the starter i can start it in front of my house all day with no problems, however as soon as i pull away and start driving anywhere, when i go to restart she says NO!
The car that i purchased as my first car at the age of 17 for a mere 800 bucks is finaly restored to show condition. Problem is i cant get it to a show. Heck, ive had it insured since the end of May and have NOT yet been able to to take it to the gas station as i fear not being able to re-start it when i get there.
A huge disapointment to sum it up in 1 word. Its meant to be a weekend cruiser only. Perhaps hit a few shows, and lord willing see what the 79 screaming chicken can do on a 1/4 mile track. Im a huge do-it-yourselfer. I do NOT try to be a know it all when it comes to hot rodding. As we all know anything can and will happen. When im out of my league I usualy step back and seek help. I have NO problem taking it to a local mechanic. However, im convinced that i may be paying them 70 + bucks an hour just to diagnose the same things ive aleady done. Shims, no shims, brace, no brace etc....
Since the end of may (now july) ive spent countless hours diagnosing this problem which should be realitivly simple and straight forward. Im fairly patient when it comes to hot rod mechanics. Paitence is the key. However, im at the point where this car that i once loved has become such a pain im just hating the damn thing! So for the time being the car just sits in front of my house, fully insured and ready to roll if it would start reliably. Thats whats killing me! So close, such a simple thing. Its not like i just blew the engine and have to go throw the time consuming task of engine rebuild and replacement.
just one of those things. My last brainstorm idea is to track down a grade 8 stud. allowing me to put nuts and lock washers on both ends of the stud. I realize that starter bolts are special and can handle a pounding. Thats why im going grade 8. I also realize a stud to replace a starter bolt is NOT The correct way but i guess it cant hurt to try
I realized others have suffered this same battle that ive been fighting. thanks for listening. hopefully someone has a golden suggestion
dam chevy! should hav stuck with the oldsblock. 10+ years of starts with the thing, no problems! engine was tired though
I suggest you buy a high quality mini starter and your problems will disappear. I run one in each of my 3 sbc with no trouble at all....ever. I use CVR brand, but there are many just as good and better. Bob Myers.
After going through 8 starters I learned a few things. The grind is caused by the starter moving. Go back to the stock starter and bolts and inspect them, you`ll see some things. The stock starter bolts will have a knurled section and will have a shoulder on top of the bolt, Now look at the starter, You`ll notice the starter has 2 shoulder grooves machined into the starters mounting pad, these grooves plus the bolts must be spotlessly clean. You have to make sure you are using the correct starter bolts and nothing else. Next is when you install the starter you must make sure the starter bolts shoulders fall squarely into the mounting grooves, then snug the starter down. Next, you torque it with a 1/2 inch drive torque wrench to 45 ft lbs. Now go back and inspect your work, look at where the bolt shoulders sit, right squarely in the grooves machined into the starter, these are there to assure the starter doesn`t move. There cannot be any kind of washer or anything else on the bolt. Studs are not going to fix the problem no matter what kind of starter you use, you must use the correct bolts for the starter and torque them properly, if you just install them and snug them down as soon as they get hot and loosen just slightly the starter will come out of line and start binding again and causing the horrible grinding noise. The number 8 starter on my car was what it took for me to learn this, and it`s a cheapy advance auto parts special, and it`s been on the car years now without issue. Around this time, I also added grounds which is always a good idea, I ran the new ground from the frame to the block, and another from the block to the battery, then used another ground off the battery to the fender using around 10 gauge wire, you also need to make sure it has a ground from the firewall to the intake. Set your starter up like this and I assure you, your problems will be over. Also no shims on the starter either.
ultimate starter problem
ray, the power master starter is a very good starter, however if you do not clock it right the body of the starter will make contact with the block before the bolts actually get tight. i use these starters on all 383 engine builds and have never had one that fits without rotating the body. loosen the two allen bolts and move the solenoid toward the header to clear the block. i hope this is your problem as it is an easy fix. good luck sam-missle
Thank you very much for the replies you guys! All excellent suggestions.
F-Bird'88 i would have to agree with you 100%. All rebuilds "SHOULD" come with the brace. some small blocks get away without having one but the factory loaded em in for a reason.The nice thing about the mini-starters, they are so lightweight compare to the big stock ones. As for the weld job i give full credit to my buddy. Mind you he's been welding professionaly for years. He took a 9/16 nut and sawed it in half. That created the perfect foundation for the missing cast. He then welded around the half (dummy) nut so it would hold beautifly in place. a dremol and mini grinder took care of the rest filing it down to a near perfect replacement.
Sam-missle: Outstanding suggestion! something i have NOT tried yet. but you can believe i will this weekend. I remember when purchasing my mini starter a couple months back the retailer telling me it was clockable, but wasn't 100% sure of what the proceedure was.
If your suggestion works, rounds on me! :thumbup:
Ill post my results :D
some food for thought, some blocks did not have the straight across bolt pattern only the offset style. in some cases some people have drilled the extra hole and suprisingly not 100% straight. if it is off it will, with use, pull the starter to the side no matter how tight you put the bolts. if it is factory hole it should have about 3/4 of blank and then threads. might not be your problem but check it out, if that is'nt it try re knurling the bolts for a tighter fit in the case
Must be the ghost of Ransom E. Olds...:D
after nearly 3 full months of battle my cancer has been cured! KNOCK ON WOOD. Atleast i hope and think. :nono: hopefully im NOT jinxing my situation by posting? :D
Sam-missle: i DID take your sugestion and clocked the solonoid. That didn't cure my problem as the starter still seemed to shift out of alignment. However, I have left it clocked as suggested. Once again after torquing down the starter bolts and after a few start attempts we got GRIND city. Once again, the bolt hole that was patched together had wiggled its bolt loose. loose to the point where i barely needed a ratchet to lossen it.
With the starter still clocked, front brace in place and NO shims i ran a grade 8 stud through the hole. capped the top of it with a nut. put the starter hole through the stud and tourqed another nut on the bottom of the starter. Finally added another nut below that nut to make sure it wasn't going anywhere. Ive had over 100 perfect starts since! Ive even made it to the gas station and prayed like hell after gassing up that it would start. I did bring my insurance policy though (tool kit, jack and stands in the trunk :thumbup: )
thanks everyone for their suggestions! i fully realize a stud through your starter wasn't how the factory intended, but its the ONLY thing that worked! Go figure! That weak hole was causing all starter bolts (new and used) to wiggle the entire starter motor out of alignment.
Joe im with ya! My 403 olds block never required a starter in 4 years of use. damn thing was just too expensive to rebuild. Chebby small block a dime a dozen :thumbup:
For starters (no pun intended) your friend that welded on the block probably only made the problem with the damaged boss worse. Welding cast iron has a success rate somewhere between zero and a very large negative number. In spite of how it looks if you put it to a Magna-flux test you'll find more cracks well into the casting.
Bolts, GM starters don't use ordinary bolts, they have a knurled pattern resulting in a slight press fit in the starter mounting boss. This prevents movement between the bolt and the boss. Ordinary bolts cannot hold the proper alignment regardless of how much torque you put on them or how high their grade number is, they just cannot be made to work.
My expectation is that the block is damaged beyond repair, the Root Cause was probably incorrect mounting bolts allowing the starter motor to snap against the bolts causing them to twist and breaking the casting, or the casting was already broken/cracked thus allowing the bolt to twist under starting loads with the same end result. If the bolt can move in its threaded hole even if it's the proper knurled bolt, this whole scenario will take place.
You have to have at a minimum a good crack free casting with proper threads in the hole AND the PROPER GM factory bolt.
As for the flexplate, look for uniform run out longitudinally and laterally. Which is to say the ring gear must not wobble in the fore and aft direction along the length of the car. Additionally the ring gear must be concentric as the crankshaft is rotated. Any of these problems can also put a twist on the starter that can lead to cracking it or its mount on the block.
Also if the mains have been aligned bored, it's possible to have moved the crank up-wards in the block such that the ring gear is too far from the starter pinion and it now develops a significant impact moment when the gears take up the slack, thus snap twisting the starter on its mounts resulting in damage to the block casting. The only repair for this is to mill the top of the starter mounting boss to bring the pinion closer to the ring gear. When properly engaged the wire diameter of a large paper clip should just be able to pass between the tip of ring tooth and the root of a starter tooth when they are engaged.
very informative post "oldbogie"
absolutely some food for thought. Ive replaced several starters in several different makes and moudels of vehicles never had this difficulty before. Usualy, bad one comes out new one goes in and you drive away. At the most a shim required.. Its more then apparent that the problem resides in the cracked cast area. As far as how it got cracked to begin with is anyones guess? It wasn't cracked when we put the motor in the car. The block was sent away and bored .30 It seemed to have come back all clear and ready for take off. The starter bolts used where the same ones that were in the block when the engine was pulled. The engine had been starting fine for years before the rebuild. If they were 100% factory bolts i have NO idea. I did however by replacement bolts found in the HELP-SECTION of most auto stores.
I would agree with you as far as welding cast. The idea was just to build a foundation around the missing chunk. That foundation allowed us to lock a nut onto the top of the bolt nice and flat. Had he not welded the missing chunk, id never would have gotten a nut on flush.
I realize that starter bolts are designed special and realy there should be NO substitute
at anyrate the damn thing seems to be holding niceley. perfect sounding starts and using the paper clip trick all lines up just fine.
One thing i have learned during my time playing with hotods. anything can and will happen.
".....One thing i have learned during my time playing with hotods. anything can and will happen."
I'll refer you to Murphy's Laws.
i just found this thread, i thaught i'd check it out
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