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Old 07-13-2007, 11:21 PM
sugar ray sugar ray is offline
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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
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Last edited by sugar ray; 07-14-2007 at 01:08 PM.
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