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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Starter/solenoid questions, for piece of mind

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4 replies to this topic

#1 briantelope


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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:33 PM

I did search... but coolant and starters show up in many, many posts... I tried!


So I replaced the starter on my 2002 Legacy L wagon today.  In the dark.  As it was snowing.  There's just no way I was going to pay someone to do it again!


Alright, let me back up a bit.  I love this car, and it's been treating me really well.  I'm not the original owner, but I've had it for a while now.  It's up to 260k.  But I drive it up and down the east coast a few times a year, and it's a real reliable ride.  I change the oil regularly.  I even change the transmission fluid!  And I don't drive it like a sports car.  I have a 20 minute commute with minimal stop and go, and tend to ride 55/60 the majority of that.


So last September the started was going out.  Slowly it was getting harder to crank.  Then it wouldn't crank every so often.  I checked wires and cleaned contacts. No luck.  Then I had to jump it to get it to go.  Then it wouldn't go at all.  Sound familiar?  I had a lot going on, so I just had it towed and checked out.  The place I had it taken to (which I was not familiar with--not my first choice) said the starter needed to be replaced.  Alright.  I'm out of town, and I need this taken care of.  Sure.  I get it back, and it starts like a champ. 


Fast forward five months.  No start? Tap on the starter.  Works great for a few days.  Then quickly falls back into not starting.  Check wires, clean contacts, curse the shop who replaced it, rinse, repeat.  I checked the voltage on my battery and on my cables.  I tried to jump it.  I even wired up the other end of the starter! It spun like a champ.  But no engaging, thus no starting.  So I figure it's specifically the solenoid this time.  But like heck I'm going to take it back to the shop. 


So, we're back to replacing my starter. Put the new unit in, and it runs great.  Saved a bunch of money.  Great.  But I can't rest until I figure it out!


So what the heck happend? Let's say it was the solenoid.  (I'm not sure--I'll be the first to say I'm a novice at this).  What would cause this to happen in five months? I haven't cranked it unusually hard, or done anything else differently that I can figure.  The only clue that I have is coolant.  As I was troubleshooting the starter/solenoid, the ignition connector on top was a little gunked up, and the connector on the bottom from the solenoid to the starter was REALLY gunked up with what looked like fresh coolant.  If there is a leak from the tube there above the starter, would that cause the solenoid to burn out??? Being covered in coolant? Needless to say, I'm going to get that tube checked out by the mechanic I trust when I get a chance this week... 


I'll open up the solenoid tomorrow to see how it looks and post an update. Maybe I'll even clean it upand keep it as a spare.


ANY ideas? I need to check some more voltages now that I've got a new starter working in there... but that's for another day.  Theories?






#2 Blue Whale

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:48 AM

Most likely it's the contacts in the solenoid.  They wear out and cause the symptoms you've experienced.  They're available, usually with in a kit with a new plunger (which also wears down a bit) from vendors on eBay fo rnot very much money, and are easy to install.  Almost all of the work consists of removing and reinstalling the starter--which of course you've already done with a new starter.

#3 briantelope


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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:08 AM

Thanks Blue Whale.  I imagine you're right.  I'll probably replace the contacts on the one I pulled so I have a spare--I just wanted to get my ride back on the road so I could get to work this week!  Any idea what would cause the contacts to go out in just five months?? That's what is puzzling me. 




#4 battleborn



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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:18 PM

Sometimes rebuilt starters either don't have the contacts replaced or have them done really poorly. I've seen 'em where the contacts are at an angle so they wear unevenly, or one sits higher than the other - either case can mess with the contact. When I do buy a rebuilt starter (which is rare since I usually just replace the solenoid contacts) I always open up the solenoid to make sure it's legit.


As far as the coolant issue, if you've got coolant leaking at the back of the engine it's from the rear heater hoses most likely. You should be able to see coolant deposits around whichever one is leaking, and all you need is a screwdriver and a bit of patience to replace it. Do both hoses at the same time, since if one is leaking the other isn't far behind.


Take apart your old starter and see what it looks like inside, and post up some pics.

#5 briantelope


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Posted 28 February 2013 - 05:17 PM

Good to know about rebuilt starters.  Hmm. 


I will check the rear heater hoses this weekend when I have some time.  And I'll definitely try doing them myself then!


So here are the pics from inside the solenoid.  Yeah.  Toasty in there.  What would have caused that in five months time?!







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