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Old 06-19-2013, 07:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Tuned in to my inner Frank Lee ('97 Ranger starter "rebuilt" for free)

After reading a post here I decided to try "rebuilding" my starter on the 97 Ranger. Frank Lee posted about "rebuild kits" being available. I asked at O'Reillys and they said they did not sell them. Being retired with extra time I decided to rip the starter out and see what it looked like inside.

3@13MM bolts and the nut holding the cable to the starter and it's in my hands, a box end wrench and a hammer with a piece of particleboard for a creeper, trucks high enough to get it from underneath.

I pulled the starter apart and was amazed at how little actual wear there was on the armature and brushes. Both were at least 90-95% with the armature showing almost no wear to the surface where the brushes contact. Everything came apart without issue. I polished the armature surface with some scotchbrite, filed the edges of the brushes to smooth them out, lubed the planetary gear reduction and both bushings, very lightly with some synthetic grease I had laying around.


Before it was noisy, I think it was the dry bushings and planetaries. When I started getting the solenoid clunk but no motor rotation I figured it was worth a try, didn't cost a dime

Thanks Frank, I guess this old worn out Mech has a few tricks left up his sleeve, saved me at least 100 bucks and it will probably last me another 10 years. It's already 17 years old and it was a Motorcraft original (never rebuilt).


Last edited by user removed; 06-19-2013 at 10:42 PM..
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:56 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice ^
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:16 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Excellent. Added a few words to your thread title. So some other Ranger owner will find this through Google in the future and give it a try, and the savings will continue...
Project MPGiata! Mods for getting 50+ MPG from a 1990 Miata
Honda mods: Ecomodding my $800 Honda Fit 5-speed beater
Mitsu mods: 70 MPG in my ecomodded, dirt cheap, 3-cylinder Mirage.
Ecodriving test: Manual vs. automatic transmission MPG showdown

has launched a forum for the efficient new Mitsubishi Mirage
www.MetroMPG.com - fuel efficiency info for Geo Metro owners
www.ForkenSwift.com - electric car conversion on a beer budget
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Metro, I think it may apply to almost any starter motor. Basically you want to clean out the accumulated debris from wear of the brushes and commutator surface where the brushes contact the surface of the armature.

I used to watch the gent at the old fashioned parts store rebuild starters while I waited. They turned the armature on a lathe, relaced the brushes and bushings as required.

In thinking about the condition of the starter on my Ranger at 129k miles, my conclusion is since cars start so quickly with modern fuel delivery systems that the actual cranking time of the starter is significantly reduced. Even more important is the actual cranking duration is much lower and not sustained where heat becomes an issue and accelerates wear. Combined with better tolerances with more precise production methods and standards and you have my starter which looked like it was only a couple of years old.
The grunge was not as bad as I had anticipated and it cleaned easily with a brush and compressed air (downwind). Avoid excessive applications of lubricant and use a synthetic high temp grease. You don't want to have the grease get on the armature.

My symptoms were solenoid engagement but no motor rotation. It took 4 tries to get it to crank the last several times before the repair.

Before you go ripping the starter out always check the battery connections and gound connections before you go into the starter since a bad ground or loose-corroded battery terminal can also give you a no crank symptom. Typically that does not give you the distinctive noise of the solenoid moving the starter gear to engage the flywheel which is what mine was doing.

So far it has worked, first try every time, and the sound is just like a new one.

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Old 06-20-2013, 12:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Hey, that's great!

On my Ford starters, though, the trouble was always shot brushes. The local hydraulics/starter/alternator rebuilder- NOT the auto parts stores, who only wanted to sell me remans or new- sold just the brushes to me for a very reasonable cost.

Went through the GoldWing starter in similar fashion and it needed nothing but clean 'n' lube.

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Old 06-20-2013, 12:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Upgraded contacts for the expensive DENSO starter for Cummins trucks are a DIY job . . but that starter is also heavy and hard to remove (compared to, say, a V8-350 Chevrolet). At 200k I might do mine.

I agree that electronic engine control, better batteries and pemanent magnet starter motors have made life easier for this electrical subsystem. To the above I would add wirebrushing the starter mount flanges and -- on those plus on cable terminations -- one use NOALOX or similar to eliminate corrosion and improve conductivity.
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:21 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Toyota pickup starters can also easily be repaired. You can buy new contacts here Toyota/Chrysler/Mitsubishi - Nippon Denso Starter Solenoid Repair or if you don't want to wait for FedEx to deliver, a coating of solder on the contacts is a quick fix (which has lasted about 8 months so far, on my '88).

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