weird starter problem

gents, I was maneuvering my car in tight quarters yesterday, and managed to stall it. When I went to restart, I got no rotation, no nothing except a faint click. Battery is charged. After sleeping on it, I decided the pinion must be blocked from engaging the ring gear. I moved the car about 4 inches while in gear, thus moving the engine slightly. And it started right up. I can't recall anything like this happening before, certainly not in any of the street cars I've been in, driven, or owned. Is this just a fluke, or is there something I should be looking for?

Mike Pass

Yes. I had exactly the same. The problem was that when the solenoid pulled the starter gear forward the contacts for the motor did not engage so the motor did not turn. The contacts were dirty/worn. Took it to the local car electrics guys and they stripped it and fitted new contacts for £30. Problem fixed and has been fine since. If the contacts are dirty or worn due to the heavy starting current the starting can get intermittent or not work at all - will only get worse until the contacts are renewed.

Ian Anderson

Lifetime Supporter
I had similar thing! But totally different cause!

I found on mine the click was the master power off switch was not making correctly. The key contacts are spring loaded and the plastic key appeared to have worn slightly. A Manila cardboard disc cut out and dropped into the switch increased the spring pressure to get the contacts to work?

This is the type of switch I refer to.

was a bugger to find but the fix has lasted years!



I had just the same issue on a Quad bike and as Mike said it was worn brushes, seemed like a dead battery it just clicked, in fact I changed the battery first!! New set of brushes later and its never missed a beat since.
thanks for the ideas guys. I'm surprised that my starter might be in this condition as it has not been used much, but it is a big motor. This is great info.
gents, resurrecting this thread, I ended up not doing anything with it, thinking it might be a one time thing. Well, it did it again. I'm pretty sure it's a Denso 2.3 heavy duty starter. To clarify the above advice, am I looking to replace the motor brushes, or another set of contacts?
did a little research on this, I'm guessing advice referenced the solenoid contacts, which I should happily be able to remove and replace without removing the starter. Just have to try to track down the appropriate parts for the fix.


Lifetime Supporter
Heat soak?
In your first post you wrote "maneuvering my car in tight quarters"......
Drive until hot and let idle until the fan kicks in and then switch off the engine (YES, OK - wait until fan switches off). Now your engine compartment should be really hot.
Now try to restart und see what happens....
If it does not start - wait until engine is cold and try to restart again.
If it starts - heat soak should be a possible route cause
If it does not start.......???
In both circumstances, the engine was fully warm. Starting up when everything has cooled has not be problematic. Routing of exhaust does not particularly heat the starter. Cables have full integrity and good connections/tight lugs. Any suggestions as to what failure heat could cause in the starter?


Lifetime Supporter
I can't explain well enough..... do a Google search, there is a lot of information.....

I also stumbled over this video which I think gives good information.


Ron McCall

On my GT-R, I had a XS Power battery issue that caused this exact issue. The battery would provide 12.5V and would crank the battery if the starter was cold but once it was up to temp, it would only click. Installed a Braille battery and the issue never returned.

Whats your ignition timing at idle ?
Try retarding it 2degree.
Heatsoak hot start stall of the starter on a fully warmed engine can also be caused by just a tad to much advance on idle.

I usualy seek my sweet spot ignition timing @ idle this way. When my starter won't start on a hot engine, I take two degrees ignition timing out and Ill have reached my ignition timing @ idle sweet spot.
(Old skool ignition tuning, works also with EFI tables).

Might be worth to check this out before you dismantle the startermotor.
Engine is managed by a GM E38 ECU, don't know what the start up timing is but it is stock programming, with a very mild cam. Ordinarily, the engine fires very quickly. I've only had the no-crank issue occur twice, both times after the car stalled (I have a small tuning issue to deal with). I don't think the starter gets particularly hot as the nearest primary is probably 12 inches away, and all cables/connections are equally distant from big heat sources, and are all in good condition and appropriately sized. Battery is an Optima red top at the other end of the car, maintained with a NOCO battery tender. Haven't load tested the battery, but no reason to suspect any issues there.

Prior to installing the GM ECU, the car was very difficult to start, often requiring 10-20 seconds of cranking to get the car to fire. I'm hoping that my problem was just carbon buildup on the contacts that won't recur since it usually fires instantly now. There appears to be very little physical wear on the solenoid contacts, and the brushes have plenty of material left on them.
Now we are getting somewhere. What ecu was it running before?
Was it progammable.
Is your current ecu progammable.
Does the current ecu maches the engine.

Are you running an ignition distributor or coilpacks. Both systems can be signaled by a cranktrigger.
It was running an Omega ECU on Alpha N, programmable. Now stock GM E38 ECU as originally used to run LS7 with coil packs, a native installation with tons of manufacturer R&D behind it. Not the most up to date ECU, but very solid and has an OBD2 output, which is required in my neck of the woods. Programmable, with appropriate software.
^ have not done so, didn't even know what a growler was. I elected to reinstall starter after cleaning everything, will remove and have it rebuilt if problem recurs.