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Old 05-08-2010, 03:41 AM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: CA
Posts: 3
Default Starter spins but cranks only intermittently

Hi. I've been searching the forum but haven't found a problem like this:

'96 Honda Accord Ex 4cyl manual 4dr; 190k miles

The starter spins/whines/whirrs but only cranks the engine intermittently - and doesn't crank at all since tonight; it only spins now (or whines/whirrs, whatever the common term).

This is the original, OEM starter. The solenoid contacts were refurbished at ~170k miles when contact became intermittent and then starter worked like a charm again.

This spinning and intermittent cranking appeared a few months ago, quickly progressing to no longer cranking the engine, just the free spinnig noise. I pulled the starter and found the the pinion and ring gears in perfect shape - ie, the pinion gear is not simply grinding on the edge of the flywheel ring gear as if the bendix didn't have the force to engage the pinion. I hooked the starter up on an external battery and the bendix (I think that's what throws the pinion gear out to engage the flywheel ring gear) seemed to function forcefully and the pinion gear spun well. The bendix did feel a little sticky when I played with it by hand... however, if slow moving bendix were the problem, I would have expected obvious evidence of the pinion grinding against the ring gear, right?

Well, I put it all back together and the problem seemed to get better and go away ... until this last week - it got to the point where it would sound like it's spinning freely for a few seconds and then crank. But eventually, tonight it just spins and never cranks the engine over. I had to push-start it.

Has anyone seen or heard this problem before? Can you explain what's going on - and can I fix it easily by tearing down the starter, or should I just go get a reman'd stater and not waste my time?

I appreciate any insight you might have!
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Old 05-08-2010, 10:12 PM
JimBlake's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Ohio
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I think the bendix has a strange kind of ratchet that tries to retract the pinion if you were to hold the key in the START position. Maybe that's broken so it doesn't transmit enough torque to turn the engine?? If so, I'd get a new one.
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Old 05-09-2010, 08:44 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Tampa
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I watched this a while back, It's worth every second!
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:48 PM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: CA
Posts: 3

Thanks guys, very informative video! - just the kind of wisdom we need passed along from the experienced guys - all the common failure modes! But, I wish there were more information on the inner mech of the bendix clutch. I just pulled the starter again and tested it with a battery. Yep, it's the bendix; I could hold the pinion gear with my hand while the starter was spinning. The bendix clutch is not grabbing at all.

I split the gear case open, but the bendix appears sealed and stuck on a shaft with the pressed-on pinion at one end and a pressed-on bearing at the other. I don't have a press to get them off.

Is it possible to get a replacement bendix/pinion/bearing unit? No luck at the local auto parts store... Is a whole reman starter my only option?
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Old 05-09-2010, 10:02 PM
chip's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Tampa
Posts: 145

Glad to help!

I think a reman starter should be pretty cheap, and well worth the subttraction of headaches you're gonna get now!
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Old 05-10-2010, 08:07 PM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: CA
Posts: 3

Remans may be cheap, but not very low-cost for the current state of my account and income. The lowest I found was 109$ on-line, less shipping. I was pretty frustrated Honda does not offer repair parts and couldn't seem to find any on-line either. The starter reman business must be pretty good considering the relatively minor and repairable points of common failure.

Finally found a small alternator/starter exchange/rebuild shop who said he could order a replacement bendix assy for ~50$. He really wanted to steer me towards letting him rebuild it for me but I agreed on him overnighting the part and putting it in for 70$. Still saved me ~70$ vs what the local shops wanted for a reman starter! And, I only have to push-start it for another day!

I recommend directing people to their local rebuild shops - keeps more of the money local and they have a more vested interest in maintaining a quality reputation.
-- Brooks
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accord, bendix, car, cranks, engine, gear, honda, pinion, put, spins, split, starter, stuck, turns, whines

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