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Tool Talk Discussion Forum

Simultaneous starter and battery failure

Author  [Modern View]
Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 08:48:33
174.31.202.147



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I changed the starter in my wife's Camry last week, following the good advice I received here---for which, thanks very much. I talked to the mechanic who does work on my vehicles that I can't do myself about what starter he would have used. He said Denso made the best starter for that car, but his computer showed that there wasn't one available in Olympia (different times!), and his next choice would be Bosch. NAPA could get a Bosch that day, so I went with that. When I went there to get the starter, I asked them to bench test the one I'd taken out. The person who tested it told me that it had failed, but I didn't see the test myself.

When I put in the new starter and tried it, it acted just like the failed one. With a sinking feeling I put jumper cables on the car and it started. I felt stupid and sick that I had paid about twice as much for a Bosch starter as for a no name one when it looked like all I had needed was a battery. The next morning I went back to NAPA before they had sent the old starter away and asked them to do the bench test again. I watched it this time. It failed because the shaft with the starter gear extended and ran with full power, but would not retract. When tested, the battery registered 44 amps. A new battery (along with the new starter) put everything right. No wrenches or computers were fried in the process because I followed the advice here and disconnected the battery before installing the new starter.

I was much relieved that I hadn't installed an expensive starter when all I ever needed was a new battery, and I know I should leave it alone and be happy, but I still find it odd that the battery and starter would have failed at the same time. One of the countermen at NAPA commented that a battery with that little cranking power left could damage a starter, but I'm skeptical about that. Some people at the counter at an auto parts store have backgrounds in vehicle repair, and some are just clerks, but their name tags don't say which are which. Does the coincidence of the simultaneous failure of these parts sound like it was just that---a coincidence?

Stan

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fixerupper

06-06-2014 07:23:27
70.198.32.188



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
We had the engine turn the starter on a combine with a cat engine. The centrifugal force at that many RPMs grenades the armature, commutator blocks thrown out, makes a mess. Jim



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MarkB_MI

06-02-2014 23:17:16
174.239.37.223



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
Every electronics tech will tell you a similar story: the system isn't working and two components are the likely culprits. Component A and Component B are removed for testing. Component A fails unit test and Component B passes. Changing Component A doesn't fix the problem, so Component B is replaced. It turns out that Component B was the problem even though it passed unit testing. Just because something tests "bad" doesn't mean it is causing your problem.

It's also common in electronics for a problem in one unit to propagate to other units. For example, a shorted diode in one unit can cause a relay failure in another unit. Avionics techs who like to swap out boxes rather than troubleshoot problems often find themselves in big trouble when their box-swapping results in blown units in multiple aircraft as components are swapped from one aircraft to another.

I've never heard of an automotive starter failing from a bad battery, but supposedly a lot of motorcycles are susceptible to this. The theory is that a weak battery will keep the starter drive from fully engaging, with the result that the drive is damaged when the engine starts. Lightweight aircraft starters are also known to be prone to failure from "kickback" during a failed start.

A few years ago I was working on our Cadillac Seville, which hadn't run for over a year. It wouldn't crank at all, so I assumed the battery was bad. Replacing the battery didn't fix the problem, so I changed out the starter. It still wouldn't crank, so I removed the serpentine belt and it fired right up. The A/C compressor and clutch were completely seized.

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Determined

06-02-2014 21:55:56
216.130.212.71



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
If it makes you feel better. Yes it can happen, chain reaction effect.

Say your battery had a failing cell, with low battery voltage the starter motor draws higher amps, solenoid contacts arc and starter stays engaged, shortening it's life span down to minutes.

Burnt contacts cause intermitent starting.

Once the starter motor has overheated or run engaged;

-Brushes worn down to nothing.

-Armature glazed up.

-Bearing/bushings melted.

-Overheated connections become loose etc.

Doesn't happen every time or day but it does happen.

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Owen Aaland

06-02-2014 18:57:32
216.47.33.5



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
We had the starter stay engaged on my Dads 3010 Diesel. By the time I saw it the windings were blown out of the armature destroying the field coils. Not much left to reuse other than the case.

There is also the possibility that if the starter drive does not retract the lever may keep the plunger from moving and the contacts will not open causing the starter to continue to run.



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dr sportster

06-02-2014 14:49:00
68.196.138.17



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
Stan , Who cares? Your not lying under the car, your hands are all washed up and ready for dinner, and you have not only a new starter but a new battery to not worry about for quite some time. Heck after dinner you can even sit on the couch and have a beer. Just be glad you don't have a Cadillac where it's under the intake manifold and perfect for mice to pee on and ruin like mine. So the job is done !

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Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 19:04:00
174.31.202.147



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to dr sportster, 06-02-2014 14:49:00  
Dang right, doctor! I'm feeling better about this all the time. After the new starter wouldn't start the car until I used jumper cables, I was kicking myself for not trying that in the first place. But now, it seems that if I had tried jumper cables, I almost certainly would have replaced the battery and left the starter in the car. Under that scenario, I might have had a catastrophic starter failure later, such as the situation NCWayne described below.

Altogether, it wasn't particularly expensive and it didn't take too much of my time (for instance, the NAPA parts store was right across the road from the community college where my wife teaches, and since we were down to one vehicle, I was going there morning and evening, anyway).

Stan

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George Marsh

06-02-2014 14:17:02
192.182.63.178



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
I have my car and truck serviced at dealer. It doesn't cost me any more for them to change oil/filter. While there they check about 20 things, includint doing a battery conductivity test.

They tell me long before battery dies, it having a problem.

So I purchased a battery conductivity tester. Gave my old battery load tester to my brother-in-law. IMHO load testers are old school and not very accurate.

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jimg.allentown

06-02-2014 14:02:34
98.115.105.174



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
The likelihood of failure of TWO components at the same time is low. As a former Ford technician, I can say that under manufacturer's policy, it was not permitted to replace two parts of a system unless there was also provided PROOF that BOTH were necessary to complete the repair.

Now, having said that, a starter drawing excessive current could push a weak battery over the edge so to speak. HOWEVER........

I have found in my experience that the most expensive way to repair a problem is to just start throwing parts at it rather than spending a little time diagnosing. A load test in the beginning would have determined the condition of the battery. A starter current draw test would determine if the starter needed to be replaced. My motto is - the cheapest repair is generally also the most expensive in the end.

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NCWayne

06-02-2014 11:28:18
173.188.169.54



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
Being a mechanic I have seen many case where one thing led to another, and either could have caused the initial problem. That said, if the bendix didn't retract on the starter, even once, it was better off to spend the money and replace it while you already had it off than for it to leave you stranded in a parking lot, or on the side of the road somewhere. Yes, it might have retracted when the engine started, but then again, it might now. I have seen what happens when one doesn't retract and gets spun by the engine. Think about it like this, the reduction ration between the bendix gear and flywheel gear is usually better than 10 to 1. In other words when the engine is running at 2500 RPM, the starter would be turning at least 25,000 RPM. Given it's not designed to do that, things happen like the windings fly apart, bearings sieze, and when things like that happen, they can cause damage to the flywheel ring.....and that means a tow bill and a lot more for the repair than the cost of the starter.

Better to eliminate any chance of a problem when the cost is manageable, than to chance a problem that will cost 10 times more to repair. Like the old saying, a stich in time saves nine.

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jimg.allentown

06-02-2014 13:55:39
98.115.105.174



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to NCWayne, 06-02-2014 11:28:18  
I'll have to disagree about the engine turning the starter.....at 25000rpm???? As a mechanic, you should be aware that the starter drive (Bendix is a TRADE NAME) also has a one-way clutch in it to prevent exactly that situation from happening. It may be either a roller clutch or a sprag, but there is a one-way clutch in the starter drive.



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ih_bug

06-07-2014 20:57:22
67.58.222.80



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to jimg.allentown, 06-02-2014 13:55:39  
it happens. have had a couple myself. but the best was a guy I worked with had a ford mustang and a few to many beers when the starter drive stuck he liked the turbo whine so revved it till it blew. then drove home. said it didn't hurt anything else but the starter was grenaded.



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NCWayne

06-02-2014 14:48:30
173.188.169.54



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to jimg.allentown, 06-02-2014 13:55:39  
Ok, the generic name for the drive gear on a starter is the bendix, just like slip joint pliers is usually called Channel Locks, in the South a soda is a Coke, etc, etc, etc.

That said, some starters have a one way clutch, sprag, roller, or otherwise, and some don't. In any case, even a one way clutch can lock up and not allow a reverse rotation if it gets dry, is spun too fast, etc. This being the case, as I stated, the engine can easily turn the starter.

Having been around and worked on machines for the majority of my 46 years, I know of others that have seen it happen, have seen the results of it happening in starters at the repair shop I use, and have seen it once for myself that I can recall on a piece of heavy equipment and several times on small engines.

In my personal experience the heavy equipment incident went like this. A call came in about a CAT scraper making a strange noise. When at an idle you couldn't hear much, but when you wound the engine up you got a high pitch whine that sounded like a turbo, but wasn't. When I got there and started looking, got the operator to run the machine around while I listened, etc, we finally traced the sound to the starter. By that time the starter was so hot it took two pairs of heavy welding gloves on my hands, and another pair as a buffer, before I could comfortably put my hands on it to do anything with it. Once out of the machine, it was obvious what had happened as the drive gear was stuck in the extended position. As you'd expect, this kept it engaged with the starter ring on the flywheel.

From that point, it was several hours before I got it back to town to the repair shop. At that time I still had to wear one of the pairs of gloves to pick it up as it was still that hot.

When they opened it up the windings were screwed up, the bearings were blue from the heat, and the thing was basically so close to locking up/blowing up, it wasn't funny.

That all said, a common number of teeth that I can remember on a drive gear is 13, and a number I can remember counting on a ring gear on a piece of equipment is something like 140. This gives approximately a 10.769 to 1 ratio. That being the case, if a starter and ring gear with this combination locked up, when the engine was turning 2800 RPM, (high end for many diesels) the starter would be turning in excess of 30,000 RPM. This is about the speed that many turbos turn, thus the whining sound heard when the starter on the scraper hung up.

Doubt it if you want, but having been in the industry all my life I have seen it happen at least once on a piece of heavy equipment, and several times on small engines myself. Between personal experience and the experiences of others I have heard of or seen second hand, there is no doubt in my mind how ugly, and expensive, the result is.

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Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 19:19:32
174.31.202.147



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to NCWayne, 06-02-2014 14:48:30  
Thanks, Wayne. That about puts the final nail in the coffin of any worries I had about whether I needed to replace the starter. And your story was pretty interesting, too. (BTW, 13 teeth is correct.)

Stan



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CAS

06-02-2014 10:52:10
67.240.133.144



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
I agree with Dean right now you only needed a new battery for now. The NAPA or any tester does not similate real life conditions in all aspects of operation. There is a good chance the starter drive would have kicked out when the engine started.
I do all my own mechanical work on our cars, trucks, and tractors. But, I can see the day coming when I will be in your position. Just hope a little pension, social security, and some savings will see me thru what you are going thru.

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Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 11:22:44
174.31.202.147



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to CAS, 06-02-2014 10:52:10  
That's what Steve@Advance thought might be happening, and it sounds likely to me. I'm choosing to look at it as a possible mechanical fault that was under control, but might have had the potential to fail at some future time. Whether that's the case or not, the new starter will probably outlast the car, now.

About retirement---my wife and I are not too settled in our minds about our upcoming retirement. No pension for either of us; just Social Security and well under a million total in savings and equity in property. I'm amazed that what would have seemed plenty to me as a young man is now not enough to guarantee that we'll be able to maintain our extremely modest standard of living for the rest of our lives. I'm also worried that we'll see some drastic adjustments in Social Security in our lifetime, too.

Stan

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JRSutton

06-02-2014 10:22:50
71.174.108.245



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
what year is the camry?



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Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 10:43:16
174.31.202.147



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to JRSutton, 06-02-2014 10:22:50  
2000, with about 170,000 miles on it. I don't say it isn't old enough for parts to be starting to fail. Just wanted to get some educated opinions about the coincidence.

Stan



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JRSutton

06-02-2014 12:39:47
71.174.108.245



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 10:43:16  
The failure of the starter test sounds a little suspicious.

Even if it failed that way for you in the car, it would have turned he car over ok.

So I'd guess it was fine all along.

On the other hand - starters can be temperamental, failing one minue, working fine the next.

Bottom line - at that age, I wouldn't call it a waste, even if it was still good.



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Steve@Advance

06-02-2014 10:11:17
108.245.66.82



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
I think the old starter had a mechanical problem, the shaft spline was worn or dry, caused to drive to remain in the extended position. But when installed, and the engine fired, the rotation of the engine pushed the drive back down the shaft where it belonged.

Likely the battery was why it wouldn't start, but the starter would have eventually failed.



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Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 10:48:42
174.31.202.147



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Steve@Advance, 06-02-2014 10:11:17  
Thanks Steve, that makes sense. Anyway, I've decided to find some way to believe all the opinions that support the position that I probably didn't get took, and be skeptical of the rest. Just kidding---sort of.

Stan



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mkirsch

06-02-2014 09:49:10
65.199.189.6



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
If it was bad connections, then why didn't the old starter pass the test at NAPA?

It's my experience that they always PASS. Never seen one fail, even if they're no good. This one actually failed for a change.



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Butch(OH)

06-02-2014 09:08:28
66.192.33.38



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
It happens and more often than one would think be it electrical systems or mechanical. Be glad you don't have to explain it to a POed customer who thinks your trying to give him the shaft! When it does happen in the shop I never turn in cores until the customer is convinced of the circumstances.



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Stan in Oly, WA

06-02-2014 11:03:11
174.31.202.147



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Butch(OH), 06-02-2014 09:08:28  
Thanks, Butch. I know it happens in all kinds of other situations, so I never rule out the possibility that when I'm trying to diagnose a problem, there might be more than one thing involved. I'm pretty sure the local NAPA dealer doesn't follow your careful policy---it was only by chance that they still had the old starter---but I appreciated the fact that they understood my concern and went to some lengths to put my mind at rest. Obviously, they didn't entirely, but they did what they could.

Stan

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Dean

06-02-2014 09:07:06
24.1.134.162



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 Re: Simultaneous starter and battery failure in reply to Stan in Oly, WA, 06-02-2014 08:48:33  
Too much of a coincidence for me.

I expect that you did not need a starter but you may have had a connection issue that was resolved when the starter was R & Red.

Dean



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