stearter weirdness

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Apr 16, 2005
starter weirdness

I've got an occasional problem with my starter, only left me hanging twice, but that is enough aggravation, -32C tonight and I am screwing around under the hood of the bloody truck!
came home, an hour later went out to start the truck and 'click', thought it might just need a boost, since I drained it kinda low getting it started earlier. hooked up the jumper cables, still "click" used a screwdriver to arc the solenoid terminals, and the starter spun, but didn't engage, not even a bit. wiggled wires and tapped things, still nothing, etc, etc, click with the key, spin with the screwdriver, eventually it caught with the screwdriver, then after several more clicks, caught with the key, and started up.
so the question is, if it was spinning, it would likely be the bendix, and if it was clicking, it would likely be the solenoid, but why would it be doing both??
same thing happened once before, only similarity I can think of is that both times it was parked on an uphill grade. seems irrelavent, but that is all that I can think of.
any input appreciated
(1975 fj40)
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The solenoid, when it does engage, is probably not throwing the gear out far enough.

Either way, you need a rebuild.

I had a Camaro when Ilived in GA taht started fine until I drove to Illinois and the temp dropped to freezing. The bendix gear had a "clutch" mechanisim that due to cold weather failed. R&R bendix and no problem. Sounded weird to me when the parts guy sugested it but I was ready to try anything.

Do you park you rig outside? (I guess if your complaining about the cold). What was the temperature the last time it did this? Does it do it during the summer months? I have seen instances in Michigan where moisture in a starter would freeze the solenoid or the armature. Starter would click like a dead battery until the heat from the current applied would thaw the assembly enough to crank.

How old is your starter? Maybe a tear-down relube shaft ends and mist with WD-40 to prevent moisture.
Just for the hell of it, I would unhook the ignition switch under the dash, right by the column, and verify it's operation with an Ohm meter....I have seen many starters get replaced by people in an attempt to troubleshoot an issue that ended up being the switch in the column....

Good luck!

I had the same proble a couple of years ago. Turns out i got a little moisture in the solonoid. When the temp droped way down all i got was the same "click" and no starty uppy. Nasty business when your up in Canada in the middle of february.
Just kept a propane plow torch handy and warmed the solonoid up a little til she fired up and did a rebuild in march.
Check your grounds......this happened to me.......Just get a ground from the starter to the chassis. Also clean the other ground terminal both ends.

If this does not fix, remove the starter and have it bench tested. You may want to load test the battery as well. If your starter is indeed bad, start looking for a gear reduction type starter.......used on the newer fj60's use less power and since it's cold out where you are at, the battery will last longer.
so the weird thing is that it did it one other time, in july.
what I found so strange is that there was such different behaviour whether using the ignition or bypassing it, the click vs the whir.
in any case I am not as concerned about the solenoid as with the gear not engaging the engine, if the solenoid fails, I can use a screwdriver, if the bendix fails, I'm just screwed
I guess I'll have to pull the starter and lube everything up, can the bendix gear be replaced, or only as part of the starter assembly, or is some lube usually all it needs?
and I guess I'll add a blowtorch to my tool kit too. probably a good thing to have anyway.
When you're jumping the starter, it's probably getting a stronger current, thus the whir as opposed to the click.

So there can be a few issues here. One, the lack of good strong current to the starter, meaning battery and clean grounds and contacts. This has all ready been mentioned.

The other is a bad solenoid or gear. I'd be concerned with the solenoid because when it completely fails, you won't even be able to jump it. It's the solenoid that throws the gear.

There's also adjustment you can make to the plunger hook on the solenoid, if it's a problem with reach.

If you narrowed it down to the starter:
You can get a new bendix (pinion gear) at Parts America for about $42.
A solenoid at NAPA goes for about $45.
A rebuilt NAPA starter for a '75 is about $80.
A gear reduction fj60 starter is about $110.

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FWIW, I've got a all new parts Bosch starter in my '76 2F and that thing cranks the engine over like no other. I don't recall at the moment how much one was, but I highly recommend looking into it if you're in the market for a starter.
At a -25 degrees F., I'm surprised anything worked at all. Try putting an old blanket over the hood and a 100 watt light bulb under the battery and leave it that way over night. Old indian trick my dad taught me.

In addition to checking starter switch as Poser recommends, if it is the solenoid, that you can test with a screwdriver or starter button, I believe you can buy a rebuild kit from toyota to replace the worn out brushes.

4crawler has a nice writeup of same on his website - it's for a mini, but I think they are the same/similar. He even sells the brushes for cheap.

Or if you wind up buying a solenoid or starter/solenoid, you could rebuild the solenoid to have on hand for spare.

Good luck
that was -25 degrees C, not F, about -13F, though last winter it ran at -40 (C=F at 40 below) takes a battery jacket, oilpan heater, and block heater, and has to warm up for a long time.

I didn't realize that the solenoid throws the bendix, I was under the impression that the starter motor throws it out when it starts to turn, and that the solenoid only turns on the starter motor. anyway, I guess that I'll just have to take it apart this weekend and see what can be done.
thanks for the input
I'm with fjwagon on this- check your grounds first! It's easy to do & fits your symptoms - and costs nothing!

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