• Elbow grease for a starter

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    About two weeks ago, a friend needed help with her car. Her car is a Nissan Sentra series III with an automatic transmission. The problem with the car was the engine didn’t want to turn over. The car was in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. So since I was in the area, I told her I would take a peak. When I got there, I started to poke around the car to see if I could figure out what was wrong. When the key was turned, you could hear the solenoid switch engaging. But no crank. After making sure that it was not the alarm or the switch in the transmission that did not allow the engine to turn over if was not in Park, I tried touch the starter while I asking my friend to turn the key for me. Doing so, I could feel the solenoid engage the bendix drive but still the engine would not turn over. Its official, the starter was busted!

    Since it was past 5 o’clock in the afternoon, a Friday and I had no tools with me, we decided to push the car into the parking lot and go back for it the next day. Pushing it to try and jump start it was out of the question. It was a good thing I knew an auto electrician who had a shop in BF Almanza and resided in Pilar village. So I made my way to his shop hoping he was still open so I could make an appointment, and see if he had someone who could remove the starter. But his shop was closed, so I went to his house. I found him at his house and he told me to go back tomorrow morning so he could take a look at the starter. I would have to remove the starter myself because he did not have anyone on hand to remove the starter. “Oh…. Ok, this going to be interesting,” I said to myself. I haven’t done this in awhile.

    Saturday morning…for starters, I woke up late. Went on my merry way… while forgetting to eat breakfast. Thinking I could always grab a bite while the starter was being serviced. I remember there was KFC near by, so no problem. So getting to the patient (the Sentra), I parked my car, got down, got my tools and started walking to the patient. As soon as I popped the hood, the security guards walked over. The started to ask me what was going on. So I told them what was wrong with the car and when I told them that I was the one to remove the starter, they kind of had a surprised look on their faces. They must be asking themselves what was a polar bear with a set of tools going to try and do. Well, this polar bear must know what he was doing more than the gorilla peeling a banana and trying to stick it in his ear, and still wondering why he is still hungry. Well, I can’t blame them… rarely do you see a polar bear in the city, what more wearing glasses and holding a bunch of tools.

    Anyway, as usual… after popping the hood and looking for the starter, I was trying to figure out how to position my hand to remove the 14mm bolts and the wiring to the starter. Now, being in an open parking lot, nature just had to remind me that it was time for a summer afternoon shower. After running for shelter twice, I finally was able to remove the mounting bolts. Now comes the challenge of how to remove the starter. It was a tight fit. But I was able to remove it.

    Next scene… the service shop. The starter didn’t give any trouble revealing what was wrong with it. Burned brush housing and worn out carbon brushes plus some engine oil were the culprit. After cleaning the other parts and rummaging through the shop for the parts to be replaced, the starter was assembled and bench tested. Now some would hesitate to install a rebuilt starter for the fear it would not be reliable. If done properly, yes it would still be very reliable. Note, done properly. What about lunch? Mountain dew and some crackers…

    Getting back to the parking lot to install the starter, a slight shower occurred, just enough to cool the air. No need to run and seek shelter. The installation was a bit faster as compared to the removal. Double checked the wiring and made sure the bots were tightened properly… then hooked up the battery and turned the key. The engine turned and started. Turned it off and started it again. Did this a couple of times until I was satisfied. When I felt that everything was alright, I called my friend, told her the car is already running and that she could pick it up.

    To a seasoned mechanic, this kind of job would have been routine but for me, it was an eye opener how rusty I was. And how out of shape I was. I was actually amused at myself that I was able to pull it off. Rusty, but still able to do it. For those thinking of doing something similar but too chicken to do so, don’t worry. I have burned lots of auto wiring while trying to do it myself. The thing here is to learn from it. Ask for guidance if you are not sure. But sometimes you need to figure something out yourself. Remember the gorilla? Still peeling all those bananas and sticking it in his ear and still feeling hungry… but look, he does have clear facial skin….

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