The starter motor is a series, compound, or permanent magnet type electric motor with a solenoid and solenoid operated switch mounted on it. When low- current power from the starting battery is applied to the starter solenoid, usually through a key -operated switch, the solenoid closes high-current contacts for the starter motor and it starts to run.
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Once the engine starts, the key-operated switch is opened and the solenoid opens the contacts to the starter motor. All modern starters rely on the solenoid to engage the starter drive with the ring gear of the flywheel.
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When the solenoid is energized, it operates a plunger or lever which forces the pinion into mesh with the ring gear. The pinion incorporates a one way clutch so that when the engine starts and runs it will not attempt to drive the starter motor at excessive RPM. Some older starter designs, such as the Bendix drive , used the rotational inertia of the pinion to force it along a helical groove cut into the starter drive-shaft, and thus no mechanical linkage with the solenoid was required.
If a starter solenoid receives insufficient power from the battery, it will fail to start the motor, and may produce a rapid clicking sound.
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The lack of power can be caused by a low battery, by corroded or loose connections in the battery cable, or by a damaged positive red cable from the battery. The inertia starter relies on the inertia of the pinion - that is, its reluctance to begin to turn. The pinion is not fixed rigidly to the motor shaft - it is threaded on to it, like a freely turning nut on a very coarse-thread bolt.
Imagine that you suddenly spin the bolt: the inertia of the nut keeps it from turning at once, so it shifts along the thread of the bolt.
How to Install a Car Starter: 14 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow
When an inertia starter spins, the pinion moves along the thread of the motor shaft and engages with the flywheel gear ring. It then reaches a stop at the end of the thread, begins to turn with the shaft and so turns the engine. Once the engine starts, it spins the pinion faster than its own starter-motor shaft.
The spinning action screws the pinion back down its thread and out of engagement.
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The pinion returns so violently that there has to be a strong spring on the shaft to cushion its impact. The violent engagement and disengagement of an inertia starter can cause heavy wear on the gear teeth. To overcome that problem the pre-engaged starter was introduced, which has a solenoid mounted on the motor. There's more to a car starter system: As well as switching on the motor, the solenoid also slides the pinion along the shaft to engage it.
The shaft has straight splines rather than a Bendix thread, so that the pinion always turns with it. The pinion is brought into contact with the toothed ring on the flywheel by a sliding fork. The fork is moved by a solenoid, which has two sets of contacts that close one after the other. The first contact supplies a low current to the motor so that it turns slowly - just far enough to let the pinion teeth engage.
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Then the second contacts close, feeding the motor a high current to turn the engine. Pre-engaged starter. Pop the hood of your vehicle and have your friend turn the key in the ignition. Listen for a clicking sound coming from under the hood and look for a cylindrical part bolted near the engine.
There are usually two hex bolts securing the starter, though there can be more. If you can find this part without too much hunting around, it is the starter. Locate your car battery's positive terminal. This is the terminal that has a heavy red cable attached to it. It may be concealed by a plastic cover, especially on newer model cars.