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Thread: Bugeye starter debugging

Discuss the Austin Healey Sprite and the MG Midget. Two different but similar cars sometimes referred to collectively as the Spridget.

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    Question Bugeye starter debugging

    The short version

    I've got a Bugeye. The starter engages, gives the engine a push, but won't turn the engine over. There's only a few ohms resistance in the circuit, and it fails even when I try to jump it. What should I be looking for? What should I try?

    ---

    The long version

    I very recently bought a Bugeye that's in reasonable-but-nothing-like-mint shape. Once it goes, it goes beautifully. However, there have been starter problems from the beginning. Nothing unexpected (I knew about it when I bought it) but prevented me from actually driving the poor thing anywhere.

    It sounded like the starter wasn't engaging with the flywheel perhaps most of the time. It would spin and grind instead. When it did engage, the engine started happily.

    So I pulled out the starter, and sure enough, something was binding up in the spring/bendix gear/pinion assembly (is there a name for that whole shebang?). It didn't slide smoothly at all.

    Luckily, the previous owner had provided, in a cardboard box of parts, a second starter motor. I put it in, and it certainly did engage with the flywheel, but it fails to turn the engine over -- it turns maybe a quarter turn (wimpily) then stops. Continuing to pull the switch only cooks the starter, since it can't move to cool itself.

    I poked a multimeter around, and found ~4 ohms of resistance in the rest of the circuit, excluding the motor itself. My only electrical training is in small electronics; I'm assuming that kind of resistance is expected for a circuit of this scale, but tell me if I'm wrong.

    I pulled the "new" starter back out. It spins happily if I power it while disengaged from the engine. I gave the commutator and brushes a look: they were certainly worn but still seemed to be making contact. There was some discoloration on a few leaves of the commutator, so I gave the whole commutator a light buffing with superfine sandpaper.

    I plopped it back in, and, if anything, it's even worse, now, barely turning the engine at all.

    I have almost no car repair experience (I bought the Bugeye, in part, to learn) and I've run out of ideas.

    Are there more things I can check? Other things to try? Should I be looking at buying an actually-new starter motor, or is it more likely the problem is elsewhere?

    Thanks for any advice you can give!

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    Jedi Warrior BlueMax's Avatar
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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    How does the flywheel ring gear look? Are the teeth sharp and crisp, or are they rounded and warn? When the starter is removed will the starter drive pull all the way in? If so find you a piece of hard wood about the size of a hammer handle.

    While the starter is spinning and starter drive fully engaged down the armature shaft shove the wood as hard as you can into the starter drive let it smoke. If the starter drive slips it bad. If its eats the wood up it good hold in for at least 45 sec.. Make sure that nothing is grounding out with the battery terminal post connection on starter.

    Also, check amp load on battery to see if the amps are good. And last, make sure that the engine block is grounded to chassis properly.

    If you do decide to purchase a new starter, go with a gear reduction, you'll love it!!
    Last edited by BlueMax; 08-02-2015 at 08:16 PM.

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    Jedi Knight bugedd's Avatar
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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    I'll second on the gear reduction starter. I've heard many instances of the original starters acting up. I had the gear reduction starter on my last bugeye, no worries at all with it.
    1960 Bugeye AN5L43788, 1275, Datsun 5 speed, bunches of fun goodies.

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Before you buy much more you should pull the "stuck" starter, clean the bendix with gasoline or kerosene or similar and try it again WITHOUT lubricating it
    Then tell us how that works
    BillM
    '69 Sprite Mk IV
    '60 MGA
    '65 Midget

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Gear Reduction starters require the mounting flange be able to rotate. I see cheap ones advertised on EBay for Spridgets that do not have the adjustable mounting flange. Gerard sell one, Moss sells one. NFI.
    Jim Gruber - Tampa/Riverview FL
    Bugsy I - '68 Sprite w BE Bonnet - Gone but not forgotten
    Bugsy IV - '60 Bugeye - 1,275+.040 and a 5-Speed - CA Car - 2nd Owner from new -

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    Jedi Knight AN5Sprite's Avatar
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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    My own experience: Every starter issue I've had turned out to really be low-voltage issues. Bad batteries, bad generators. Just my $.02. How many volts at the battery with the car idling?
    Steve C & the Tunebug

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    BlueMax: The flywheel doesn't show enough wear that it made me worry:


    The 2nd starter drive will pull all the way in and all the way out.

    I don't believe the drive is slipping -- like I said, the new one is engaging, but doesn't have enough torque. It goes totally silent once the engine does it's 1/4 turn and stops.

    I don't have one of those nice clamp-around ammeters, but I'll see what I can do to measure the current pull.

    BillM: To be clear, one starter has a sticky bendix, and one rides smoothly. I read the workshop manual's advice to clean with kerosene, but I wasn't sure how to safely remove the torsion spring -- so I let the sticky one alone. Is there an easy way to disassemble/reassemble that?

    Jim: Thanks! I will make sure I don't make that mistake.

    Steve: There very well may *also* be a voltage issue; I've been specifically jumping the Sprite from a running vehicle when I test the starter so as to separate any battery/generator problems from the mix. (That makes sense, right?)

    Thanks, everyone, for your advice!
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Personally, I have a whole pile of generators and starters. The generators are all bad while the starters are all good. They are fairly reliable but it sounds like you may have a bad one. How about swapping the drive to the one you know has a good motor after you have tried Bill's clean up suggestion.

    Kurt.
    65,66 Midget
    57 Berkeley, MGA
    Working on quality rather than quantity

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Didn't read your last post completely. Yes that spring can be a bear. I've had that apart but only remember it being a struggle.

    Kurt.
    65,66 Midget
    57 Berkeley, MGA
    Working on quality rather than quantity

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    Yoda HealeyRick's Avatar
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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Not sure what the problem is, but I'll offer this. The "spare" starter was originally in the car. It went bad and the owner installed the second one, and kept the "spare". Result: two bad starters. If you don't want to pop for a gear reduction starter, these guys look like they might know their way around a starter rebuild: https://a1electricwestmi.com/
    Rick

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Don't take it apart! Just dunk the bendix into the kerosene and work it back and forth a few times- that is good enough!
    Then try it
    BillM
    '69 Sprite Mk IV
    '60 MGA
    '65 Midget

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Rick wins this round; I took both starters to a starter-and-alternator shop, and they fixed one up for a few bucks. A disappointing, but cheap and effective solution.

    I'm suspicious, because it sure as heck *looks* like they *greased* it when they were done, which seems wrong -- but the person who did the job wasn't in to ask questions. May have to go back and inquire :/

    Nevertheless, the Sprite finally starts, and the fix will last at least long enough to save pennies for a fancy, gear reduction replacement. Thanks, everyone!

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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Quote Originally Posted by diiq View Post
    Rick wins this round; I took both starters to a starter-and-alternator shop, and they fixed one up for a few bucks. A disappointing, but cheap and effective solution.

    I'm suspicious, because it sure as heck *looks* like they *greased* it when they were done, which seems wrong -- but the person who did the job wasn't in to ask questions. May have to go back and inquire :/

    Nevertheless, the Sprite finally starts, and the fix will last at least long enough to save pennies for a fancy, gear reduction replacement. Thanks, everyone!
    It sounds like you've got this fixed, but if the starter is still slow, check the ground strap between the engine and frame.
    Keith
    '59 Bugeye (recently restored)
    '62 BT7 (recently restored)
    '65 Sprite (restored 30 yrs ago)

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    Yoda HealeyRick's Avatar
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    Re: Bugeye starter debugging

    Quote Originally Posted by diiq View Post
    Rick wins this round; I took both starters to a starter-and-alternator shop, and they fixed one up for a few bucks. A disappointing, but cheap and effective solution.

    I'm suspicious, because it sure as heck *looks* like they *greased* it when they were done, which seems wrong -- but the person who did the job wasn't in to ask questions. May have to go back and inquire :/

    Nevertheless, the Sprite finally starts, and the fix will last at least long enough to save pennies for a fancy, gear reduction replacement. Thanks, everyone!
    Glad it worked out.
    Rick

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