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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all, been a while. Still driving the Insight and loving it.

Having a problem with the car starting now.

Quick background, the car is fully bypassed with an arduino + starter relay bypass (for instant 12V cranking) and has been been running fine that way since spring last year.

Drove it back to the parking lot at college and parked it, came back out 3 days later to drive somewhere and the car wouldn't start.

Car ran fine before parking it.

Had a friend crank the engine while I listened to the starter in the engine bay. The starter spins, and I can hear the gear shoot out, but it does not seem to engage with the flywheel.

I suspected a bad starter but wanted to isolate the issue. I tested the 12V battery and it was fine (a year and a half old). Tested for voltage drop across the wires leading to the starter and there was almost none. I connected jumper wires directly from my car battery to the starter, and the same thing happened: the stater spun and the gear shot out, but did not engage with the engine. Same thing happened when I connected power directly to the starter from another friend's car (in case the battery happened to be bad even though it tested fine).

So I removed the air filter box and the starter. The engine spun by hand fine in neutral, and none of the teeth on the flywheel were broken. The car also ran just fine up until the time I parked it, so I'm pretty confident there isn't an engine issue, i.e. something seized or broken.

After eliminating the possibilty of a battery/wiring issue and an engine issue, the only remaining problem seemed to be with the starter itself. Clearly it was the original 14 year old starter. I had a friend drive me to the local Autozone to have it tested. The person who tested it indicated that the starter was weak and recommended replacing. Two days later when I got the new starter and installed it, the same symptoms occurred: the starter spun, and I could hear the gear shoot out, but would not engage with the flywheel. The starter motor just kept aimlessly spinning.

In short
  • Engine spins by hand just fine in neutral, so nothing is seized. Car ran 100% fine up to the point of last parking it. So no engine issue.
  • Starter had power connected directly from my roommate's running car, same issue, so not an issue with battery or wiring or immobilizer
  • New starter is installed, and bench tested fine (and so did the old one after taking them both back to test them and compare after still having the issue after installing the new one).
I'm a bit lost where to go from here. Thoughts and advice welcome and appreciated! :giggle:
 

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Clutch switch out of adjustment?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Clutch switch out of adjustment?
If it was the clutch switch then wouldn't the starter not spin at all, and then start the car when I connected power directly to the starter?

The car used to start without the clutch being engaged, but I figured this was due to the bypassed starter relay.

Still learning how these systems work.
 
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The set of circumstances seems to eliminate all the possibilities, so you must be overlooking something.

Since the engine doesn't turn on the starter, is there a grinding noise of the starter gear against the ring gear?

I'd have the 12V battery load tested.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The set of circumstances seems to eliminate all the possibilities, so you must be overlooking something.
That's what I'm thinking, but for the life of me I can't think what I overlooked.

Since the engine doesn't turn on the starter, is there a grinding noise of the starter gear against the ring gear?
There is no grinding. It's almost as if the flywheel isn't touching the starter gear after it shoots out, almost as if the flywheel isn't installed or the teeth are all ground off, neither of which are true.

My roommate turns the key while I listen. I hear the gear shoot out, then it just spins like it's being bench tested, and then it retracts when he stops trying to start it.

I'd have the 12V battery load tested.
The starter behaves the same even when powered directly from a newer, larger, truck battery.
 

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Starters have a one way clutch built into the Bendix generally, sounds kinda like your's became a two way clutch. I have had parts store starters fresh out of the box do the same thing, so don't rule out starter just because you bought a new one.
 

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Roommate turns the key while I listen. I hear the gear shoot out, then it just spins like it's being bench tested, and then it retracts when he stops trying to start it.



The starter behaves the same even when powered directly from a newer, larger, truck battery.
Can you see all the pulleys spinning when the starter engages?
 

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After eliminating the possibilty of a battery/wiring issue and an engine issue, the only remaining problem seemed to be with the starter itself. Clearly it was the original 14 year old starter. I had a friend drive me to the local Autozone to have it tested. The person who tested it indicated that the starter was weak and recommended replacing. Two days later when I got the new starter and installed it, the same symptoms occurred: the starter spun, and I could hear the gear shoot out, but would not engage with the flywheel. The starter motor just kept aimlessly spinning.
This is the problem. Autozone parts, especially the remanufactured stuff, are awful. Return the starter and get a refund. Then buy a Nippondenso reman unit from Carquest/Advance. It may be a special order. It may cost a little more. Denso is the OEM for most Honda starters and alternators, and are the best remanufacturers on the planet.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Can you see all the pulleys spinning when the starter engages?
Nothing engine-wise spins when the starter engages. The gear appears to shoot out but the starter motor just spins. A Honda mechanic friend back home still thinks it's the starter. Autozone guy recommended another mechanic to speak to that I will call tomorrow. If he also says it's the stater then I will probably return it and get another.

If anyone else has ideas or suggestions I'm all ears.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Spoke with another mechanic today over the phone, he suggests the possibility of the flywheel ring gear having slipped or moved? Possible flywheel replacement? Everything else tests fine and has been double and triple checked.
 

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You could pull your starter out and pry against the starter ring gear, see if it turns the motor, assuming there's enough room to do so.
 

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If the ring gear is pressed onto the flywheel, I have seen them wear out to the point they dont even make any noise when they rotate seperately from the flywheel. They basically made the edge they are pressed onto a sort of "channel" for the ring gear to slide on.

When the starter is outside the car, bench test the solenoid, and measure how far it extends out. Then measure through the starter hole on the transmission, and see if you can match centers of the teeth.

If it is off, you can try to pull on the ring gear a little bit, rotate engine 45 degrees or so, pull on it again and again, until it falls into place.

If successful on pulling the ring gear back into place, tack weld the ring gear in place. Start with your 4 compass points, tack weld, rotate engine 90 degrees, tack weld, and then split rotation in half, to 45 degrees, tack weld, and repeat until there is a tack weld every 1/8 or 1/16 of an engine rotation.

Ive had to do this on some european older cars where parts were very scarce and expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just in case anyone else stumbles upon this thread down the road....the problem was fixed a while back:

1) Original starter was bad
2) New starter was bad.
3) The transmission-to-chassis ground was bad. Ground strap was relocated and replaced.

New starter (first new one was replaced under warranty) and new ground strap, starting issue fixed.
 
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