Starter Solenoid

Okay, the starter’s going out on my car. I tried to replace it, but I can’t get the damn thing off of there without dismantling the engine it seems like. The starter itself is fine, I do believe and its the solenoid that’s going and I can’t get that off either, to try and just swap that out. I’m unemployed so I don’t have the money to pay a mechanic to rip the whole thing apart and redo it for me. I think that on older cars (mine’s an '84 Honda Accord) that you could take a screw driver and wiggle it around the contacts to get a car to start if the solenoid was going. Problem is, that’s a two man job. Anybody know of an easy way I can do jerry rig something up inexpensively that’ll let me start the car from the driver’s seat? (I have to be in the driver’s seat to do this as the car will stall unless I’m there to keep my foot on the gas.) I’m not worried about safety issues, so if it’s a little (or hell, even a lot) dangerous , that’s okay. I just gotta have some wheels, and I gotta have 'em now! (No mass-transportation in this town and cabs are waaaay too expensive!)

In a word, no. The cost to rig up something that will safely and reliably (and I use those words very loosely here) work in place of a starter solenoid is going to be far more trouble and cost than buying a new one.

You CAN replace the starter solenoid. It is hard sometimes, and you may have to dismantle a few extra things on the engine, but it’s not like changing a timing belt or honing cylinders. Just take your time, relax a bit, and study it. Then see if there are any large things you can move to get more access to it (clutch slave cylinder, coolant reservoir, battery, engine mounts…). Yes, it will be painful, and it will cut your hands, but you can do it. Hopefully, since your car is common, someone with experience with it will come in and give you a model-specific hint or two…

On an 84 Accord, it shouldn’t be too difficult. As Anthracite mentioned the solenoid itself is usually replaceble, but I would strongly urge you just to buy a new starter from a jobber parts place. SHouldn’t cost you much more than (and this is just a guess, so don’t hold me to it) $100-$150 or so EXCHANGE (they give you money back for your old core).

You will want to pull the whole starter off the car to replace it anyhow.

*Note - I am going by memory and assuming that Honda’s have their solenoids attached to the starter.

Thanks, guys, but I literally can’t get to one of the bolts holding the starter on! Its tucked up underneath the damn thing in such a position that the crescent wrench has no room to move (there’s very little clearance between the back of the starter and the top of the transaxle). I also don’t have the $110 dollars a replacement starter costs. I absolutely, positively have to have an alternative if there is one.

Whap it with a hammer/big screwdriver/whatever.

Sometimes thats enough.

I’m serious. Give it a shot.

Manual trans or auto?

Try a socket on a long extension to reach the inaccessible bolt. Maybe it’s time to buy some tools?

My experience on two recent Japanese-manufactured starters has been that I didn’t need to replace the entire solenoid, but only two small copper L-shaped contacts inside the solenoid. The arcing had eaten them away until they no longer made a good contact; the symptoms are that the starter didn’t turn when you turn the key --just like a dead battery but the battery is fine. I was able to take apart the solenoid and buy new contacts for about $5 at an auto-electric shop. Sure a helluva lot cheaper than an entire new starter or even a new solenoid.

I guess there are two other things you can try. They have worked for me.

  1. Make certain that the main cable is connected well. On Toyota’s, I know this sometimes ends up with excess corrosion, and this leads me to my next idea…

  2. What state is the battery in? I found that some Toyota’s, esp. the 1980’s-1990’s Corollas, had some issues with a battery that was even just a bit low not being able to fire the solenoid.

  3. bernse isn’t being facetious here. Sometimes, it does work, but it typically must be done each time you start.

I guess there are two other things you can try. They have worked for me.

  1. Make certain that the main cable is connected well - on both ends. On Toyota’s, I know this sometimes ends up with excess corrosion, and this leads me to my next idea…

  2. What state is the battery in? I found that some Toyota’s, esp. the 1980’s-1990’s Corollas, had some issues with a battery that was even just a bit low not being able to fire the solenoid. Yes, I know this is an 84 Accord, but still…

  3. bernse isn’t being facetious here. Sometimes, it does work, but it typically must be done each time you start.

  4. You’re using a crescent wrench? :eek: Dear God. I see your issue more clearly now. It may be all you have to work with, but your chances of success are going to be low to impossible with it, it sounds like. You can pick up a cheap ratchet, extender, and socket for likley less than $20 overall. The trick is knowing which size the nuts/bolts are…


Folks, I appreciate the effort here, but please, stop second guessing me. I have exactly $80 to survive on until I can find a job. Somehow, that $80 has to pay the rent, the trailer note, the light bills, etc, etc. Swapping out starters is not anything I can do at this point.

Even if I had the money to buy the replacement starter, I can’t get the damn thing off. I’m a machinist student for crissakes, I’ve got more tools than I need, a socket won’t fit back there, believe me, I’ve tried. (The bolt’s a 14mm.)

The battery’s fine, and again, replacing it ain’t an option. So far Rocketeer’s comment about the contacts seems to be my best bet (assuming I can get the solenoid off and apart). (The symptoms do match the condition he describes.) Oh, and the damn car’s an automatic so I can’t push start it.

Well, you’re asking, so I will tell you, but if you don’t really know what you’re doing you could end up a contender for next year’s Darwin Award.

I’ll assume all cables cleaned and battery charged up. I also assume that when you turn the key to the starting position, nothing happens—starter doesn’t turn, but maybe makes clicking noises.

If it is the solenoid switch that is malfunctioning, the contacts are probably corroded, as mentioned in earlier posts. But since you can’t get the thing off, cleaning the contacts isn’t possible.

What I’d do in a situation like this is hook up a remote starter switch and hold the switch in the “on” position while at the same time, banging on the starter. The banging causes the contacts to vibrate around and maybe you will get a connection with a clean spot on the contacts and the starter will begin turning.

A tire iron can usually reach the starter from the topside of the engine so that you don’t have to crawl under the car every time, after you get your remote starter switch connected.

If you don’t know how to hook up a remote starter switch—go to the library and look it up, or go to an auto parts store and read the package for a switch.

If you aren’t sure what to hook up—stop!

If you don’t have a remote starter switch and can’t afford one, you can make an emergency remote starter switch using an extension cord 6 to 8 feet long.

  1. Disconnect battery hot post.

  2. Cut the female end of the extension cord off, and save female end for later.

  3. Now you have a long cord with the two prong connector at the end. Bare the ends of the wires where you cut the female end off of, then hook up the cord to the starter the same as you would the remote starter switch. Use electrical tape, if needed, to prevent shorts.

  4. Snake the cord up thru the engine compartment and thru your window on the driver’s side, making damn sure the cord is well away from anything spinning and tape cord to something to keep it from bouncing around.
    Closing the hood on the cord shouldn’t hurt it. If hood fits tightly, you can loosen it at the hinges. (If you have a hole in your firewall, you can also run the wire thru there.) But whatever you do, make sure the insulation on the cord doesn’t get damaged.

  5. Put the female plug that you cut off onto the male prongs that are on the end of the cord. This is your safety protection that you need cuz one of those prongs will be the HOT battery wire.

  6. Reconnect battery.

  7. To start the car, with the trans in “park,” turn the key to “on,” remove the female cover of the cord, and short out the prongs of the cord with a screwdriver. (DO NOT use the body of your car to short the prongs.) That should get the starter turning. If not, bang on the starter a couple times, and try again. Or you may have to bang on the starter and short the prongs at the same time.

Good luck, and don’t be stupid.
NEVER put the 2 prong plug down anywhere without putting the protective cover on it.

and, please, remember that this is an emergency fix only, and get it done right as soon as possible.

Also, if you do this incorrectly, you can set your car on fire, blow up the battery, possibly kill yourself or someone else. And I am not a lawyer and this set up is possibly illegal and these instructions are for entertainment and educational purposes only. OK?

I doubt it’s possible to remove the solenoid without first removing the starter. Furthermore, in my experience it’s not unusual for there to be a problem in the main body of the starter, so possibly a solenoid won’t fix it. My suggestion: remove the starter and take it to an auto electric shop for evaluation and repair.

Now, about getting the starter off:

If I remember correctly, that bass ackwards bolt (stupid design, I agree) can be accessed from above, reaching around on the firewall side. The tool to use is a 14mm box end wrench or the box end of a combination wrench. If you can’t get enough leverage, use the combo wrench and slip the box end of a 13mm or 15mm combo wrench over the open end of the 14mm combo wrench. Try this with the two wrenches in front of you and you’ll see how the one wrench can hook over the other and give you an extension of sorts. The wrenches will be along the same line, giving you nearly twice the length of one, but will rotated so that one is perpendicular to the other.

If you can somehow manage to jumper the starter solenoid with a screwdriver, you can still use your other free hand to operate the throttle linkage, which simulates stepping on the gas. Have a friend push up and down on the pedal while you look around under the hood—you’ll easily see the part that moves.

If it’s a manual shift, just push-start it. A little car like that is easy to push.

You won’t find many '84s in the junkyard, but a little research should tell you which other year/model Hondas used the same starter. (Many junkyards have a book to look this up.) Anyway, junkyard parts are cheap, and if you go to a you-pull-it yard, you’ll get to figure out just how the starter comes out, without having to be careful about breaking things.

If you’re worried about the price, make a call to a few auto-parts stores in the Yellow Pages. Not all rebuilt starters are created equal, but in your case, you might want to get the cheapest one you can. I find AutoZone to generally be the least expensive, and they test starters for free too.

When obtaining prices, don’t forget that a rebuilt starter generally includes a new/rebuilt solenoid as well.

On a more personal note, sorry to hear about your financial situation. I’m about the most credit-averse person you could ever imagine. But if you have a credit card, even with those high loan-sharklike rates, using it would be a very wise investment. Even getting a new job just one day sooner would be enough to pay the interest.