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Old January 17th, 2014, 14:37   #1
Kawayanan
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Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Default Starter/solenoid/braided wire issue

Hello,

I will jump right in, but if you want the full background its at the bottom of the post. I have my starter removed and here is my troubleshooting/testing results:
After pulling the starter, it became clear that the braided wire that carries the power from the solenoid to the motor was fried (looks melted in the middle, but that was almost impossible to see while the starter was still in the car).

I can turn the starter motor with my hand, but it doesn't spin freely (take a little force, but not too much). Not sure if that is normal or not.

12V to terminal 50 - nothing (did not expect motor to run with the braided wire bad, but also no solenoid click). Should I be expecting a click even with the braided wire bad? Does this mean the solenoid is bad?

12V directly to starter motor - motor spins (don't have any reference for speed since I haven't done this with a known good starter).
I found this post about replacing the braided wire. I could do this, but I am not sure if the solenoid is also shot (no click with 12V applied).

My questions:

1. Is the starter motor probably okay? (is it normal not to spin freely?)
2. Is the solenoid shot (no reaction to 12V on terminal 50), or is the lack of reaction due to the braided wire being bad?

I hope that all makes sense. Thank you all for you help. I found the "Car won't start troubleshooting" and "How to re & re the starter" threads very useful (as will as this post on another forum).

Background.

I have a 2000 Jetta TDI that recently failed to start. It has always started, but did have a noticeably harder time in the cold (slower to start). The battery is 3-4 years old (replaced the original with an OEM from the VW dealership). It got pretty cold recently, and I had a day when it tried to start but didn't make it (cranked, but slow). I assumed it was a battery issue, and jump started it (jump start worked fine).

The next morning (cold again), it again cranked but failed to start. After a couple tries, nothing (no crank, no solenoid sound either I think). Now, I figured for sure it was a battery problem. Hoping to use the car to go get a new a new battery, I tried to jump it again. Nothing this time when trying to jumpstart (no crank, no solenoid click).

I took the battery out and took it to a parts store to be tested. Their test claimed the battery was fine. I put it on a charger for a bit and it reads 12.4V or so.

After more reading here, I started further trouble shooting. I pulled the starter terminal 50 wire (signal wire to solenoid) and had my wife try to start the car. I was getting ~12V to terminal 50. Seemed to be down to a bad solenoid or stater motor. After a bit more fiddling with no luck, I decided it was best to pull the starter. The results of testing free from the car are above.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 15:25   #2
Powder Hound
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That braided wire from the solenoid certainly does carry the battery current to the starter. Since that circuit is incomplete, there would be no solenoid operation if the braided wire is not making connection.

Also, the starter motor itself is geared, and it will not turn really easy without power. On the other hand, if there is a lot of dust in the gears and grease, it would need to be cleaned out and replaced with clean grease in order to perform its best.

The threads you have noted that talk about the starter will get you going. The motor itself will be OK. If you take it apart, you may want to clean things in general, checking bearings and brushes. Inside the motor, the brushes leave dust that is conductive, so keeping it cleaned out will surely help motor performance.

This is a bit of a messy job, and it is not the optimum time to do it, but good luck and hopefully when you are done it will perform like new.

Cheers,

PH
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Last edited by Powder Hound; January 17th, 2014 at 16:18.
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Old January 18th, 2014, 15:16   #3
Kawayanan
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Update:

All is well again with my little Jetta. For anyone in the future who has a similar problem and finds this thread, here is the outcome.

I followed the fix described by Victor Huge in this thread. I cleaned all the contacts (most were quite nasty) and the broken braided wire from the solenoid that powers the starter motor was replaced with a piece of copper from a copper pipe (gotta love free fixes). After the repair and some cleaning, I tested it the same way that I had previously:

Using jumper cables, the negative battery post was connected to the body of the starter, and the positive to the top terminal of the solenoid (the one normally wired directly to the battery when in the car). Using a wire, I connected the positive jumper cable to terminal 50. This webpage has a description of the general procedure with pictures. After replacing the braided wire with the copper pipe connector, everything worked as it should (solenoid fired, motor spun). I re-installed the starter back in the car, and it started without issue. It was still cold here, and the car had not been started in a week (took me that long to get the time to pull the starter). It actually started easier than it would have before the problem, leading me to believe that power was being lost to a bad (but not fully broken) braided wire for a while.

My takeaway - despite symptoms that might suggest the solenoid or starter motor was dead, the only real problem was the braided wire. The answers to the questions I posted originally:

- Starter not spinning freely (some resistance) when it was out of the car - appears to be normal (as indicated by Powder Hound).

- Solenoid was fine despite no click when the braided wire was bad.

This happened in my driveway, so taking it to a shop would have include a tow. I am very sure that had I taken it somewhere to be fixed, I would have been told that I need to replace the whole starter. Considering a tow, labor, and a new starter, the help here saved me a good chunk of money. Thank you all!
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Old January 25th, 2014, 09:00   #4
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Four hundred at least!
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Old January 26th, 2014, 17:44   #5
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The reason there's a braided wire for this application is because the electrons are excited (conducting electricity) over the OUTSIDE of the wires. The surface area provided by the braided construction is more than the surface area of a solid piece of copper pipe or heavy gauge wire.
Anyway glad it works for you now.
I have a reman starter that lasted about two months before it failed intermittently (internal something or other going on). I was going to give it to another member and he called me up and said it didn't work. I couldn't remember the particular history of it, but his phone call reminded me that I left it out for a reason but I still don't know why I kept it, I think because I thought it was good. My bad.
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Old January 27th, 2014, 09:38   #6
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Sisyphus, Gene in Dresden does alternator and starter repair and I have found him to be honest and fair. He has a full service shop and I take all my stuff to him now, MUCH better than the Starter Shop in Warren. PM me for info.
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Old January 29th, 2014, 09:03   #7
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The guy in Warren seems like he's keen on retiring one of these days, it'd be good to know of another point of assistance...
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Old January 29th, 2014, 10:25   #8
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I sent you a PM and I also need to contact him since he has a spare alternator of mine. It took him 6+ months to do the last one and he claimed by cell number (that I've had for 6+ years) wasn't working.
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