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Project Marina, Starter Troubles

I feel like a WOF inspector wouldn’t look kindly upon a car like the Marina failing to start, so I needed to address that.

The Marina has always been a real pig to start, right from the first start (back in 2021, woah).

I would need a 100% fully charged battery (on charge at least overnight), and often still needed a boost from a jump pack, and then it would turn just fast enough to start. This was a huge problem when I still ran the original mechanical fuel pump as I could not crank it long and fast enough to draw fuel and still start. The electric fuel pump helps a lot, but nothing will make it cold start when it cranks that slowly.

I bought a brand-new battery for it and still had issues. I thought the battery might be faulty, so had it replaced under warranty, still had issues. I messed with grounds, adding new ones, grounding it with jumper leads, and it helped a little but still cranked slow.

One thing I noticed in my efforts was that the main lead from the solenoid to the starter would get hot, indicating a huge amount of current draw. I tried shorting the solenoid terminals together, effectively bypassing it and connecting the starter directly to the battery, and it still turned slowly (all the while welding my screwdriver to the terminals).

So the solenoid was fine, it had to be the starter.

I had a brainwave the other day, in my spares, didn’t I remember seeing a spare starter?

Yes, yes I did. It looks a bit worse for wear, but other than oiling the bearings on each end and cleaning the Bendix so it returned with a snap, it worked flawlessly when given 12V. It’s a 4.5″ (bolt centres) Lucas M35AK (Aus local content copy).

I reconnected the battery, which had been on charge for a couple of days, and this is how it cranked

That was pretty good for it, often it doesn’t speed up after a few turns. If I kept trying it might have started, but chances are the voltage would drop and the starter would slow down again.

Removing the starter on the Marina was pretty easy. Two bolts hold it in, both accessible from up top

I removed the power feed from the back, removed the two bolts holding it to the bellhousing and then realised I couldn’t get the motor out. I had to also remove the bolt securing the strap for the dipstick tube

I cleaned up the mounting face on the replacement starter, and the face on the bellhousing too, as this is where the starter grounds (or did, it should ground through the extra braided ground strap I added to the top bolt).

I slipped the replacement starter in and bolted it into place.

It could’ve done with a coat of black paint, but oh well, it joins the rest of the car in also needing paint.

I reconnected the battery, and with no other changes at all, this is how it cranked

It cranks like a new car! Well, an old new car anyway. The Bendix kicks in and out nicely and it cranks so fast. It would’ve started right then, but with 2+ year old fuel in the tank, that’s lost all its octane, it’s pretty grumpy to start at the moment, but despite having to crank it a few times to get it to start, the starter never slowed down. It’s also interesting to note that the feed wires are no longer noticeably warm to the touch after cranking.

Draining the tank and giving it a belly of fresh fuel should make a big difference to how reliably it starts now. Maybe, just maybe, we might be at a point where it’ll start each time when cold.

I was meant to be sound deadening the car ready for the new carpet to go down, but having come down with the man flu, replacing the starter was all I could muster.

As a laugh, here is the old starter when being given 12V. The beeping is from the “1200amp” fully charged jump pack warning it’s drawing too much current, and the squealing noise is probably from failing bearings in the starter. The starter is noticeably harder to spin by hand than the replacement.

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