Replacing starter and solenoid
Is it difficult to replace a starter and solenoid if you're not a mechanic?
No not really. You usually only have two bolts to remove to drop the starter and two more to disconnect the solenoid. Reassemble in reverse. I am including a link to some videos that may help you. Ralph
Disconnect the battery before working on the starter. Ralph
I have done this job on an 87 S10 with 2.8 litre engine and automatic transmission. In a perfect world, replacing the starter could be done in about 30 minutes, but if you run ito the same complications that I did, and wish to avoid any disasterous consequences, be prepared to spend an hour or two. I'll also emphasize to disconnect the battery before doing the job. I thought I was going to save time by not doing so, but arced the wiring against a brake line, and ended up replacing it too. Quite a dangerous oversite, if unnoticed.
The starter can be a bit difficult to get to as, it is hedged in by the right branch of the exhaust pipe on V6 engines. But I think it was only two or three bolts to get it clear. I found that the stock harness was too short to lower the starter enough to unscrew the wire terminal stud nuts, which are garanteed to be corroded if the vehicle has been driven in a snowy climate with road salt.
I had to cut the harness against the studs and splice on about a foot of new wire to both the starter power cable and the solonoid wires. Of course I had to crimp on new ring style terminals. Suggest using good crimp butt connectors for splicing the new end extensions and good heat shrink tubing over them to make a strong water proof connection.
Electrical tape is not a reliable material in this oily and hot environment. Best to buy the heat shrink tube with the coating of glue on the inner wall to insure a water proof seal. Regular heat shrink without the internal glue can be used in combination with an external sealant such as Scotch Cote or Liquid Tape. Even a layer of silicon sealent would be helpful. Forget trying to put glue over the wire and then putting on the heat shrink. Solvents will evaporate off the glue while heating the heat shrink, forming small pockets or bubbles inside the heat shrink and destroy its water sealing effect.
You will need a heat gun to shrink the heat shrink tubing into place. Or a small propane or butane torch will work if one is careful not to apply the heat too long and burn the insulation off the wires. You will only need flame contact on the heat shrink a few seconds get it shrunk down to size. I have not tried a hair dryer on high heat, but worth experimenting with before doing the repair.
You could also solder the connection but there is an argument against solder on high current connections, especially in corrosive environments. Introducing a different metal (solder) will cause electrolysis and the connection could go high resistance. This would be like turning a small section of the wire into a heating element and it could burn. This is why aluminum wiring has been banned for house wiring. Hot spots caused by corrosion were burning houses down all over the country. At the very least the joint could prematurely fail due to corrosion. Soldered wire connections are usually a lot thicker cross section too, and make the joint difficult to seal. I might also add that this is a very miserable confined spot to try to solder in. Conventional butt crimps are the method of choice. You will need a good crimp tool with nice think jaws. Pliers are just not capable of producing an even crimp and it will fail. Cheap thin jaw crimpers are almost as bad.
With the harness extensions on, it will be much easier to connect them to the new or repaired starter and get it back in place to bolt up. Its a good idea to put some grease over the terminals to seal out water. Silicon grease is best, but ball joint or bearing grease will be much better than nothing.
Its a bit of a tricky job to hold the heavy starter up and bolt it on with the other hand while lying on one's back under the vehicle. If the bolts are rusty or coated in tough dirt and hard grease, be sure to clean with solvent and/or a wire brush. Might be helpful to carefully file a small chamfer (bevel) on the bolt ends to make lining them up easier, but be careful no to damage the thread ends, or you could cause yourself a disaster if you damage the receiving threads in the bolt holes due to damaged bolt threads. The bell housing is made of a soft alloy and very vulnerable to thread damage from the harder steel bolts. If you have a set of thread taps, it could be helpful to chase out the receiving threads. But one must be knowledgable to measure the threads carefully and choose the correct tap, or you will cause disasterous damage if attempting to chase out the threads with the wrong tap.
To chamfer the bolts, use only a small fine tooth file that will make a smooth cut and can be easily controlled. It is best to hold the bolts in a vice for filing, but can be hand held if no vice is available. A three corner file as used for filing saws is useful for cleaning burs off the thread starts. If you are equipped with a bench grinder, this is the tool of choice for chamfering the bolts though. Hold the bolts so that the burr produced is dragged away from the thread start by the motion of the grind stone. Always is a wise idea to put some anti seize lubricant on the bolt threads, or at least some grease if no anti seize is available.
It really is not a difficult job if one has the correct tools and materials on hand before starting. There should be nothing more to it than what I've written, and much of this has been some extra and precautionary advice to ease the job and avoid any possible disasterous results. I will note that some versions of GM engines have a shim plate that fits between the starter and bell housing that one has to be mindful not to loose, and to put it properly in place when refitting the new or repaired starter. I do not recall if my 2.8 V6 has this, but some versions could. Also, be sure to secure the wires to safe spots, well clear of the hot exhaust pipe once you have tested the starter and are confident that the job is completed. Use some good "zip" type tie wraps. It might also be wise to split some small hose and tie wrap it over the wires where thay are subject to vibration and abrasion against the vehicle. Note that the engine moves and vibrates while running, but the harness is fixed to the vehicle body, so some slack must be left in the harness end to prevent it from breaking. This is another reason why I found it necessary to extend the harness.
Yeah, it really should not take more than 30 minutes, even for your first attempt.
Disconnect the battery
Reomve the three wires from the solenoid, but mark them or remember which wire went where...this is critical!
Remove the three 9/16" bolts that hold the starter to the trans, and let it down easily. I usually lie under it, and just rest it on my chest while working on it.
Remove the 2 1/2" bolts holding the solenoid to the starter, and make sure to not loose the spring on the inside...remove the solenoid slowly or you will be chasing a bouncing spring (been there!)
Put the new solenoid on (with the spring inside of it!)
and do everything in reverse
Nothing to it!
Just to note for some people to save time and a good chunk of money.
I ended up replacing the battery thinking there was a battery manufacturing defect.
It was not the battery.
I then ended up changing the alternator, thinking it was a voltage drop from bad bearings.
It was not the alternator.
Soon after the alternator replacement the starter was on and off clicking when trying to start and so I thought, well the starter has been going bad and the solenoid is no good.
So a new starter.
And still having the same troubles.
My cousin being a modern auto mechanic said for just S&G try going out and getting a $5 negative lead which connects from the battery to the actual block and see if that helps.
New $5 cable and it starts, amps are solid at 14.5ish starter turns over and everything is great.
The cables on this model (mine is a 1988 Chevrolet K2500 5.7L) for the negative lead to the block can burn out and it will not show any ware or burning. The cable just fries internally and has a slight or no connection at all.
This would have saved me $300 easy if I would have just tested that out.
The amazing part is I also tested the voltage and amperage off the battery to the different positions and they were all within starting specs, but when starting the engine turning over and moving just slightly it would shake the connection loose and break the power.
Sad ending to the story also was the new alternator ended up burning out the bearings right away and I had to get a second replacement, free which helped.
I hope this helps.