Crank To Key: Starters In Cars

Before the invention of the electric starter, cars were started by hand. While a novelty today – nobody wants to get out and crank away in hopes of starting their car. Electric starters came around 1912 and were invented by Charles Kettering. 

Recognizing Different Starter Configurations

Starters in classic 1960s and 1970s cars and trucks look the same at first glance, but they are quite different. Sure, they both have a large black motor with a starting solenoid hanging off the side of it. In order to get the correct starter for your ride, you’ll want to pay attention to these small but significant differences. 

There are two different starts for the classic Chevrolet muscle cars. The difference is whether your engine has a 153-tooth or a 168-tooth flywheel/flexplate. The 153-tooth version has bolt holes that are parallel, while the 168-tooth version has offset holes. 

Nose Cone Variations

Classic Chevrolet starters typically have two types of nose cones. Cars with a 12 3/4-inch flywheel with 153 teeth feature nose cones with parallel attachment bolt holes. In contrast, a 14-inch flywheel with 168 teeth has offset bolt holes. These configurations apply to both manual and automatic transmissions, with manual cars often originally equipped with a cast-iron nose cone.

There are two different starts for the classic Chevrolet muscle cars. The difference is whether your engine has a 153-tooth or a 168-tooth flywheel/flexplate. The 153-tooth version has bolt holes that are parallel, while the 168-tooth version has offset holes. 

Starter
Images Courtesy of Ray's Chevrolet Restoration Site
Starter

Standard-Duty vs. High-Torque Starters

Chevrolet developed two types of starters for different applications: standard-duty and high-torque starters. The high-torque starter has distinct features, including a unique case, field coils, and armature. High-torque starters also use a copper spacer and longer screws for the solenoid connection.

Low Torque On Left; High Torque On Right

Importance of Proper Starter Bolts and Installation

Using the correct starter bolts, which have a specific shank diameter and knurling, is essential to prevent starter movement under torque. Proper installation involves loosely snugging the first bolt, tightening the second bolt, and then fully tightening the first bolt.

Using Shims for Proper Clearance

Shims are sometimes necessary to ensure proper clearance between the starter drive gear and the flywheel/flexplate ring gear. The ideal clearance is about .030 inches. If your starter skips, whines, or growls, adjusting the shims can help achieve the correct gap.

Starter Brace Support

Always use the factory brace to support the starter. Without it, the nose cone will break over time. It’s not a matter of if it will break, it’s going to break. 

This guide focuses on stock GM starters used in passenger cars and light trucks. It doesn’t apply to later-model vehicles with small body gear reduction, aftermarket, or mini starters. Proper starter selection and installation are crucial for reliable engine performance in classic Chevrolet muscle cars.

Still, need help figuring out if your starter? Hop on SS396.com or give our friendly techs a call at (203) 235-1200! 

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