505 GTI starter problems
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Thread: 505 GTI starter problems

  1. #1
    Fellow Frogger!
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    Default 505 GTI starter problems

    I've lately been having a few problems with starting. It starts fine when cold, but for the last two fills with petrol the starter would engage and then quickly lose interest. Both times it started after about ten minutes (while I looked busy checking battery terminals and the like). Pretty frustrating.

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    Now, up front, I should confess that the battery has been in this car for just over 11 years and has to be about due for retirement (the one in my 604 is about six months older -- my crystal ball sees a a couple of new batteries in my future). Thing is that cold starting is OK. A battery with a bit more vim might just mask the real problem.

    I suspect the starter solenoid is getting lazy. I'm tempted to just replace the whole starter since taking it out isn't much fun. Just wondering if anyone else has had similar symptoms and/or a solution. Or recommendations of where to buy a solenoid or starter.

    BTW, I already have a helper relay on the starter switch.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

  2. #2
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    Hi Rob

    Given your cars symptoms and the age of the battery, I would recommend replacing the battery first and then decide what to do if any symptoms persist. You don't say how old the starter is, or if it's been rebuilt at any time, a job that is pretty easy and straight forward, parts are still available.

    Regards
    Neil

  3. #3
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    ELEVEN YEARS !!!

    Crikey, that's pretty good going. What brand ???

    I agree with Tassie.
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  4. #4
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    You have done incredibly well to get 11 years from a battery.

    check the battery lead at the starter end , several gti have been known to eventually fail there, due to not being swaged properly.
    give it a good tug if it separates you have to source of the problem
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  5. #5
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    If you need a starter I can supply a good s/h one for $80 delivered to you.

  6. #6
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    Thanks all for your replies.

    TassieExec: Starter hasn't had any work done on it since I bought the car in '92. It did have hard labour for a while when I was installing the Megasquirt (the spark timing was all over the place during cranking; backfires and what have you).

    The thing is that, when hot, starting gives up after very brief cranking -- a second or so. Cold starting cranks for three or four seconds then fires up fine despite having sat with no charge overnight.

    Beano: Yes, I'd never had more than about five years before. Brand is Supercharge Gold. IIRC it was about $135 with trade discount, which I thought was pretty exxy. Salesman came back with some line like "Ah, but what a battery!". Turns out he was right. Not sure they're still as good. My brother (having seen how mine have lasted) bought one for his Nissan 300ZX. It failed in about three years. In its defence, he managed to completely drain that battery several times (rear hatch light on for weeks). Eventually a cell died.

    alpine: Great info -- lead held up well though.

    In summary, yep, I'll get a new battery. I might keep it in the boot for a while though, and keep a multimeter with me too. I think the starter bears some watching.

    Thanks again.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

  7. #7
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    Thanks ioanrobbo. I will go with the plan just outlined. Will PM you if the starter still gives bother.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

  8. #8
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    Hi Rob

    Given the history to have given us, I would say that you have a combined factor of a battery on it's last legs and a starter that is well overdue for an overhaul or replacement, at that age and mileage the starter will need at least new brushes, commutator skimmed and new bearings as well as more than likely a new solenoid and starter pinion. As is always the case the decision to rebuild or replace depends on having the skills and tools to rebuild as well as the overall cost of parts compared to the cost of a replacement. If you go secondhand, depending on if it has a known history, you may still be wise to replace some parts.
    Regards
    Neil

  9. #9
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    Hi Neil,

    Yes, I think you've got it right. I see new starters are on eBay at $160, but I'm inclined to grab the 2nd hand one from Ian, use it and overhaul the current one. That should leave me with a decent spare which I get to trip over for years to come because the other never fails anyway.

    By "well overdue", did you mean "living on borrowed time" or is there something I should have done earlier? Starters have been pretty reliable for me and I'd not be eager to pull out the starter just for a regular maintenance check (especially on the 604 where the whole car is pretty much assembled around it). But if there's a multimeter check or some such that'd give a bit of warning, that'd be good to know about. I guess a reading from a clamp-type DC ammeter at each oil change would be easy, and if the current trends up or down, that'd be a step up from reading tea leaves.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

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    Hi Rob

    That sound like a plan, assuming you are talking about a 505 GTi, then I also assume that especially with the later ones with the rubber firewall insulation, before I changed mine I didn't bother, the best way is to lower the front cross member first and then it's pretty easy really. The reference to living on borrowed time, was just about the fact that in my experience with 505 STi's the starters do tend to wear out brushes fairly quickly

    Regards
    Neil.

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    I can recommend lowering the cross member to get the starter out , support the chassis on stands ,the cross member on floor jacks ,loosen the bolts attaching the member to the chassis as the engine is mounted to the x member lowering will increase the distance between the bell housing and fire wall making the job a lot easier .mine had that thick insulation as well ,i used to have to pour cold water on mine and give it a tap to get it going ,it was an auto ,once i got the starter out i found the brushes were worn down to nothing ,had to order new ones ,they were the funniest brushes i have come across,wedge shaped that contacted on the end of the commutator ,not the side

  12. #12
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    Hi Neil,

    Thanks. I've unbolted the starter a couple of times over the years for clutch replacement and, as you say, it's not too bad with the crossmember lowered. FWIW, my GTI is a late '85 model complete with brittle firewall insulation.

    Will be interesting to see how much is left of the brushes when I tear it down.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

    P.S. I see a new comment from Pugwash. Thanks for that. The brush arrangement sounds weird. Doubly interested to see them now!

    Interesting thought with the cold water. Good idea. Back in my 20s I was able to push start my 504 in a level car park (no 11yo batteries in those days). A few decades later and I managed to move the 505 several inches before deciding this wasn't a sensible summer sport. Funny how all the servos are flat in these so called mountains!

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    Having recently acquired an '84 STi I follow all 505 threads with interest as they are new to me (current project 203.) I have picked up some great clues over the last few months but special thanks to all your "croaking" about the starter motor.......What a pool of knowledge is the "Aussie" Pond!! ........... AND.......... what a battery!
    Thanks and good luck Robs. Happy New Year!!

  14. #14
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    Hi Rob

    The bush arrangement is not all that uncommon with starters, in another life, as well as being a qualified electrician, I also got to work on auto and marine electrics.

    Regards
    Neil

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    Hi Neil,

    Fair enough, it's not like I have much to judge by. I've only dismantled about three starter motors and they all had radial brushes. I can see that axial brushes might save a bit of copper, but I'll still be interested to see the cheese-wedge shaped brushes.

    I also have a past life as a tradesman. Only lasted a couple of years after finishing my motor mechanic apprenticeship before moving on to the computer programming ladder. Not so many skinned knuckles or greasy fingernails, but rather more bullshit to wade through.

    And thanks DeeCee for the good wishes. If batteries' lives get much longer we'll have to start putting them in our wills!

    Have fun,

    Rob.

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    A quick update on this.

    I ended up buying a new starter ($160, eBay -- ianrobbo didn't respond to pm, might be away).

    Dismantled the old one. Solenoid was indeed the problem. It worked when I tested it straight out of the car but, after an hour or so in the sun you could feel it "clench", but it couldn't actually overcome its own return spring. It drew a smidge over 10A, which sounds about right, but I guess there's an internal short of some sort.

    One of the brushes was very marginal -- about 0.5mm from its stop. Bearings and pinion all seem fine, and the commutator can be refaced easily enough. Not rushing to overhaul. If the new starter lasts as long as the old one it should see me out.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

  17. #17
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    Final update on this to tie up some loose ends.

    Valeo starter arrived yesterday. Bit of a Goliath next to the little Paris-Rhone:
    505 GTI starter problems-505starters.jpg
    Weighs plenty more too and it was a bit of a squeeze getting it into place.

    Before installing it I tried energising the solenoid. It drew a whopping 40A; so much for 10A being about right. I didn't do any other tests, but I'm guessing that this drops down once the motor's turning.

    Makes me wonder whether I should upgrade my (30A) helper relay, and you'd surely never want this sort of current going through your ignition switch.

    The starter has a different sound to it, but the engine fired up fine, still with the geriatric battery.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robs View Post
    A quick update on this.

    I ended up buying a new starter ($160, eBay -- ianrobbo didn't respond to pm, might be away).

    Dismantled the old one. Solenoid was indeed the problem. It worked when I tested it straight out of the car but, after an hour or so in the sun you could feel it "clench", but it couldn't actually overcome its own return spring. It drew a smidge over 10A, which sounds about right, but I guess there's an internal short of some sort.

    One of the brushes was very marginal -- about 0.5mm from its stop. Bearings and pinion all seem fine, and the commutator can be refaced easily enough. Not rushing to overhaul. If the new starter lasts as long as the old one it should see me out.

    Have fun,

    Rob.
    I have had to replace a new starter within weeks of it being installed. Warranty replacement through EAI in this instance.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by robs View Post
    the engine fired up fine, still with the geriatric battery.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by pugnut1 View Post
    I have had to replace a new starter within weeks of it being installed. Warranty replacement through EAI in this instance.
    Thanks mate. That's the sort of thing I just love to hear!

    And Beano, I'll post a death notice here when the battery eventually meets its maker -- unless I meet mine first.

    Have fun,

    Rob.
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  21. #21
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    Finally pensioned off the old battery today. It had been two days since I drove the car and, though it started OK this morning, it was not over eager. No point being silly about this so it's out to pasture now.

    Checking my records, I bought this battery for $85 (w/ trade discount) on 13/6/04, so that's 11 1/2 years out of one battery. I did run it flat once (ignition on overnight) and that may have shortened its life; the 604's battery is still going strong and I bought it a month earlier.

    Not expecting the replacement to last as long.

    Have fun,

    Rob.

  22. #22
    1000+ Posts Beano's Avatar
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    Best I've ever heard !

  23. #23
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    Old thread, but thought I'd post a quick death notice for the 604's battery.

    I had been overseas for a couple of weeks. Today I got around to firing up the 604 for the first time since getting back and ... nothing. It started fine before I went away. Bought the battery in May 2004, so that's a full 15 years. Truly amazing. Will be happy enough if its replacement lasts half as long.

    Have fun,

    Rob.
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