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Starter 'stuck' in flywheel ring gear?

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  • Engine: Starter 'stuck' in flywheel ring gear?

    I've just had something kinda weird happen to 2 Studebakers. I've been driving a friend's '50 Champion around (to cruises, etc.) and one day I shut it off and when I tried to start it all I got was a loud click. I guessed low battery and asked a couple of friends to push it so I could 'pop the clutch' and start it. It would not start, acted like the engine was locked up. I had it flatbedded home. I tried turning the engine with a large ratchet and a 4 foot jack handle. It would not turn, but when I turned it backwards, there was a loud click and suddenly it turned. I put the key in and it started! I guessed that the starter somehow got 'locked' into the flywheel ring gear and released when I turned the engine backwards. It has not happened again.
    A week or so later, I went to start my '53 Commander. It hadn't been used for a while (a few weeks) so it cranked a bit and didn't start. I cranked it some again and stopped to pump the gas pedal. When I tried to start it, it acted like the Champion had; a loud click and no action. I walked away and a couple of days later tried to turn the engine using the crank bolt and the same large ratchet; no luck, stuck tight. I tried turning it backwards and the crank nut simply loosened. Today, I took the starter off (a desperation guess) and as I removed it I heard a familiar 'click' (like the Champion). I tested the starter with a battery and it worked fine, so I re-installed it. The Commander started with no difficulty! Is this weird or what?? Anyone else experienced anything similar?
    Howard - Los Angeles chapter SDC
    '53 Commander Starliner (Finally running and driving, but still in process)
    '56 Golden Hawk (3 speed/overdrive, Power steering - Running, but not yet driving)
    '62 GT Hawk (4 speed, A/C, Power steering - running and DRIVING!)

  • #2
    Most Studebaker starters use what was called a "Folo-thru Drive". It works on inertia. Starter spins up, starter drive, being heavy, does not spin up as fast, so it walks out the spiral thread on the armature shaft and engages the flywheel teeth. Once engaged, a detent ball keeps it there until the engine is well and truly running, to avoid that annoying situation where the engine fires once, and kicks the starter out. If the starter fails to start the engine, it stays engaged with the ring gear. The jamming you experience may be the result of wear on the drive-end bushing that allows the starter shaft to deflect enough for the pinion gear to try to jump the teeth on the ring gear. And worn ring gear teeth will exacerbate that, of course. And the ring gear teeth don't wear evenly; the engine develops favored points in its rotation to stop, when shut down, and those areas experience heavier wear on the ring gear.
    Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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    • #3
      It happened to me once on the Rockne several years ago; a first time ever. And hasn't recurred.
      "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

      Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
      Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
      sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"

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      • #4
        It's never happened to me on my Studebakers, but I've heard of several Model A's having the problem.
        A well charged battery helps to avoid the problem.
        If it happens, then pull the handle to lock it out of overdrive, shift to third gear and rock the car back and forth to see if it pops free.

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        • #5
          It happened occasionally on my old flathead ford. If you have a standard transmission, just put it in reverse and rock the car backwards until you hear the starter release.

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          • #6
            This happened a couple of times with my '55 President early in the restoration process. If you or a friend drove jalopies back in the 60s it was a fairly common occurrence. With a stick shift freeing it up is straight forward. You need to get the engine to turn backwards slightly. Put the car in third gear, overdrive disengaged, and push backwards. In my case a new starter drive solved the problem. If it happens once it will most likely happen again until repaired.
            American iron, real old school
            With two tone paint, it sure is cool

            Its got 8 cylinders and uses them all
            With an overdrive that just won't stall

            With a 4 barrel carb and dual exhausts
            With 4.23 gears it can really get lost

            Its got safety belts and I ain't scared
            The brakes are good and the tires are fair.

            Tried to sell her, but got no taker
            I"ll just keep driving my Studebaker

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            • #7
              I would check the entire ring gear (all teeth - "repair"/replace as needed) and replace the starter drive assembly.
              Gary L.
              Wappinger, NY

              SDC member since 1968
              Studebaker enthusiast much longer

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              • #8
                Originally posted by tsenecal View Post
                It happened occasionally on my old flathead ford. If you have a standard transmission, just put it in reverse and rock the car backwards until you hear the starter release.
                Exactly....Seems like when I was a kid driving old fords this was a common malfunction and the rock in reverse always solved it. Isn't it funny how small those problems were when we were young.

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                • #9
                  Thanks everybody! I just didn't want to think I was experiencing a unique problem. Both cars seem to be running fine now.
                  Howard - Los Angeles chapter SDC
                  '53 Commander Starliner (Finally running and driving, but still in process)
                  '56 Golden Hawk (3 speed/overdrive, Power steering - Running, but not yet driving)
                  '62 GT Hawk (4 speed, A/C, Power steering - running and DRIVING!)

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                  • #10
                    As has already been said, if it happens again: just put the vehicle in high without the trans in od, and push backward. This used to be real common on older cars (6 volt). Back when I was a kid, I would go for a while with a weak battery (6 volt), and it wouldn't start every time. Also turned slow. (6 volt). This was a common occurance, til I could get a new battery. Never remember it happening in later years very much, ( on 12 volt) cars, but still on (6 Volt)

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                    • #11
                      For whatever it's worth; the '50 Champion is original 6 volts, the '53 Commander has a '56 289 in it and has been converted to 12 volts. Thanks again.
                      Howard - Los Angeles chapter SDC
                      '53 Commander Starliner (Finally running and driving, but still in process)
                      '56 Golden Hawk (3 speed/overdrive, Power steering - Running, but not yet driving)
                      '62 GT Hawk (4 speed, A/C, Power steering - running and DRIVING!)

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                      • #12
                        Mine used to do that often. I did not know about rocking. My fix was to get under the truck ( I'm lucky it is a truck; I don't know if I would fit under a car,) remove the four screws to take the cap off the starter then unwind the drive by hand. I have a different starter now which has not ever done that.

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                        • #13
                          For anybody that needs to try the rocking method, the way that I stated is incorrect (bad memory), Flashback stated the correct way, which is: put the vehicle in high gear and rock backwards. I haven't driven the truck since the 80's, and forgot how I had done it. It sounds like a pain, but I was a gangly kid back then, and it doesn't take as much of a push as you would think.

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                          • #14
                            Look for a broken/missing tooth on the ring gear.
                            Last edited by JoeHall; 11-18-2019, 08:11 PM.

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