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DIY Starter replacement - with PICs
DIY Starter replacement - with PICs
Published by 540318
Default DIY Starter replacement - with PICs

In a prior thread (see “Can I access my starter bolt from the radio slot?”) two ways to get to the starter bolts were discussed: 1) Remove the intake manifold, or 2) Drop the shaft/exhaust, loosen the transmission brace and tilt down the engine/transmission slightly to access starter from the back. Bentley says it can be done from the underside but this must require a lift as laying on one’s back it is hard to reach up high into the engine.

I could not see the Bentley way and the two other options looked risky to me. One member had said that it could be done from top so I decided to attack it that way, but it was clear that “you have to make room” by moving things around between the engine and the firewall to reach deep down where the starter lives. For reference, the approximate location of the starter bolts is on either side under the main “ribbed” wiring harness coming down from the main wiring harness box into the core of the intake manifold.

The job requires unbolting the old starter and bolting the new starter working from above the engine and doing the electrical connections and the removal/replacement of the unit working from under the car.

This is the procedure in ten easy steps (still can’t believe BMW does this in 1.5 hours):

1. Remove the air cowl feeding air to the cabin fans (there is a DIY for changing the microfilters somewhere on the site). This is somewhat of an involved job in itself.
2. Push the main wiring harness box back into the recess left by removing the cowl, under the sheetmetal holding the wipers. This now clears a space of 3-4 inches between the manifold and the firewall.
3. Disconnect the vacuum hose from the camshaft cover, unscrew the bracket retaining an electrical connector under that, and disconnect the large water hose to the engine under that. Pushing the water hose at the bottom of that “stack” of things reveals the top starter bolt. Be careful identifying the right bolt, going by feel before clearing the space I was attacking the wrong bolt, a similar but larger Torx transmission housing bolt.
4. Now to the other side (US driver side). Disconnect hose from vacuum booster to intake manifold, disconnect vacuum hose from round receptacle to the cam cover (disconnected in step 3), disconnect the two hoses coming out of the cabin heather.
5. Remove the solenoid valve by pulling it out and up from its mounting bracket (no screws), this valve comes out with the large hose to the engine disconnected in step 3 and a short hose to the heather valve, disconnect the electrical connector to the solenoid. Push the remaining hose coming from under the intake manifold to one side.
6. Unscrew the oil dipstick bracket and pull the whole pipe out of the engine casing (a real puzzle to get out and back in)
7. The “lower” starter bolt is now accessible.
8. Make a delivery tube to pour tons of PB Blaster on the bolts and the starter/transmission joint. Obviously the can will not fit so I used three coffee stirrers and a thin flexible tube to deliver the stuff at the right place. Worked great throughout the job on many points
9. Find the right wrenches to attack the Torx bolts (Torx E12). This is where I thought I was going to have to call a tow truck to take the whole thing out of my garage to the dealer (the shame!). This is hard as the Torx bolts are rusted, the space is tight and I’m working on top of the engine. I used a Torx socket with a straight articulated T-bar and a pipe extension for the initial break. Then a long ratchet wrench with a thin articulated head. The real difficulty is that because the bolt is almost under the firewall the leverage point comes from “in front” of the bolt, so a normal ratchet will not work. Secondly, the bolt is in a cavity of the transmission housing that is very narrow, so a normal ratchet is not going to fit. (This is also why some guys like to do this job from the back, lowering the transmission). Finally after the bolt was backed part of the way, I used a gear-ratchet box wrench as you get many “clicks” for very little movement available and the bolts are long.
10. After the bolts are out, pry the starter off the transmission casing, disconnect the wires reaching from under the car and lower the starter pushing the fuel lines aside. (I found out later with the new starter that it is easier to put the electrical connections with the starter unbolted but inserted into the transmission cavity as the top connection is right under the intake manifold and extremely difficult to reach)

No real trick in putting everything back together again

Now for the pics:

With the cowl removed

Pushing the harness box under the wipers to make room

This is the target area, vacuum hose, electrical wire and water hose

Starter bolt under rubber piece that drains water from the cowl

Tight fit for socket and wrench, rubber drain removed

Now to the other side, 2 vacuum hoses, dipstick and solenoid go out
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By thesk8nmidget on 01-14-2008, 11:31 PM

good write up!


only thing it needs are some pictures!
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By 540318 on 01-15-2008, 01:27 AM

Agree it needs pictures, I'm working on it, was not able to upload, but soon I hope.
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By 540318 on 01-15-2008, 10:47 PM

Originally Posted by thesk8nmidget View Post
good write up!


only thing it needs are some pictures!

Hey, loaded the pics, check it out if interested
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By 540318 on 01-15-2008, 10:42 PM

Second lower starter bolt under the hoses.

Other shot bolt coming out. Yes, it is a GM transmission!

Two bolts out, the starter cannot be seen, it is under the manifold

Starter finally coming out, the connections were undone from below

Starter squeezed out between steering shaft and fuel lines

The bugger wrestled to the ground. (the rusted wheels are winter wheels)
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By 540318 on 01-15-2008, 10:44 PM
Default ...starter continued

New starter back in, shot from below. Two connections are no problem
the third is very hard if the starter is fully bolted down.

All pieces coming back together on top, time to do the microfilters
which were not done at inspection II (they never thought I would find out!)

Useful tools
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By cali-ti on 01-19-2008, 03:00 AM

very nice! i've never done the starter and if i'm removing parts in that area, i'm going to plan to just do it as i'm likely pushing my luck already.
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By wv318ti on 09-16-2008, 12:45 AM

I hope this can help I'll be doing this change on wed. It looks like it's going to be fun.
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By 95EurOLoVin318ti on 02-13-2009, 04:34 PM

swhen i turn my key the engine wont start it makes this noise long winding sound then sometimes theres a clank so i figure i need a new starter this shud do great beacuse i deff dont wanna spend the money for the mechanic.
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By GardenBeast on 03-31-2009, 04:21 AM

i was told today that it was a super easy job.... i think tony may have lied to me..
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By dandodd on 04-16-2009, 04:46 PM

Thanks for the notes and photos!
it really helped and save me some $$
we bought the set of torx sockets and i'm glad because our bolts were E14 but had no corrosion on them so this must have been the 2nd starter in 170,000 miles..
thanks again
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By Flametail on 05-22-2009, 04:52 PM

I couldn't get to the nuts so I decided to just go ahead and take off the upper intake manifold and made the job much easier.
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By dandodd on 05-22-2009, 09:08 PM

Arrg, the starter stopped working a few weeks after intallation, either i got a lemon or i pulled on the wires too hard when i was installing from the bottom.
Got to go in and do it again.
How long did the upper intake manifold take to remove / re-install?
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By Flametail on 05-22-2009, 09:12 PM

It's just a few bolts and hoses so maybe 5 minutes or so. I haven't got mine completely done yet.
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By 30yrMbr on 09-07-2009, 08:43 PM
Default This Tutorial Needs Photos.

The account at Photobucket is inactive, is there some way to get the photos posted on the Forum?
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