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Thread: E36 starter won't engage flywheel

  1. #1
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    1998 323is

    E36 starter won't engage flywheel

    Hey folks, so I've seen others have had this issues with different results and one that had my exact circumstances but no one answered him.
    I went to start my car the other day and it started to start and then quit. I turned the ignition over again and just heard the starter spinning with out engaging the flywheel. I was sure that whatever causes the bendix to move forward had quit and that I needed a new starter. Well, for everyone that has changed one of these starters, you know what a pita it is to change. I got my old one out and even tested what I was hearing. I got a set of jumper cables and jumped the old starter . Sure enough the starter gear would spin without the arm moving the teeth forward.
    I finally got the new starter in, all of the crap put back together, crossed my fingers, and turned the key.....same thing, just the stupid starter spinning.
    When I had the old one out, I checked the flywheel teeth. They seemed to have a little wear but I didn't see any broken teeth.
    Is there a secondary power source that makes the bendix go forward, from the ignition switch or something? Why did the car seem to be starting, quit, then the starter just whirring? Did I get a bad new starter or is something else causing this? Help help help please.

  2. #2
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    Seriously? Not ONE reply with all the bimmer experts on this board? What gives?

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    I moved your thread to the E36 section...
    Let me get this straight... You are swapping out parts designed by hundreds of engineers that get paid thousands of dollars for something you bought at Pep Boys because your buddy who doesn't have a job told you it was 'better'?!?

  4. #4
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    did you check your battery that might be too weak. has happened to me before.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by justinx325 View Post
    did you check your battery that might be too weak. has happened to me before.
    Did yours act the same way? Just spinning but no engage? Does it need more juice for the bendix to move forward to engage flywheel? It seemed to have plenty of juice before but today when I tried it, the battery WAS weak. I jumped it with my Jeep and it still does the same thing, turning but no engage.

  6. #6
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    Sounds like the replacement starter is no good. It happens. Is the replacement a new/rebuilt or is it used?

  7. #7
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    It's a reman

    - - - Updated - - -

    Let me ask you this, on the smaller connections on the starter, which does what? Shouldn't one of them be hot in the run position or is one just for start position and the other ground? Looks like others on similar threads state that the body of the starter is the ground so what's with the two smaller hookups? Neither has juice in the run position.

  8. #8
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    is sounds kinda electrical. did you try to reach it and hit it with something. try hitting it with something but not too hard so as to break it. and when you jump it let the connection from your jeep to you bmw stay for about 5 minutes so your bmw absorbs some of the juice from the jeep and then try it.

  9. #9
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    Yeah, I let the Jeep charge it for awhile and did same thing. I went and got another starter and had them bench test it before I took it. I've got it installed and am in process of putting it all back together for the second time. Hopefully this works or I'm stumped.

  10. #10
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    let us know how it turns out.

  11. #11
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    07 e91
    the solenoid on top of the starter is not engaging the plunger which throws the starter gear forward onto the flywheel when you turn the key....when you let go of the key, the plunger springs back again....an electro magnet inside the starter/solenoid is activated when you energize the starter motor, throwing that plunger forward. a physical spring sends it back.

    you can bench test a starter easily...which I recommend with the next one. they should be able to bench test at the store you are buying it from.....unfortunately, you have to take the reman out and get another one....


    BUT before you do...double check your wiring connections, though it sounds like if you can energize the starter motor, the solenoid is physically connected with a big copper wire...so it should engage too.....


    JP

    Edit: just read your last post....sorry...you are on the right track!

  12. #12
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    u fix it?

  13. #13
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    94 e36
    My car does this as well i found that by turning the key to the second positiin and then carefully turning it past it starts the car fine but if i just turn it hard all the way it doesn't engage. I'm thinking it is my ignition switch on my colum is worn and not making the correct contact.

  14. #14
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    Sounds like a bad replacement

  15. #15
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    I think it's dead. Although chains and tensioner look good, I think it jumped time. Compression is next to nothing on three cylinders and only 75 lbs on the other three. Interference motor right? Whole motor toast or just valves?

  16. #16
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    '97 323i Coupe
    M52 is indeed an Interference motor I'm afraid...

  17. #17
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    http://www.m3forum.net/m3forum/showthread.php?t=246935

    I just found this, I'm actually reading it right now so I didn't get to the end but it's almost the same problem you have, just an s50 instead

    Edit: Interesting thread, OP "figures" out his timing is off by using a tool to check his timing, but instead of repairing it he decides to rebuild the entire engine while he's at it, so there's no official answer...from what I read you should pull the plugs and look down to see if you can see any contact marks on the pistons, maybe with a boroscope. If there's no contact you can try to retime.

    Best of luck
    Last edited by UnderCoverGuy11; 06-18-2013 at 10:42 PM.

  18. #18
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    Hey Bearbqd. I know it has been four years since you had this issue. What finally happened. Did you fix it? If you did what did you find was the problem and solution? I' interested because I have a the same problem. Mine goes like so;

    I have a BMW E46-318i-M43/Sedan. It was fine all along till day before yesterday. When I turn the key to start I can here the starter rolling and not engaging the flywheel via the solenoid. I then took out the intake manifold to bench test the starter and guess what, on the bench with jumpers, the solenoid engages just fine (with same battery from the car with 12.25v). So I put everything back and turn the key, same thing, starter rolls but does not engage the flywheel. Now because my transmission is manual my car starts on push and drives fine. Please help, do you have an idea what the problem could be?

    Another thing, it looks like on the car the starter misbehaves because as a secondary try after the above procedure, I jumped the ignition start to crank the starter manually using jumper cables while it was connected to the car and the result, it rolls just like the key start. I would really appreciate your assistance in this matter. Thank you.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 12Diddy View Post
    Hey Bearbqd. I know it has been four years since you had this issue. What finally happened. Did you fix it? If you did what did you find was the problem and solution? I' interested because I have a the same problem. Mine goes like so;

    I have a BMW E46-318i-M43/Sedan. It was fine all along till day before yesterday. When I turn the key to start I can here the starter rolling and not engaging the flywheel via the solenoid. I then took out the intake manifold to bench test the starter and guess what, on the bench with jumpers, the solenoid engages just fine (with same battery from the car with 12.25v). So I put everything back and turn the key, same thing, starter rolls but does not engage the flywheel. Now because my transmission is manual my car starts on push and drives fine. Please help, do you have an idea what the problem could be?

    Another thing, it looks like on the car the starter misbehaves because as a secondary try after the above procedure, I jumped the ignition start to crank the starter manually using jumper cables while it was connected to the car and the result, it rolls just like the key start. I would really appreciate your assistance in this matter. Thank you.



    Go back to the E46 forum and read my reply.

    Also, your comment that starts, "Another thing...." is nonsensical. The starter motor does not roll, it spins or turns. The car rolls. Mixing the meaning of the words confuses people. And, your problem is not the same as the OP in this thread or the OP in the E46 thread.

  20. #20
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    Same issue. Can't wait to learn! ,I ran wires to both small terminals. Not going to try excessively until I go to e36 forum. But the top small terminal will make starter motor spin . No engagement of Bendix. Bottom small terminal, no reaction. I used power off of ignition switch. I brought it without a starter in a unbolted mess. The large wire on alternator leads over to starter also, what is it for? One time I had Bendix move using ignition switch power to bottom small terminal. I'm on the side of the road, just moved out of my house, homeless. I've had no luck finding starter terminal description. I am very hopeful forum will explain.

  21. #21
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    If the gear spins and the solenoid doesn't kick it out that means it's bad... when the starter is activated it should spin and engage, not just one or the other.

  22. #22
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    One of the small wires is to energize it from the key, the other is feedback to let the electronics know that the starter is cranking. They are slightly different size so you don't mix them up.
    '94 325i Sedan, Arctic Gray: UUC LTW FW, EVO 3 and DSSR, +.020 Maxsil pistons, ASC delete, Eibach shocks/springs, 16" contour reps 238k
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  23. #23
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    The bendix might be stuck. Usually a few blows with rubbet mallet breaks it loose.

    If it persists you might look for a replacement.
    '98 BMW M3 3.2 SMG Cabrio • Alpinweiß III auf Schwarz • Deutschland-ausführung

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by MParallel View Post
    The bendix might be stuck. Usually a few blows with rubbet mallet breaks it loose.

    If it persists you might look for a replacement.
    It is a pre-engaged type not a Bendix type so the Bendix will never be stuck
    No warranty of any kind implied or given and no liability for any loss, damage or injury, no matter how incurred accepted.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by E36328Coupe View Post
    It is a pre-engaged type not a Bendix type so the Bendix will never be stuck
    pre-engaged? Never heard of that. And mine sure wasn't and so isn't the one I replaced it with.
    '98 BMW M3 3.2 SMG Cabrio • Alpinweiß III auf Schwarz • Deutschland-ausführung

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