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DIY Starter Repair. How-to: Remove, Disassemble, Grease, Reinstall (w/pics)

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With the cold weather it seems like a lot of folks have been posting about starter issues. I had greased my starter shaft last winter, which fixed it for a while, but the noise is back, along with some sticking and grinding, so I decided to open it up and give it a thorough greasing. This worked great for me, but undertake at your ow risk. I was ready to buy a new starter so I had nothing to lose.


Tools Needed-

3/8 socket driver

two standard socket extensions

14mm socket

12mm socket or wrench

10mm socket

8mm socket or wrench


file and sandpaper


For folks that haven't R&Red a starter, its pretty straight forward.


First remove the intercooler and disconnect the negative side of the battery.


The starter us held in by two 14mm bolts. The top bolt is longer and also has a ground attached to it.




The bottom bolt is a little harder to get to, I actually like to put the car up on ramps, its much easier to get to from the bottom, although I have done it from the top. Two standard socket extenders will give you just enough room to torque it and also get a good rotation on the bolt.




Once both bolts are out, the starter should slide out of the bellhousing fairly easily. So you have two choices here, you can go the easy way and just grease the shaft with the electricals still connected, this might work fine. But there's also some benefit to tearing the whole thing open, greasing the internals and also cleaning your wire contacts etc.


So if you are going all the way, next you remove the small wire rectangular electrical connector, it doesn't have a clip and should slide off. Now you can rotate the assembly up to easily get at the main power line. Pull back the rubber cap and undo the 12mm bolt.


So here is the starter gear.




and here engaged, just by pushing it forward with my finger.




If you are just greasing the shaft, apply grease to the shaft and work the gear back and forth until it distributed and the gear moves freely in and out.


I went for full surgery.


First, undo the two 8mm nuts at the back end of the starter and remove the brass colored brace.




once that is removed, undo the other two long 8mm bolts holding the starter motor to the assembly.




Now undo the 12mm bolt connecting the woven bare wire to the solenoid from the starter motor. At this point you should be able to slide the motor off the main assembly. You will then see the three gears driven by the motor. Mine were pretty manky and the grease was dry.




Slide those gears off their posts, I put them into some starter fluid to soak.


Next I gently worked the entire shaft/gear assembly out of the housing. Now do this carefully, there are some tiny needle bearings at the very end of the starter shaft that if lost, will pretty much mean you are buying a new starter.

Mine stayed in place just fine. The only thing really holding the assembly in will be gunk, and the rubber seal at the solenoid part of the housing. There are two tangs under the rubber, which also aligns the assembly (circled in red).


Be careful, some of those internal parts are sharp, particularly the outter part of the shaft gear housing assembly. Definitely cut myself pretty good on that.




and here it is pulled out of the housing




There's a fork inside the assembly that prevents the whole thing from coming out all the way, but once pulled back you have enough room to get at the spiral gear. I used a chopstick to get some grease down in there.




Now also grease the shaft on the main gear side and work it back and forth.


Once everything is lubed and moving smoothly, you can reinsert the gear/shaft assembly back into the main housing. Make sure you line up the tangs with housing (picture with red circles above). I used a small screwdriver to lift the rubber up and slide the tangs underneath. Make sure the subassembly is all the way back into the main housing.


Next I cleaned out the area where the three gears were, greased the posts, and the gears and reinstalled them.


While the the motor was off the starter assembly I also took some sandpaper to both the small terminal connector (which had some seriously congealed dialectric on it) and both copper terminal posts, cleaned them up to bare metal.


Next, put the motor back into the main housing, make sure it lines up with the bolt holes and your power wire is on the solenoid side. Tighten both bolts barely snug and then alternate back and forth until they are good and tight.


Now install the brace and the two 8mm nuts.


Reattach the lead between the solenoid and the motor and you are ready for reinstall in the car.


At the car, reattach the main power wire from battery. I also used a small jewelers file and some starter fluid to clean up the small single wire terminal which was totally gunked up and corroded.


Next insert the starter into the bellhousing, exposed side of the starter gear facing the middle of the engine/tranny.


Snug the top bolt hand tight to hold everything in place but still loose enough to move align the bottom bolt hole.


If you want your car to work right, MAKE SURE YOU REATTACH THE GROUND!




Insert the bottom bolt, tighten with socket, then snug the top. I retorqued both top and bottoms bolts one more time just to be sure, you don't want to starter working itself off the engine. Torque to 37 ft/lb.


I have only started the car a couple times since doing this, but it sounds 100% better. Hope it works for you. I will update after the first ultra cold morning start.

DIY - 4th Gen Subaru Legacy GT Starter Removal, Repair-Grease, Reinstall.pdf

Edited by SBT
add torque setting (thanks sbt)
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Excellent write up. The only thing is that you NEVER mentioned the chopstick so here I was, all set to put grease inside of my housing, and I had to go buy some damn Chinese food to get some stinking chopsticks.


Great job....forgetting about a vital tool....:lol:

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Great post. I was working on removing it 2 weeks ago when I had the TMIC off, but when I got to removing to the bottom bolt, I gave up. Very difficult to get a good angle from the top and be able to apply the torque needed to break loose the bolt. Didn't have the time to jack the car up either. Definitely something I'll work on next time around.
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You can do it, but it's annoying to do it. You have to upload the images, then you have to click them each one by one to get the exact location of the image off the LGT server, then copy that link, and manually embed it by tags.... at least that's how I've done it before in the past. :)
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…….. I had greased my starter shaft last winter, which fixed it for a while, but the noise is back,…………….


From the photos, it looks like all the grease you put on last winter totally disappeared. What type of grease did you use?

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I honestly don't remember.


Probably would have either been some Lucas heavy duty I have in my zerk gun or Phil Wood waterproof bicycle grease. I also didn't put a ton on there at the time, half worried if I put too much it would just get gummed up.

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Superlube grease would be excellent on that particular application.


I did a comparison of Superlube versus Phil Wood on my Chris King front MTB Hub. Most automotive guys don't know about Phil Wood Waterproof Grease but for years it was THE standard grease for bicycle hubs, bottom brackets, and steering forktube bearings (would have said headset but a lot of people wouldn't know what that is).


I popped a seal on each side sealed hub bearing and cleaned thoroughly with brake cleaner and packed front hub bearings with Phil Wood. Popped the seal back in, and then fixed the wheel in a wheel jig. Had a Dremel tool with a rubber drive wheel on it fixed to a sliding vise so I could screw it into the wheel and make it spin. Brought it against the wheel (counted the number of turns so I could match the pressure of the rubber against the wheel for second test) and spun it until it stopped accelerating and leveled out. Immediately backed the Dremel tool away from the wheel and I measured the time it took for the wheel to stop spinning.


I did exactly the same thing and packed it with Superlube. Back in the jig, back to the Dremel tool. Spun it exactly the same way and it went almost 2 minutes LONGER before it completely stopped moving. And THIS was without any weight being on the bearings to help the grease and teflon penetrate the bearing surfaces. My suspicion is that they would be even BETTER after having been ridden but I've been too lazy to test it again...LOL...:lol:


I did leave the Superlube in the front and cleaned and packed the rear with Superlube before I was finished, and I'm sure it rolls better although I most likely can't feel it much as I only ride occasionally now. :)


Threw away my Phil Wood after that test.

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There are specialty lubes for automotive starters, from Dow Corning (Molykote) and Nye Lubricants, and others, from what a search turned up.


"…….Starter motors must withstand the elements, temperatures from -40 ̊C to 200 ̊C, and 50,000 duty cycles or more. Issues of high load and torque, especially during cold crank, also have to be considered. Effectively lubricating the motors’ gears, bearings and splines requires a careful blend of synthetic oils, additives and gellants. Popular starter- motor lubricants feature PAO and ester blends with additives for extreme pressure, corrosion protection and friction reduction.

Nye suggests: Rheolube 380…………"



Edited by outahere
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Moved this to the Basic Operation and Maintenance. And because this is an issue that the cold weather brings-on, going to add it as a sticky. Edited by SBT
- Pro amore Dei et patriam et populum -
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SBT- yes please feel free to repost as you see fit.


fishbone- there is actually only one rubber seal, it only covers the bottom 1/4-1/3 of the total circumference and is very unlikely to dry up. See the picture with the "tangs", the seal is the black part directly below the tangs. Its thick 3/8 or more so pretty robust.


Just lubing the shaft will make it work better, but is only getting at a small part of the total shaft and probably won't last. I think lubing the inner spiral gear is the real trick for the long term fix, but who knows. If you just do the shaft I would use a high quality lube like some of those starter specific lubes mentioned earlier in the thread and try and force it as far down the shaft as possible.


24 degree start this morning. worked flawlessly.

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If you are interested, the Nye Rheolube 380 grease can be purchased from this factory authorized distributor:




"……...TAI Lubricants is the North American small volume distributor for Nye Lubricants, Inc………………………………...


TAI Lubricants has over 30 years of experience as a supplier of specialty products. We provide:


Access to over 500 synthetic oils and greases from Nye.

No minimum order value.

Shipping of stocked products within 24 hours. Many orders are shipped the same day.

Orders taken via e-mail, telephone or 24 hour fax.


Payment by Visa/MasterCard, company checks, money orders, cashiers check and personal checks.

Worldwide shipment via UPS, FedEx, DHL, and US Postal service. Next day, 2nd day and 3 day shipping services are available in the event you need it as soon as possible!

Technical support from Nye Lubricants, Inc. engineers…………….."



I also took a look at McMaster Carr but did not see any starter lubes on their website, even though they sell the Molykote product line.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi All,

Chato, thank you for a great tutorial. (btw, do you know what "chato" means in Brazilian Portuguese? Check it out...)


I followed the tutorial all the way into the starter, only to find out I had no grease available... so I cleaned everything with WD40 and applied the only thing I had at hand: CV joint grease. I put very little of that grease, re-assembled everything, and bought Superlube the next day. To apply it, I did the following:


Dab a little lube in your finger, put it in the lube hole(see below)... dab more, put more on the hole... try to push it inside...after some 3 or 4 times, the hole seems filled. Then, a blow of compressed air sends it all in there. I used regular compressed air from a hose, but a keyboard cleaner should work too. Then... Repeat. I did it some 10 times... Even the sound of the starter is nicer!


The lube hole is visible here:


Look at the bottom bolt, then go 1/2in up, and 1in to the right. There is a hole in the silver housing, by the black body of the starter. That hole goes directly into the spiral gear’s chamber… If I remember it correctly from last night.


This requires nothing removed – not a single bolt. It is all visible from under the car, and you can reach with your hands – all you need is to put the car on ramps.


Do you guys think this method puts the grease where it is needed? Please share your thoughts.

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Good question! Id like to know if I can apply a short term solution like that. My starter is sticking a fair deal and it is too cold to tackle the job now.

How can some lubricant be sprayed in there without touching a single bolt, if possible?

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hard to say how well that would work without looking at it all taken apart again. there a good amount of distance to cover between the housing and spiral gear. but certainly an interesting development. let us know how it works out for you long term. I bet just cleaning with a penetrating lube would solve many peoples problems short term. Perhaps a syringe with grease could get right down to the spiral gear?


As for the user name, familiar with the term and it's slang variants. I acquired the nickname from a class of 4th graders back when used to volunteer teaching bicycle mechanics in the public schools. The teacher always told them I was the real life main character from the Chato and the Party Animals kids books.

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