landar

1992 Starter Replacement

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Well, our 92 LS400 starter finally began to croak so it is time to replace. My son and I started teardown the other day. It is indeed the "bear" you have heard tell of. We got the plenum off and intake manifold just to reveal the starter motor. It is like staring at the edge of a cliff that you have just spent all day getting to. Getting to the starter was the easy part, now how am I going to get it unbolted? It reminded me of an epic journey, you know, the Indiana Jones type. Every turn reveals another impossible obstacle to overcome.

Now, the original symptoms of a failing starter were several. We occasionally got the single 'click' but more concerning was the very sluggish starting in the morning. Subsequent starts were brisk. We even put in a brand new battery and got the same operation. This told me that the motor was either binding up, the contacts were hi-z (high resistance) or a winding or brush was shorted. In either case, with 160k miles and 22 yrs old, the starter was kaputsky.

Getting the starter motor out *only* took about 8 hours. ^_^ That includes taking photos and several breaks to come in from a cold garage. This had to happen in the coldest January in memory in Northern Indiana. Of course, would not have it any other way.

We got the starter bolts out without taking out the "coolant bridge" or EGR pipe. Yes, there is enough room with the proper tools. I will post pics of the setup. The new starter has not yet arrived. This is most definitely NOT a job for the faint of heart.

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I am always impressed with the thoroughness of your reports and the accuracy of your diagnosis. For example. After completing my doctorate, I went on to do some additional studies in Astro Physics. In particular, we were trying to measure the speed of light as it passed through a 2 foot snow drift when the temperature was -10 below. It became obvious we couldn't do it. From that, I first learned the scientific term, "KAPUTSKY!!!" LOL

I love your threads and your sense of humor.

No, I do not have a PHD. I barely made it through Algebra!LOL

Paul

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Thanks for the kind words of encouragement, Paul.

Still no replacement starter. UPS is running way behind so maybe it will come in tomorrow.

Ok, now for a significant tool-tip, literally. One of the biggest, most difficult issues in removing the starter is how to get at those 14mm bolts sticking out the rear of the engine block? Well, my son found a perfect tool at, where else(?), Harbor Freight. It is a 3/8" drive Flexible Ratcheting T-bar made by Pittsburgh Pro. Harbor Freight item# 98484 -> http://www.harborfreight.com/t-bar-with-3-8-eighth-inch-flexible-ratchet-98484.html

This tool slides right down the back side of the block and, with a 14mm socket attached, can be maneuvered on to each bolt. My son used duct tape on the swivel joints just to hold things in place at the correct angle and that worked nicely. So, be assured that you can get those starter bolts out and back in with this tool. It still takes some patience, but is very do-able. You do not need to remove any coolant bridge, egr pipe... 'nuthin'. ;)

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The new (rebuilt) Denso starter came in so we got that installed. I wanted to show a pic of the T-bar tool being used to tighten the 14mm bolts. You can see how we slipped the bar between the engine and firewall. You have to wiggle a little to get it started onto the ends of the bolts but its not hard. The socket clears the EGR pipe without removing anything(no wiring removal, no water bridge removal). Pretty slick. You may need to push the socket off the bolt with a screwdriver when you want to remove the tool.

Now, with the new starter installed, there was no way I was going to begin re-installing the manifold before we at least did some test on the starter.

So, with the starter main terminal lug wired in but with the starter solenoid terminal connector off, we reconnected the battery in the car. I took a long test wire with alligator clips on both ends and clipped onto the exposed solenoid terminal. Then touched the other end of the wire to the (+) positive of the battery just briefly. The starter took off and cranked the engine over. That's a good thing. You do NOT want to try cranking the starter via the key because you will energize the fuel pump and have gas all over the place. We are now ready to put this baby back together.

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Success! The engine is all back together and running. The new starter cranks like a champ! Very strong, not sluggish like the old one was.

I would like to knock the difficulty level of this job down one notch. Don't get me wrong, it is fairly involved but very much within a determined DIY'ers ability. One frustrating aspect of the job is disconnecting all of the plastic electrical connectors near the fuel rail. With years of heat, the plastic gets brittle and it is easy to break the clips off if not careful. Sometimes they break even when you are careful. But it is not the end of the world. Just push them back on as best you can and it will be fine. Lexus went a little overboard (IMO) on some of the wiring dressing trying to make it look nice and routed. We also decided to replace the O-rings and "pintle" seals on the fuel injectors while it was apart. The old seals looked pretty worn out.

As I mentioned previously, we did not need to remove some of the items that others have. We did not even drain the coolant because we did not remove any coolant lines except for the hose connecting to the top of the thermostat housing (and that did not leak due to being at the top of the engine).

So, I would encourage anyone with decent mechanical skills to give this a go. Just take your time, be methodical, bag and tag all bolts, take lots of pics along the way and you will do fine. I would put the total hours for an average shadetree mechanic at around 12 hours. Not all in one sitting either. You have to take breaks to clear your head and keep focused.

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I am impressed!!! Larry, Moe, and Curly, have nothing on you guys.

Seriously, with the support and warranty you received from "The Erector Set Company" and their customer service reps. your in good shape. lol

(forgive me, I'm just in one of those moods tonight.

It's a great write up and I know that many of the members would love to see more of these types of tutorials in the "Search" base - and help function.

Paul

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it is not so bad, my nephew has done several, and two of my 99's .. but he only had to replace the solenoid kit.. he said he has never had to replace a starter on a Lexus.

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That's one way to do it Billy. But we were not about to go all that way and leave any part of the starter 'untouched', including the rotor and gearing. We put a high quality rebuilt Denso back into it.

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GREAT post Landar ! I just had to do the exact same thing tonight because the water pump outlet pipe that goes to the heater core came out . The resulting water completely submerged the starter, and it smoked more than the steam from the pipe lol . Only took me about five(5)hrs. though, as I've done the Intake thing atleast six(6) times on my various Lexus's . Love your thoroughness my friend, and I'm Definitely getting me one of those tools from Harbor Freight .

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Hi,

I am doing the starter right now and it's a horrible job, but doable. I think the starter could have been designed with the contacts on the outside of the engine, similar to the older Fords. The starter itself seems to last a very long time. Changing contacts is all that is needed most of the time. Daffy

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Yes, I agree, Daffy. Lexus had their reasons for tucking the starter into the motor valley under the intake manifold and that is ok. However, where the engineering fell flat on its common sense face, was not locating the contacts in a more accessible place. Instead they used the run-of-the-mill starter with built in solenoid contacts when they could have used the old style of separate motor and starter relay located on the firewall. Lexus definitely could have done a better job. On the other hand, its a good source of revenue for the dealers. ;-)

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Well landar you have done lots of work that has helped plenty of us out in a jam. I wish I was able to squeeze a tool in the back on my 98 so i did not have to remove the coolant bridge but like others have mentioned previously for the 98-00 model it's just not possible. My starter lasted to 192,500 miles and went out while sitting parked.

I tried to just change out the contacts like billy has mentioned so much but the starter would just spin and the gear would pop out sometimes. I tested it before re-installing EVERYTHING and it worked fine but once I tried to crank it would just spin and not engage the flywheel. I googled real quick and this told me that the solenoid was probably the culprit. This was about 12pm Thursday afternoon so I just jumped on (Amazon Prime has been great to me) and ordered a re-manufactured Denso with next day shipping that I was eyeing from the beginning. I had the starter in my hand by 10am the next morning. I tried the inexpensive route but alas It did not work for me.

I was not about to mess with the old starter, which is now sitting in the Amazon box with new contacts. I popped the new one in and did a test crank before I put the manifold back on and I heard that very pleasing sound. This is an easier job than most ppl think ( once you have done it a couple times lol ). The most time consuming thing IMO is taking the drivers side bolt off and back on.

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Hi everyone,

I got my rebuilt starter back in my car and it works. What I did to speed up the process, I hacksaw a slot on the thread end of the bolts for the starter. So when I re-installed the new starter, I got the bolts started into the starter, then got a long screwdriver, and screwed the bolts until they tightened, from the starter side. Then I used the wrench to final tighten the starter. Saved a lot of time. So if I have to take the starter off next time, It will only take minutes instead of hours. I only used a wrench (bent) to tighten or loosen the bolts. Daffy

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Thanks Sha4000,

It sounded funny starting up first time, I guess from lack of fuel in the fuel rails. Revved it a little, and it cleared up. Runs like new and the starter spins so fast now. Now, if I can only solve the Trac light issue. I need to find out the proper way to bleed the accumulator. Daffy

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It did the same thing to me the first time I cranked it also but has been good ever since. I can't help with the actuator at this time.

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Hey landar,

About to tackle this job and was wondering how that Denso starter has been working out for you. 

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Speaking from experience with my 1995 Toyota Camry years back that needed a new starter and Alternator, both were replaced with Denso products, both worked great for me until the transmission blew up.

I still prefer AC Delco over Denso but both work well IMO.

Addendum: Upon researching, apparently Toyota uses Denso products as OE according to AC Delco, so I would venture to say Denso is an excellent replacement.

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landar, thank you for your post. The starter in my 1995 Lexus SC400 died and I did the typical research but did not find your post until just before I started the repair. I am happy I did. I was not looking forward to the wire loom/coolant bridge removal so I purchased the suggested HF 98484 wrench and it worked perfectly. Nobody else has mentioned this incredible time-saving technique. Here is a picture of the replacement starter and 98484 wrench. Highly recommended. Thanks again!

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Starter on my 92 went out back in 2009, little did I know how intensive the replacement process. Luckily mine was just burnt contacts which cost me $5 to replace.....unluckily my car has never run correctly since and sits now 9 years later. It runs but has a miss I cannot pinpoint. 

The plastic on all the wiring was so brittle many connectors either disintegrated or broke to some degree. I had to replace all the injector plugs. The worst part was the intake was so warped it wouldn't seal.....and it's a known issue since there is a warpage tolerance in the Lexus manual.... DOH!! Fixed that issue by taking the intake to my machine shop and fly cut it all perfect. 

Once the vacuum leak was fixed it still did not cure the miss. Since I had to take it apart all over again I decided to replace the timing belt, belt tensioner, water pump, both distributor caps, rotors, plug wires, and spark plugs. The engine has perfect compression across all eight cylinders even at 138K miles.  Engine is perfect but the car still had a miss so all I can assume is it's electica. 

I never was able to pinpoint the issue so the car just sits.  I've been working on and restoring cars since 1977 and I've worked on hundreds of cars and this is the first one I was never able to identify or correct the problem.  I can't see how you guys can work on these old Lexus cars these days as all the plastic under the hood turns to dust, and my problem was 9 years ago. 

I'm sticking with my classic cars, they don't have electronics to fail and leave you with a perfectly good car mechanically that is now useless because of the failure of a part that a not available or simply not traceable. 

Now I need to just get rid of this car, sad because it was a nice car at one time. 

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Did you ever hook up the car to an oscilloscope? All you did was change parts and hoped that your problem was cured. At least that's what I get from your post. Did you take it to a shop to diagnose the problem. I find it hard to believe that a competent Tech would not be able to identify a miss.

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