Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

E28 technical advice asked and given! Troubleshooting, modifications and more.
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Profile36
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Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

Hello there,

Curious if anyone has come across a similar predicament as the one below.

Trouble car - 87 535is/5, no previous history, bought the car sight unseen. Engine is half taken apart, was going to perform a compression test to start.

Symptom - Engine will not crank, starter solenoid clicks regardless of the approach I try.

Troubleshooting steps I have taken:

1. New battery installed - 12.6 volts
2. Since the engine is half taken apart, I have ensured all grounds are intact and rotated the engine by hand
3. Removed starter and bench tested - checks out fine
4. Replaced with a known good starter - same result solenoid only clicks, will not engage flywheel
5. Jumped starter directly from battery while on the car - same result solenoid only clicks
6. Put the transmission in first gear and rocked the car back and fourth - same result
7. Rotated the engine by hand so that the starter could engage the flywheel in a few different spots - same results each time, solenoid only clicks

At this point this seems like a purely mechanical issue between the starter and flywheel. Im fairly certain there is nothing wrong with the flywheel, visually I could not see any problems with it while the starter was off. Im just wondering if anyone has seen anything like this, or has any suggestions before I pull the transmission.

Other questions:
1. Can the engine be pulled out with the transmission at the same time using an engine hoist and a load balancer?
2. Does the hood need to come off for engine removal? (Any tricks to open it much higher by removing extra bolts?)

Thanks
- M
Last edited by Profile36 on Jul 04, 2022 1:17 PM, edited 1 time in total.
jhh925
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by jhh925 »

On #2, no, the hood does not need to come off, but it will help you a ton if you remove the hoot struts (there are clips with either end) and use some means of holding the hood open a bit more.

On #1, I have no experience trying to cherry-pick the motor out with the trans still attached, but I will say that even without the trans attached, (i) I've generally had to remove the clutch & flywheel from underneath before I can do a clean pull, (ii) even with the trans, flywheel & clutch removed, in my experience, I've had to remove the front cross member (that's the big solid bar that braces between the frame rails), and (iii) there are many fans on this board of removing the motor from underneath (I'm not one of those people).

I'm sure there are people who have cherry-picked the motor with the flywheel & clutch attached, but I tend to be conservative on trying to get clearance. If your firewall insulation "blanket" is in good shape, you will probably want to keep it that way.

If you drop the motor, I have to believe you can leave the trans attached, but you will need to decide how you're going to deal with the steering & the front subframe; e.g., and I'm summarizing here, one way is to remove all connections from the front subframe to the front struts, disconnect the steering column at the u-joint, and drop the motor with the front subframe attached. I'm sure there are other strategies.
Shawn D.
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Shawn D. »

Profile36 wrote: Jun 25, 2022 9:46 PM 1. Can the engine be pulled out with the transmission at the same time using an engine hoist and a load balancer?
Yes, it can be, BUT you need a hoist with a lot of vertical capacity, or a block-and-tackle rig above the engine bay.
Mike W.
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Mike W. »

There are more than a couple here who feel the preferred method is to pull engine and tranny together. I am not among them and while pulling the tranny isn't fun, I'd do it in a heartbeat over pulling the assembly.

Lets go back to the starter. You say it clicks, does it click and spin, whirrrrrrr, or just click? Does it grind? Have you double, triple checked all grounds, including the one by the pass side motor mount? Removed, cleaned and replaced all connections headed to the starter? Tried jumping the starter (yes, make absolute sure it's out of gear) with a big ass screwdriver? I've played with some many M30 BMWs sometimes I forget which is which. But some have an extra terminal on the starter for starting purposes and some don't. But if you have the push on wire attached to the wrong one, things won't work right. Check it, just to make sure before a whole lot of work.

I did have a flywheel on an E12 fail one time, everything was working perfectly until on fillup the starter spun, but the engine did not. Turned out to be 3 flat spots on the flywheel. They used to sell replacement ring gears, so I'm sure I'm not the only one it's happened to, but I've never seen it here or on other forums. Just lucky I guess, but a long shot, a super long shot.
topher800
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by topher800 »

Have you tried a different solenoid?
cek
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by cek »

Profile36 wrote: Jun 25, 2022 9:46 PM Other questions:
1. Can the engine be pulled out with the transmission at the same time using an engine hoist and a load balancer?
2. Does the hood need to come off for engine removal? (Any tricks to open it much higher by removing extra bolts?)
I'm a firm believer the best way to remove/install an E28 engine is to drop the engine & transmission from the bottom. Of course this only works if you have a lift.

I made a custom cart that makes it even easier/slicker. I used some old control arms, so the cart just bolts to the subframe. Remove the subframe bolts and ta-da.

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topher800
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by topher800 »

Image

Charles' father.
Profile36
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

Shawn D. wrote: Jun 26, 2022 7:41 PM
Profile36 wrote: Jun 25, 2022 9:46 PM 1. Can the engine be pulled out with the transmission at the same time using an engine hoist and a load balancer?
Yes, it can be, BUT you need a hoist with a lot of vertical capacity, or a block-and-tackle rig above the engine bay.
Thanks Shawn, Ive done this on the e36 chassis plenty of times, just wasnt sure if it was possible on the e28. Thanks for clarifying.
Last edited by Profile36 on Jun 27, 2022 11:09 PM, edited 1 time in total.
Profile36
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

Mike W. wrote: Jun 27, 2022 12:45 AM There are more than a couple here who feel the preferred method is to pull engine and tranny together. I am not among them and while pulling the tranny isn't fun, I'd do it in a heartbeat over pulling the assembly.

Lets go back to the starter. You say it clicks, does it click and spin, whirrrrrrr, or just click? Does it grind? Have you double, triple checked all grounds, including the one by the pass side motor mount? Removed, cleaned and replaced all connections headed to the starter? Tried jumping the starter (yes, make absolute sure it's out of gear) with a big ass screwdriver? I've played with some many M30 BMWs sometimes I forget which is which. But some have an extra terminal on the starter for starting purposes and some don't. But if you have the push on wire attached to the wrong one, things won't work right. Check it, just to make sure before a whole lot of work.

I did have a flywheel on an E12 fail one time, everything was working perfectly until on fillup the starter spun, but the engine did not. Turned out to be 3 flat spots on the flywheel. They used to sell replacement ring gears, so I'm sure I'm not the only one it's happened to, but I've never seen it here or on other forums. Just lucky I guess, but a long shot, a super long shot.
Thanks for your response. I might just pull the tranny off first like a human to inspect the flywheel, I have a spare b35 but if I can get away with just fixing the tranny situation, it would be nice.

There is no spinning on either starter, it only clicks meaning the solenoid gets ignition switch power, but doesnt apply the 12v because the bendix cannot engage. It also doesnt click multiple times, which can often mean there is a low voltage situation. I double checked the correct terminal was connected on the starter, and even tried the 2nd terminal, but that clearly is not the one as the solenoid didnt even click. The last thing I am going to do is measure the current draw with a clamp multimeter. This will give me the answer for whether it could still somehow be a ground or, battery power cable issue.

Yep, that e12 issue is exactly why I wanted to post this, to see if anyone else had anything weird going on like that. Unfortunately my starter does not even spin.
Profile36
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

topher800 wrote: Jun 27, 2022 8:30 AM Have you tried a different solenoid?
Yes, two different starters which have solenoids attached.
Profile36
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

cek wrote: Jun 27, 2022 12:49 PM
Profile36 wrote: Jun 25, 2022 9:46 PM Other questions:
1. Can the engine be pulled out with the transmission at the same time using an engine hoist and a load balancer?
2. Does the hood need to come off for engine removal? (Any tricks to open it much higher by removing extra bolts?)
I'm a firm believer the best way to remove/install an E28 engine is to drop the engine & transmission from the bottom. Of course this only works if you have a lift.

I made a custom cart that makes it even easier/slicker. I used some old control arms, so the cart just bolts to the subframe. Remove the subframe bolts and ta-da.
Thats neat, wish you were closer so that I could steal it for a couple weeks, it would make this job a lot easier as I have a lift for it.

BTW, does anyone know - cranking the engine with the flywheel and starter installed and transmission removed should be no issues, correct? (the starter bolts to block, so it should be fine I think
Mike W.
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Mike W. »

Profile36 wrote: Jun 27, 2022 10:59 PM Thanks for your response. I might just pull the tranny off first like a human to inspect the flywheel, I have a spare b35 but if I can get away with just fixing the tranny situation, it would be nice.
Remember there is that cast aluminum cover/stiffener that bolts to the engine and tranny under the oil pan. You would have to pull it anyway, but pull it first to see if anything is obviously wrong, you can see a good chunk of the flywheel with it off.

Assuming it's not engaging and binding, I still have to think it's wiring related.
gadget73
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by gadget73 »

ever tried jumping the starter directly to bypass all of the in-car wiring just to see if that makes it go?

the machine gun rattle thing is usually when the starter engages but causes enough voltage drop through the circuit that it drops out. Once it does the voltage is enough to pull, rinse, repeat. If its just too weak to pull the solenoid fully it may just click and do nothing else. If there isn't enough current available for the solenoid to actually pull in, the contacts won't bridge and you get no starter action.
Profile36
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

Mike W. wrote: Jun 28, 2022 12:36 AM
Profile36 wrote: Jun 27, 2022 10:59 PM Thanks for your response. I might just pull the tranny off first like a human to inspect the flywheel, I have a spare b35 but if I can get away with just fixing the tranny situation, it would be nice.
Remember there is that cast aluminum cover/stiffener that bolts to the engine and tranny under the oil pan. You would have to pull it anyway, but pull it first to see if anything is obviously wrong, you can see a good chunk of the flywheel with it off.

Assuming it's not engaging and binding, I still have to think it's wiring related.
Yeah I’ll pull that too. That does not help the engine contain the oil in any way correct?

Yep I haven’t given up on a couple more tests I can do for the ground and the large 12v running to the starter. I’ll update the thread once I get the right tools.

Thanks for the help
Profile36
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

gadget73 wrote: Jun 28, 2022 10:00 AM ever tried jumping the starter directly to bypass all of the in-car wiring just to see if that makes it go?

the machine gun rattle thing is usually when the starter engages but causes enough voltage drop through the circuit that it drops out. Once it does the voltage is enough to pull, rinse, repeat. If its just too weak to pull the solenoid fully it may just click and do nothing else. If there isn't enough current available for the solenoid to actually pull in, the contacts won't bridge and you get no starter action.
Yep that was step 5 on my list. The only cable I did not replace was the big 12v from battery.

I’m going to replace the big cable and measure the current, if there is enough to get the solenoid going, and it’s not getting enough amps on the main 12v, the trans will come off next.

Thanks
Mike W.
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Mike W. »

Profile36 wrote: Jun 28, 2022 7:00 PM
Mike W. wrote: Jun 28, 2022 12:36 AM
Profile36 wrote: Jun 27, 2022 10:59 PM Thanks for your response. I might just pull the tranny off first like a human to inspect the flywheel, I have a spare b35 but if I can get away with just fixing the tranny situation, it would be nice.
Remember there is that cast aluminum cover/stiffener that bolts to the engine and tranny under the oil pan. You would have to pull it anyway, but pull it first to see if anything is obviously wrong, you can see a good chunk of the flywheel with it off.

Assuming it's not engaging and binding, I still have to think it's wiring related.
Yeah I’ll pull that too. That does not help the engine contain the oil in any way correct?
No, it's a splash shield/stiffener. There might be a little bit of oil in it if the rear main has been leaking, but it just goes over the pan, it's not part of it.
gadget73
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Re: Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by gadget73 »

I was thinking more a situation where the low current wiring loop through the car might have some problem and by the time it gets to the trigger terminal on the solenoid there just isn't enough oomph to get the job done. Voltmeter from ground to the trigger while holding the key would probably tell you all you need to know. If its under about 9 volts its probably not getting enough current. I've had issues with neutral safety and clutch safety switches in other things cause this, or just the crusty connections that happen in 30+ year old cars with a bunch of connectors and wire.
Profile36
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Re: Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Profile36 »

Well gentleman after all the troubleshooting it turns out to be something so basic, its even hard to admit. But in my defense, it really was not obvious at all. Contacts appeared to be clean, it was what was hiding underneath. After running an independent cable from the battery positive to the main 12v on the starter, the car started cranking with no issues. Now the mystery is solved, the previous owner would probably laugh at this seeing as he put a brand new starter in it, and gave up on the car afterwards.

Electric issues always seem so obvious after you figure them out, but thanks for everyone that helped along with this.

Pics for entertainment and anyone else having the same issue.

Image

Image

- M
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Re: Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by jhh925 »

Nice! Congrats. Electrical gremlins are the worst.
gadget73
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Re: Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by gadget73 »

I hate those clamp-on repair ends. I've had exactly this problem with them more than once, but unfortunately I don't have a better answer. They do make really nice crimp-on ends but I don't have the crimp tool for it.
Mike W.
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Re: Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Mike W. »

And best of all you found it before you pulled the engine. :up:
Shawn D.
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Re: Resolved - Dixy - the red troublemaker does not like starters

Post by Shawn D. »

Both this thread and this thread demonstrate that little overlooked things like this can bite you.

Not to pile on, but those clamp-on ends are $hit to begin with, even more so when aged. I'd only use them in an emergency. I've taken to building my own, using readily available components from NAPA, Waytek, and/or Del City.
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