Starter wiring WTF?

Sep 18, 2009
5,293
720
113
Mark in Queens, NY
#1
So my 301 has been getting hard to start when the motor was hot. Not unusual for Pontiacs when the exhaust pipe is so close to the motor case. I had a couple of spare starters so I figured why not clean one up and swap it in- easy peasy. NOT! Aside from the serious lack of room to wiggle the starter out- when I tried to unscrew the cable nut- it shattered the plastic solenoid cover. OK, so I get a spare and I open the solenoid to sand the terminals and disc for good clean contact. I put it in and as soon as I hook up the positive battery cable I get smoke from the starter solenoid. That ain't good. Out it comes and it smells really burnt. I open it up and I think the solenoid disc had hit the "S" terminal wiring, probably my own stupid fault. I go get my last starter and begin testing it out. Works great on the bench. Hook it to the car wiring and it is dead. Hmmm. Now what? I begin testing and it looks like there is a short to ground in the starter wiring now. I check everything, the ignition switch, clutch switch, wiring, and the short appears to be in the main harness, perhaps even at the bulkhead connector.Rats! But I been there, done that. I will just run a new wire from the clutch switch all the way to the starter and cut out the offending wires. Nice filthy greasy PITA job getting a new 10 gauge wire into the existing harness and conduit. Install starter and new wire, test and the starter spins great. As I replace the items back to the ignition switch all check out and work fine. All back together and the starter is working fine with the key again. So how do I go from hard to start when hot to a direct short to ground?!? Did I skewer the solenoid- or not? Did that short the starter wire too? I don't know, or care. New wire- and all is well.
 
Aug 8, 2011
5,109
1,914
113
Michigan
#2
Once you figure out your wiring issue I would install a remote starter solenoid to avoid hot start issues, it works great on my Monte with a big engine with headers putting out a lot of heat and never any issues starting.
 
Sep 18, 2009
5,293
720
113
Mark in Queens, NY
#3
This is just a bone stock motor-not even headers. I have managed to not need a remote solenoid for all these years even on my big motors. It almost always is either a wiring issue or a starter that has seen better days. I now buy all my starters and alternators from a close-by mom-and-pop rebuilder shop. Their rebuilds usually outlast the car. In fact if I'm not mistaken this starter is almost 40 years old. That's why I figured it was due. But I'm thinking it was the wiring. I once had a '68 Firebird that would not hot start unless I jammed a screwdriver up it's butt by jumping the "S" terminal to the battery cable. Years later I found out that the starter wire at the bulkhead connector had been crunched and had maybe 3 strands left. Perhaps that is where the issue is but I am not about to dig down to the connector just to find out. By just replacing the entire wire with 10 gauge It should be good to go.
 

Ribbedroof

Royal Smart Person
Jan 4, 2009
1,996
615
113
Wellston, OK
#4
I'm with 565 on this one. I used a remote relay on the wagon, that crispy fuse link in a conduit covered in oil and next to impossible to work with isn't missed a bit.
 

pontiacgp

Canadian Prime Minister
Mar 31, 2006
22,258
3,327
113
Kitchener, Ontario
#5
I also use a remote solenoid. I had the problem of starting when hot which started this summer and it acted like the timing was too advanced. I have my battery in the trunk and had a 4 gauge that I originally used for my amp when my battery was in the engine compartment. I changed the 4 gauge to a good grade 2 gauge and no more trouble with hot starts. I don't use the ground strap from the engine to the firewall. I have the body, frame and engine grounded with 4 gauge wire directly from the battery. I will be upgrading that to 2 gauge this winter.
 
Sep 18, 2009
5,293
720
113
Mark in Queens, NY
#6
Well I'll see. If it is cured than that is that. If it still has a problem then the fix is a remote. I can't tell yet because I am taking the opportunity to fix an exhaust leak while the car is up on blocks. If I do use a remote then I have a really neat one from an old 1950's outboard motor. It has a button on the bottom that you push to activate the solenoid manually. Great in a pinch or when you want to just bump the motor over.
 

84GP455

G-Body Guru
Jun 19, 2007
733
30
28
#7
I also had starter problems this summer which ended up being a bad new battery, but in the process of elimination I replaced all the wires and remote solenoid which I swapped over to years ago after it wouldn't start for me on hot days. I know what you mean about pontiacs having that heat soak problem with the starter being so close to the exhaust. The remote solenoid cures that problem for sure. I too go to a local starter/alternator shop were a friend of mine has been working since the 80's and he built me a heavy duty starter which turns the 455 over quickly now since I also replaced the battery. I've also broken the solenoid cover before, they get real brittle from the exhaust pipe heat especially if you have an exhaust leak right there near the flange. I also used the starter bracket that mounts on the end of the starter and bolts to the engine block which also acts as a ground and helps support the starter while you put the bolts in, it made it easier than trying to hold it up.
 

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