If your Jeep won’t start and you are sure the fuel pump is working and the spark plugs, wires, coils or distributor, and battery are good, you probably need a new starter. When you turn the key, you will probably hear a clicking sound. The starter is under the Jeep, toward the front passenger wheel, and goes into the transmission bell housing. The good news is that it is not a complicated fix- this article will explain how to replace a starter on your Jeep.
To replace the starter on your Jeep you need some basic tools, mainly a ratchet wrench and a few sockets, and a flashlight is helpful. It will take about 30 minutes and can be done almost anywhere, I once changed one in a local parking lot. You can jack it up if you want, and then securing with jack stands and wheel chocks for safety. Overall it is a simple and straightforward repair.
What to Do to Remove and Replace Your Jeep’s Starter
Here is what you need:
- Basic wrench set – A basic ratcheting wrench and socket set with 7, 8, 10, 15, and 18 mm sockets should cover you for starter replacement jobs
- Flashlight – To illuminate your work
- Disposable Gloves – To keep your hands clean
- Dielectric Grease – This is a protective grease to avoid corrosion from water. It goes on the metal connectors of the starter’s solenoid
If you can’t get under your Jeep, you may need the following:
Once you go under the Jeep, with a flashlight you will easily see the starter. The starter looks like a black soda can with rounded ends and a second smaller cylinder attached with wires going into it.
Here is what to do:
- Open the hood of your Jeep and disconnect the negative battery cable—the starter has a hot wire connected to it
- Go under the Jeep and find your starter
- Remove the nuts (two 7 or 8 mm and one 10 mm) connecting the battery cable and ground wire to the starter solenoid (the smaller cylinder attached to the starter)
- Next unbolt the lower starter retaining bolt (15 mm), then do the upper starter bolt (18 mm). These bolts face different directions—one facing forward and the other faces rear
- Be careful as you remove the bolts– the starter is heavy (probably 4-5 lbs.) and may drop (if not jiggle it and it should come right out)
- Use a flashlight and screwdriver to carefully inspect the teeth on the flywheel visible through the hole where the starter was removed (If the teeth are bad– you may want to get a new flywheel put in. This is more of a rare occurrence.)
- Now take the old starter to the auto parts store and ask them to test it (Another reason to take it to the store is they will charge you extra if you don’t trade in the old one for reconditioning—they call the trade in the “core”)
- If your Jeep’s starter fails the test get a new one
- Now, reverse the instructions for installation
- Reconnect the negative battery cable
- Get the Jeep down, if you jacked it up, and start the Jeep up
It should start right up, if not, you have yet another problem and you go back to trouble shooting!
Why Do Starters Fail?
In my experience Jeep starters usually fail because they get covered in oil. The oil comes from the leaky Jeep oil filter adapter. Other reasons include bad bearings and faulty or failed starter solenoid. Additionally, off-roading mud and water crossings take a toll on your Jeep’s starter. Not to mention potential off-roading direct impacts to your Jeep’s starter.
How Often Do Jeep Starters Go Bad?
When my Jeep’s oil filter adaptor was leaking oil, I went through a few starters over the course of a year. Since I fixed that leak, I have been running the same starter in my 1996 Jeep Cherokee (XJ) for years now. A starter should last for years, but as we all know, they don’t make things like they used to.
Can I Fix my Jeep’s Starter?
Yes, you could fix your Jeep’s starter by cleaning and rebuilding it. However, the rebuild has a cost, as does the time and effort to do the job. You are better off buying a new or remanufactured starter for your Jeep that has a warranty should it go bad.