1996 2.4L Cavalier LS convertible, manual transmission, 85k miles. New battery.
Over the last few days whenever I start the car, the starter sounds like it's spinning, but it doesn't engage the engine. When I turn off the key and try again, it engages and starts like normal. Is it a bad starter?
FYI: I looked through 31 pages of "starter" search results but, surprisingly, couldn't find this exact problem.
Based on your details it sounds like your starter is going bad.I will walk through some typical starter failure scenario's.You go to crank the car and it is slow to crank.2nd go to crank and it drags with some noise but,starts.3rd go to start and the starter grinds but car cranks.4th go to crank but nothing just the dash lite up and lights dim on retry of cranking.On the 4th this typically means the starter has a dead spot(electrically) and no matter how many attempt's to recrank nothing.In this case you could use a long socket extension and place on the starter or solenoid and lightly tap the starter with a hammer and this will cause it to move past the (dead) area of contact to engage the starter and it will crank generally.I listed these as example's but in short I would remove the original starter and take to auto zone or advance auto and get the starter bench tested.Granted this doe's NOT always prove or find a starter's dead spot's or weak point as it make take multiple test to even indicate this.To end this on another car had a slow crank but,always cranked and NO grinding or noise just slow cranking.Finally the starter hit the infamous Dead spot! Tapped it with a extension and car cranked.Next step was off for a new reman starter.The moral of the story is starters can show a variety of problems before they fail and in my real opinion I do think your starter is going bad as you have NO other mechanical issue's other wise to prove different.Remove the starter take to the said store's get bench tested and maybe it will fail or not.If it were me I would replace it as you already removed it and the car is 20 years old.I like to share way too much information to explain the reasoning so if you do not get it,hopefully you will after this.Ok
I just Googled "starter symptoms" and found the following website that lists the various types of starter problems (and problems falsely attributed to starters). Based on the symptoms/ & causes listed on that website, it seems vert clear that my starter's "Bendix" is bad. I just ordered a new AC Delco starter on Amazon (Prime) for $85. I'm not looking forward to replacing it but there's a good how-to video on YouTube, so I guess I'll give it a try.
Ok cool.I will say on my wifes 04 accord it is under the intake!So yeah the intake has to be removed and a new gasket to boot.Time required was 2hours.I just recently did my nephews new used 06 accord I found and did a ton of updates on same engine 2.4 with a serious slow crank(this is a known issue on the accords) but no problem for me!I wish I could give some pointers on the 3rd gen but,I am a 1st gen guy and mine is fairly easy on my oldschool 2.0ohv.I find doing a task as such is a good learning experience and just take your time.
I installed a new AC Delco starter ($85 on Amazon Prime). Now it starts perfectly every time.
FYI, in case it helps somebody replace the starter on their 2.4L Cavalier/SunfireI: I did this job myself without jacking up the car. It took me 4 hours because the access to the starter is in VERY, VERY close quarters. I wasn't even sure I could remove the starter from the car after I unbolted it because there was so little space to maneuver it out of a small opening. But there is JUST BARELY enough space to finagle it out if you remove the throttle intake body, the oil filter, the oil pressure sensor plug, and move aside some plastic wire conduit. There was a helpful how-to video on YouTube
but the guy seems to be operating on a 2.4L Pontiac Grand Am, so he has more working space in his engine cavity.
Some hints in case anybody tries this job...
Disconnect the positive terminal of the battery before you start! Seriously, I didn't do that, and it sparked badly. Scared the crap out of me. Then I disconnected it..
Remove the throttle intake body and electrical connections, per the video.
No need to remove the fan from the Cavalier/Sunfire (unlike the Grand Am in the video).
Remove the oil filter (putting a drain pan below it to catch the oil).
Remove the oil pressure sensor plug, per the video. It's easiest to do this from beneath the car (right after you remove the oil filter).
Remove the ground wire attached to the top of the starter's solenoid. Removing the bolt that held on this wire probably took me 30 minutes!
Remove the 2 15mm bolts holding in the starter. The lower bolt is best removed from underneath the car (contrary to the video).
Remove the clips holding the plastic wiring conduit next to the starter. You may also need to unplug a few of the wires from that conduit to give yourself some slack. (Not on video.) This conduit blocks the starter from being removed.
Finagle the starter away from where it was bolted in. It's difficult and you may also have to go under the car to move it, but you can drop the gear side of the starter down towards the ground, and then bring the wiring side of the starter to where you can disconnect the wires.
Disconnect the wires by removing the nuts, being careful to remember which wire goes where. There are 3 wires going to the bigger terminal. (I used a twist tie to keep them together.)
Remove the starter by pushing (or going under the car and pulling) the gear side down to the ground and out of the car.
Reverse the steps above.
Top off the oil, since you probably lost some when you removed the filter.
I will say you detailed all the steps.If it were ME I would have done a video to share on youtube for your OWN channel.Even if you did the video after the install and walk thru each step it just as good as the walk along doing it.I have my own youtube channel and do most of my share's after I do the work not during it.I have about 9 videos and I am Very thorough in my details to explain what I did etc.My highest viewed page is at 52k on a 1998 Honda accord vss install and symptoms or codes.I really do not understand the high views but,I guess it is popular for some reason.I soley share my knowledge to help everyone and just like the kudo's for posting my vid's not being the 1st to find or correct it,but being smart enough to share some insight online with a video over reading miles of type.You still can go back and do a simple tutorial and walk thru the steps in a video to make this EASIER for the next person!!!!! I know you did the work but,really just some simple tips,tools used and good video shot's can make the next person's job better.Cool that you did the work and glad it is fine.R
literally just changed the starter in my friends ford ranger because it had the exact same symptom you described. The starter will spin but not engage the flywheel. Kind of sounds like a drill. after changing the starter it fired right up