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Old 6th October 2010, 20:50   #1
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Unhappy Swift - Starter motor burnt out in mysterious circumstances..

Hi,

This is an unusual situation, and I would really appreciate your thought/views/opinions and any help you may want to provide by way of knowledge.

I have a 2006 non-ABS Swift Vxi, posted close to 76k on the odo. No technical issues so far, clutch working fine, too, done only a tyre change at 48k. I stay in Pune and Mumbai.

Now suddenly, the starter motor has conked off, and that too when totally unexpected. I'll give you the details chronologically -
  • About 8 am I leave from Mumbai, all is well. Do about 120 on the E-way, which is also normal.
  • 11:00 am I reach home, and park the car, lock it with the Autocop which was installed also in 2006. Even now all is well.
  • Car stays parked under a tree inside the CHS, upto 3:30 pm, when the rain starts pouring.
  • 6:30 pm, rain stops, kids come out to play, a rubber tennis ball hits the car's tyres - not very hard, and a common occurrence inside the CHS.
  • Car gives out a series of about 7-9 beeps (not the full-fledged alarm), which has also happened quite frequently with me, and I don't worry much since the ball really does no damage to the car.
  • 6:45 pm, I hear the beeps again, and along with it a queer noise like you hear when water drops fall on the outer metal box of a window a/c. It goes like rat-tat-tata-tat with about 4 rat-tats a second.
  • I am observing this from the third floor, and immediately rush downstairs.
  • To investigate, I open the car with the Autocop (this is about the last time it functions), open the front door and unlatch the bonnet.
  • As I can't get close to the bonnet because of the wall (car was parked very close to the wall), and because I don't want to start the motor, I push the car a bit - just about 1 ft, not more.
  • The rat-tat noise stops as soon as the wheels move.
  • I open the bonnet, there is the tell-tale smell of something burning.
  • I make sure there is no spillage of fuel/oil and no sparks.
  • Enter the car, attempt the self-start - Nothing happens.
  • Check the battery - everything is working fine - Music system with the amp, 90/100W headlights, horn, everything. But no self-start.
  • Meanwhile, the Autocop system is giving out only one beep every 30 seconds.
  • I try to lock the car to go get my cellphone, there's no response from the Autocop too.
  • I lock the car manually, and then, on just a hunch, lock it again with the Autocop. This time it responds and locks the car.
  • I try to open it again with the Autocop, it doesn't open.
  • So I open it manually using the key, and suddenly, both the noises start again - the rat-tat from inside the bonnet, and also the beeps - this time I get the full-fledged alarm, too. I press the unlock button on the Autocop, and the noises die away.
  • But now, my Autocop is as useless as hair on a bear. No response, nothing. And no start.
  • I call up the usual garage guy, he comes the next morning, tries a different battery, fiddles around and comes up saying the starter motor is burnt, and may be damaged the flywheel too in the process.
  • He disconnects the flywheel and starter (which were still coupled as they are not supposed to, as per the mech.), and reconnects the fresh battery - immediately, the starter starts whining and rotating, on its own, without any keys being pressed. It stays so until the battery is disconnected again.
  • Now the starter motor is disconnected, battery is reconnected, and a push-start is attempted. The car starts right away, and is moved to the garage.
Now I am waiting for the new starter motor to be bought and installed and the health-check on the fly wheel is also awaited.

I cannot figure out a few things here, please help out if you can -
  • What could be the connection between the starter motor and the Autocop thingie?
  • Could a starter motor get burnt because of a ball hitting the car and starting off the security alarm?
  • Did the rain have anything to do with this?
  • If yes, then how come my car suddenly sprang a leak? I have driven through scary drenching downpours all across the peninsula, without any such issues. I didn't even bump into anyone/anything for the bonnet to start leaking all of a sudden.
Please help out with your thoughts/views/opinions guys, thanks a lot.

Cheers,
R_S

Last edited by roadie_swift : 6th October 2010 at 20:52.
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Old 6th October 2010, 21:09   #2
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Sad to see this happening... by any chance, do you have a remote engine starter?
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Old 6th October 2010, 21:25   #3
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No, I haven't installed a remote engine starter (by which I guess you can have the engine start without entering the car, pls correct if I'm wrong).

I have an Autocop XS system, which has an engine immobilizer and theft alarm with pressure sensors.
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Old 7th October 2010, 17:36   #4
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Latest update -

Thankfully no damage to the flywheel, starter motor replaced for Rs. 4,500.

Total cost incl labour is Rs. 5500. I hope there are no more issues with this.

Cheers,
R_S
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Old 7th October 2010, 17:47   #5
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This seems to be a wiring issue that caused trouble with Autocop as well as motor. Did you get wiring checked?
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Old 7th October 2010, 18:09   #6
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Default Checked the wiring, too..

Quote:
Originally Posted by NetfreakBombay View Post
This seems to be a wiring issue that caused trouble with Autocop as well as motor. Did you get wiring checked?
Yes, I had them check all the wirings leading up to the starter motor from the battery and related wiring, but nothing came up.

I even suspected a rat chewing through wires causing the short-cct, but there are no signs of that.

Also, a wiring issue would show up while driving, don't you think? This sudden issue 6 hrs after being parked is really befuddling, I know I won't rest easy until the cause is known.

Cheers,
R_S
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Old 7th October 2010, 18:53   #7
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Default Solenoid wiring only.

The guy who did the Autocop connection(or a thief) has managed to get into the wiring that actuates the solenoid. This is going to recur if you do not find out what caused the solenoid to engage in the first place. No need to check on the starter motor wiring but only of the solenoid.
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Old 7th October 2010, 19:00   #8
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Default Whats a Solenoid?

Quote:
Originally Posted by drpullockaran View Post
The guy who did the Autocop connection(or a thief) has managed to get into the wiring that actuates the solenoid. This is going to recur if you do not find out what caused the solenoid to engage in the first place. No need to check on the starter motor wiring but only of the solenoid.
Sir,

Please pardon my ignorance, but could you please elaborate a bit more, such as what exactly is a solenoid?

Does this mean that my starter motor was not actually caput?

Also, what worries me is, since you think either the Autocop guy or A Thief could be the culprit here, AND, since the Autocop was installed 4.5 years back and was functioning perfectly till yesterday, it means that may be there is a thief lurking nearby somewhere, playing pranks in broad daylight.

I really need to find a safer parking place..

Cheers,
R_S
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Old 7th October 2010, 19:14   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadie_swift View Post
...I won't rest easy until the cause is known.
@R_S: Tough call, trying to remote-diagnose this one! Trying to reconstruct exactly what happened in your case may not even be possible remotely! But let's give it a try.

First off, let's forget the possibility of the ball hitting your car having burnt out the starter as a direct result.

I would primarily blame the rain. Rainwater (or even heavy moisture condensation) seeping into car electricals sometimes has quite unexpected effects. The likelihood may be as follows:
1. Water / moisture condensing onto wiring harness;
2. Water dripping onto wiring, esp. of the starter solenoid, causing a short circuit.

The rat-tat-tat sound you heard was most likely to be the starter motor trying to turn over with a low current supply - obviously, it did not have enough current to turn over the engine, and the sound you heard would probably be the Bendix pinion skipping over the flywheel gear teeth. With the starter motor being fed current but not being able to turn over smoothly, the armature winding heated up (the smell you got first) and finally shorted and burnt out.

The central locking - that may have been triggered by the ball the first time, but maybe it started beeping the next time because of a drop in battery voltage due to the starter short-circuit.

So where might the water have got in? Please check whether you have rust perforation in the cowl panel - something like the pic below, borrowed from another thread. Or even torn cowl panel cover gasket (the rubber beading separating the bonnet lid from the black plastic cowl panel cover).

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We'll try and see if we can finally make you rest easy!
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Old 7th October 2010, 22:28   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadie_swift View Post
Sir,

Please pardon my ignorance, but could you please elaborate a bit more, such as what exactly is a solenoid?

Does this mean that my starter motor was not actually caput?

Cheers,
R_S
The solenoid sits on the starter motor and when juiced up it guides the gears of the starter motor and the flywheel to engage.
Some thing initiated the current supply to the solenoid without real input. I can only think of a thief or the autocop. The juice to the solenoid is manually engaged I believe except for the Cruze or in cars where there is an remote autostart feature.
If your car was the CRUZE LTZ then the ECU too could be the culprit but not in your particular case.
Just confirm whether your solenoid is controlled by the ECU and if so you can rest easy but if its not actuated by the ECU then you better put in good gear lock to deter thieves.
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Old 7th October 2010, 22:38   #11
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Default You're right, SS-Traveller

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
the sound you heard would probably be the Bendix pinion skipping over the flywheel gear teeth
Hey, SS-Traveller, thanks so much!

In fact, that is the exact word my mech used this evening, to describe probable cause of the sound. So I guess that much is true, and you are spot-on in your remote diagnostics. :-)

As for the water issue, it scares me alright, though the rains are over till the next season at least. However, I have not been able to spot any rust accumulating to the point of disintegration of the metal surface anywhere.

Anyway, after reading your post, what I have planned for Saturday morning is this -

I'll open the bonnet, and cover the entire area with a waterproof sheet, may be something like a car/bike cover. Then, close the lid, and pour several buckets of water over the windshield and the closed bonnet. Let it stand that way for a few minutes, and then open the lid to see if there are any drops of water seeping inside.

If I find any, then it will decide the future course of action.

Umm, do you think it will be better if I disconnect the battery before this experiment? Wouldn't want the brand new starter to burn out, too..

Thanks again for your views.

Cheers,
R_S

Last edited by roadie_swift : 7th October 2010 at 22:40.
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Old 7th October 2010, 22:43   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadie_swift View Post
Umm, do you think it will be better if I disconnect the battery before this experiment? Wouldn't want the brand new starter to burn out, too..
Absolutely. Please disconnect the battery leads before doing what you propose. Good luck on your Saturday project!
Quote:
Let it stand that way for a few minutes...
Edit: Ideally, there should be no water standing there at all. It should drain out instantly. If it doesn't, there may be muck choking the cowl panel drainage channels. The chief cause of rust.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 7th October 2010 at 22:46.
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Old 7th October 2010, 23:11   #13
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Default Solenoid

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Water dripping onto wiring, esp. of the starter solenoid
Quote:
Originally Posted by drpullockaran View Post
The solenoid sits on the starter motor
Ok, one query.

This, uh, Solenoid - does this look like a small cuboid of about 1"x1"x0.7", with 0.7" metal terminals sticking out from two sides? I will try and get a daylight pic also posted tomorrow to describe better.

I was handed this object by my mech tonight, who described it as the starter "relay" and that it had to be replaced as a critical component.

Also, Btw, can you guys comment on the starter motor price of Rs 4500? Do you think this is justified?
Thx.


Cheers,
R_S
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Old 7th October 2010, 23:23   #14
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Why replace the whole starter motor? Any good auto electrician will replace the starter armature; the armature and brush assembly are available as separate spare parts. The solenoid / relay will need replacement. 4.5k sounds rather too high.

Here's a pic of the solenoid, marked in blue:

Name:  starter_motor_1.jpg
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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 7th October 2010 at 23:31.
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