Selecting Starters

Which One is Right for You, Gear Reduction or Direct Drive?

By ACP Staff

At one time selecting a Chevrolet starter was easy enough, as there really was only one choice. However, since the late ’80s, the OEMs have steadily moved away from direct-drive starters and toward gear-reduction starters, and the aftermarket has followed suit.

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Although gear-reduction starters are more complex, making them more expensive, they are also smaller, lighter, and more efficient. These starters typically achieve a gear reduction ratio of 4:1. These starters use smaller, faster motors that draw less amperage. A 4:1 gear reduction ratio also means that a gear-reduction starter can often produce more torque than a much larger, heavier, direct-drive starter. In some cases, a direct-drive starter can weigh as much as two times more than a comparable gear-reduction unit. That represents a significant power/torque to weight ratio benefit, and it also means they are physically smaller and often easier to install.

002 Here the size difference is apparent and there is also a substantial difference in weight
Here, the size difference is apparent, and there is also a substantial difference in weight.

Learn More: Tips on Choosing and Installing a Starter

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While gear-reduction starters have a variety of advantages in some cases, when originality is important, a direct-drive starter may be more desirable. Regardless of the type of starter used, when it comes to Gen I and II Chevy small-block starters there are two basic choices, and which is used depends on the diameter and tooth count of the ring gear on the flexplate or flywheel. The large ring gears are 14 inches in diameter with 168 teeth and require starters with offset mounting holes. The smaller ring gears are 123/4 inches in diameter with 153 teeth and the proper starters have two holes parallel with the back of the block.

003 Chevrolet V 8s may be equipped with either 168 or 153 tooth ring gears
Chevrolet V-8s may be equipped with either 168- or 153-tooth ring gears. Each requires a specific starter.

Starter Installation Tips

Before installing any starter, take the following steps:

-Make sure the block’s mounting surface is flat and free of paint buildup.

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-Check the mounting holes for stripped threads or cracks.

-Use the correct bolts; Chevrolet fasteners will have a knurled area  adjacent to the threads that keep the starter located properly.

-Torque starter mounting bolts to engine manufacturer’s specifications.

-Check the pinion to ring gear clearance. There should be 1/16-inch minimum from the back side of ring gear to the front edge of the teeth on the starter pinion.

-If possible, pull the pinion out to engage ring gear (this can be done without an automatic transmission or bellhousing in place).

Check it out: Choosing the Most Important Part of Your Chevy’s Charging System

Curing a Noisy Starter

There are instances when the only cure for a noisy starter is the use of shims. Often, if a high-pitched whine is heard after the engine starts it’s likely the pinion should be moved away from the ring gear with a shim. If the gap is too loose, a high-pitched whine or a clanging sound will be heard before the engine starts. The cure is often a 0.015-inch-thick half shim between the outside bolt and the block.

009 Starter shims are placed between the starter and the engine block to increase clearance between the starter drive and ring gear
Starter shims are placed between the starter and the engine block to increase clearance between the starter drive and ring gear. Always use the minimum number of shims necessary.

Crate Engine Precautions

Chevrolet Performance engines come with a pilot bushing in place that must be removed if an automatic transmission is used. If left in place, the bushing will prevent the torque converter from seating in the crankshaft properly, so when the converter bolts are tightened the flexplate will be distorted, creating a mismatch between the ring gear and the starter drive. The result is a noisy starter that can’t be resolved without taking out the transmission and removing the bushing.

013crate engine came with a pilot bushing for a manual transmission which in turn kept the converter from seating and warped the flexplate
This crate engine came with a pilot bushing for a manual transmission, which in turn kept the converter from seating and warped the flexplate and caused the starter to make a ridiculous amount of noise.

Duralast Starters

Regardless of the type of starter used, Duralast has what you need. Duralast starters are triple tested at the component, sub-assembly, and finished unit levels to ensure OE or better torque output. They are remanufactured by Tier-1 manufacturers for OE or better performance levels (versus rebuilt, which is just torn down, inspected, and cleaned). And don’t forget, Duralast Gold 100 percent new starters are also available. Find out more about Duralast’s vast array of parts at duralastparts.com.

004 This Duralast gear reduction starter with staggered holes is typical of those used with large diameter ring gears
This Duralast gear reduction starter with staggered holes is typical of those used with large-diameter ring gears.
005 Starters using snouts with mounting holes straight across are compatible with small diameter ring gears
Starters using snouts with mounting holes straight across are compatible with small-diameter ring gears.
006Direct drive starters are heavy and those with studs in the endplate require a brace to stabilize them
Direct-drive starters are heavy, and those with studs in the endplate require a brace to stabilize them.
007 Using the correct starter bolts is critical to properly locate the starter
Using the correct starter bolts is critical to properly locate the starter. Note the knurled portion above the threads.
008 starter brace is shown in place
Here, a starter brace is shown in place. It attaches to the starter and a threaded hole in the block.
010Here is a gear reduction starter The small size makes installation easier and provides room for headers
Here is a gear-reduction starter. The small size makes installation easier and provides room for headers.
012Braided straps like this one can be used to ground the engine to the frame
Grounds are a critical part of the starting system. Braided straps like this one can be used to ground the engine to the frame.

Sources
Duralast
duralastparts.com

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