Sunday 22 January 2012


How to free up a jammed Bendix drive

Problems never come singly, do they? I was driving Katie across town the other day, for her Meeja course, and on the way home there was a faint sense of hiccuping from the engine. I pretended not to notice, because I had drawings to do. But that afternoon, repeating the journey, it developed into full-blown indigestion, and the engine kept cutting out, so that I was constantly juggling the choke and bump-restarting the engine as we coasted along. Katie was oblivious, as we'd stopped at Wai Yee Hong, the chinese supermarket, and she was munching her way through a box of Pokies while listening to her iPod, which was audible to me as that hissy sort of sound that was peculiarly annoying in the circs. So I stuck on Jean-Luc Ponty. Take that, popster!

Worry, worry. Was it the ingition system failing? I started with the simplest job- replacing the HT ignition coil with the spare one. No difference. I took the top off the carburettor float chamber. Loads of crap in there. So I took the carburettor off and stripped it down; the piston was grubby and prone to sticking. So I cleaned everything up and lightly lubricated it, and stuck it all back together, and it worked properly.

Then yesterday I was coming back from Mal's, where I'd been doing some chainsawing, and I'd just switched the engine off when I thought "I'll have a look under the bonnet, and check the mixture." So I engaged the starter. And, because the engine hadn't stopped turning, there was a horrible graunching noise. 

I stopped the engine, and turned it over by the cranking handle. Graunching noise was still there.

I cursed.

Then I took the starter motor out, and checked the teeth on the flywheel.

Blessedly, they were both in fair condition; but the Bendix drive on the starter was jammed. The Bendix bit is that cylinder thing with the cog on it, on the spiral grooves on the shaft in the picture there.

After scratching head for a bit, I compressed the spring on the end of the shaft, using a couple of Mole grips. Then banged it a bit. And it sort of went SPRONG, and the Bendix relocated itself at the right end of the shaft. 

And I breathed a sigh of relief. And cleaned the whole thing with surgical spirit, because Bendixes need to be clean and grease-free, otherwise it'll all end in tears again.

This is what a healthy starter motor looks like.


  1. It looks such a simple job, put that just ask a garage to do that!!

  2. It's a good job you know what to do.I think you secretly enjoy solving these mechanical mysteries. I just go wild with the WD40 spray from time to time.

    What is Meeja?

  3. As an alternative to liquid lubricant, a friend of mine always swore by powered graphite; in the absence of which, a good going over with a 4H pencil.

  4. Whoops - slip of the brain.
    I meant 4B, obviously.

  5. Wow, must be surgically clean if you are working on your cutting mat!

    Thought you must have traded Moggy in for something Japaneese since there had not been any posts like this for a while.


  6. Blimey, your starter's a lot cleaner than mine!

    I kinda envy you that starting handle. The Wreck has the dog on the crankshaft, but not the corresponding hole in the front valance.

  7. I'm lucky, Gwynneth, that it's an easy car to work on. A modern car has hardly any room to get your hands in under the bonnet!
    I'm always glad when it's over. Anji; there's always the 'Oh no!' feeling when something starts going wrong. And I felt extreeemely annoyed with myself for goofing the starter motor in the first place. Meeja? -media studies!
    That's a very good tip, Philip, and I'll do that next time, if there's a next time.
    The Mog's been behaving mostly, Caroline; though I'm also putting off jobs because of the weather. Must overhaul the brakes v soon, as the MOT approaches and they're a bit squeaky.
    The starter's not that old, Jenny- the previous one failed. How frustrating, not to have the hole for the starter! I think I'd drill a hole for it, if it were mine