Changing the starter yourself with the proper tools should take one hour or less to do right at home. Damage to the starter most often happens from loose power connections. When the starter’s power wires become loose or rusted, they can cause the starter to malfunction. This can lead to the engine not starting. You may also hear a repeated loud clicking but the engine won't start. On the 1999 Grand Am the starter mounts on the lower-front of the engine. On the 3.4-liter model, the starter is instead mounted at the lower-rear of the engine against the flywheel.
Things You'll Need
- Socket-wrench set
- Black electrical tape
- Car jack
- Jack stand
- White painter's tape
- 3/8-inch drive torque wrench
- 1/4-inch drive torque wrench
Lift the hood on the Grand Am and locate the car’s battery. Identify the negative post on the battery by its minus symbol on the top of the battery case. Use a socket wrench to loosen and remove the cable from its post on the battery. Wrap the entire metal terminal at the end of the battery cable with electrical tape. Lay the cable down within the engine compartment. Make sure the cable’s not contacting any other metal or the engine.
Open the driver door and fully engage the Grand Am’s emergency brake. Raise the car at its jacking point on the front passenger side using a car jack. The bottom of the tire should visibly measure eight to nine inches from the ground.
Position a jack stand slightly left of the car jack. Remove the locking pin from the support arm on the jack stand. Raise the support arm to accommodate the height of the car jack. Return the locking pin to the support arm of the jack stand to secure its height. Slightly lower the car jack so that the jack stand can bear some of the car’s weight. Do not remove the car jack. Rock the car back and forward slightly to assure it will remain stable.
Slide under the Grand Am head first and locate the starter. It will resemble a large elongated golden or black capsule. The solenoid will attach directly to it and will resemble a smaller capsule as well.
Label each of the wires connected to the solenoid clearly with white painter's tape. Do not use words on the painter's tape such as “red or black.” Instead, label the wires “inner and outer” or “left and right.” Use a socket wrench to remove the wire-securing nuts and slide the wires off their mounting bolts.
Remove the bolts securing the flywheel cover with a socket wrench if you have the 3.4L Grand Am. Lower the cover from its mounting position on the flywheel. Place the cover and its securing bolt to the side of the work area.
Remove the starter’s retaining bolts at its base where it mounts against the engine. Start with the top bolt. Before you remove the lower starter bolt, support the starter with your free hand. Remove the bolt and place both hands on the starter as you lower it away from its mounting position.
Place the starter back into its original mounting position exactly as you removed the old starter. Support the starter and hand thread each of the starter’s retaining bolts. This will assure the starter lines up correctly. Set your 3/8-inch-drive torque wrench to 30 ft-lbs. Completely secure the bottom starter retaining bolt followed by the top bolt.
Place the solenoid’s wires back onto their correct mounting point. Start both of the solenoid wires retaining nuts by hand. Reset the 3/8-inch-drive torque wrench to 22 ft-lbs. and completely secure both retaining nuts. Remove the painter's tape from the solenoid’s wires. If you removed the flywheel cover, mount it back into its original position. Hand thread each of the cover’s retaining bolts. Set your 1/4-inch-drive torque wrench to 89 inch-pounds. Completely secure the flywheel cover’s retaining bolts one at a time.
Remove all of the tools you used while under the car. Raise the car jack slightly to relieve the car’s weight on the jack stand. Slide the jack stand from beneath the Grand Am. Lower the car completely to the ground and remove the car jack.
Remove the electrical tape from the negative battery cable terminal. Securely reconnect the cable back to its post on the battery with a socket wrench. Shut the hood and release the car’s emergency brake. Start the engine to test out the new starter.
Tips & Warnings
- If you notice any rust or dirt on the solenoid wire terminals while removing them, use a small wire brush to clean the wires. A bad or faulty power connection could damage or short out the new starter.
- "Haynes General Motors: Malibu, Alero, Cutlass & Grand Am, 1997-2000 Automotive Repair Manual"; Jay Storer; 2005
- "Alternators and Starter Motors"; Robert Bosch; 2003
- "Automobile Starting and Lighting"; Harold Phillips Manly; 2009
- Photo Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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