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Discussion Starter #1
When I started my car today, it cranked and fired like normal for about a second. Then, I heard what sounded like a free spinning electric motor noise and no more firing or cranking. This condition continued even after I took the key out of the ignition; I had to disconnect the battery to make it stop. When I reconnected the battery, the noise started again.

For the past few months, I occasionally noticed a slight pause (less than a second) before the car would crank and fire. During the pause, I heard an electrical humming noise. I wonder if that is related to my problem.

I just towed my car home and will start troubleshooting tomorrow morning. Any ideas on how to get started and what to look for?
 

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The starter's solenoid might be faulty. What's supposed to happen when you turn the key to 'start' is the solenoid (a heavy duty electro-magnet) does two things: 1) it sends full battery power to the starter motor & B) it moves the starter's gear into mesh with the ring gear on the flywheel. A faulty solenoid might do one but not the other. Thus, the free spinning electric motor sound could be the starter motor turning but not engaged with the ring gear. And, a faulty solenoid might not cut the power to the starter motor - thus it keeps spinning when you turn the key to 'off'.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Eric.

Any chance the ignition switch could be the problem? My son reminded me we had a few times last year when all we got was a humming noise when the ignition was turned on.
 

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It's either a bad switch or a problem with the starter or solenoid.

There should be a spade connector at the starter solenoid: that's the connection from the ignition switch. If you disconnect that and you still have the problem, it's at the starter. If that fixes things the switch is bad.
 

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Thinking on this some more (thinking seems to come slowly to me...), where do you hear the 'spinning motor sound' coming from? If from the right side of the engine then that is the starter motor. If from in front of the radiator that could be an electric fan (does your car have AC?). If from under the car &/or in the trunk that could be the fuel pumps.

An electric cooling fan should only operate when the engine is warmed up and not with the ignition off.

The fuel pumps should only run with the engine running or the key turned to 'start'. And of course they should not run with the ignition off. There have been reports of a replacement drive relay (KAE brand?) that fits but can allow the pumps to run when the ignition is on even when the engine is not running.

The fact that things are powered on when the key is off would lead me to start with a faulty ignition switch. Sometimes you can (temporarily) 'fix' a failing starter solenoid by giving it a whack or two to jolt it into action. Since the Spider's starter is hard to reach, you can use a long dowel or broom stick - rest it on the solenoid and hit the other end with a hammer. If that seems to fix it, then plan on repairing/replacing the starter & solenoid ASAP. If that doesn't fix it it doesn't prove the solenoid is good however.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The noise is coming from the starter. When I disconnect the spade connector on the black wire going to the solenoid, the starter still runs when connected to the battery. So I assume the solenoid and/or starter is bad. They are original.

I will try Eric's suggestion to knock the solenoid loose.

Any opinions on replacing the starter with a gear reduction one?
 

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When I disconnect the spade connector on the black wire going to the solenoid, the starter still runs when connected to the battery.
Sounds like the electrical contacts in the solenoid have 'welded' themselves together.

I have no experience with a gear reduction starter in an Alfa. I do have one in my MGA & it works fine.
 

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Any opinions on replacing the starter with a gear reduction one?
Your '87 Spider originally had a gear reduction starter.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks Ed. I read all the threads on gear reduction starters and got confused on what I have.

Can anyone recommend a good deal on a starter? From reading previous posts, I gather that the Autozone #17081 starter will not work on my 87 Spider.
 

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Consider getting your starter rebuilt. I expect that a city the size of Huntsville will have a starter/alternator rebuild business. There is a very good guy in Pensacola that I can recommend:
B & M Starter & Alternator Services
4117 North Palafox Street Pensacola, FL 32505
(850) 434-0897

Many of the so-called remanufactured starters have received little more than a cleaning and a coat of paint.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks again Ed. I found a nice auto electrical shop in Huntsville that rebuilds starters, highly recommended.

I got the starter out today. I tried to work around the plenum, but I ended up removing the plenum to gain access since the A/C compressor hoses were in the way. Now that the plenum is out, I will take the opportunity to send the fuel injectors out for cleaning, replace the fuel lines, and replace the intake manifold hoses. Mission creep sets in once again...
 

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I ended up removing the plenum

Mission creep sets in once again...
How are the motor mounts? If they are saggy, now would be the time to do them. That right side mount is hard to access with all that stuff in place...
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Did both motor mounts last summer.

I think I will install a starter relay too. The list never ends...
 
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