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How to Replace the Starter in a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan with a 3.3 Liter Engine

January 6, 2010

Now that I have some light in my garage, my next project is to replace the starter in our old mini-van. I understand that the classic symptoms of a bad starter in this van is that the starter solenoid will click, but it will only randomly turn over. It’s been getting worse and worse over the past few months but since we don’t drive this vehicle often I’ve been putting off the repairs.

The mechanic down the road said it would cost $400 to replace the starter. I was able to pick up a rebuilt one at O’Reily’s Auto Parts for $96. I hear the replacement can be done in an hour, and I’m sure this is possible if you don’t lose one of the bolts and need to go find another one. Replacing this starter is not rocket science, but it does require a degree of mechanical skill to get a wrench to the mounting bolts which are blocked by the engine mount and a few other things.

Materials: You’ll need 13mm and 15mm sockets and ratchet and a mediums size flat-edge screwdriver to replace the starter. A 15mm ratcheting wrench will also make your job easier as there is hardly enough room for a ratchet and socket for the mounting bolts. Also you'll need some sort of light to see what you are doing under your van.

1. Elevate the van safely, there’s not quite enough room to get under it without elevating it.
Because I couldn’t get the van to start, I had to roll it manually to get it lifted. It was impossible for me to get the van up on regular ramps, so I got some bricks from Jean's garden. The 3 inches of lift was all I needed to get under the van.

2. Disconnect the main power to the starter.
The starter is to the front of the engine, in the center, right above the engine mount. The wires are connected to the starter of the left side of the engine mount. First I would advise you to disconnect the battery to make sure there’s no power to the starter, then remove the main power source from the starter with a 13mm socket.

3. Remove the solenoid wire by unplugging it.
There is a red sliding lock which needs to be slid out before the connector can be unplugged. This is where the flat edge screwdriver comes in.

4. Remove the two mounting bolts.
These are accessed on the right side of the engine mount, and require a 15mm socket wrench. The top bolt is particularly hard to get to. Even though I also have a 15mm ratchet wrench, it wouldn’t slip over the head of the bolt for the first quarter inch, so I used a socket and ratchet to get it started. With such limited space, I could only turn the bolt one ratchet click at a time (30 times per revolution, I counted!) This took quite a while to do, and I had to repeat this when putting the bolt back in.

5. Exchange the old starer for the new one.
There might be an easier trick to this as there’s a metal gasket that goes between the starter and the starter mount, but using only sheer will-power I got it lined up with only 3 attempts, taking about 10 minutes total.

Can you tell which starter is the old one and which one is the new one?

6. Replace the mounting bolts, power connector and solenoid wire.
Make sure everything is tight, though I don’t know exactly how much torque, there’s no way a torque wrench would fit any of these anyway. If you disconnected the battery, then reconnect it.

That’s it! The van started on the first try and though I ruined an old shirt in the process, I am happy about saving $300. Now that I have my van back, I can drive to Home Depot. I wonder what project I should get into next?

15,370 - 128 - 9 - US

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