How NOT to Replace Your Car’s Starter – Part 2

Despite being told that a new starter for my car would cost $310, I was able to find one at the local parts shop for $120, including a lifetime warranty. I wanted to call the dealership and flaunt my resourcefulness, however karma does a pretty good job without my tempting.

The packaging of my new starter contained instructions for the replacement of the old one, and these only bolstered my undue confidence. They read as follows:

1. Remove positive cable from starter
2. Remove mounting bolts and remove starter from vehicle
3. Mount starter
4. Reconnect electrical connections

That’s 1 nut and 2 bolts that I needed to remove and replace. And according to said instructions, once the vehicle was jacked up, the starter would be inches from my face.

I hope I have conveyed at this point how easy this was supposed to be.

With the car in place and on jacks, I shimmied underneath to pluck the ripe starter from the engine.

My first thought was that my car, in fact, did not have a starter. I wormed back and forth underneath the engine, flashlight darting between the unknown parts and cables while I searched for “a round canister with electrical wires connected to it“.

Confused, I continued my search from the top, leaning and bobbing over the engine. No round canisters.

I took a deep breath and went back under.

And there it was.

The location of a starter in my vehicle

To equate my frustration at its location, it is the equivalent of going to the store, asking for an apple, and having the clerk tell you, “Oh no problem, the apples are just over there.”

And just over there is an orchard. In Mordor.

Staring blankly at the demon for a few minutes, I realized that if I had to pick the exact nucleus of the engine compartment, the starter would be it.

Conferring with my father in law, I decided to check Google for magical tricks that would aid me in my quest to Mordor. The only knowledge I gleaned is that venturing beyond page two of the search results is folly.

If it wasn’t for my vow to learn car repair, I would have taken it to the dealership that instant, justifying the compromise with the money saved in buying the part myself.

Stupid, stupid hobbit…..

To help those of you who have made similarly misguided vows, I have rewritten the instructions that came with my starter to more accurately reflect the task and time required.

1. Locate starter (20 min)
2. See if you can even touch the starter (5 min)
3. Locate bolts mounting the starter (15 min)
4. Fast and pray about how to reach the bolts (10 min)
5. Loosen bolts with frankenstein socket ratchet (60 min)
6. Expect starter to dangle loose. Escalate to yanking. (10 min)
7. Discover mystery screw not mentioned anywhere still holding starter in place (15 min)
8. Strip out the screw, pack up, go home and ponder life’s choices (8 hours)
9. Give screw ultimatum and when it loosens, let starter fall into your face (30 min)
10. Halfway done, channel car genius mojo and install new starter (15 min)
11. Bask in the glow of dirty hands and bonus manhood points (multiple years)

As I mentioned in my last post, owning a car sucks. But after this adventure, despite resembling Gollum towards the end, a new world opened to me in the car ownership dynamic.


My 2002 Infiniti G20 is now my most favorite car I’ve owned. I have seen, fondled and fixed its innards. We now have a special “I’ve seen you naked” bond.

Even more surprising, I look forward to more things breaking.

In a year or two.

18 thoughts on “How NOT to Replace Your Car’s Starter – Part 2

    1. petermonaco says:

      It would be great to know that our task lies in Mordor before we start…so that we can let someone else do it.

      Thank you for reading riverpearl! I appreciate your comments!

  1. Hannah says:

    I DO own a car, and have attempted repair (fruitlessly) many times. Said car now sits, decaying, in my mother’s driveway in Massachusetts, while I work (carlessly) in California to pay the beast off….. still.
    But is it crazy to say I still LOVE the stupid thing?!
    Awesome post!

  2. amoonfull says:

    Kudos for finally figuring it out!
    My starter broke about a month ago! I was out and lost track of time. It was midnight. I jumped in my car and it wouldn’t start. I thought it was the battery. I’ve been having issues with many batteries and alternators all year (but that’s a diff & hectic story). I had to leave my car overnight.
    The next day, I spent all morning with a friend taking the battery to an auto parts store to recharge it. I brought it back. It still didnt work. I called a tow truck and took it to a friend’s shop. It was only about 5 miles away. I had to pay $65 for FIVE miles!! As soon as I get to the shop, my friend tapped the starter with a metal rod, and the car started! I bought a new one and he installed it for 40 dollars, only because I asked him to charge me. Would I have been able to do it myself? umm… i dunno.

      1. amoonfull says:

        Yes, i watched and offered help! But of course it wasn’t needed. I like to play with tools and think i’m actually getting something done :-p

  3. realteachermom says:

    This was hilarious! I’ve had my share of car repair woes as well. Good thing I married a mechanic. He read this and laughed out loud. And he says next time use a 3/8 ratchet instead of the frankenstein one-whatever that means!

    1. petermonaco says:

      I think I had a 14mm, but it was at the end of my creation of ratchets, extensions and different attachments just so that I could reach the damn bolt.

      As you can tell, I am very much hoping there won’t be a next time.

  4. grannyK says:

    I can check/add oil, coolant and power steering fluid, add air to my tires, and ummm let me think. Oh yes! I can drive my car. That’s it. Good for you for getting under there and molesting your vehicle! That did NOT sound right, did it.

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