12volt M38 starter issues and a possible solution!

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Steelpots
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12volt M38 starter issues and a possible solution!

Post by Steelpots » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:32 pm

Hello, I'm Chris Armold, aka Chris A., a writer and photographer. In 1999 I purchased and restored an M38 Jeep. A few years later I sold it. I regretted it immediately. Last week I repurchased my old friend and she's back in my garage. She looks great, and runs pretty well BUT she has always had problems starting. For years I assumed it was "vapor lock", that well timed event when all the fuel evaporates in the fuel lines and your little piece of history refuses to fire up. I never solved the problem. Now with "Satan" (her nickname) back in the garage a few friends have taken an interest in my starting problem. The consensus from these three learned gentlemen was that the "bendix" or starter drive, in my starter was bad rather than vapor lock. After doing a little research and thinking about what was actually happening (or rather not happening) when I engaged the starter convinced me these guys were probably correct.

Now let me give you a few technical tidbits so that you understand what I'm working with. At some time in its life, my m38's electrical system was converted to a 12 Volts. The vehicle is also equipped with a late model bell housing containing a 129 tooth flywheel. (All relevant information when it comes to the right starter for your vehicle). I did some research on line and determined that I most likely had an Autolite MCH6207 starter (with 9 teeth on the Bendix) attached to my vehicle. As I understand it, that's a six-volt unit but functions just fine at 12 volts as long as you don't over crank it.

Sick and tired of "starting issues" I decided to try to fix this crap once and for all. I talked to one of my friends who collects Model A Fords and he said he'd be happy to rebuild my starter for me. I removed it from the vehicle and took it to his house. Two minutes later it was disassembled. We looked for a nomenclature tag or serial number to positively identify the starter make and model but were unable to find anything. My buddy made a list of parts he felt needed attention; the Bendix, a bushing, brushes and some sort of lever. I tossed the broken bits into a box and this morning drove to Dayton Quality Starter and asked for some help.

The guy behind the counter was all business as he asked me what I needed. I said, I have an Autolite MCH6207 starter and I need some parts for it. I opened the box and pulled out the Bendix and immediately the guy said, "that's not an autolite bendix, it looks more like an AC Delco part." Since I hadn't brought the casing or the other parts of the Starter we were unable to figure out exactly what the starter is but it's absolutely not an Autolite MCH6207. Since I know that what I have isn't correct, I'm not going to bother to mess with it.

Consequently I decided no more guessing, I decided I'm just going to buy the right darn starter for my Jeep. The solution is a starter that works on the civilian CJ3B. They are essentially civilian M38s and share the same 129 tooth flywheel and more robust bell housing than early M38s and MB/GPWs but they are hard to find and EXPENSIVE. I called a few people in the "jeep parts biz" only to discover that the prices for a starter and the core charges were astronomical.

Then one of my friends, a guy who's into auto parts, discovered some CJ enthusiasts were also having issues finding cost effective replacement starters. Some how one of these dudes figured out that and off-brand starter sold by O'Reilly Auto Parts, the Ultima Starter, part number 16224 for Toyota Land Cruisers, worked wonderfully on CJ vehicles as a replacement for the MCH6207. Even better this was a 12 volt starter with a bargain price of $49.95 plus a $4.50 core charge.

I did a bit more research and what I learned seems to indicate that this inexpensive starter should work with my late model M38 bell housing and 129 tooth flywheel. Be aware that it appears that this starter WILL NOT WORK with the early M38 bell housing and the 124 tooth fly wheel. Here's a link to the item. http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/c/detai ... word=16224

I'm picking up the part tomorrow and if all goes well I'll have it installed in the evening and will report back on compatibility, glitches, modifications etc required to make this work, if it does indeed work. IF anyone has any intel on this starter or ideas, comments, suggestions, tips, warnings, whatever, I'd appreciate hearing them!

It's nice to be back on G503. M38s Rule.

Chris A.
http://www.chrisaphotography.com
Chris A.
MSgt, USAF (Ret)

skyjeep50
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Re: 12volt M38 starter issues and a possible solution!

Post by skyjeep50 » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:06 am

Very interesting! I hope the new starter works well. However, you started the post about having a "starting problem" that involved suspected vapor lock. But you decided to replace the starter to fix the problem?? Have you ruled out lack of spark, ignition timing, distributor, fuel delivery, dirty or pooly adjusted carburator, low compression, dirty spark plugs, other electrical problems or actual vapor lock as contributors to the problem? Lots of things cause hard starting. If the motor spun Ok before you took out the starter, and spins well after its replacement, what's your plan B?

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Re: 12volt M38 starter issues and a possible solution!

Post by Steelpots » Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:23 am

Hello. Yes, every facet of vapor lock maintenance/avoidance has been done to this vehicle. I no longer believe the starting issue is related to vapor lock. As for the other issues that could affect starting, yes, they have all be checked and good to go. I think it's a starter issue because the engine has not been spinning up properly. Hopefully I'll know for sure later today.
Chris A.
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Re: 12volt M38 starter issues and a possible solution!

Post by Beacher425 » Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:40 am

I have that same starter on a M38a1 12 volt conversion. I replaced the plunger foot starter with a wired foot pedal starter. Thought about a keyed ignition or a dash push button starter (like on the M35) but decided i had changed enough things and keeped it a foot start vehicle.

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Update: The new starter is in.

Post by Steelpots » Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:20 pm

Okay, tonight my friend and I installed the Ultima starter from O'Reilly Auto Parts in the Jeep but it wasn't without some work. We had to enlarge the mounting holes in the starter so that it would line up correctly. Essentially, it needed just a bit of slop in the mounting holes so that it would fit correctly. From the first time I tried to fire it up with this new starter the jeep engine jumped to life.

I've started the jeep about 25 times and the starter had positive engagement every time and has started easily. Success? Man I hope but seriously, who knows. When I pulled the old starter, I noticed some wear in my flywheel so I'm planning to replace it when I do some engine work in the winter or spring. But in the meantime it gives me some time and the opportunity to test this starter beyond just slapping it on making it work. The true test is over time. So for the next few months I'm going to test out this aftermarket 12 volt starter and see if it performs in my jeep.

Tomorrow I plan to finish up a few other maintenance issues and then take the jeep for a spin and see what happens after she's had a few miles put on her. I'll keep you advised. So far so good.
Chris A.
MSgt, USAF (Ret)


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Re: Update: The new starter is in.

Post by Rod » Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:04 pm

Steelpots, when you say
Steelpots wrote:.......I noticed some wear in my flywheel.......


What do you mean?

Are you talking about the teeth on the flywheel being worn where the starter engages? If so you can just flip the ring gear on the flywheel and you should be good to go. All it takes is an Oxy/Acy torch to heat up the ring gear so it will expand and loosen. Keep it hot enough and you should be able to lift it off, flip it over and it should drop right back on.
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Re: 12volt M38 starter issues and a possible solution!

Post by Steelpots » Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:48 pm

Hi Rod, thanks for your message. Yes, you described what I saw exactly and thanks for that great idea. I would have never thought about flipping the wheel over but you're right. It should work just fine. So far so good with the aftermarket starter. Thanks General.
Chris A.
MSgt, USAF (Ret)

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