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When you say "starts to start", do you mean the starter begins to crank the motor and then stops?

Starters a pretty simple devices. Common failures are the starter solenoid, which is a giant high current switch. When you activate the starter, you're actually activating a magnetic coil that pulls a plunger so that a copper plate connects to copper lugs to send the high current into the motor. That plate arcs a teeny bit every time it makes contact and the arc marks degrade the contact surface, leading to sketchy behavior and eventually no starts. The manifests itself with a "click" when you activate the starter, but no cranking.

#2 are the bushes in the starter motor. Once the solenoid passes the current to the starter motor, the current then pass through some carbon bushes that are spring loaded and rest on little copper contacts on the part that spins. The bushes become worn and they don't press as hard on the contacts as they used to and the copper contacts get dirty. That will manifest itself with slow cranking or no cranking.

#3 is that the starter draws high current for a short period of time. Any poor terminal connections between the starter and the battery will cause some resistance. Resistance cuts down on the amount of current that the starter can draw upon and it also creates heat. More heat creates more resistance, which causes more heat.

Solenoids can be replaced. You can also take it apart and flop the plate over and get some life off the other side of the contact plate sometimes. Starter bushes can be replaced and the contact points on the starter motor can be cleaned up with sand paper. Connections can be taken apart, cleaned and reassembled tightly. That takes care of most starter problems in my experience.
Good post Ray. I suspect bad connections too. Usually when the starter solenoid goes out, it spins openly. Not always though.

Brian
 
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