There are several reasons why a
1994-1996 Chevy Impala fails to start. Sometimes the symptoms
will help, other times it won't tell you much. It always helps
to work from easiest to most difficult. Even the most
knowledge car buff over thinks things sometimes. So no matter
how sure you are about things, always take a minute or two to
run through some obvious checks before blaming a bad starter.
Is it Just a Weak or Dead Battery?
Does your Impala SS crank or attempt
to crank at all? If it weakly cranks a time or two and then
stops it's likely a weak or dead battery. Many Impala SS
owners store their cars for long periods of time. Even if the
battery is disconnected while stored it can lose its charge,
particularly if its an older battery. A typical weak or dead
battery in a 1994-1996 Chevy Impala SS results in one or two
weak attempts of the engine to crank and then you'll just hear
a ticking noise when you turn the key. Anyone who's ever
experienced a weak or dead battery in a 1994-1996 Impala SS
knows the trademark "errrrrrrrrrrr errrrrrrrrrrr tick tick
tick tick tick" sound!
A weak/dead Impala battery is an easy fix. You can have your
battery tested or test it yourself to ensure you are replacing
a defective component and not wasting your time and money.
There are a variety of testers on the market today to let you
know if your battery is on its last leg. In fact many auto
parts stores today will test your battery for you. Most can
even test your battery right on the car for you free of
charge. If you have a battery
you can try charging the battery for awhile or jump starting
your Impala. Many battery chargers even have a "hot start"
feature in which the the battery charger jump starts the car.
Be sure to follow all directions and safety precautions if you
try any of these remedies.
Fuel problems can also cause your
Impala SS to not start. An empty fuel tank or a faulty fuel
pump or other fuel delivery problems are two common scenarios.
While fuel problems will usually result in an engine that
cranks but won't fire over, that isn't always the case. I know
I've seen at least two occasions when a low/empty fuel tank
level resulted in an Impala SS simply ticking and not turning
over. The bottom line is make sure there is fresh fuel in the
tank and your beast isn't attempting to start by sucking air
instead of dinosaur juice!
Wiring Problems, Ignition Switch or Other Problems?
If your impala simply does NOTHING
when you attempt to start it then we need to consider things
like the ignition switch, a totally dead or disconnected
battery, wiring problems or a faulty starter. If the car
battery charge level is low enough it won't even have enough
juice for the starter solenoid or to power much else. Again
check battery cable connections and ensure the battery is
charged. Also check any plug and ignition wires readily
visible from the top and front of your Impala's engine.
When you turn the key to the accessory position or the
position just before you crank to start, do you see any dash
lights, radio lights, dome lights etc? If you have instrument
cluster lights and power to other things then you have at
least some power coming from the battery..but that doesn't
mean its anywhere near enough to crank the starter and start
If you have no instrument cluster lights but other electrical
items in the car function properly the problem might be your
1994-1996 Chevy Impala ignition switch.
VATS Pass Key Security Problems?
Another common problem deals with
the VATS vehicle security setup on these Impala SS's. If you
see a flashing "Pass Key Fault" or "Security" light in your
instrument cluster display the problem could be with your VATS
antitheft system. Basically your Impala's ignition key has a
"chip" installed which is nothing more than a resistor. When
you stick the key in the ignition your Impala reads the
resistance across the resistor in your ignition key. If it's
your care starts. If not your impala will either not start or
start, run a few minutes and then stall.
Get Your Starter Tested
Many do it yourself mechanics will
attach a jumper wire to the positive terminal of the battery
and then attach the other end to the starter solenoid to
attempt to rule out starter problems when troubleshooting. I
don't recommend this unless you are experienced enough to know
what you are doing as you could easily cause yourself more
problems if you hook things up incorrectly. Besides you can
usually remove your starter and get it tested for free at most
auto parts stores.
Experience: My 1996 Impala SS Did Nothing When I Hit the Key
No ticking, no
I thought it would be helpful if I
shared my personal experience with a 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS.
One day my Impala SS started fine. Several weeks later I went
to start it up after being stored and it refused to start. No
cranking. No "tick tick tick". . . absolutely nothing. The
lights on the dash lit up, the battery was properly charged,
all the battery cable connections were fine but the old Imp
failed to roar to life. All the dummy lights on the instrument
cluster lit up with the key on but there was simply nothing
going on when I hit the key to bump the starter.
After spending awhile looking things over from up top, I
decided I had to do the dreaded and put her on jack stands to
figure out what was going on. Before doing much else I decided
to give the mechanic's secret starter fix a try. There is a
technique some old schoolers use to squeeze some more starts
out of a tired starter. That's right, I tried the old "whack
the starter with a hammer trick" to see if it would fire up.
On a side note, I later learned this is a bad idea on these
cars! They have permanent magnet gear reduction starters in
them and hitting the starter with a hammer too hard can break
the magnets inside. Luckily I didn't hit the starter very hard
so it wasn't an issue for me. I'm not sure just how hard you'd
have to smash a starter to break the magnets inside, but it is
possible. I'd hate to see someone break their starter magnets
only to discover later on that the starter wasn't the problem.
Since I was already under the car I decided to do the next
logical thing and remove the starter. As I started to remove
the starter wiring I quickly realized why my Impala refused to
start. The braided copper wire coming from the starter's brush
assembly inside the starter and going to the starter solenoid
were basically fried. (I've included a photo below). It looked
like the wire got hot and/or shorted out. The wire was
corroded and burnt and in two pieces. Looking up from the
bottom of the car the connections all looked great. However
when I removed the nuts to take the wires off the starter's
solenoid I realized the aforementioned wire was in two pieces.
I was lucky enough to have my starter repaired and back on the
car the next day. . . all for less than 50 bucks!
the Starter on a 1994-1996 Chevy Impala SS?
So where is it
and how do I get it off?
Now those more experienced car buffs
are probably rolling their eyes..but this lens is intended to
help out newbies as much as possible. We won't assume
anything, so YES we actually are going to discuss where the
starter is located. The starter on your Chevy Impala SS LT1
350 5.7L engine is located low on the bottom passenger side of
the engine. You can barely see it from above and you have to
remove it from under the car. The good news is it probably
takes just as long safely and carefully raising your car and
placing it on jackstands as it does to actually remove the
In the image above we see the starter shaded in red. In this
view are looking at the passenger side valve cover with oil
fill tube at the top of the image. In front of that is the
alternator with the serpentine belt going down to wrap around
the A/C compressor pulley down near where the starter is
located. Of course things aren't quite as neat when you climb
under your car and look up, but it's very easy to locate the
starter. Look on the right (passenger) side of the engine
around the oil pain area and use the diagram above to quickly
orient yourself where the starter is found. Easy!
Do I Need for the Job?
you'll need to replace your Chevy Impala SS Starter.
Since this job is relatively simple
you won't need much. Generally you'll need the following items
I've listed below.
Tools: - 9/16" (3/8 drive is ideal) 14mm might be a possibility as
- Ratchet handle
- 6" long ratchet extension bar
- 5/16" socket and/or wrench. 8mm is a possibility as well. I
used 1/4 drive but whatever you have will work fine.
- A jack and jackstands to lift and support your Impala (Duh).
A wheel chock, block of wood, or something else to prevent the
unlikely event of your impala rolling while you are under it.
- Car ramps if you prefer them to using jackstands (Duh)
- Safety glasses. Seriously! Unless your impala is a showroom
clean trailer queen you won't believe the amount of crud and
gunk that has managed to find its way on top of the starter
and this area in general. The bonus is as soon as you start
bumping things around it all comes down directly in your eyes.
I thought I was too cool for safety glasses too, until I got
two bits o' road gunk in my eyes in the first two minutes!
- A small piece of sandpaper, emery cloth, a wire brush or
something else to remove some of the corrosion on wire
terminals before you reinstall things.
How Do I
Remove My 1994-1996 Chevy Impala SS Starter Motor?
It's really a simple process! There
are really only 5 basic steps: 1. Disconnect your vehicle's battery.
2. Safely lift and support the front passenger side, or entire
front, of your Impala SS.
3. Remove the two starter mounting bolts (9/16")
4. Remove the starter wiring at the solenoid that comes down
from the engine compartment. One 9/16" nut and one 5/16" nut.
5. Carefully pull the starter out.
That's all there is to it. For those who want a little more of
a walk through, here's some more details.
1. Disconnect your battery.
This is always the safest idea when
working on any electrical components! You could just
disconnect the negative cable but I usually play it safe and
disconnect positive and negative.
Lift and support the front of your Impala.
You really only need to lift the
passenger side. However if you are a bigger guy (or gal) you
might need some extra room. If you have to raise the car up
too far I'd recommend lifting the entire front end rather then
just one side. Jacking up just one side or corner of your car
very high is never a great idea from a safety standpoint. If
you need to raise your impala very high you might want to
raise the entire front end; there is less danger of the car
sliding off a jack stand.
Some people prefer to use ramps. You can certainly do that,
but I prefer jack stands. A lowered SS is hard to easily get
up on most normal ramps. Also I just don't like the way ramps
get in my way. Jack stands simple
a little more room to access things underneath your ride from
Whether you use jack stands, ramps, or some other form of
lifting your impala always take a few extra seconds to be
safe. Chock/block wheels, set your parking brake, make sure
the car is in hear etc.
Remove the starter mounting bolts.
Take your 9/16" socket and rachet
with an extension and remove the two starter mounting bolts.
These are the two mounting bolts labeled #16 in the starter
diagram we looked at earlier. They run into the engine block
vertically and you'll easily see their large hex heads staring
back at you. They should break loose fairly easy.
Now that the bolts are removed there isn't much holding the
starter up except for crud and the hole where it mates with
the flywheel. You'll need to wiggle and pull out on the
starter to unmate it from the engine. Before you do that
realize two things.
a. The starter is much heavier than it looks. (10 to 12
b. We still have the wiring attached to the solenoid. There
isn't more than a few inches of play in the wiring. If you go
yanking on the attached wiring, or let the starter fall,
something is going to break.
Before we go pulling the starter out let's disconnect the
wiring we can reach easily.
Remove the starter wiring at the solenoid and carefully remove
the starter to finish disconnecting it.
On top of the starter motor you'll
see a smaller shorter cylinder where the wires attach. This is
the solenoid. The short wire that goes from the solenoid to
inside of the starter (I believe it's called the starter field
wire) we leave alone. Make sure that nut is tight and then
leave it alone. We need to disconnect the two other wires from
the solenoid. You'll see the wires coming down to the starter
from the engine compartment up above.
You'll see a larger wire and a smaller (usually yellow) wire.
The larger wire comes from the positive battery terminal. in
many cases is easier to reach and easy to remove. Take a 9/16"
wrench or socket and remove the nut on the solenoid that holds
the larger wire from the positive battery terminal on. Remove
the wire and mark it if you are worried, but the folks at GM
pretty much made this idiot proof. In fact mine even has a
special ear or tab that goes into a corresponding slot on the
solenoid to hold it in place.
Now that we have the larger wire out of the way you'll have a
better look at the smaller wire on the solenoid. This smaller
wire is the "S" terminal wire and it comes from your ignition
switch. This wire is probably a little harder to get to.
You'll see the stud it goes on is a little further back on the
solenoid and its at an odd angle for your hand and its just
generally harder to get to. It's doable, but I found it much
easier to just pull the starter all the way out and then
remove the nut for the smaller wire. This allows you to turn
the starter slightly toward you and things are MUCH easier to
get to. Of course I suppose this all depends on which way the
solenoid was turned when it was installed on your starter.
Some may be easier to reach than others.
Just remember the starter is a little heavy and you don't want
to let it hang by any wiring. Hold the starter with one hand
and remove the last wiring connection with the other.
You can absolutely remove the wiring first before ever
removing the starter bolts, I've just found this technique
faster. The solenoid wiring certainly isn't unreachable with
the starter mounted. If you are lucky enough to have a starter
with a solenoid orientated in such a way that the wiring is
easier to reach, go for it without removing the starter first.
With bigger hands and little patience I just don't feel like
struggling for 5 minutes to reach and remove the smaller
solenoid wire. Carefully doing things in the aforementioned
order is just a little faster.
Note the presence of any shims etc.
While I don't believe a stock Impala
SS starter would have any shims, your starter may have them if
it's been replaced previously. Make note of the presence of
any thin metal shims that were in place. Shims are just pieces
of metal used to space and align the gear on the starter with
the teeth in the flywheel of your Impala engine.
will a Replacement Starter Cost? (I was lucky enough to have my
stock starter repaired for $40!)
but expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $280.
Telling you exactly how much a
replacement starter will cost is a little tough. Generally you
can expect to pay around $60 to $260. The actual price will
depend on a variety of factors which include what type of
starter your car requires, whether you choose to buy new,
used, or remanufactured, whether you buy locally or online,
and what brand you elect to use.
If you want to purchase a starter locally from your auto parts
store you'll likely have it the same or the next day. I'd
expect to pay around $150-$200 with core charges for a
You can often save a significant amount of money if you order
your Impala SS starter online. I've seen remanufactured and
aftermarket starters in the $50 to $100 range if you are
willing to do a little homework and wait for the part to be
shipped. If you plan to order a starter online take extra care
to ensure you order the proper starter. Nearly every reputable
site will have a cross reference chart to tell you which stock
part number the starter will safely replace. Simply match up
the part number on your bad starter with the model designed to
replace it and you should be safe. Ask questions if you are
worried and this will help decrease the chances of the wrong
part being received.
I was lucky enough to get my starter repaired. It only cost me
$40.00 for a local starter and alternator repair shop to test
my starter and order the needed replacement part. The issue
with my starter had to do with the brush plate and was a
relatively easy fix. A starter repair may not make economic
sense in all cases. For example, some Impalas have a starter
with a pressed in solenoid. A solenoid is normally easily
removable and serviceable. Had the solenoid in my starter been
bad they would have had to drill out the solenoid and the
extra work and parts would have been more expensive. In that
case it would have made more sense for me to just purchase an
economic newly remanufactured starter. That being said it
doesn't hurt to see if you can have your starter rebuilt or
repaired locally to save you some cash.
you Buy the Correct Starter
One size does
not fit all.
are actually a few slightly different versions of Chevy Impala
SS starters depending on when your car was manufactured. You
need to make sure you purchase a proper replacement. In
addition, many Impala owners also elect to purchase a starter
for a different vehicle, such as a 1992-1996 corvette, a late
1999 Tahoe, or similar vehicle that uses a starter that is
compatible with the Impala SS LT1 engine. This is usually to
attempt to upgrade to a lighter high
starter, to save money, or some combination of the two. The
best way to ensure you get the correct starter for your car is
to talk to a knowledgeable auto parts person before you plunk
down your hard earned cash.
I'd suggest taking the part number off the end of your starter
with you to the auto parts store. Personally I'd take the
starter in to the auto parts store and have it tested to
ensure it's bad. Starter testing is generally a free service
offered by most well known auto part stores. They'll be able
to tell you if your starter is bad and help you properly
choose a replacement.
Covering all the different starters for the 1994-1996 Chevy
Impala SS is something we will get into here. Besides the
topic has already been covered in detail in an Impala SS
forum. This thread covers the topic in a level of detail I
would never be smart enough, or patient enough, to compose:
The bottom line is do your homework. Whether you elect to go
aftermarket, or high performance make sure you take the time
to double check you are buying the right starter for your
Install Your New 1994-1996 Chevy Impala SS Starter
is reverse of removal . . .
"Installation is reverse of removal".
I've always hated that stupid line in car repair manuals.
Although it's true, it always seems like the lazy way out.
While it's a great way to save time and space when writing a
repair guide, it doesn't do much to help the guy with the
wrench avoid little issues.
Luckily, with a starter replacement, the installation
generally isn't much different than the removal procedure.
If you've purchased a replacement starter that requires the
use of shims be sure to follow all directions provided with
your starter for the shimming procedure. Although it's
generally an easy procedure, we don't want to overlook it!
I recommend taking a second or two to clean things up in the
area around the starter. Make sure the threads in the holes
for the mounting bolts are clean and the threads of the bolts
themselves are clean. If you've been lucky enough to have your
starter repaired, take a moment to clean up the exterior of
the starter if the shop wasn't so kind.
You can either reinstall your wiring on the solenoid before
mounting the starter or after. I installed the smaller yellow
wire on the solenoid loosely and then mounted the starter with
the two mounting bolts. I then tightened up the smaller wire
on the solenoid and then made the final wire connection with
the larger wire.
If you bought a replacement starter that came with new bolts
you should use the mounting bolts that came with the starter
rather than the bolts that mounted your old starter. You
probably noticed when you removed the starter mounting bolts
one is longer than the other. Just looking at the starter it
will be obvious where the longer bolt goes; on the driver's
side mounting hole.
It's not a bad idea to torque things to spec with a torque
wrench if you have one. I don't have my repair manual or
factory service manuals easily accessible, but I believe the
torque specification for the starter mounting bolts is 35
Lower your car from the stands and then reconnect the battery
Finally, crank her up and admire your handy work.
You just saved yourself anywhere from one, to several hundred,
Impala SS Starter Solenoid Wiring Made Ridiculously Easy
Just in case!
It's only two wires to deal with,
(three if you accidentally removed the starter field wire) but
I suppose things can get messed up.
I thought it might be helpful to include the photo above to
help list the typical way a solenoid is wired on these
starters. This is a picture taken from the end of the starter
with the solenoid on top. Just as it would appear if there was
enough room for you to stand and look down the end of the
starter with it mounted on your car.
You'll notice the large starter field wire coming out of the
body of the starter at the bottom of the picture. This wire
simply goes on the bottom solenoid terminal. Directly above
that is the other larger terminal on the solenoid. This is
where your large wire that comes from the positive post on
your battery goes. Finally we place the small wire from the
ignition switch on the right hand terminal. The terminal on
the left is typically unused with a newer ignition system like
the Impala has.