Starter Replacement


By Goldmaster



Is it REALLY the Starter?

Consider easy to overlook problems and get your Impala starter tested before you spend your hard earned money!


First things first . . .

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
charger 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?

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 your Imp.

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 the correct value 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.

My Personal Experience: My 1996 Impala SS Did Nothing When I Hit the Key

No ticking, no cranking, nothing

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. It didn't.

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!

Where is the Starter on a 1994-1996 Chevy Impala SS?

So where is it and how do I get it off?

Here we see the standard starter (in red) placement on an LT-1.

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 starter.

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!


What Tools Do I Need for the Job?

Everything you'll need to replace your Chevy Impala SS Starter.

All the tools you need to replace your '94-'96 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.

- 9/16" (3/8 drive is ideal) 14mm might be a possibility as well.
- 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.

Other stuff:

- 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 very easy!


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.


2. 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
afford a little more room to access things underneath your ride from different angles.

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.


3. 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 pounds)
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.


4. 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.


5. 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.



How Much will a Replacement Starter Cost? (I was lucky enough to have my stock starter repaired for $40!)

It depends, but expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $280.

How much will a replacement starter for my Impala SS set me back?

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 remanufactured starter.

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.


Make Sure you Buy the Correct Starter

One size does not fit all.

Check and double check to make sure you buy the right starter for your Impala SS!There 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 performance 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 factory original,
affordable aftermarket, or high performance make sure you take the time to double check you are buying the right starter for your needs.

How to Install Your New 1994-1996 Chevy Impala SS Starter

Installation is reverse of removal . . .

Just reverse it!

"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 ft-lb.

Lower your car from the stands and then reconnect the battery cables.

Finally, crank her up and admire your handy work.
You just saved yourself anywhere from one, to several hundred, dollars!


1994-1996 Impala SS Starter Solenoid Wiring Made Ridiculously Easy

Just in case!

Just in case you mess things up, here is how the starter solenoid is usually wired.

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.

No sweat!


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