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Triumph TR6 - HELP!, starter problems

My TR was working fine when I stored it in Dec and today when I tried to retrieve it it would not start.

First I thought it was a weak battery and even with a boost it had no effect.

When I turn the key to crank all I heard was the click of the solinoid. I cleaned all the contacts and that made no difference. I got a hammer and tapped the starter a couple of times (perhaps stuck brushes or pinion jammed) nothing. Put the car in gear and rocked it back and forth in case the pinion is suck and the motor is jammed...nothing.

I took voltmeter the top of the solinoid where the thick red wire that runs from the battery is 12v; the bottom lead that goes from the solinoid into the starter motor I could not get it any higher than 5.5v when cranking.

I need to get the car going soon and fast as I loose my storage parking spot on Monday.

Any suggestions?

The solenoid moves a copper bar to connect the 12V battery lead to the bottom lead that goes to the actual starter motor. Possibly that bar has built up corrosion/resistance and is not passing enough current.
Also, sometimes one of the 4 field coils will short out to the starter case and pull current away from the armature (the part that turns) I've has this happen in my TR4 as well as the 6. And it didn't short out every time, making it hard to diagnose.
To get moving in a pinch, turn the ignition 'on' but not to 'start'. Take a sturdy screwdriver and short the top solenoid post to the bottom one. That will put 12V power directly to the starter. If it starts, it was probably the solenoid bar. If you get a huge spark but no starter action, it's probably a grounded field coil. Get a bunch of friends and good luck push starting...
PS - Use a big (but cheap) screwdriver!

Steven - Try what Jeff suggests. It may be your battery, or your connections may be loose or dirty. Also if you have a good battery, jumper it to ground and to the starter side of the solenoid. If it starts with the solenoid, it's not your solenoid or your starter. If you have to use the huge screwdriver trick, your solenoid may be bad.

I have exactly the same problem on my TR3A. The charger has been on at 10 amps charge for a couple of days. The battery is 5 years old and it may not be holding a charge. Canadian tire will test it for free, where they put a heavy drain load on it to tell if it can hold or keep a charge.

I have the original lead "helmets" for battery post connectors on my battery cables and I tigheneed them. Still no improvement. It only showed it was charging about 3 amps. But on the last good run it shows it's charging 10 to 15 amps. The next time I tried the starter it just groaned like before.

Every two years I have to remove my starter and squirt about 3 squirts of WD-40 into the part that spins out inside my starter. That's my next attempt.

But, an a TR3A, I get it started with one turn of my hand crank till I eliminate the problem. Another reason I think the older sidescreen TR's were actually easier to run and keep going. In three days, I've driven over 200 miles and the hand crank worked about 7 times. The other times, I was able to park on a hill.

Ever notice how few threads we have on the TR2 to TR3A site ? I suspect it's because the earlier TR's are so much simpler.

Don Elliott, 1958 TR3A
Don Elliott

Don: you said "Also if you have a good battery, jumper it to ground and to the starter side of the solenoid. If it starts with the solenoid, it's not your solenoid or your starter. If you have to use the huge screwdriver trick, your solenoid may be bad."

What is the starter side of the solinoid? is the top screw that appears directly connected to the battery? Or is it the bottom one that appears to be interconnected into the starter motor?

It leaves me really confident that in order to do this test I have to spark t the system close to the carbs when the air clear is off in order to gain access. just hope I don't blow myself up!!

If I do have to remove the starter does the whole intake manifold have to be removed? It looks so tight between the exhaust pipes and the carbs to somehow manipulate this part out.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Now THERE is a sight you do not see these days!!!...a person out front of his car turning a crank. I can just imagine a young person wondering what in the world is he doing??
No Don, it is not because they are simpler, it is because there is (unfortunately) not very many left of the side screen era...I guess to many people lost the cranks and could not get them started:) DRIVE ON!
Steven, if no joy on above good suggestions, do the "friends required" push and get her home. Pull the starter and find the problem on the bench.
Rick C
Rick Crawford

Rick, you did not answer my other much stuff do I have to remove to get the starter out? Of course I am looking for the easiest route and don't want to do extra (un-necessary) work.

I did a friends Spit and that was a breeze because it is the most accessible engine compartment in the world. But the 6, the starter is burried down there.

I have an antique battery with the original Lucas name molded into the casing. I bought it five rears ago with the exposed leaded connectors visible on top. So I checked the voltage of each cell. Five cells were all about 2.15 to 2.2 volts. The one nearest the post going to the solenoid read 0.001 volts. I think I found my problem.

I am not that familiar with the TR6, so I don't know what is involved with removal of the starter.

The terminal I referred to is the one going out the solenoid with the cable that connects to the starter.

I never worried about the sparks and I'm still here.

At car shows and when I am forced to use the hand crank, people are amazed. Anyone younger than about 30 or 35 doesn't even know they existed. When I start it they don't hear any noise. It just starts to run. They are so used to hearing the wrah - wrah - wrah of the starter they can't believe it is running.

Then I get a couple of big young lads to give it a try to see who can start it on the first shot. On the evening before the Canadian Gran Prix last June, there were anbout 100 British sportscars on Peel Street in downtown Montreal, and this cranking competition drew quite a crowd.

Don Elliott, 1958 TR3A.
Don Elliott

I tried to jump the starter by doing the screw driver trick >>> nothing happend, just some sparks.

I also tried the direct approach using on lead of the jumper cables to touch the starter end of the solinoid>>>>>nothing happened but just some more sparks.

Now I have to take it out. Any tricks or suggestions?

It sounds like you need to have the starter bench tested...not that dificult to remove.
Disconnect battery cables. Disconnect the wires to the starter..caution might want to soak with WD40 so you do not break the post while trying to loosen the nuts. There are 2 nuts and bolts holding starter to bell housing. You will need an open end wrench and extension socket (9/16"). If you are lucky, the top bolt will be reversed meaning the bolt comes through the bell housing and the nut is on the starter. With this set up the bolt stays in the bell housing and makes life simpler for removal/install of the starter. The starter can now be removed and tested. On the bench, you can take a battery charger to it to try and turn it not have the stater sitting at the edge of the bench or she will end up on the floor if it starts to turn over.
Keep us informed Steven and good luck.
Rick C
Rick Crawford

Measure the voltage across the battery posts. If it reads less than 10 or 108 volts, it may be a dead cell in the battery. If it reads 12 or 12.5 volts with the voltmeter and it isn't dropping with the voltmeter attached, it means the battery is OK. So it must be the starter.

If the voltage reads OK, you might want to try to dislodge the starter. Make sure the ignition switch is off, put the TR6 into second gear and rock the car back and forth about a foot or so. If you have space in front, push it so the engine turns about half a turn. It may free up the starter if it's jammed. Then try to start it on the battery.

If the voltage reads low, jumper your TR6 battery with jumper cables from another car. If the other car is a recent model with an electronic computer, turn off the engine of the modern car before you connect the jumpers to it. If you don't have space to move the other car next to the TR6, remove the good battery from your family car, put it on the floor next to the TR6 and jumper the TR6 battery from there. It should start.

If you are a member of CAA, call them. I think you're allowed two or three free calls a year for starting and or towing.

Don Elliott, 1958 TR3A
Don Elliott


If you drove the car to the storage space in December? If the car was used but infrequently for a bit before that. Your problem is likely an ice film inside the starter due to condensation. Unit has quite a bit of mass due to windings and takes forever to thaw. Likely contact corosion outside as well?

Plus a bad battery from the description. 5.5V cranking is no good but jumpers if good quality should have worked. One trick is always leave the jumpers on with charge car running for a few minutes before trying. Gives the boosted cars battery a surface charge. Battery voltage does not start the car current does.

Don't get carried away removing it. If you have a heat gun warm it up. Hair dryer works I hear but takes forever.

To remove:

You will need a thin wrench for the inside nuts or a ground down one don't try to remove without it or you will be buying parts. Do not looze the nuts they are hard to find.

Starter removes from under the car. As most do. Couple of bolts electrical connections and its out. Its heavy so don't drop it on your head. Quite easy compared to many front wheel drive vehicles that give a shop with full tools 6 hours R/R?

I think you need a new battery and some warm weather though?


Bill Brayford

Thanks for the info all.

I'll try Bills suggestion now that I have the car towed from my cold winter storage to where it rests today outside and with it being warm on Tuesday will be the real test.

My Battery may be gone but I also tried it with a good battery hooked up and still nothing.

In order to remove it from below then the exhaust sytem needs to be taken off.


Something sounds jammed then. I call it the bendix but thats from American cars same idea.

Sorry don't know the 75 but you should not have to remove exhaust?

Unit should unbolt slide foreward and then tilt out back and down. Thats how my 72 comes out and I do have the 2 pipe manifold. Its a wiggle but it does come out.
Let me know whats in the way.

I am going to play hooky if business lets and will look at my starter. See if I can come up with something. Hope to let you know before it gets too hot. 27 is good 6 the next day is not!


Bill Brayford

Hi, I don't have any solutions to offer, but I am having a similar problem that I need help on.

I took my 1974 TR6 out of storage about 3 weeks ago (I thought spring had arrived -- wrong!). It started without too much trouble, and I drove it for about 30 minutes. I then garaged it since the weather was changing for the worse. When I tried to restart it 2 weeks later, it won't start. The starter is turning the engine over. When I hold the key in the "start" position it sounds like it will start, but as soon as I release the key to the "on" position it stops. It is definitely cranking and "coughing" like it wants to start, but it won't do it.

I put a slow charge on the battery (24 hours), put in new plugs, cleaned the rotor in the distributor and scrapped the ends of the contacts in the distributer top with my fingernail to clean them, cleaned the connections to the coil, took off the air filters and cleaned them, checked/wiggled the fuses, and even tried some starter fluid in the carbs. None of this has been successful.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for me? I'm almost ready to give up and tow it into my mechanic -- but I just don't want to admit defeat quite yet!

Any thoughts or suggestions will be appreciated.

John Burke

Hi Steven

I took a look at mine this morning. My guess is the pinion is jammed after you have tried the connections. Undo the 2 bolts holding the unit in and slide foreward and tip up. You should be able to get at that without hauling all the way out.
The drive gear is likely rusted or jammed so free it up. Dons method or whatever.
Bill Brayford

Hi John,

Make sure you have over 10 volts at the coil in run position. 12 volts cranking.

Check if you have good spark at the plugs.

If the gas has been in the car all winter without Sta-bil might be as simple as bad gas.

Start a new thread if the above does not work easier to find
Let me know
Bill Brayford

John,yours could be a bad starter relay, not switching the power back through thr ballast,or bad ballast. Try a jumper wire Battery + to + on coil.Won't hurt anything for a short time and if she runs, you'll know. Then voltmeter to ballast wire at coil (eng off, ignition on). If no voltage,check other end at relay, if still no voltage - relay is out - if voltage, ballast is out. Think wire is white/yellow (on my 74, anyway) Peter
Peter Gooch

John B
Do yourself a BIG favour and throw that starter fluid in the garbage. It is not necessary to use it as it sounds like you are close and Bill may have it with the bad gas. Starter fluid is either (sp) and is extremly dangerious. I do not think you want to start the car with an explosion! Starter fluid is for cold diesel engine starting and is even then ONLY about a 2 second shot at the air breather filter. I STRONLY recommend DO NOT use it again.
The voltage check above from Bill and Peter are simple to do and confirms a good spark. I presume both chokes work properly and equally when the dash knob is pulled and you give her full choke while trying to start. You might have a plugged fuel filter (changed it lately)? Consider what you have started and you drove it then the coughing while trying to start again. Fuel starvation from a plugged filter?? Crap up in the float bowl?? Do the air valves go up and down as throttle is applied/released?? Is there proper level of oil in the damper??
Let us know what u find before u give up. You know these cars where built to test us :) Good luck
Rick C
Rick Crawford

Hi Bill, Peter and Rick. Thanks for the suggestions.

I hate to admit this but yesterday, I gave up and took the TR to my mechanic. I was just getting too frustrated and figured I tried everything that I was capable of doing, e.g. checking for good spark on the plugs, cleaning the contacts on the coil and checking it for voltage, checking the distributor. I even tried some of the suggestions earlier in the thread, like tapping the starter and solenoid with a wrench.

When I dropped it off, (it's embarassing to sit in the tow truck with your TR6 trailing behind!)the mechanic check a number of things while I was there (plugs, coil, and distributer etc.) After I left, he checked the interior switch and found that was bad -- "fell apart when he handled it". I hadn't check the interior switch. I admit I am "mechanically challenged" as opposed to "mechanically inclined".

I hope to be up and running tomorrow. I'll let you know if it turns out to be more than the switch.

I'll keep reading these threads in an attempt to become more "mechanically inclinded" -- I've done a few things so I think I can learn.

Thanks again for your help.

P.S. Rick I agree on the starter fluid, it won't be used again.
John Burke

Well I tried everything that was suggested and nothing worked.

Today I pulled the starter and must say that the nut for the top bolt is perhaps one of the hardest bolts to reach. I was surprised that the only thing that needed to be removed was the air cleaner and the throtle linkage (only unclipped to gain better access with my spanner). The starter came out through the top...there is no way it can come out the bottom without removing the exhaust pipes.

While it was out I could not turn the pinion gear in the starter so it looks as if the starter is seized. While I could move the gear in and out, I could not rotate the motor. I even bench tested it when it was out with a jumper cable and spare battery and could not get it to turn...lots of sparks though!! looked like I was welding.

Steven- If you are not going to fix the present I sugest the new mini starters as in past post discussion
Don K.

I recently returned from a trip to Maui, one morning as I was returning to Kaanapali with coffee and newspapers I had a red TR pass me going the opposite way was it you? Sure sounded sweet, on route 30 at about 7:00am Maui time, made me homesick for mine.
Regards, Keith

KB, alas it was not me - my car is currently a dark Aqua and will eventually be returned to it's original Mallard. I live on the other side of the island, the quiet side, far from the hotels and hubbub.Hope you enjoved yourself and I know what you mean about homesick for your car. Peter
Peter Gooch

This thread was discussed between 13/04/2003 and 22/04/2003

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