How to Change Your Starter
On a 2007 4.7L Commander [or why you might want to just take it to your mechanic].
Starter died, and after much thought and research, I decided to do it myself. First, why: the OEM part from the dealership is about $90, and you can buy this from the parts department. You can get various remanufactured starters for between $50 and $200 (with most I found about $150). There is NOT, as best I can tell, an OEM alternative, such as Mean Green as there is for older wranglers and CJ's. Now, more importantly, the mechanic's labor: the jeep dealer quoted me $590, minimum, including the part for the job. That is $500 dollars in labor and a minimum charge, subject to go up for time. The local mechanic was only slightly better and would have used a rebuilt part.
Given the cost and the time estimates I saw, I decided to do it myself. Regarding the estimates, here is what I saw: it would take about two hours, it is like playing tetris under a vehicle, and one person said that NEEDED to remove the drive shaft for access.
It took me about 4 hours, taking my time of course. The tetris analogy was spot on. But I did NOT need to remove the drive shaft, although it would have made the actual removal and installation far quicker (but since I have never pulled a drive shaft on a car made after 1977 I decided it was more trouble than it was worth).
So, there are your considerations for anyone facing the same problem (battery is good, starter just clicks and nothing happens). For reference my jeep is exactly 35 months old and has 50.5k miles.
FIRST, LET THE CAR BE ALL THE WAY DOWN [likely not a problem if you just found out you have a bum starter and have taken the pains to look at this and locate a new one, but that exhaust is HOT]
SECOND, disconnect the positive battery terminal (its the amps that kill you)
Loosen lug nuts, jack up the car and support with jack stand (do this as far forward and to the outboard of the vehicle as possible for access). Remove the tire & wheel assembly.
Climb on under with a 13mm socket and remove the oil pan cover (four bolts). Now, before you get going underneath, remove the fender clips from the wheel well molding and remove it - this will provide you with more information on what you are dealing with and provide access to the wiring.
Take a look in and get a feel for where the wires are, I would recommend disconnecting the small wire (the little male/female clip on) now and saving the bolted on battery cable until after you have removed the mounting bolts.
Now, climb back under. The starter is located just forward of the transmission (and actually bolts on to it), on the drivers side, and at about the 7 or 8 o'clock position looking from the rear of the vehicle. The starter is held in place by two (2) fifteen millimeter bolts and the wires (one clip, one screw, a 13mm). I HIGHLY recommend you wear mechanic's gloves. Using a socket, loosen the bolts (either order, I did bottom first) and remove for reuse.
Now remove that 13mm battery cable.
Before you start trying to shimmy the assembly out, you need to remove the heat shield while it is still in the engine compartment. I spend 40 minutes trying to shimmy the starter assembly out with the heat shield in place, just not happening. [this is likely why some decided removal of the drive shaft is necessary]
Once you have the heat shield off, tetris part one begins: shimmy the thing around, probably about seventeen thousand ways, until it comes out just about in the center of the bottom of the car (it won't go out the side).
Once you get it out, check the heat shield against the new part. I had heard before hand that Jeep redesigned the heat shield a bit, but the dealer said not for the 4.7. WRONG, the screw is moved about an inch. A series of gradually bigger torx bits worked from both sides will put about a perfectly sized and flattened hole for attachment.
Now work the new starter in place, then place and attach the heat shield (yes, more tetris). That done, orient it correctly and attach the battery wire with the original nut. Now move it into place and attach the mounting bolts. Reattach the battery cable, fender molding and oil pan. Have a beer.
I have pictures that I will try to attach as an addendum. If I misstated anything, I am welcome to be corrected. My hope is that anyone who tackles this does it with more information than I did.
It's a jeep thing... I am one of the few people, outside of rockcrawling, that has made use of the "if you can read this, please roll me over" sticker
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77 CJ-5, 4" suspension 33x12.5 R15 BFG AT/KO
- gear shift is Budweiser tap.
07 Jeep Commander
- stock for now
03 Jeep Rubicon (still in the family - got passed down)
03 Dodge Durango SLT plus (with the 5.9L)