Start Me Up: How To Set Up A High Performance Starter For Racing

A racecar starter doesn’t get much attention until the driver hits the button to start their vehicle and horrible noises are produced instead of the engine kicking over. It doesn’t matter if you’re using an ultra torque-style starter or an ultra high speed-style unit, they both need to be installed correctly to avoid issues. Powermaster is here with some great tips to make sure you don’t lose a round of racing due to an improperly installed starter.

High-performance starters are the best choice for drag racing applications where engines have higher compression ratios that needs to be overcome. There’s also more heat under the hood and larger amounts of ignition timing that need to be dealt with. A high speed starter like what Powermaster offers will provide over 200 foot-pounds of torque and 25-percent more cranking RPM for engines. An ultra torque starter will crank out over 250 foot-pounds of torque from its 3.4 horsepower motor to help kick over just about any engine.

To ensure your starter is going to function correctly and not encounter any issues, there are a few basic things you need to follow during installation. The first item to be addressed is to make sure your pinion clearance is correct. Take the time to ensure there’s a minimum of 1/16-inch separation between your flywheel or ring gear and the starter’s pinion gear. It’s also a good practice to rotate the assembly and check several spots for this measurement.

Chris Donaldson is one of the techs at Powermaster and he provides some information about the gear mesh you need to look for when setting up a starter.

“It’s a good idea to check the engagement of the pinion gear and ring gear teeth. Basically, pull the pinion out so it is engaged with the ring gear. Using a standard paperclip, measure from the bottom of the valley of two pinion teeth to the top of the tooth of the flexplate tooth. There should be 0.020- to 0.035-inch (a paperclip is about .035-inch). If the mesh is too tight, install one of the shims provided between the engine block and the starter mounting block.”

The next thing you need to look at when installing a starter is the gear engagement — not setting the engagement correctly can do a lot of damage to the starter and the flywheel that will eventually lead to your engine not starting.

“The first thing you need to do is pull the pinion gear out and eng the ring gear. The teeth of the pinion gear should engage with the ring gear about 1/2 to 2/3 into the gear. Too little and the starter may disengage…too much and the starter will have trouble disengaging when the engine starts causing stress and damage to the starter. Powermaster includes a shim that can be placed behind the starter block to alter the depth of engagement,” Donaldson explains.

So, when it comes time to select a starter to put in your vehicle, which is the best? Since racing applications tend to require heavy-duty parts, either a high-speed or high-torque starter will work. You want to have the faster cranking speeds each provides to avoid engine kick-back.

“The importance of the high-speed starter is that it produces about 25-percent more cranking RPM. In some engines, such as alcohol injected, engines with magnetos, or even with some crank-triggered ignition systems, the extra cranking RPM is important. Magnetos create their own energy and sometimes need higher RPM to produce a spark. Alcohol burns cooler, plus mechanical systems need cranking RPM to get rolling. Also, some crank triggers with EFI systems have a threshold of RPM they need to see before creating a signal. The High Speed is capable of satisfying all of these needs,” Donaldson says.

To learn more about which starter will work best for you, make sure to head over to Powermaster’s website right here.

Article Sources

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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