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Gary, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Classic Car
Satisfied Customers: 1002
Experience:  Senior Technician
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79 ford f150 400M w/ Centerforce Flywheel.....Starter

Customer Question

79 ford f150 400M w/ Centerforce Flywheel.....Starter engages smoothly & turns engine great, it won't however spring-pull itself out of the ring gear.
JA: How old is the transmission? Have you checked the brake switch?
Customer: I've used a spacer .097" to bring the insertion out to approx 5/16". Power is being removed properly, but the pinion does not extract properly. I've also changed from a 9t to a 10t pinion w/ same results.
JA: What is the model of your '2147481646 classic?
Customer: Whaat? Transmission? 214-----classic?
JA: Are you hoping to fix this yourself? What have you tried so far?
Customer: Experienced Mechanic & Engine yes, I'm going to fix it myself.
JA: Anything else you think the mechanic should know?
Customer: Balanced & Blueprinted New build (Flat tappet break in completed at the cost of 1 starter).....
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Classic Car Mechanic about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Classic Car
Expert:  Pete replied 1 year ago.

My name is ***** ***** I am a professional here at Just Answer. I noticed that your question had not received a response and thought I would see if you still need help with this.I apologize for the delay and I hope I can still assist you with this here.My info is somewhat limited on your model here but I had seen no one else has responded and would like to see if I can help here.If at any time you feel that I cannot help with this please let me know.

If the starter was not replaced this may be the cause here.I have seen internal failure of starters in the past before that can cause a fault like this here with the starter assembly needing replaced.I would check into this further to see if this is the cause here.If this was already checked into and found o.k. let me know.

If more help is needed, use the reply tab to continue our conversation. If no further assistance is needed, kindly rate my service.You can rate at any time and we can continue to work on your question as this will not close out your question.Keep in mind in some cases it can be difficult to fully diagnose or help repair your vehicle without seeing it and I work on delivering the best possible answer from what I see to work with.

Thanks Pete

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
As Stated: Balanced & Blueprinted New build (Flat tappet break in completed at the cost of 1 starter).....
I have been through 2 rebuilt starters w/ same trouble.....I have 2 New starters one w/9t pinion & one w/10t pinion. They smoothly insert into teeth of flywheel & retract smoothly until you turn the engine & then they don't pull back out. When I initially started the new engine, it held the starter drive until it shelled out but was able to finish the 35min flat tappet break in. When engaged to turn engine w/o spark plugs it turns smoothly & starter shuts off properly but the drive is not pulling itself free from the flywheel. The engine was balanced with this new Centerforce flywheel & is installed in vehicle. Is there a starter that will physically (or electrically) pull itself out?
Expert:  Pete replied 1 year ago.

Unfortunately this is all of the info I have on this here myself.

I will open your question up for others here to see if someone else can assist further on this as there may be others here that may have more info on what to check or do with this issue.I hope you can get this resolved with ease.No need to reply to my last post here unless it is a last resort as it will keep your question locked to me and others will not be able to view it.If you feel you want to continue to work with me on this feel free to reply at any time but keep in mind in some cases it can be difficult to fully diagnose or help repair this without seeing your vehicle.

Thanks Pete

Expert:  Mike S. replied 1 year ago.

It appears to me as though the teeth are sticking. I don't know why Ford designed a starter like this that really has no way of shimming it. I've seen shims made for these kind of starters but I never did understand how they were supposed to work cause they don't shim the starter further or closer away from the flywheel, just closer or further away from the transmission bell housing because the starter bolts are horizontal instead of vertical.

If the starter retracts just fine with no spark plugs in then it should also do so with them in, cause when the engine starts, it should throw the gear back in. that small return spring doesn't do much.

Somehow, I believe you are going to have to move the starter away from the flywheel. If there is any play at all when the starter bolts are loosened, then try loosening them, pry out on the starter, away from the flywheel and then tighten the bolts.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
As Stated: When engaged to turn engine w/o spark plugs it turns smoothly & starter shuts off properly but the drive is not pulling itself free from the flywheel.
There is no play in the bolts for any lateral movement .....The .097 shim that I used was a full flange (even all 360*) and it moved the drive out to where there is a 5/16" tooth engagement, even all around & not bottoming out in between the teeth on either the flywheel or the pinion. (But apparently enough friction to not let the drive retract)
Expert:  Mike S. replied 1 year ago.

My mistake, I don't know what to say then except I would hate to tell you the problem is with the flywheel.

I am not going to say that, since it sounds like that is an expensive flywheel and I don't want to get you removing a transmission if it isn't going to fix it, so I am just going to opt out and maybe just maybe another expert on here knows what the problem is.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yeah, is a quite expensive flywheel AND the engine was balanced using it.....can't just go back to a stock flywheel. The centerforce clutch & pressure plate was chattering a little with the stock flywheel & even fewer horsepower.
Expert:  Gary replied 1 year ago.

Hi Bart,

I see your question has been unattended for over one day.

As the previous tech has already said, I feel your flywheel is the cause of your trouble.

I would have aborted the cam run-in once I knew the starter had not released.

The run-in could be resumed at a later time.

35 minutes of pinion to ring gear is certainly the cause.

I also cannot see how you could run a 9t or 10t pinion on the same ring gear.

I hope the flywheel was neutral balanced on it's own first, before complete engine balancing.

Sorry for bad news.


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Been away from the house for 8 days.......The pinion was trashed in the first 10 did not ride on the ring gear for 35 min. Audibly no longer engaged within 5-10 seconds. 9t & 10t pinions were recommended by a Starter Design Engineer from a high end competition starter company
Expert:  Gary replied 1 year ago.

Hi Bart,

I think you should take your failed starter motor back to where you bought it.

I see starters with 9, 10, and 11 teeth.

I can't see how a different teeth count can mesh correctly.

Have you got it out, and what do the flywheel teeth look like?


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The teeth are all still brand new on the entire flywheel. I've had 2 rebuilt starters installed & rotated (as in earlier discussions) w/o spark plugs. I currently have 2 NEW starters in my possession. I put the 10t on one & left the other 9t.....I am hand inserting the pinion & it pulls back smoothly. when I engage the starter electrically, it does not want to pull out easily but through some wiggling, it comes out. I am about to take .010 off the outside edge of the engine to bell housing alignment plate. Will be working diligently to solve this issue this coming week.....Thx, Bart