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Old August 17th, 2012, 03:52 PM
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Booba5185 Booba5185 is offline

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Default PMGR Starter Upgrade

Hey everyone,

Ford has used two types of starters in their vehicles, a Positive Engagement starter, and a Permanent Magnet Gear-Reduction (PMGR) starter.

A Positive Engagement starter is highly reliable, but it is large and heavy, requires a large amount of current to operate, and does not have much torque at all. What does this mean you say? It means that if you have an old tired motor that doesn't want to start, you will kill your battery rather quickly. Also, if you have a high compression engine, the starter will either kill your battery trying to start the engine, or may not be able to start it at all. On top of that, since it is so large, the starter is closer to the exhaust, so it is much more susceptible to something called heat soak. Heat soak is basically when the starter gets too hot to operate, and needs to cool off before it will do anything. This condition is most common with headers, specifically long tube headers.

A PMGR starter is also very reliable, but is quite a bit smaller, provides a 4.5:1 gear ratio, requires less current to operate, and considerably lighter. Since a PMGR starter has a 4.5:1 gear ratio, it has quite a bit more torque, so it can turn a high compression engine over without any problems. Another benefit of this increased torque is that the starter uses less current. Heat soak is also rarely an issue with these starters, because they are so much smaller, and have a higher heat tolerance.

In my situation, I didn't NEED a PMGR starter, but my stock starter died and I am a firm believer in replacing something broke with something better. When you are buying the starter, make sure you get a starter to match your transmission. When it comes to small block Ford engines, they all use the same starter, but automatic and manual transmissions require a different starter. The easiest way to make sure you get the right starter, just tell the parts counter that you have a 1992 version of your truck. Using my truck as an example, I have an 1989 F150 with an automatic transmission. I told the parts counter I had a 1992 F150 with an automatic transmission, it's as simple as that.

The physical installion of the PMGR starter is a direct swap, but some wiring changes are needed for it to operate correctly. Here is the Positive Engagement wiring:

Here is the modifications you will need to make for the PMGR starter:

If you have replaced your fender mounted starter relay, you most likely have a 4 post version, which is actually better for this install. The above picture for the PMGR wiring is correct, but you have a hot +12v wire going from the battery to the starter, at all times. With a 4 post relay, the wire going from the fender mounted relay to the starter is only hot (has power) when the starter is engaged (engine is starting). Like I said, both ways work and will be fine, but one way is slightly safer. There are many, many vehicles that come from the factory that have a fuseless wire going straight from the battery to the starter. Here is how the wiring is set up for a 4 post relay:

Now, on to the actual project. First, as always when working under the hood, disconnect the battery(s).

Go ahead and remove the old starter. I don't have a picture of it, but disconnect the wire going to the starter (3\8 inch bolt on the back of the starter) then remove the 2 1\2 inch bolts that hold the starter in. If you don't know where the starter is, go ahead and hit Alt+F4 on your keyboard. In this picture, you can see the old starter compared to the new starter:

Here I'm holding the old stud up to the new stud, you can see the new stud is bigger. You will need to drill the hole out on the cable under the truck. Wear safety glasses, and hold the wire firmly with some vice grips or a good pair of plyers, and go SLOW. You will need to drill it out to a 5\16".

Here's the wire before drilling:

After Drilling:

Once you are done drilling the wire connector out, go ahead and install the new starter. Tighten the 2 1\2" bolts down, and connect the wire you just drilled out to the stud. Now that the new starter is in, go ahead and move up to the top side of the truck, on the passenger side fender. The original starter relay will be a 3 post relay, but to my surprise, I had a 4 post relay. Here's the stock configuration:

Now we'll pretend for a second, imagine I have a 3 post relay. This is the way I would wire in the new starter. I would move the stock wire going to the starter over to the other side of the relay, so it is on the same side as the wire going directly to the battery, like so:

Then, keep in mind we are still pretending, we would run a 12 AWG wire from the stud on the left (where the stock starter wire USED to be) down to the new starter, and connect it to the yellow wire that came pre-connected onto the new starter.
Okay, we can stop pretending now. Since I have a 4 post relay, I obviously wired it like I have a 4 post relay. With the 4 post relay, you leave all the wires on the relay alone, You add a 12 AWG wire from the extra stud (the smaller stud on the bottom of the relay that previous was not used) to the yellow wire that cam pre-connected onto the new starter. In this picture, the relay has is labeled with an I(this post is actually for the older carb'd trucks with a canister coil, it forces the coil to run at 12v while starting):

Here's the finished product, you can see the yellow wire that came preconnected to the starter. The pink wire that is crimped to the yellow wire is run up to the fender mounted relay.

That's it, you are done. The starter sounds totally different, and it does turn the engine over quite a bit quicker. Here's a video:

Now for a very important part. DO NOT SIMPLY JUMPER THE YELLOW WIRE TO THE STOCK STARTER WIRE. This will dramatically shorten the life of the starter, because when the starter gear is spinning, it will act as a generator. This will cause the starter to stay engaged for roughly 2 seconds after you release the key.

89 F-150 5.0l AOD 2x4, 3.55 LS(+4), Converted to HO Roller, 3g Alt, GT40Ps, Y-pipe, Rerouted PCV, Dual Taurus E-fans, Explorer Injectors, Remote ICM, DIY Cold air, Rubber Vacuum System, Tranny cooler, Remote Tranny filter, Saginaw P\S swap, F350 Brakes, more.

Last edited by Booba5185; August 18th, 2012 at 10:15 PM.
Old August 17th, 2012, 05:34 PM
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Russo2 Russo2 is offline

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Good write up, thanks. I should of done this a couple months ago when mine bit the bullet.

1990 F150XLTLariat. 300I6. ZF. BDS. 36x16.5x15FC. SAS under construction.

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Old August 17th, 2012, 07:25 PM
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Old August 17th, 2012, 08:38 PM
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Booba5185 Booba5185 is offline

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Updated with installation.

89 F-150 5.0l AOD 2x4, 3.55 LS(+4), Converted to HO Roller, 3g Alt, GT40Ps, Y-pipe, Rerouted PCV, Dual Taurus E-fans, Explorer Injectors, Remote ICM, DIY Cold air, Rubber Vacuum System, Tranny cooler, Remote Tranny filter, Saginaw P\S swap, F350 Brakes, more.

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