There’s a great deal of unsung heroes that make up any engine. While each and every component is vital to smooth operation (or operation at all), many often go overlooked. One such component is the starter motor.
It goes without saying that the starter is critical for your mill; after all, the engine would remain nothing more than a lifeless hunk of metal without the starter. However, the starter doesn’t exactly have the easiest job – nor the most friendly working environment. Nevertheless, it’s expected to crank the engine over quickly and reliably, and to withstand the high-heat, high-stress habitat of the engine bay.
Fortunately, MSD Performance has developed a line of heavy duty, high-powered starter motors that both thrive in this climate and fit a vast range of applications – from daily-drivers down on power, to high-compression monster motors. We got in touch with Joe Pando at MSD, and he was able to shed a bit of light on what to expect from their line of DynaForce starters.
Pando told us, “MSD offers two different styles of high-performance starter motors: high torque and high speed. The high torque starters are designed to fit the widest range of applications – from GMs and Fords to Jeeps and Chryslers, both on the street and at the strip.”
He continued to elaborate on the high torque starters, stating that with a 3.4-horsepower output, they have more horsepower than just about any typical factory starter motor. This output, coupled with their 4.4:1 gear ratio, gives them the ability to spin most all engines, according to Pando.
He went on to discuss MSD’s other style: the high speed starter. He explained that these starters also cover GMs, most Fords, and big-block Chryslers, but are reserved for more specialized applications.
Utilizing a 3.37:1 gear ratio, the high speed starter is designed to conquer large cubic-inch engines – with as high as an 18:1 compression ratio – or a motor using a magneto like the MSD Pro Mag – which requires a hefty 250-plus RPM turning speed to start.
Speaking about both the high torque and the high speed styles, Pando said, “MSD starters have ball-bearing supported armature and pinion gears and include an adjustable billet-aluminum mounting block, which allows clocking of the solenoid to keep it away from obstacles like headers or chassis frame rails.”
As you can see, the starter is practically bumping shoulders with the header tube. Being so close to all that heat, a factory starter would not be able to perform its best (if at all).
Pando continued on the solenoids, stating that those on MSD starters are nickel-plated, with heavy-duty plated contacts for endurance. Between the ease of relocation thanks to the adjustable mounting block, and the armored solenoid, heat is practically a non-issue for MSD’s starters compared to factory units.
Keeping in mind that not every gearhead is in the market to equip a high-powered car, we asked Pando if an MSD starter would be too much for a car with lower horsepower (around 300). Pando replied, “The MSD starter will still offer useful benefits over a factory unit. The high torque start, adjustable mount, ball bearing-supported armature and pinion gear, and the heavy duty solenoid are all things that you won’t find in most stock starters.”Even if you’re not trying to overcome a sky-high compression ratio in a large displacement motor, the reliability and resilience of MSD starters are in and of themselves worthy benefits. Pando also mentioned that MSD starters are often smaller than what comes from the factory, which can free up space for the important things in life – like long tube headers, or turbochargers.
Next, we asked Pando how to go about choosing the right starter for a vehicle, and Pando stated, “The standard high torque starters will be fine for most all applications. But with wild, specialty applications, like those with a magneto or very high compression, the high speed starter will get the job done.”Lastly, we asked Pando what things to keep in mind when installing a starter. He responded, “The most critical thing is shimming the starter to ensure proper gear engagement – doing so will help provide a long starter life. This is typically the most overlooked part of the installation process; if gear engagement isn’t properly set, it will result in damage to the starter drive gear and to the flywheel.”
But of course, if the simple task of properly engaging the starter to the flywheel is taken care of, you can expect MSD Performance’s starter motors to give you excellent reliability and cranking power – whether the starter style you pick is high torque or high speed. Be sure to check the MSD Performance website for starter applications and availability, as well as other MSD products for your vehicle.