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Jaguar XKE E-type Restoration: Installing Gear Reduction Starter

Although the  starter in my Jag worked fine, it was old, heavy and relatively inefficient original starter. While I had the carbs off, the vacuum tank out and the air cleaner our of the way it seemed like a good idea to replace it with a new,  much lighter, higher torque and higher efficiency gear reduction starter.  The gear reduction starters for the E-type are available from all kinds of vendors and you should be able to pick one up for under $200. The shear difference in size is amazing – and aside from spinning the engine at a fast rate to get it going, they draw less power than the original starters.

Original XKE / E-type starter and new gear reduction starter (bottom)

Now there are three tricks for removing the old starter and putting in the new gear reduction one.  Read carefully – I learned these from my friend Mark and they saved me a lot of headaches.

1. There is a small removable panel located under the carpet and the under-padding on the passenger side of the transmission tunnel. This little panel allows allows access to the bolts on the starter. Without the access provided by this little hidden panel I could not have removed the starter.

Removable Panel on XKE / E-Type Transmission Tunnel that Provides Access to Remove Starter. There is no mention of this secret little door in most workshop manuals I have seen, but it is really handy.

2. Because the gear reduction starter is shorter than the original starter you may need to reroute the large 12 V power cable that feeds power to the starter. You may also find you have to modify the ends of the power and starter replay wires that feed into to the new starter as the connections might be slightly different.

3. The flange that holds most gear reduction starters to the flywheel housing is not threaded like the original starter’s flange. Thus,  you need to buy new  bolts, nuts and lock washers of the right length and thickness to mount the new starter.

It is about impossible to get a spanner on a regular bolt to secure the bolt for the top part of the flange on the new gear reduction starter. The way around this is to get a bolt with a allen key head and use an allen key to hold the bolt while you torque down on the nut to secure the top part of the new starter’s flange.

Once I had the new starter in place I hooked up the battery and tried it. It spun the engine with amazing ease. I think it is a good investment – and well worth doing while I had so much of the clutter out of the way and could get to the starter with ease.

4 comments on “Jaguar XKE E-type Restoration: Installing Gear Reduction Starter

  1. Mo Somani says:

    Hi there , thank you for your great advice , However i opened the panel on the transmission tunnel , and got access to the lower bolt on the starter , but the top bolt is still very difficuult to get at from the inspection hole in the transmission tunnel and its very difficult to access from the top . Any ideas ?


    1. gmmacdonald says:

      Hi – Thanks for the kind words. Ok – if you have a starter with an upper flange that is threaded and a bolt holding it in place – you can disconnect the two small diameter heater hoses coming out of the bulkhead (firewall) and you should have a straight shot down at the head of the bolt using a spanner. Of course you will lose some cooling fluid. Now, for the after market gear reduction starters they have a bolt with a nut. You can access the one end from the top – removing those small diameter heater hoses. If you remove the air cleaner and canister you should be able to get a thin socket on a long extension between the starter side and the engine block and make contact with the head of the bolt. TO install a new gear reduction starter I use a bolt with a allen head (hex key head) and just use a long extension with the right diameter allen head driver on it.

      By the way – the gear reduction starters are pretty inexpensive, lighter and much more efficient than the original Lucas starters.

      Good luck!


      1. Mo Somani says:

        Thank you for your advice , I have reached this stage already but it is extremely difficult to get a spanner on the bolt as there is little room between the bulkhead and the bolt . I am using a good quality snap on spanner , but it is tough . With a little patientce and perserverenc I will manage , I thought there would be a way to get at the bolt from under the car ?



  2. Jeff says:

    Hi Glenn,

    I took your advice and installed a gear reduction starter (twice) A few tips for others. Be sure to take the spacer plate off the old starter and put it on the new one or it will make an awful racket when you start the car up. A little gasket sealer between the spacer plate and new starter plate helps to keep it in place while you snake it into place. It doesn’t take quite as long the second time to take the starter out and put it back, but it is still a real pain.

    For the top bolt, once I had it in place I used an air ratchet with an extension and used a pair of needle nose vice grips to hold the nut. With the bolt turning, the nut found the threads and it went right in. I used the allen head bolts top and bottom and nuts with nylon inserts.

    The power cable was not long enough so I rerouted it in back of the engine instead of in front. The hole in the connector had to be enlarged to fit the new starter.

    I also changed the heater hoses while I had everything out (the second time) and access to the clamp over the starter.

    It was worth the effort, but I’m glad it is over with.

    Thanks for all your advice.



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