For my little nerd moment on the car itself, see here.
Okay, so, imagine this. You just got the message that your friend wants to be picked up from work (A.K.A. boss’s house), and given that you’re practically the family chauffeur (and they pay), no problem. Get there, he hops in, and says he’s hungry, wants to stop by Five Guys. (now I’m hungry, and it’s 3 AM. Nice going.) Five Guys is maybe 5 minutes away from your home, 10 away from his, no big deal, go in, eat, come out. Sit back down, buckle in, turn the key… and get hit with the most horrendous grinding sound you’ve ever heard.
That, my friends, is the sound of a bad starter.
So I had to get it towed, 7 minutes down the road to my preferred shop. Now everyone here was assuming maybe bad starter (cheap, very easy fix), worst case, bad ring gear (requires removing the transmission from the engine to access it), or both (not likely). This was the Sunday before memorial day, and Tuesday, the next day they’re open, I get a call. Diagnosis? Needs a new transmission. [record scratch] Wait what?
First: The Cause
Well it turns out the ring gear was bad, because the starter was both recently replaced, and improperly installed. (Turns out the entire engine was too, but we didn’t know that quite yet). When the mounting failed, the resulting mess destroyed the ring gear.
Starter Components, Explained
Before I go on, let me explain what I’m talking about. The starter in a modern car is a high-torque motor designed to physically spin the engine until it’s able to… start. Really, it’s just a fancy motor with a few mechanisms dictating how it engages and how it gets powered.
The starter pinion (gear) meshes with the ring gear, which is a large gear attached to the output shaft of the engine. Usually this gear is part of the flex plate, which is the automatic equivalent of a flywheel, because the torque converter, which replaces the clutch assembly, which is what connects the engine to the transmission, is massive enough itself to act like one.
Usually, these components are separate. Here, they’re not. Hyundai combined the ring gear, torque converter, and flex plate into… the torque converter assembly, meaning that it has to be replaced as a unit. And TCs are… not cheap.
Okay, cool, but how did we go from that to entire transmission?
Hyundai’s Back Orders, Explained
Well, put simply, there’s an indefinite back-order on just the converter from Hyundai. Alternatively, the transmission (which already has 127,000 miles on it when I bought the car), which needs to be removed to access everything to begin with, can be got in just a week. It’s more expensive, but there’s at least a date of when. And since the transmission comes with a torque converter… there’s the solution.
In the end, it got replaced, and this thing now feels amazing to drive, but… really Hyundai?
while it seems stupid when you suddenly get slapped with a giant bill that you didn’t expect, I can kinda see why they did that. It likely reduces cost, and less total moving components means less components to wear out. The thought that I assume is going on is that the starter components don’t really ever wear or break within the lifetime of the vehicle, therefore the cost of new parts for that incident is offset by the fact that it’s just plain rare.
Well call me the king of bad luck, it apparently wasn’t too rare this time.