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|3-Series (E36) Chat relating to the BMW 3-Series from 1992-1999. Autodoodad Specific models include: BMW 316i, BMW 318i, BMW 318iS/ti, BMW 320, BMW 323, BMW 320, BMW 324, BMW 325, BMW 328.|
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Sounds like the solenoid not engaging, some starters have built in ones some external, I'm not sure on your model, so you can fix the solenoid, replace it or have refurb or if its built in refurb or a new/2nd hand one.
You may also want to check all the connections to the starter first for corrosion and contact, if you try it in the dark with the bonnet up and somebody turns the key and you see arcing or small sparks from the connections remove and clean with sand paper.
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What Marti said was probably correct. When you engage the starter, the solenoid pushes the little starter gear over to mesh with the ring gear teeth.
If it doesn't push it over all the way, you will hear the starter turn but the engine won't. If the solenoid pushes the gear over and it doesn't mesh, you will hear a horrible screeching as the starter gear grinds against the ring gear. This will grind the teeth off the starter gear and damage the ring gear. You want to get this fixed right away because fixing the starter is "easy", replacing the ring gear involves pulling the transmission etc.
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