Xk120 starter motor

Any tips for removing an XK 120 starter motor? Not much room to get spanners attached. Should the carbies be removed or should it be up on a hoist for access underneath? Pinion is jammed on the flywheel, so I can’t turn it over. Manual says removal is needed. John Manfield


I assume you have tried the trick of removing the front cap off the starter and using a spanner on the shaft to turn it to see if that frees it off the flywheel?


On a LHD car this job is fairly easy, two 3/8" bolts and nuts, 9/16" socket wrench and 9/16" box wrench.

Another possibility is to take off the lower valence and go in from there.

Thanks Chris,. I did that. It was tight but now moves freely. Starter still doesn’t engage. Think I need to get it out for a clean up

I helped to remove and reinstall an original Lucas Eclipse starter not too long ago on a LHD 120 DHC, I don’t remember we had to remove anything else to gain access to it (the carbs were definitely on the car)
Of course you have to remember the pinion is behind the flywheel on the gearbox side so you will have to jiggle the starter a bit to remove it but it should come off easily.
I would say it’s a bit harder to put it back since it’s a bit heavy and you have to align it properly to engage the bolts in the holes.
I would say you may need a helping hand to align it while putting or removing the screws (a helping hand to support it from beneath while the other guy has the spanners from the top in the engine bay)

If you are stuck doing the re-installation solo then loop a tie down strap around the starter and use that to take the weight whilst you get the bolts in.

Indeed, we didn’t bother tying it since we were two anyway but otherwise this sounds like a good option! (actually it’s not that easy to hold it from beneath, there is just enough room for a hand between the engine block and the starter, to push it and maintain it aligned.

Thanks Julien. I’ll see if I can round up someone to assist and try to get it done with the carbies in.
John M

Hello, I did the job on my own in a short time as Rob mentioned- from the lower valence.

The tire is the only to be removed, as long as the valence is removed for cooling issues. Otherwise you have to remove the valence also.

Remove starter, oil it (not grease) and assemble again. Quick and dirty.


I have read somewhere (here?) that the pinion freewheel mechanism would be better lubricated with some graphite as it’s dry and won’t catch the dirt but on the other hand Lucas states it should be oiled so I reckon some good low viscosity oil would be perfect anyway.

The freewheel mechanism is easy to strip down, you might need a puller to take off a few bits though (and be careful, if I remember correctly you first need to push a few bits towards the starter to remove a woodruff key before pulling).
As for the reassembly, no need for a hydraulic press, a long socket and a little mallet is more than enough if I remember correctly)

By the way you should check the shaft end float while the starter is out.

We might have a few photos but they are on another computer so I cannot post them now. I will try to remember to add them later when I can access that computer (probably not before the next weekend)

That is what I always used.

Thanks Thomas. I’ll try that

I’ve had good luck with stuck Lucas starters while still installed by first spraying WD40 or Kroil into the pinion region where the sliding should occur. Let it soak and flow for a couple minutes and try. Use a rubber mallet to tap free if stuck again. Repeat a couple times if not successful. A few times like this have given me a few years on a couple of stuck starters before they needed removing from engine for rebuild.

Thanks for the tip Roger. I’ll give it a go.

Unlike the pushrod models, the XK bell housing does not have an open hole at the back of the starter where you could get a sprayer in there. However, you might be able to remove the bottom cover plate and get something up in there. Be careful not to soak the clutch of course.

Yes that would worry me. Especially since the pinion is rotating so any remaining WD40 could be sprayed everywhere.in the bell housing.

Got it. That would be a worry.

Had a similar problem with a jammed starter pinion on my '53. I got tired of cranking the starter shaft to free it. Turning over the crankshaft with a big wrench on the crankshaft dampener also usually frees the starter pinion. However, it’s still way nicer just to push the button the dash and have the thing work. So, I took mine out and the pinion gear was pretty well buggered. It needed to be replaced along with rebuilding the starter.

Mine is a left hand drive car and to get the starter out, I disconnected the throttle shaft by marking the connector on the spring coupling and then freeing it and setting the shaft up on top of the firewall.

I also bought a set of flex head combination wrenches for cheap money. These came in super handy on this particular job since you can get the flex head on the upper nut on the back side of the bell housing. Would recommend everyone with an XK get a set of wrenches like this. Sorry for the crummy picture, but you get the idea. Not pushing any particular brand and I forget where I bought this particular set.

You will also want to look carefully at the teeth on the flywheel to see what they look like. When the car stops, the crankshaft comes to rest in only one of three places at the beginning of a compression stroke, so there are just a few teeth on the flywheel that take all of the abuse of the starter engaging. These teeth can get chewed up also.

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Thanks for the spanner tip Clifford and thank you all for your suggestions. I discovered that the easy way to gain access to the bolts was to remove the transmission tunnel. Wow! two bolts in full view and quite easy to attach a socket and remove. Pinion looks ok, so have lubricated the shaft and it is now back in. Transmission hump about to go in plus front valence and wheel, then time to press the starter button again.
John M

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