B&C Starters . . . some extensive discussions
from various list-servers . . .

There's a proliferation of wanna-be's and looka-likes out there in the starter business . . and sometimes even the major players take hits for someone else's product. This thread started when a builder thought he had a B&C Starter delivered on his new Lycoming . . .

 //I had a B&C Lightweight starter from new on my RV6. 
 //In the 160 or so hours it flew I had about five 
 //failures all to do with not throwing in. I faxed 
 //lycoming who said they no longer ship these starters 
 //because of problems with the throw in solenoid.

    Didn't get an answer from the gentleman when
    I asked if it were indeed a B&C starter. I just
    re-read his post; he contacted Lycoming directly
    which means it was a new starter on a new engine
    and was most certainly NOT a B&C starter. I believe
    the starter in question is a Lycoming clone of the
    B&C unit.

 //Does anyone know of a mod program or upgrade for these starters?
 //I am now using a Skytec starter. I have a near new but useless 
 //B&C in the garage.

    Contact me direct by e-mail or telephone (316-685-8617) and
    I'll arrange for a hell-of-a-deal trade-in on your 
    original starter on a new B&C starter. 

 //Although I'm not familiar with the B&C starter, it's not 
 //uncommon to have  a situation in which the wiring and/or 
 //the ignition switch is inadequate  of providing enough 
 //power to 'pull' the solenoid piston.  

    The B&C starters all use the two-stage engagement solenoid
    pioneered on cars (imports first I think) about 20 years
    ago. The solenoids have TWO windings . . . a series and
    parallel winding that provides a few milliseconds of extra
    umph to engage the starter at the instant of starter switch 
    closure.  I wrote an article for my publication a couple
    of years ago that described the 30 amp inrush requirement.
    If anyone is interested in the technical details of this
    phenomenon, a #10 SASE to me at 6936 Bainbridge Road, Wichita,
    KS, 67226-1008 will get a you a copy of the article. Write
    "Starter Solenoid Article" on the back of the envelope.

 // . . . In this case,  an old trick is to add another relay 
 //(ford solenoid), activated by the ignition switch which 
 //then can provide a larger power source (battery) to  the 

   More than an old trick . . . it's been the STANDARD recommended
   installation technique for B&C starters since day-one.

 /You sure your talking about a B&C million dollar starter?

   Actually $550 . . . the same price as it entered the marketplace
   about ten years ago . . how many other products have held the
   line on pricing for so long?

 /That's a mighty expensive boat anchor. My impression of the guy 
 /who sells these things isn't a good one. I've talked to him a couple 
 /of times at Sun"N"Fun. His sales pitch is all about how good 
 /his product is and what a piece of crap the Skytech starter is.

   In what way do you disagree with the assessment? Do you prefer
   brass bushings over ball bearings? Is the nose-casting support 
   of the pinion shaft superior to the cantilever design of the 
   B&C?  Have you compared casting thickness of the web between 
   the motor and the mounting base? Isn't worth a bit more to 
   get investment castings instead of sand castings?
 /When I asked him why his product cost 3 times more than skytech . . 
 / . . . . 

   Hmmmm  $550 versus $400 is only 1.37 times more.

 / . . . he informed me that the Skytech was built from used parts.
   I personally conducted a teardown inspection of a factory fresh
   Skytech starter several years ago. I can tell you that the motor
   was at best a low-dollar rebuild effort from an automotive parts
   jobber . . . they didn't even bother to buff off the corrosion.

   Skytek's latest offering is a PM motor design (stock Ford) that
   is two pounds lighter than the B&C starter.  I understand that
   Skytek has changed hands and I would expect the new owner to
   work diligently to upgrade his product. The PM design may be
   all new . . . at this time I don't know.  

   In the interest of educating myself, I'd like to offer 
   Skytek PM starter owners the following:  if for any reason you
   would like to upgrade to a B&C starter, contact me and I'll
   arrange a 100% credit of your Skytek as a trade-in for a new 
   B&C replacement. This is a one-time, first-come-first-served
   offer that will let me disassemble and evaluate Skytek's 
   later production.  The results of that inspection will be
   available to anyone with an interest.

 /Well he convinced me, I went across the hall and bought a skytech 
 /(No Regrets). I'm sorry I don't think there's a starter on the market 
 /worth what he's asking.

   Please detail the rational that prompts your assertion. I
   can cite hundreds of product comparisons where consumers
   happily pay 37% more to acquire very specific design improvements.
   In the computer world, you might pay this much just to upgrade
   from a 14" monitor to a 16" monitor.

   In this case, wouldn't you pay 37% more to have 100% ball
   bearing, no bearings exposed to the elements, and a 
   starter that works well with all battery technologies. The 
   PM Skytec operates as a pure shunt-wound motor. Fixed- 
   field offered by permanent magnets as opposed to variable-
   field presented by series wound motors is a BIG difference 
   in cranking ability when working with smaller or worn batteries. 
   B&C has considered the PM design as a means of reducing parts 
   count and costs - and rejected it each time. PM motors 
   represent too much compromise in performance. Would it be 
   worth a bit more to get a casting with enough meat in the 
   interface web to resist deflection that compromises gear 
   tooth interface?

 /In all fairness though I know a few people who have his 
 /starters and alternators and are completely satisfied.
 /( with no problems) I'm surprised to hear your having difficulty. 
 /I'm sure if you get a hold of B&C they will make it right.

   You betcha . . . if anyone has any beef with B&C, I'd
   like to know about it . . . . contact me directly and
   I'll guarantee that your problems will be quickly
   addressed.  Bill has a lot of balls in the air at once
   and he might let something get buried on his desk
   (it's piled about two feet deeper than mine!). However,
   I'll assure everyone participating in this list that there's
   no reason for any difficulty with a B&C product to go

   I am quite certain that the situation that seeded this
   thread did not involve a B&C product. According to my
   latest "gee-two", Lycoming currently ships engines with three
   different brands of starters: Electro-Systems (old Prestolite
   design), Skytek and a relatively new offering from Lamar
   (appears to be a cross between the Prestolite design
   and a more modern motor). Irrespective of starter brand,
   every Lycoming engine bolted into a Robinson Helicopter,
   get's a new B&C starter. There must be a reason why . . . .

  >I'm uncomfortable with the forums as I've seen to many 
 >of the threads turn into the two differing brands smearing 
 >each other,with both losing.

   Which is exactly why I try to steer these discussions toward
   useful facts and try to keep my opinions to a minimum unless
   asked. It's much better if a customer knows and understands
   the differences well enough to arrive at their own opinion
   as to what best suits their needs. It's good that these things
   come up from time to time. It's tests our abilities to work
   all issues in a useful manner no matter how tense some of the
   participants become. Further, the we've found the discussions
   in recent weeks VERY useful.  It's given us feedback that will
   assist in tailoring our sales approach to avoid turning people 
   off . . . this has been quite useful.

 >My Glasair had hot starting problems last summer....not acceptable.
 >Last fall our local flying club got a new Sky-tec starter for an 
 >Archer.This completed the changeover for all 6 of their planes.

 >My neighbor in the next hanger had a Cozy with the engine removed 
 >for paint.It has a B&C starter.

 >My hangermate has a Wheeler with an older auto-conversion starter.
 >He knew it wasn't Sky-tec,but he wasn't sure what it was.It does 
 >have many,many starts and is still functioning as new.

    There was a company in OK or TX that was selling an import
    starter mounted on an adapter casting. Saw one of these up at
    B&C about 5 years ago.  Haven't seen or heard much about
    the company since . . . there may be others doing a similar

 >The stage was set. We decided to do a comparison test in my hanger.

 >The results:
 >All three were significantly better than the original Prestolite that I had.
 >The B&C and the Sky-tec were very similar and the better two starters.
 >The Sky-tec appeared to have slightly more torque, but they were so close 
 >that it was difficult to tell.

 >Had I known that I would be reporting,I would have taken the amp-draw 
 >of each starter,but we just observed how well each starter cranked 
 >over the engine and the speed in which they did so.

   I've been negotiation with a well known publication about doing some
   tear-down and test stand studies of all the starters we can get our
   hands on.  This would include running each starter on a constant
   torque dynamometer so that the true electrical efficiency can be
   deduced.  I have taken ammeter and voltmeter readings on an engine
   but the variable loads applied by the pistons coming up on compression
   make the curves very lumpy. I've done some energy analysis on the data
   by first exporting it into autocad, spline the data, overlaying volts
   and amps curves and then writing it back out as a .dxf file. I've
   written software that will dissect the autocad plots and produce
   millisecond by millisecond energy calculations. But the data are still
   not in a form that I could publish and expect the neophyte to find
   useful.  The dyno test will fix that problem.

 >I am somewhat confused with your description of the Sky-tec as 
 >you accurately described the auto  conversion,but not the Sky-tec.
 >I supposed the older Sky-tecs were auto conversions but the new 
 >one didn't appear to be.

   The re-cycled parts I found were inside the motor which indicted that
   the entire motor assembly was used automotive. They were doing their
   on gearbox castings and bolting recycled motors to them.  The newer
   PM starters are still automotive (not a thing wrong with that) but
   I'm told they're using new parts now.

 >As to the castings,these are starters,not golf clubs.You would 
 >know better than me but I couldn't see much difference between 
 >the Sky-tec and B&C.
   The investment castings provide closer tolerances with less machining
   for controlling both exterior dimensions (mate up to engine and 
   pinion gear engagement) and interior (gear alignment, etc). It also
   allows easier control of where shear webs have to be thick, thin,
   tapered, etc. for taking reaction loads.  If the designer does
   his homework, an investment casting tends to be lighter for the same

 >What is the failure rate? 

   Casting failures are rare. Kickback from an advanced spark will kill
   either casting. 

 >As to the shaft,again,they appeared the same.

   The pinion shaft on the Skytecs I've seen is supported at both ends,
   like the Bendix drive on the old Prestolites. It has sleeve bearings
   at both ends which would not be a problem EXCEPT that they are not
   sealed. The on at the nose end is exposed to rain and dirt and wears
   the fastest. As the bore becomes worn, it transmits higher wearing
   loads to the rear bearing.  Fully cantilevered design allows all 
   bearings to be enclosed and shielded from the environment. As ball
   bearings, they're much happier with the radial loads than a sleeve
   bearing.  B&C is sole supplier to Robinson Helicopter.  Robinson's
   machines get factory overhauled every 2,000 hours and the starters
   sent back for zero-time overhaul.  Of course every wearing part is
   replaced but the vast majority of starters returned for O.H. could
   be put back on for another 2,000 hour stint.  No other Prestolite
   replacement in the market has demonstrated so robust a service life
   on hard working machines.

 >I didn't see the bearings but I don't understand the problem 
 >with sleeve bearings in a starter. I know ball-bearings are better 
 >but isn't that overkill.Every engine that I have ever seen had sleeve 
 >bearings in it.(Lycoming,continental,GM,Ford,Honda,etc)

   If sealed up and running well lubricated, sleeve bearings can indeed
   perform well . . . when you hang 'em out front, rain on them, forget
   to lubricate and when you do lubricate they pick up dust . . . .
   It's more how the bearing is used than an issue with the bearing's
   abilities under ideal conditions.

 >I worked my way through college as a chief-mechanic and have seen many.
 >It seems to me that the sleeve bearings get more use taxiing to the 
 >runway than they do in a lifetime of cranking in a starter.

  Sure, they're running in a clean environment and pressure oiled.
  The poor ol' starter is hanging right out front . .  on some 
  airplanes, there's a hole in the cowl nose bowl to clear the
  starter thus exposing the bearing to everything that the airplane
  flies through.
 >I own a contracting company and I know that we never see our 
 >competitors happy customers only the unhappy ones,so like you 
 >we get a tainted sample of their product.

 >I wonder if you had made a similar offer for B&C starters what 
 >kind of response that you would have had?BTW..I've got a like new 
 >Prestolite starter if you want to make a similar offer for that. 

   Trade a new Skytec for a B&C?  Hmmmm . . . theoretically Bill shouldn't
   have any takers . . . I believe he has worked very hard to keep his
   customers happy.

 >You mentioned that some a/c had B&C as standard equipment.I  
 >was under the impression that several companies used Sky-tec also.

   My last reading on it was that Lycoming is currently shipping three
   different brands of starters on their new engines on of which
   is a Skytec. I'm at a loss to explain why Lycoming would choose
   to mix-n-match starters . . . a single model B&C cranks any of the
   engines O-235 through IO-720 with no modifications other than
   to accommodate the ring gear pitch. It enjoyed an exemplar field
   history on homebuits for so long that the FAA required only
   cold cranking tests for STC/PMA.  B&C is standard on the Robinson
   only because Robinson chooses to by their Lycomings sans starters.
   I'm not sure they get much of a break for not buying the starter
   from Lycoming.

 >In my opinion B&C and Sky-tec are the best two starters out there,
 >and any feuding can only hurt both companies.

   Agreed.  Let us work to moderate the mud slinging and focus
   attention on the things that matter.

 >I tell my customers if they buy from someone else that I wish them 
 >well and will be here if they ever have problems in the future.

   Our sentiments exactly.

July 1997 . . . An update . . .

   We purchased a new Skytec starter some months ago with the Lycoming
   part number on it for another teardown inspection. We found that the
   current products are still sleeve bearings where B&C uses balls.
   There are needle bearings on the planet gears. The ring gear and
   the gearbox are molded from one piece of plastic. The planet gears
   are powdered metal. The motor is permanent magnet.

   All of these features contribute to Skytec's ability to deliver a
   starter for less dollars than the B&C product. Robinson Helicopter
   continues to remove Lycoming starters from their new engines in
   favor of the B&C product.


    Bob . . . 
    AeroElectric Connection
                  (o o)
    |                               |
    |  Go ahead, make my day . . .  |
    |   Show me where I'm wrong.    |

P.S. A sidebar on the AeroElectric Connection's relationship with B&C Specialty Products. I've known Bill and Celesta Bainbridge for a LONG time. Did some consulting work for them on the Voyager around the world program and joined them in 1986 for our first trip to Oshkosh. Questions we were fielding in the booth is what prompted the development of the AeroElectric Connection. In years since, B&C has become my favorite consulting client . . . I'll represent their products to anyone without having to feel like I've got to push snake oil, make any excuses for them or try to gloss over deficiencies in their products or services. Some people question my relationship as a service provider to AND a spokesperson for B&C . . . "why of course that guy Nuckolls thinks it's whippy stuff, he designed it". I understand their skepticism and stand ready to justify my remarks in any setting . . . that's what these forums are all about. The banner in my e-mail signature is an open invitation to discuss any product or service on the facts of the matter in order that the AeroElectric Connection can become the repository for the best information we can collect. Everyone who participates in these discussions helps this process along. Let's sort the BS from the good stuff and try to keep our emotions in check. The amateur-built aviation community can only become better for it. Our mission with the AeroElectric Connection is stick to the facts, and practice good art and don't rewrite any rules of physics. As for B&C, if I or any of you find them falling short of theses ideals, I'll be among the first to get on the phone with them and get it straightened out.

Comments and alternative views welcome!

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