Norton 850 Commando Starter Alternative.

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Mar 21, 2006
I may have asked this before, but I've heard on this forum that an alternative to the two-pole Prestolite starter on my '75 850 Commando, there exists a Harley Davidson Prestolite starter that can be used, and would provide ... better starting experience.

If someone is blessed with that knowledge, and can direct me toward being able to start my bike with some regularity, I would appreciate it.

Try this I have seen it work wow. Another way is to take it into your starter shop and have them match up the body to a four pole outboard boat motor starter. You also should get the cable set that Dyno Dave sells on the site above this helps the stock piece work much better.
4 brush starter parts?

Rocketdoc: I found these #'s, but have no idea if they are still available. I must state that I am many years out of date in my Norton knowledge!

Note: this data comes from an old "Norton Owners Club-Commando Service Notes", dated 1979. I got a chuckle when it referenced these parts were available from the shop I worked at. ( United States/Cycle Sports/Calif )
1) frame field, 58-241, MGL2101A is the motor body
2) brush plate, 36-863, MGL1033B replaces the 2-brush plate
3) spring set, 50-335, MGD18SS

They note #251108 brush set (4 brush) as a cheap replacement when needed, but will need a little work to make fit.

I think these were the Prestolite part #'s

This upgrade would make a Norton spin like a normal electric start engine would.
I was told that Norton specified the original down-powered starter to lessen the strain on the starter engagement system, rather than re-design it right. Typical Norton penny-pinching.

Have no idea if still available or if current part #'s :!:
What you need is either a good working donor starter from a Harley (make sure it is the Prestolite model) or new field coils and brushes from the Harley aftermarket world. Your armature must be in usable condition as the Harley armature will not work.
Either take this pile to a starter shop or dig into it yourself. Replace the bushings and seals (available from your local bearing and seal house) and use the Norton end caps. If the starter turns backwards when you are finished, move the brushes one position clockwise in the holder.
Most important is to use heavier starter cables. I made mine from welding cable. The originals just won't pass enough current.
I have done this a couple times, but for the cost and aggravation, I'd give Dave Comeau's Japanese starter a long look before doing it again.
Heavier starter wires, an Odyssey PC545 battery and the four brush conversion kit (bought from RGM in the UK) transformed my starter operation and I would say those mods. make the performance of the starter more than adequate,-even with the Prestolite solenoid.

Installing and using a high-power starter on its own without a high output battery may only succeed in flattening an aging standard battery in five seconds instead of the normal ten! It's surprising how much better the standard starter motor works when it is connected to a decent sized (car or similar) battery!
So the whole starter system (including the engagement mechanism) needs to be looked at, and not just the motor itself.

CNW now have an upgraded starter and starter kit available: ... sp#starter
Rocketdoc. If you would give me your e-mail address i will send you all the part numbers you need with a diagram and instructions on how to rebuild your starter. I did mine this year and it is incredible . I installed new high torque field coils , brush plate and a gel battery for $200 cdn
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