Ford F-150 Starter Replacement

While replacing the starter on a F-150 is not difficult, not having the right tools will make the process a nightmare. One of the reasons for this is because of the location of the top mounting bolt. Because of little room and a nasty location, this bolt will require a certain length extension and socket in order to be removed. Everything else is straight forward. This guide applies to both the 4.6L and the 5.4L engines as well as the 4.2L V6.

Truck Specs:

  • 2004 Ford F-150
  • 4.6L V8
  • ~61,000 miles

Removing The F-150 Starter

1. The starter is located on the passenger side of the engine bay, right under the exhaust manifold. There is a good access spot when you lift one side of the truck up. Start by disconnecting the negative terminal of the battery. Continue by removing the starter wires. Two of the big nuts are 13mm and the small one is 10mm. ford f-150 starter location

2. Remove the wires and set them aside. Remove the first mounting bolt. All of the mounting bolts are 13mm. ford f-150 starter wire

3. Follow the starter counter-clockwise and remove the second bolt ford f-150 starter removal

4. The third bolt is located on top of the starter. You will have to feel it with you hands. Use an extension to reach it. You may also get to it through the wheel well by using an extension and a swivel. To show you the location, here is a picture with the starter removed. Models that have 4.2L V6 engine do not have the 3rd bolt. ford f-150 removing starter

5. Installation is the reverse of removal. Torque the starter mounting bolts to 18 lb-ft. Reconnect all of the starter cables. Reconnect the battery cable.


ruben 10-25-2013 11:15
Thank you for info but still could nt get third bolt. Note a mechanic said get along extension do from top of engine. Is that true. Help.,
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Artem Vestsorov 10-25-2013 11:27
Never tried it from the top so I can't confirm if that will work but I guess anything is possible with a long enough extension. Most people go through the wheel well when they can't get to that bolt.
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Landon 12-06-2013 20:24
My 4.2 has the 3rd bolt. I can't get the second bolt undone cause lack of room. My cat is in the way
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Artem Vestsorov 12-07-2013 07:58
Interesting. What year is your F150? You take the second bolt out the same way as you would the 3rd - with an extension. The tricky part is finding the right length extension.
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Andy 12-10-2013 19:04
I had a HELL of a time with the top bolt on mine. Needed a six inch and 1 1/2 inch extension and got it from underneath but it was not easy...hopin i never have to do it again!!!!!
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Dollar Bill 12-13-2013 13:23
I will be changing mine today. At least it died in my driveway. Forecast to warm up to 15 F degrees, which is warmer than the past few days. I need this to go as fast as possible!
I wanted to thank you for the pictorial, glad to know where the top bolt is.
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Artem Vestsorov 12-13-2013 19:30
Nothing worse than working on your car/truck in the cold. Hope it goes well for you.
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gloman 01-01-2014 12:06
Thanks for the great tutorial. I've been wrenching a long time, but still review every job before hand. Even simple things like starters. You just never know what kinds of changes have been made in the factories & you may come into something new.
It never hurts to keep fresh.
I too have to change my starter in the cold today. lol supposed to get up to 17*F. I'm not a penguin and don't want to be out in the cold any longer than I must. lol
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Artem Vestsorov 01-02-2014 00:09
I do the same thing. There's no such thing as too much information when it comes to wrenching. Thanks for stopping by.
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Scott McQueen 01-04-2014 22:14
Thanks for the tutorial/pics, it helped! The third bolt wasn't easy at all! Got the new starter installed; but it started right up...after about 30 seconds it began to emit a whining and I shut it off. Checked my bolts and wire connections, looked good and all. Now all it does is whine, won't even act like it wants to start... The starter was brand new too. Any suggestions, advice??? I am not a mechanic by the way, I build houses!
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Artem Vestsorov 01-05-2014 18:22
If it is whining but not starting then it sounds like the starter drive gear is not engaging
the flywheel. I would double check the wiring and make sure your battery is good. If you are near an auto parts store like NAPA you can take the starter there to get it bench tested. My guess is it is a bad starter, even if it was new - it happens. I would also ask around on the F-150 forums. You will get more help on there.

Hope you get this figured out!
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Travis 01-09-2014 03:22
Sounds like the cold is affecting a lot of us with starter issues. That being said for us with 2002 trucks, if the starter needs to be replaced is that an indication the rest of the truck is about to go too? I rather not start dumping money into a starter if everything is going to need to be replaced.
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Artem Vestsorov 01-11-2014 19:01
A bad starter is not an indication that the rest of the truck is about to go. The starter is a regular wear and tear item. In my experience they tend to go bad between 130,000 - 160,000 miles. It all depends on how often you use it.
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John 01-21-2014 03:13

I see Artem saying 130k- 160k but what about 53k. I called into my dealer, and my service guy said they need to catch the truck in the act of not wanting to stop turning over, well I have news for them its not like clock work, doesn't happen all the time...

I'm tired of not knowing if the truck will start right up or have to try it a few times, so is it the starter or sylonoid or both? my serv guy did say thetre is alot more to it then say stater-sylonoid.

First it was my backup camera not wanting to work, after 6 attempts 2 cameras, finally the serv guy that I did have before he left, did some research for 1-2 wks got back to me with replacing the rear view mirror, warranty thank goodness 800 part. then the transmission needs to be reset.

I'm ready for any advice ! my wife still says I should've
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Al 01-12-2014 03:30
Thx for info. This will be my 3rd one in 9 years. 1st one a dealer did in '05 for about $400. Next one I did in 'o8. Part cost me almost $150. Tomorrow I'm putting in the 3rd one. ( in the garage where its warm). Autozone quoted me $120 on a new one w/lifetime warranty. Not looking fwd to 3rd bolt. Barely use the darn thing but other day drove it to work because of weather and all it did was click after sitting in cold for 6 hours. Was getting ready to hv it towed when tow driver suggested tapping on starter while I tried to start. Sure enough it started. Must have a flat spot somewhere but not up to rebuilding it. Thx again for pics - its been awhile since i've been down there.
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Travis 01-12-2014 15:43
Ha! I had the same advice and sure enough it worked. Road side assistance said that it typically works but once you start having to do that then it's a sign that the starter needs to be replaced.
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Hugh 01-12-2014 23:14
My Starter went in my F150 sometime this weekend. A few hrs before leaving for work, found out it's kaput. Now to find one for a reasonable price and attempt an install, in my drive, in -5 c. Fun, fun, fun... This helps alot, thanks for the tutorial.

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Dale 01-12-2014 23:50
Hi I was wondering if you have heard of the housing that you attach starter to cracks a piece actally broke out. I never tightened it that much . Its a 2001 f150 4.6 ltr . Its a three bolt starter and its the middle one.
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Artem Vestsorov 01-13-2014 19:13
Never heard of that one. That is part of the transmission bell housing and its cast aluminum so cracks are a definite possibility. Maybe previous owner over tightened it?
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Jonathan 01-28-2014 03:04
While I was replacing the starter one of the rubber pegs came off. Will this cause an issue?
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Artem Vestsorov 01-28-2014 20:02
I don't think it will be an issue right away but I would be worried about dirt and other debris getting in there and causing problems later on.
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billy 02-01-2014 22:45
I have a 2000 f-150 4.6 v8 i got the truck from a guy and he said the starter went up so did the battery so i jumped started it and it started up so i let it run for awhile and then i turned it off and tryed to start it again with out using the jumper cables and it would not start do u think it could be the starter
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Artem Vestsorov 02-02-2014 02:19
In your first message you said you heard clicking - that is usually caused by a battery that is low on charge. First thing to do is get a new battery or get your current battery tested. You can always try to jump it again to see if it will start. I would look at the battery first and then move on to the starter.
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sonia 02-15-2014 16:58
where do i get buy the bolt that holds the ground cable ?? in in huntley/hampshi re Ill HELP .. ohh i tried the dealerships around here!!!
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Brandon 03-03-2014 21:54
I have took off all 3 mounting bolts and it seems like something is still keeping my starter from coming. Should I try taking a hammer to it or is there another trick to getting it off.
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Artem Vestsorov 03-04-2014 08:14
Not a big deal, try tapping it with a hammer. It should break free then.
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Brandon 03-05-2014 02:22
I have tried hitting it with a hammer and I took a pair of 460's and it won't come off. Any ideal of what might be keeping it from coming off.
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joebongo 03-06-2014 19:56
Is it 'springy', or a hard stop from moving?
did you remove all the wires from the starter?
the harness containing those wires is attached to the frame near the wire ends on my 4.6L, and that MIGHT prevent the starter from moving back enough to clear the bell housing opening.
Not sure. Just a maybe.
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Jim 03-08-2014 15:04
Mine is stuck to ugh this really upsetting!
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joebongo 03-08-2014 21:17
Once I got the THREE mounting bolts off and freed up the harness, mine came out, bringing it to my neighbor to test..........I needed about 20-inch of extension to get at that top bolt. I have to admit to not looking forward to the installation on Monday.
Good luck.
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TC 03-29-2014 12:21
Quoting joebongo:
Once I got the THREE mounting bolts off and freed up the harness, mine came out, bringing it to my neighbor to test..........I needed about 20-inch of extension to get at that top bolt. I have to admit to not looking forward to the installation on Monday.
Good luck.

Replaced starter on 2001 F150 Supercrew 3/28/2014. Combination of 3/8 and 1/2 drive sockets, extensions and one knuckle each and plenty of liquid wrench to soak bolts. Accessed side and upper bolt from wheel well (wheel removed). If you don't have a socket knuckle and several extensions (about 2 feet worth) then don't even attempt the removal of the upper bolt. For me, the side bolt was worst than the top bolt because you just can't get the motion of the socket to move and the extension with knuckle was tough. The lower two bolts took me longer than the top because they are exposed to the elements and rust more than the top bolt. By any stretch this effort is a pain to replace the starter but the satisfaction of not paying a mechanical was worth the 2.5 hour ordeal. Make sure when you install the new one to have some help. One person under the truck and another through the wheel well worked out for me; my 15 year old son who learned a little something and a few new choice of words I'm not proud of. Happy wrenching!
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Pat M. 04-22-2014 00:54
Hi I removed my top bolt with 1/4 drive ratchet 6 inch extension used small pipe for extension over handle to break hold steady strain one hour to remove starter. Installed bottom bolt first not tight to keep in place then top tight then side. attached wires negative battery cable. 2 Hour's all together it was a challenge but cleaned all bolts very good before installation .
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Chris 04-24-2014 00:40
I need to know which wires are which in the second picture. I am having a short when connecting the battery cables. I know where the small one goes but I cant seem to get the other two right?
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Artem Vestsorov 04-24-2014 02:47
The thick wire on the bottom is the ground wire. You can tell that one apart because its terminal is bent at almost a 90 degree angle. The other thick wire is the positive cable.
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Kaye F. 05-08-2014 02:08
Well, first, thanks for the tutorial. the pictures were very helpful. I was able to get to the top bolt pretty easily by removing the wheel. The truck on jackstands, and there was plenty of working room. I used a 3/8 ratchet that has a head that can flex up to 90 degrees, a short well socket and a 6 inch extension. With the wheel off, you can get your hand up in there pretty good.
Anyway, we got the thing off, looked at the gears (a little chewed) looked at the fly wheel, looked "OK", and put the new one on.
Cranked and I can hear the starter whine, but not seeming to engage anything....
Any ideas?
oh 2006 F150, 5.4
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joebongo 05-08-2014 12:18
The starter 'whine' after installation sounds like the starter motor itself is spinning but the 'bendix'(?) is not engaging the flywheel. Did you test-energize the 'new' starter on the bench before you did the install, to make sure the gear is throwing out to engage the flywheel ?
BTW, I purchased a 'new' starter at Autozone, and did an energizing test and it actually installed much easier than the removal. Running great.
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Kaye F. 05-08-2014 21:49
Oh. JoeBongo, no I did not. I bought direct from Ford. I guess I assumed they did that. Can I pull it out and take to a place like AutoZone? I wouldn't have a clue how to test it, unless I just have to use the battery? (scary thought....)

You are right, it went in quite easily. probably twenty minutes, most of which was just slow turns of bolts in tight spaces....

I guess as others have said, the second time around will be easy! LOL
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joebongo 05-09-2014 14:03
Well, yeah. new from Ford means several inspections.
Remember, mine was a guess bout the whining noise.
So, YOU can check just be energizing the solenoid, which throws the gear out to engage the flywheel. I assume it's out and in the garage you can take an OK battery and jumper cables and put the neg to the body of the starter unit, and the positive (may need something to extend the jumper cable end) ( or a jumper wire...2 alligator clips) and touch 12-volts to the lead where power comes from the ignition switch.
That bendix gear should "jump' forward (toward the flywheel).
But, and folks here might frown on this, you can also just bring it to Autozone for testing.

If it does jump forward, it's OK. I was wrong about the whining noise.
If not, either back to Ford, or to Autozone for a confirmation test, and then back to Ford.
It does get easier the second time....and the third....
Very good luck.
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gary 05-10-2014 01:12
I have a 1992 ford f 150 xlt 5.0 efi does the starter have 3 or 2 bolts???? Thanks
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Artem Vestsorov 05-10-2014 08:05
It should have 2 bolts. Should be a lot easier to get at those 2.
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chris 05-18-2014 18:15
Has anyone replaced a starter in a 2006 F150 4.2 v6? Looks to me the only way to remove it would be from underneath the vehicle and the stabilizer bar is directly in the way. I've been having an issue with it grinding when trying to start and then I get clicking sounds from the dash and the needles on the instrument panel fluctuate for a few seconds. It doesn't do it every time but does it quite often. Any help would be appreciated.
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Luis Santos 06-26-2014 03:19
To all u do it yourselfer's like myself or u guy's that rather save the buck's. Everything they said was correct except one thing which If i didn't figure it out would have cost me more time cause I would have removed the exhaust pipe. Is thst u need the 13 MM socket but u need the deep socket then u add the swivel then u add the extension 10" and two 3" extension's for that top Bolt also two guy's one should squeeze his hand in there and hold the socket while the other guy work's the rachet. Mind U this is if your working on floor stands and don't have the luxury of a lift, Remember 13mm deep 3/8 socket dont use a 1/2" set cause it wont fit. Good luck we did it following these instruction's on top and we did one Big difference and it was the deep socket than the swivel. Good Luck
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Richard 08-04-2014 00:59
I just replaced my starter today on my 05 f150 5.4litre and found that it was easiest to remove all bolts from under neath... It does have a 6inch lift so the stabilizer bar isn't an issue... But on installation the 10mm bolt for the solenoid cracked the black insulation... Will that be a factor or can I use some silicone to seal it....
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Dog 08-06-2014 02:02
I have a 1999 F150 4.6L V8, does the starter have 2 or 3 bolts?
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Gene Moore 08-09-2014 23:29
I see other people have had problems geting the starter loose from the bell housing once the three bolts were removed. This is my problem as well. I have hit it with a hammer but any harder and I'm afraid I might do some major damage to the gear. Is it possible it might be engaged? I have had the battery tested and its quite healthy, but I get the clicking sound when I try to start the truck so I'm assuming the starter is the problem. Just gotta get it off.
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stan 08-31-2014 16:27
Use a tool called "Reechet". This with right sized extensions get that difficult bolt.
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james good 09-17-2014 06:07
When I crank my engine no noise no crank....was able to start it with a screwdriver to get it home..would it be the starter ? I was told several times that's the problem I don't to replace things if not sure... thank u
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Corey 11-11-2014 01:05
Quoting james good:
When I crank my engine no noise no crank....was able to start it with a screwdriver to get it home..would it be the starter ? I was told several times that's the problem I don't to replace things if not sure... thank u

I'm having the same problem. No crank / no start on '98 4.6L. I can only start itge truck by jumping the relay on the firewall with a screwdriver. I had battery checked, checked the fuses, replaced the relay and the natural safety switch and it still won't crank when I turn the key. I'm wondering if should I go through the hassle of removing & testing the starter since the starter cranks and starts the truck when I jump the relay. Any suggestions?
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Artem Vestsorov 11-11-2014 07:44
If you are able to start the truck by jumping the relay then the starter is not the problem. I would look upstream. You said you replaced the starter relay - if you have the anti-theft module then you will also have an additional starter interrupt relay that may be at fault or was triggered by the anti-theft module. Since you replaced the neutral safety switch I'm betting that the problem is with either the clutch Interlock switch jumper or with the ignition switch itself.
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Corey 12-31-2014 22:59
Turns out it was the starter causing my problems after all. In frustration I took the truck to my local mechanic and was told the starter wasn't disengaging properly. He said that's why I could still start it by jumping the relay. That explanation didn't make sense to me, but it did fix the problem so I've moved on. Total cost for them to diagnose the problem, plus buy & install the new starter was $250.
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Barrie sargent 10-18-2014 17:37
Sometimes you get lucky: mine was not the original, and whoever installed it (or the tranny folks, as that was new when I bought it) left the top bolt off. My decision now is whether to do likewise.
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KyleWith 11-26-2014 23:50
I just installed a new starter in my 2003 4.2L. Very thing went smoothly until I fired it up.

The truck started alright but the start (I'm betting) is whining and wont stop.

Any ideas? I don't know much, just enough to undo bolts and nuts.
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Jesse 12-03-2014 01:30
Got all three bolts off after some cussing and discussing, Starter still wouldn't come off.
Ground bolt had two nuts on it tried taking off the second nut and the whole bolt came off.
Starter still won't come off. Will try the hammer with something long enough to reach the starter. It's been a rolyal PIK (pain in my knuckles).
Thanks for the pics.
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Josh 12-31-2014 00:35
Can someone tell me the size of the mounting bolts? I know the head is 13mm but what is the length and width of the bolt itself. I replaced mine on the side of the road and lost a bolt. So right now I am driving around with only the two lower bolts installed. Thanks!

Oh also I know I could just remove one of the bolts and measure it but frankly I don't want to. But I will if I can't find out in the warmth of my easy chair. lol.
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Harris 01-06-2015 13:02
Great job with the explanation and the Photo were the best I have ever seen on the repair websites. Thanks.
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adam 01-16-2015 16:54
I replaced my starter but two of the mounting bolts snapped off are these in the bell housing or are they just mounted to the block?
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shane 02-16-2015 01:53
just spent 7 hours in the advance auto parts parking lot changing mine, finally got the top bolt out with a deep well socket and a 5 1/2 in extension. I did not know they even made one that size but it worked perfect.
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Mike 04-04-2015 03:57
2008 5.4 L F150: nothing happens when I turn the key, no click, nothing. Tested the battery (good), had O'Rielly's check starter (bad), put in new starter (PITA) and still nothing. Any suggestions? Instrument panel says check gauges, not sure what that means.
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jeff 07-18-2015 21:02
i am losing my mind i've replaced the starter, firewall solenoid and tried jumpstarting my 2000 f150 but i keep getting a big fat click when i try the turn the thing over. its demoralizing and whats more my battery seems to run down so fast when i open the door and the blasted lights go dim and the fuse relay under the steering wheel begins its annoying dull chime of death. i'm going to drive the lemon through the next ford dealership showroom i see. i've read so many similar reports asking why don't they just recall them and fix the problem.
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wendy 08-29-2015 04:02
Apparently I am the only person on the planet that had virtually no problems removing the bolts, etc on a 1998 ford f 150. but I am unable to fit the starter out of the truck. It is sitting there disconnected in the void where I am desperate to put the new starter. It is not attached in any way, it simply will not fit thru the available spaces to remove it. HELP
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