How Does a Starter Motor Work?

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When you turn the key in your car’s ignition, the engine turns over and then cranks. However, getting it to crank is actually much more involved than you might think. It requires a flow of air into the engine, which can only be achieved by creating suction (the engine does this when it turns over). If your engine isn’t turning, there’s no air. No air means that fuel can’t combust. The starter motor is responsible for turning the engine over during ignition and allowing everything else to happen.

How your starter works

Your starter is really an electric motor. It engages when you turn the ignition to “run” and turns the engine over allowing it to suck in air. On the engine, a flexplate or flywheel, with a ring gear around the edge, is attached to the end of the crankshaft. On the starter, there’s a gear designed to fit into the grooves of the ring gear (the starter gear is called a pinion gear).

When you turn the ignition switch, the starter motor is energized, and the electromagnet inside the body engages. This pushes out a rod to which the pinion gear is attached. The gear meets the flywheel, and the starter turns. This spins the engine over, sucking in air (as well as fuel). At the same time, electricity is sent through the spark plug wires to the plugs, igniting the fuel in the combustion chamber.

As the engine turns over, the starter disengages, and the electromagnet stops. The rod retracts into the starter once more, taking the pinion gear out of contact with the flywheel and preventing damage. If the pinion gear remained in contact with the flywheel, it’s possible that the engine would spin the starter too fast, causing damage to it.


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Robert

19 years of experience
679 reviews
Robert
19 years of experience
GMC Yukon XL 1500 - Car is not starting - Denver, Colorado
Robert was on time , immediately diagnosed the problem and serviced my truck . no waiting in the service area or dropping truck off only to be told at 6pm that they didn't have time to check my truck . perfect !
Nissan Murano - Car is not starting - Brighton, Colorado
Mechanic showed up 1 hr early. Took about 20 minutes to diagnose and find a solution. Efficient, knowledgeable, but soft spoken. Would call again. Thanks!

Raymond

26 years of experience
27 reviews
Raymond
26 years of experience
Ford Taurus - Car is not starting - Victorville, California
Raymond was very thorough and informative. Thanks to his suggestions my car started the next day. He was on time and really did a great job explaining everything clearly as to what my next steps should be.
Honda Civic - Car is not starting - Hesperia, California
Came out on time very friendly fixed problems easily very knowledgeable and experienced! I would recommend Raymond to anyone .

Cornelius

17 years of experience
71 reviews
Cornelius
17 years of experience
Chevrolet Avalanche - Car is not starting - Lithonia, Georgia
Arrived on time, checked the battery and starter and after inspecting determined that the engine has internal components that need repairing because the engine is locked.
Nissan Versa - Car is not starting - Fairburn, Georgia
He canceled on me once due to weather but was prompt on reschedule and had my car running by the end of my appointment.

Jason

14 years of experience
43 reviews
Jason
14 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra - Car is not starting - New Hyde Park, New York
Jason was early and did everything he could to troubleshoot my car not starting. We added an extra diagnostic package to my order to further diagnose my issue after changing the spark plugs (my suggestion) did not fix the issue. Unfortunately we were not able to get the car started during his visit. Jason is friendly and thorough. Only wished we could have gotten my car back on the road. Gave Jason 5 stars based on his friendly demeanor and thoroughness.
Hyundai Elantra - Car is not starting - Far Rockaway, New York
He works very well along with he is very informative in car knowledge. He gave great advice on the next repairs that need to be completed for my vehicle. He works well with you and is very efficient in repairing.

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