How Long Does a Starter Last?

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You turn the key in the ignition of your car and the engine cranks – that’s about as far as most drivers get in considering how the engine actually starts. What really happens is that when you turn the key in the ignition, a complex series of actions occurs. Voltage is sent to the starter, which pushes a large gear forward to connect with the engine’s flywheel. The starter motor then turns the gear, which turns the flywheel. When combined with spark, air and fuel, the engine cranks.

Your car’s starter motor is used only when you crank the engine. In theory, it’s possible that your original starter will last for most of the vehicle’s life, but there’s really no set lifespan. They can fail at almost any point. The primary culprit of early starter failure is user error – holding the key in the start position for too long actually creates dead spots on the starter.

The starter motor can fail due to a number of different things, but wear and tear is the primary cause. Another potential issue is that the problem isn’t the starter at all. It’s controlled by a relay and if the relay fails, the starter won’t work. The starter may also not work if the battery’s charge is too low (the starter turns very slowly), or if the battery is dead (the starter won’t turn at all).

If your starter does fail, you’ll be stuck until you get it fixed. Obviously, it’s important to know a few signs and symptoms to watch for that might indicate the starter is headed for an eventual failure. These include the following:

  • Starter is slow to crank the engine (this could also be a battery problem)
  • Starter doesn’t engage at all (failed starter, or possibly a failed relay)
  • The engine won’t turn over
  • Turning the key creates one loud click but does not turn the engine over
  • The starter makes a lot of noise when cranking the engine
  • The starter remains engaged at all times (creates a grinding sound)
  • The engine only starts intermittently

If you are having any problems starting your car, the culprit could be an ailing starter. Have a certified mechanic come diagnose why your car is not starting including the starter and replace the starter if needed.


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Jason

21 years of experience
183 reviews
Jason
21 years of experience
Nissan Altima - Car is not starting - Nashville, Tennessee
Excellent experience. Jason was on time, explained the problem, and fixed it quickly. Thank you Jason!! We’ll be asking for you next time. GS Nashville
Ford F-150 - Car is not starting - Nashville, Tennessee
Jason was very thorough and tried so many things to get to the root of the problem. It ended up being the trucks PCM! Thanks so much for figuring out the issue.

Allen

34 years of experience
440 reviews
Allen
34 years of experience
Ford Mustang - Car is not starting - Tavares, Florida
My 1965 Ford Mustang is modified with a supercharger and had starting problems. Allen had enough experience to very quickly diagnose the problem and fix it. The downside of using yourmechanic is the high cost, but the upside is you eliminate dealing with a sales-oriented service writer at a shop, and deal directly with, and verify the competency of the mechanic, and Allen is quite good. I have owned my Mustang since 1970 and can wrench many parts, but don't have the expertise to diagnose problems with carburetors, electrical etc. like he can, so that is the worth of finding and using a skilled mechanic. I will use him again.
Chevrolet R10 Suburban - Car is not starting - Geneva, Florida
We so appreciate you sending Allen to repair our 1988 Chevy Suburban. He is patient with an older vehicle . Sometimes, you have to know how the metals interact to get them to work and Allen does.

TJ

24 years of experience
340 reviews
TJ
24 years of experience
Chevrolet Express 3500 - Car is not starting - Port Charlotte, Florida
TJ is diligent, honest and impressively knowledgeable in auto repair. Thank you for a job well done and getting us back on the road again!

Juan

8 years of experience
175 reviews
Juan
8 years of experience
Volvo S40 - Car is not starting - Long Beach, California
Great mechanic! Really went out of his way to help me solve my issue and even gave recommendations on the important things that I can do myself to maintain and keep my car running smooth.

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