How the Starter Works in Your Car

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A car starter is a powerful electric motor that cranks your engine in order to start your car. The starting system consists of the motor itself, and the attached solenoid. The solenoid is what takes battery power and delivers it to the starter motor. It also pushes the starter gear forward, allowing it to mesh with the gear teeth of the engine’s flywheel.

A high current is needed to start your car, so your battery has to have enough “juice” to enable the car starting system to work properly. Most of the time, when a car won’t start and the battery is fully charged, the starter motor is to blame. Starters do wear out. Let’s talk about some common car starting problems, some of which are related to the starter.

The starter cranks but the car won’t start

This might not be a starter problem. Most of the time, this is due to battery failure. Perhaps you left a light turned on, which caused the battery to drain. If the battery doesn’t have enough charge, you might hear clicking, or the starter might turn over slowly and then finally stop. You could have poor connections, corroded battery terminals, or simply a bad battery. Before you inspect the car starter, check your battery.

However, it could still be the starter. Sometimes, the control terminal becomes corroded or a wire comes loose. If this happens, you can disconnect the control wire (if it hasn’t already become disconnected and is the source of the problem), clean the terminal, and replace the wire.

You have to jiggle the key to start the car

Chances are you have a bad ignition switch. You turn the key to the “start” position, but you’re not consistently getting current to activate the solenoid. This is a common problem, caused by the contact points in the ignition switch wearing out. The ignition switch will need to be replaced.

Car starts in neutral, but not in park

The neutral safety switch in your vehicle prevents the car from operating unless the vehicle is in neutral or park, or in the case of a manual transmission, when the clutch is depressed. If the car starts in neutral but not park, the problem isn’t in the car starter system – you have a faulty neutral safety switch.

Lights go dim when the car is started

First check your battery. Dim lights when the key is turned to “start” often indicate that there’s a problem with the battery. If you test your battery and find that it’s fully charged, the problem could be with the car starter control circuit. It could be in the control wire, the starter relay, ignition switch or neutral safety switch.

Finally, as we’ve said, sometimes starters simply go bad. This can be due to worn brushes, bad bearings, and various other problems, many of which will require the services of a mechanic to properly diagnose. A certified mobile mechanic from YourMechanic can diagnose and repair your starter at your home or office.


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Rigoberto

9 years of experience
706 reviews
Rigoberto
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Niles, Illinois
Rigo was great! He got there early, finished the job early, left everything clean. He changed my rear pads and rotors. The original quoted time was 90 minutes, he was done in about 60. He knows what he is doing and I am recommending him to all my friends and coworkers.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
Rigo is a maverick hands down. Don’t take your car for work elsewhere. Especially great at Mercedes—this guy knows his profession! I will be using him for everything related to my car going forward.

Arturo

25 years of experience
35 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto
Nissan Maxima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Diego, California
Arturo was prompt and completed my brake repair, including new rotors in a very efficient manner. I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the parts and will definitely look to have him service our other car in the near future.

Scott

32 years of experience
345 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Michael

10 years of experience
15 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Conyers, Georgia
He was promptly on time and got the job done efficiently in a timely manner. I really appreciate the rapid respone on getting the job done! I would most definitely use this service again.

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