Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Starter

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Every memorable drive you've experienced in your life begins with the successful operation of the starter on your vehicle. The starter on today's cars, trucks and SUVs is attached in the rear of the motor, where a gear on the starter aligns with the vehicle's flywheel to begin the ignition process. Once the engine turns over, fuel is introduced to the combustion chamber and is ignited by the activated ignition system. When this process works correctly, your engine comes to life. However, when the starter begins to wear out or break, it will impact your ability to drive the car.

Over time, the starter motor will eventually run its course and wear out. The two components inside the starter that commonly fail are the solenoid (which sends an electrical signal to the starter motor to activate) or the starter motor itself. When this occurs, the starter will be rendered useless and needs to be replaced by a certified mechanic. Although many of the internal components inside the starter can be fixed, it's recommended by most automotive manufacturers to replace the starter, so as to avoid future breakdowns.

Like any other mechanical device, when the starter fails or begins to wear out, it will display a few warning signs. Note the following 6 indicators of car starter problems:

1. The engine won't turn over and vehicle won’t start

The most common indicator of a problem with your starter is when you turn your key and nothing happens. You may hear no engine sound whatsoever or a loud clanking noise. This is often caused by the starter solenoid or motor that has burnt out or is experiencing an electrical issue. However, this problem may be caused by a dead battery as well. If this occurs, you'll have to contact a mechanic to inspect the starter, ignition system, and other electrical components, as it may be a sign of multiple issues.

2. Starter engages but doesn't spin the motor

There are times when you'll turn the ignition switch and hear the starter activate but will not hear the motor crank over. Issues with the starter are sometimes mechanical in nature. In this case, the problem may be due to the gears connected to the flywheel. Either the gear has stripped or become dislodged against the flywheel. In either case, the engine won't turn over and will require that you have the starter replaced by a certified mechanic.

3. Sporadic starting issues

Loose or dirty wiring within the starter system can cause the car to start or not start irregularly, and it can be hard to repair. It could also be caused by a damaged or failing electrical component. Even if starting problems only happen occassionally, you should get your starter inspected to avoid being unable to get home from an unfamiliar area.

4. Grinding noise when trying to start the motor

Similar to the issue above, this warning sign often occurs when the gears that connect the starter to the flywheel are worn out. However, grinding may also happen inside the starter motor. In either case, it's something that can't be fixed on the car. If this noise continues without the starter being replaced, it can cause damage to the engine's feel, which is a rather expensive repair to have completed.

5. Interior lights dim when starting the car

A short circuit in the the starter motor’s wiring may cause your dashboard lights to dim whenever you start the car. In this case, the starter motor pulls extra current away from the vehicle’s other systems. If a chugging sound accompanies the dimming lights, the bearings within the starter motor may be failing. Regardless, have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible.

6. Smell or see smoke when starting the motor

The starter is a mechanical system that is powered by electricity. Sometimes the starter will overheat because of continued power being supplied to the starter or the starter motor will not shut off after the car's engine has ignited. If this occurs, you'll most likely see or smell smoke coming from underneath the engine. This problem may be caused by a short circuit, blown fuse, or a problem with the ignition switch. In any case, it's important to contact a certified mechanic as soon as you notice this problem.

Problems with the starter are virtually impossible to avoid, as there really isn't a predetermined or recommended replacement by the automotive manufacturer. As soon as you notice freewheeling, grinding noises, smoke, or your vehicle not starting at all, contact a professional mechanic to further assist you in figuring out the problem.


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Chris

20 years of experience
1650 reviews
Chris
20 years of experience
Honda Civic - Starter - Irvine, California
Great mechanic, very knowledgeable. He wanted to confirm the problem with my car before just replacing the part and I appreciated that.
Jeep Grand Cherokee - Starter - Irvine, California
Chis was excellent! He always arrived on time, professional, very knowledgeable, did an initial inspection of my car, changed my starter, my car is running well now!

Michael

10 years of experience
39 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Suzuki Kizashi - Starter - Norcross, Georgia
He showed up early, did the requested service very competently and gave a proper diagnosis on the vehicle, told me exactly what it needs
Honda Accord - Starter - Norcross, Georgia
Michael did a great job replacing my starter. Was really fast and even diagnosed other issues with the car.

Nikolay

18 years of experience
26 reviews
Nikolay
18 years of experience
Honda Accord - Starter - Carlsbad, California
On time and very professional. Got task completed in less time. I'm pleased with the service and especially by Nicolay.
Toyota Corolla - Starter - San Diego, California
He was thorough and very knowledgeable about my car. Plus he took the time to explain the other issues my car is having. Did I mention he was 30 mins early! (:

James

28 years of experience
587 reviews
James
28 years of experience
Chevrolet Tahoe - Starter - Orlando, Florida
JAMES IS AWESOME! Arrived on time and fixed replaced our starter so quick! My husband said James was excellent and even hung out while he fixed our truck. I will be requesting James for all our vehicles issues from now on! THANKS SO MUCH for getting us on the road fast! Also worth noting....The price was right on and didn't change like it usually doesn't when I take it to the shop. NO WAITING in a shop or calling to see if they even looked at your vehicle yet! are ya kidding! LOVE THIS!
Hyundai Santa Fe - Car Starter Repair - Orlando, Florida
Extremely friendly and knowledgeable, my car was fixed in under an hour and I saved money. Would highly recommend his services, I plan to go to him for my future car needs.

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