Q: How do I differentiate when I need to change the starter vs replacing the starter relay?

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Sometimes when trying to start the car, I will hear a click and the car won't start. Sequential attempts end in the same result. Only after several attempts, or if I turn off all power and wait a minute, it will then start.

I've been told that I need to change the starter, while someone else advised that I can just change the relay. How do I know which I need to change?

My car has 115000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Hi There, The starter relay is a separate component from the starter and will generally not make any clicking sounds when it is failing. The starter relay directs power from the battery to the starter solenoid which then engages the starter when you turn the key. When this is not working properly, you may notice intermittent starting problems including no response when turning the key to start. Generally, when this does fail, it does so very randomly and usually without warning other than intermittent starting. The power from the battery will still power other accessories such as radio, horn, etc., but you may not have any power to the starter. When the starter solenoid (usually mounted to the starter on most vehicles) is not working properly, you may notice an intermittent clicking sound when trying to start the car as you describe. I would suggest having a professional from YourMechanic come to your location to diagnose and inspect your vehicle.

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