Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: How Does the Starter Work in Your Car?

asked by on

How does the starter work in your car?

Back in the old days, cars had a hand-operated crank that had to be spun around for quite a while by the driver in order to start an engine. The reason for this was simple. In order to start a combustion engine, there are three things that need to happen.

The engine must have fuel/air mixture flowing inside the combustion chamber Spark must be engaged to ignite the fuel Compression must be achieved inside the motor

The hand held starter was connected to the crankshaft, which controlled fuel flow, powered the coil to produce spark, and controlled the piston rods to move up and down to create compression. Believe it or not, today’s electric starters accomplish the exact same task of the hand held device, except they take away the manual labor and make life much easier for drivers to start their cars, trucks, or SUVs.

How does a starter work?

Today’s electric operated starters are connected to the side of the motor. They are powered by an electrical signal that is sent from the battery to a solenoid that sends an electrical current to a starter motor. As the starter motor receives electric power to engage, it engages an input shaft to push a series of metal gears against the engine’s flywheel (which is connected to the crankshaft). As the motor begins to spin, the flywheel is turned, which activates the starting procedure utilized today.

The starter motor is controlled by an ignition switch. When the driver presses the ignition button or turns the key to the start position, the starter motor spins. When the ignition switch is moved back to the run position, the starter motor stops spinning. The activation of the ignition switch also activates the fuel and electrical portion of the engine. The starter motor simply spins the motor over to produce the compression needed to ignite a cylinder.

The starter itself has multiple components that must work together in order to operate efficiently and start the vehicle’s engine. When any of these individual parts fail, the entire starter is typically rendered useless and must be repaired or replaced by a certified mechanic. Most starters last about 100,000 miles on most domestic and foreign vehicles. When they fail it is usually due to an electrical component failure such as the starter solenoid or damage inside the starter motor.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. How Does the Starter Work in Your Car?

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Car lights do not work

You may have a low voltage condition in the system or the headlight dash lights are shorted within the cluster. I would suggest having the charging system checked first. Then I would have the system scanned for a cluster problem...

Q: I can't get my car to start

Of course, confirm that the engine immobilizer system (security system) is not activated thus preventing the car from starting. Prior to performing circuit diagnostics be sure you have a fully charged battery that passes a load test. If there is...

Q: Steering lock sensor problem

Hello! That is a very familiar problem to me. I am a previous owner of a C70 and I once had a no start issue which was caused by a bad immobilizer antenna ring. The car would crank but not...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
P2428 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Gas Temperature Too High Bank 1
P2428 code definition A P2428 trouble code signifies that the PCM has detected a problem in the exhaust gas temperature sensor circuit in bank 1, which subsequently contains the number one...