Q: How Does the Starter Work in Your Car?

asked by on November 30, 2015

How does the starter work in your car?

Starter Replacement $154.22 - $1048.49 Get a Quote

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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

What others are asking

Can a dead battery cause my engine to stop working?

A dead or internally shorted battery can not only cause a car to stall but it will also overload the alternator as the alternator attempts to both charge the dead battery and supply the car's electrical needs. The battery can...

Trunk will not open

The trunk on your 2011 BMW 328i most likely has a power open button. If the battery is not in the vehicle, the vehicle has no power and therefore electrical components will not work. The best recommendation I have for...

What Are the Top 5 Things That Will Change Your Car Battery?

There are many reasons why a car battery will drain, but it depends on the year of your vehicle. If you are driving an older vehicle, it could be something like an aftermarket alarm system, a poorly installed aftermarket stereo...

my battery wont charge and its good and altenator is to whats wrong

If the battery will not hold a charge, then it may be bad or has a draw on it causing the drain. I recommend having the battery checked to see if the battery has a draw. Check to make sure...

EPC light on an now I have no power, brake an battery light is flashing

You probably have a dead battery. The computer systems on your car will be prone to odd behaviors when the battery voltage gets low, so you may see lots of things that don't make sense. The battery could be dead...

Changed alternator and battert, light still on and car dieing

This may suggest a bad grounding issue or potentially a failing voltage regulator. This is a unit that regulates the charging of the battery by the alternator. Often times this will result in the alternator allowing too much power to...

Trying to start the car yields only loud clicks but the battery and starter are good

Bench testing a starter motor, unloaded, can sometimes be unreliable. This is because there is usually a Bendix drive in a starter motor which if failed will be undetectable because the starter motor will still spin and draw normal current-...

My Toyota windom is not starting.

Hi there. Check the battery cables to see if they are are tight and clean. If the cables are loose or corroded, then clean them and tighten them up. If the cables are fine, then check the battery voltage and...

Displays and warning lights; windows won't open

A few different faults can cause the symptoms you have described. The most likely would be either a wiring short or a body control computer failure. In either case, they have the potential to affect multiple systems at once and...

Related articles

How Can I Tell If My Car Battery Needs Replacing?
There There are few things more frightening than hearing buzzing or clicking from your car when you’re trying to start it. It could mean any number of things, but chances are that it means you have a faulty car battery....
Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Battery Cable
If you experience problems starting and powering the car or find corrosion on the battery terminals, you may need to replace a battery cable.
How the Alternator Works in Your Car
Your Your car alternator, at its most basic, is what works along with your battery and the rest of your charging system to keep your car running. When you start your car, you’re running on battery power. Then the battery...