What Are Signs Of a Bad Starter? How to fix it?

The engine in a vehicle is started by the car starter. The starter failure can occur at the least expected moment. Therefore, after observing the first symptoms of starter failure, you should immediately begin the repair process. We will present some examples of faults - what are the signals and what are the causes. What if the starter turns, but does not fire? What if the starter does not turn the crankshaft? What makes it jerk or make noise? We'll tell you how to check the starter so that you don't get surprised by faults.


How do I know if my starter is bad or battery?

Whenever the engine is having difficulty starting, the first suspect is the battery. And rightly so, but it should be remembered that it is not always to blame. Problems can also result from improper operation of the starter. Since it is repeatedly subjected to high loads during operation, it is not surprising that it may eventually refuse to obey.

Remember that the starter uses a lot of electricity (200-600 A) from the battery in a short time. The starter needs an efficient battery to operate properly. Furthermore, improper operation of the starter can contribute to partial discharge and even damage to the battery.


Bad starter? Basic information about the starter

To start independent operation, an internal combustion engine needs energy from an external source. The starter is a small device that draws electricity from the battery. It's interesting to note that the dimensions of the ignition source are not in line with those of the combustion engine - it's, after all, considerably smaller. So how does it manage to start it? How exactly does the starter work? And what does it mean if the car does not turn?


Car starter: how does it work?

Despite its small size, the starter is a complex device. In its body, there are rotor, stator, switching device, electromagnets, commutator, and bendix. The starter works by taking a large amount of electricity from the battery and using a coupling mechanism (the so-called bendix) to give it to the car. Then the internal combustion engine can start running on its own.

The essential role of the car starter in the ignition system will remain untouched as long as combustion engines remain the dominant force in the ignition system. Modern vehicles from car list use electric starters, driven by a DC motor drawn from a battery. When starting the engine, the task of the starter is to give such a speed to the engine's crankshaft at which the internal combustion engine can start running on its own.


What are the symptoms of a bad starter on a car?

Even if the car starter fails, the symptoms don't have to be very alarming right away. The first thing that may appear is the malfunctioning of this component, for example, the loud noise that accompanies the firing of the car. It is likely that you are experiencing a mechanical malfunction when you turn the key. Even if your car starts and you can keep driving, dont underestimate a situation like this one. This is because a faulty starter often leads to problems with other parts of the car, such as the battery.

The second symptom produced by a faulty starter is a complete failure of this component to work. Do you turn the key and nothing happens? You are probably dealing with an electrical fault. This is usually due to excessive load and - for example - the occurrence of a short circuit in the wires.


What are the consequences of a bad starter?

A car starter failure does not necessarily result in the vehicle being unable to start immediately. In the case of mechanical problems, you can usually drive again, but experts recommend taking quick steps to fix it. 

A defective car starter can cause excessive strain on other car components. The most vulnerable are the battery and alternator, which is a direct result of the fact that an improperly working starter requires more energy to start the car. In certain instances, the engine flywheel may even sustain damage.

It is obvious that driving with a defective car starter is uneconomical. After all, every attempt to start the car is a waste not only of valuable time, but also of fuel. If you have to turn the key at least a couple of times before setting off, and you do it several times during the day, the costs increase.


What to do when the car starter has broken down?

Sometimes, you can figure out what's causing the problem yourself and fix it. However, if there is more serious damage and the starter does not turn, it is necessary to bring the car to a workshop. Below, you will learn what a starter failure looks like. What to do in such situations? Learn about the causes, and also how to solve the starter problem.

The most common malfunctions of the initial system can be divided into two categories: electrical and mechanical. Not all faults can be diagnosed and prevented early enough. Sometimes you can feel and hear the symptoms of failure when starting the engine, and sometimes starter failures are unexpected.


What can cause a starter to not rotate?

If the starter fails to respond upon turning the key, it is probable that a completely depleted battery is the cause. Further, it could be a defective starter wire, contacts or ignition switch, or maybe fuses.

A common problem is when you turn the ignition key or press the starter button and nothing happens. In such a case, especially if the indicator lights turn on and off when you turn the key, you should start looking for the cause of the lack of response in the battery. You need to check whether it is accidentally over-discharged. If it is charged enough, you should take the main cable from the starter under the magnifying glass to make sure it is not broken and that it is fully insulated.

The most convenient way to check the battery charge level is to plug a voltmeter into the car's cigarette lighter socket. The second solution is a meter connected to the battery. You can buy such a device for a small amount of money, and it's a good idea to make sure you always have it with you when you hit the road.

Read also:

What is car battery voltage?


When checking the battery, you should still make sure that the alternator is supplying power to it. How to do this. Start the engine and turn on the lights (they can be internal), then add gas. If the bulbs flare up with a brighter light, the alternator is operational.

By the way, it is worth looking at all the contacts and connections in the starting system. It may happen that the ignition switch or its cable is damaged. However, if these elements are also in working order - you are probably dealing with damage to the windings of the electromagnetic switch (faulty interaction with its core). Repair of such elements is worth entrusting to specialists. Furthermore, due to the utilization of appropriate equipment, they will conduct measurements and ascertain whether the potential fault has resulted in harm to other components. Such early recognition will help avoid further problems.


Start motor engages, but the engine doesn't turn

Can you hear the starter working, but its not turning the crankshaft? It could be a problem with the pinion at the flywheel connection or a deterioration of the coupling systems forks. Another source of problems could be broken bendix teeth.

There are also situations when you can hear the starter running, but it cannot turn the crankshaft, and thus the engine does not start. The most common culprit in this type of situation is a defective coupling mechanism (the pinion does not mesh with the flywheel), which connects the flywheel to the rotor or gearbox. It can also be caused by defective forks, whose role comes down to connecting the coupling system to the flywheel rim. Less commonly, the cause will be broken teeth or a defect in the one-way clutch that actuates the flywheel (bendix). In this case, the repair should be handled by professionals. The malfunction - in the context of the operation of the entire engine - is not serious, but its successful removal requires expertise. This is because it occurs in a larger system, and the correct operation of the starter depends on the correct cooperation between the various components.


Why is my starter turning over slowly?

If a car starter spins too slowly, it might be because the connections, like clamps, are corroding. Or a problem in the rotor circuit or worn bushings - if the starter runs noisily. In winter, the problem can be thick oil in the engine.

Here, too, the fault may lie with the battery, wires or their connections. There is a problem with the flow of charge to the starter, which results in a decrease in speed. It is worth not only checking the cables, but also occasionally cleaning the clamps because it is because of them that the current can "escape".

If all these components are in working in order, the cause may be a break in the parallel electrical circuit of the rotor or stator. There are also situations when the bushings on the rotor are excessively worn, the cause of which is rubbing it against the stator elements, which at the same time results in very noisy starter operation. Another source of this can also be worn brushes or a damaged rotor, as well as the failure of the starter motor.

In winter, with low temperatures, there can be problems with insufficient power. However, a greater danger may be the use of engine oils with excessive viscosity, such as 10W instead of 5W, which significantly increases the internal resistance in the engine itself. An oil change will then help.


Car starter juddering, jerking or stuttering

Turbulence of the starter may indicate wear of the coupling teeth, and irregular jerking may be the result of failure of the coupling unit. It can also happen when the starter, after starting, connects with the flywheel rim - but does not rotate it (characteristic rattling can be heard). Then we are dealing with damaged or excessively worn teeth in the coupling unit, or worn teeth on the flywheel rim itself. If the starter rotates the flywheel irregularly (characteristic jerking), the coupling assembly has most likely failed.


Why is my starter staying on?

Sometimes the starter still works even after starting the engine and turning the ignition key from position III to II. This is not necessarily the fault of the ignition switch. The reason for this can be a jammed pinion of the coupling assembly on the toothed rim of the flywheel. There are times when the bushing in the coupling assembly deteriorates and blocks the entire assembly from reversing. Also, common are over-burned contacts in the electromagnet, which remain short-circuited after an attempt to disconnect the starter, preventing it from completing its work. If you observe the first such symptoms of vehicle starting problems - you should repair the starter as soon as possible.


Bad starter – what to do?

The starter is an important component of the engine. Try to determine what the source of the problem is if you have noticed that the car does not spin, or if you have noticed the other signals mentioned above. In the case of an insufficiently charged battery, you will deal with the repair yourself. All you need to do is simply top up the energy level. You can use a charger or use starter cables. In the second case, remember to drive at least a few dozen kilometers after starting the engine. You will gain confidence that the alternator will provide enough energy to prevent problems the next time you start the vehicle.

For more difficult problems, whether mechanical or electrical, it is best to rely on the help of a professional. Replacing small components requires not only knowledge, but also experience and often specialized tools. You can check the wires and make sure there's no rust or anything else on your own.

If the car starter fails to turn and your vehicle fails to start, it may be necessary to contact a tow truck. In such situations, you may also come across advice that suggests starting the car on a push or pull. This solution made sense a dozen years ago, when cars were not saturated with electronics. In modern models, advanced systems watch over all functions, and many systems are connected to the starter. Unfortunately, if you push the car to start, it can hurt them.


How to avoid a bad starter?

There is no 100% effective method to protect yourself from starter failure. Like any operating component, this one too has a certain durability. However, it is possible to distinguish good practices by which you will manage to maximize its service life.

Regular maintenance of the starter - it is recommended that at least once a year, during a visit to the workshop - check the condition and, if necessary, use the starter reconditioning service. Also ensuring that the battery is always properly charged. This is especially important in the winter months, when starting a cooled engine requires more energy.

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