signs of a bad starter

Things break down (and so do people, but that’s off-topic), and if your car is one of them and refuses to start, it’s good to know what the issue might be. To help with your car troubles, check out these eight signs of a bad starter and see what you can do to fix the issue.

What Is a Starter?


To put it simply, a starter is the heart of your engine. If it betrays you, you won’t be able to even start your car. A starter relay is located between the starter motor and the battery, and its role is to transmit power.

People often overlook signs of a bad starter, so let’s dive right in.

8 Signs of a Bad Starter

8 Signs

Should you notice any of the following signs, it might be time to visit your mechanic.

1. The Sound Is Off

When you push the start button or turn the key, you might hear the clicking, whirring and grinding noises, indicating something is wrong, so listen carefully. However, keep in mind that starters can also die very peacefully, making no noise at all.

2. The Lights Are On, but No One’s Home

When you try to start the engine, all the lights on the dashboard go on, but the engine is quiet. This is never a good sign, and it might mean that you have a starter issue.

3. The Engine Just Won’t Crank

You’ve tried it all, even to jumpstart, but the engine isn’t revving up? Again, it’s possible that your starter is sending you a message about its health and that it’s time to visit a car doctor.

4. There’s Smoke Coming Out of Your Car

You’ve tried to start your car multiple times, but nothing happened, except there’s smoke coming out? The starter is part of the electrical system, and short circuits or blown fuses are common.

If you attempt to start your car one too many times, the starter will overheat, and there will be smoke coming out. You might also smell something burning, and these two combined are a symptom of a bad starter.

5. The Starter Is Soaked in Oil

Another thing you might want to do is pop the hood to check up on the poor guy. It’s on the driver’s side, under the left bank of cylinders. If you see the starter bathing in oil, there’s another issue: an oil leak. It usually starts with a few drops, but it can quickly build up, so keep an eye out, because this issue may be quite pricey to fix.

6. Intermittent Start

An intermittent start is better than complete failure, but it is nevertheless frustrating. Loose or dirty wires might be behind it, and taking your car to a shop as soon as possible is the best course of action. This problem won’t go away on its own, and it is likely to get even worse the longer you wait, so deal with it in a timely manner.

7. Interior Lights Dim Upon Starting Your Vehicle

If you notice that your dashboard or interior lights dim while starting your car, there might be a short circuit. This means that your starter is trying to draw additional power, thus draining other systems. A chugging sound may accompany the issue, so if you hear that, have your car checked out immediately.

8. Solenoid Malfunction

The role of the solenoid is to transmit electrical current from your battery to the starter, and without it, the starter doesn’t work.

Once your key is in the crank position, and there’s no action, try jiggling the transmission gear shift lever. If your engine fails to crank again after this, the solenoid might have a problem.

What You Can Do

What You Can Do

Here are some solutions you can turn to if you notice any of these eight signs of a bad starter.

1. Check the Fuel Gauge

Don’t roll your eyes, this might be pretty basic, but rule out being out of gas just in case. People often tend to overlook the most obvious solutions, and this will save you some time and money.

2. Pop the Hood

Look under the hood and check the battery and its cables. A dead or a weak battery, or perhaps some loose wiring, may be the culprit, so make sure everything is in order before you blame the starter.

3. Give the Starter a Tap

Due to frustration, you might feel tempted to smash the starter, but don’t. Try tapping it lightly, and this might result in it powering back up as the electrical parts get contact with one another. If this works, keep in mind that it is just a temporary fix.

4. Jumpstart Your Vehicle

More often than not, jumpstarting your car is the only solution when you’ve noticed any of the above signs of a bad starter. It doesn’t always work, but if it does, it’s another temporary fix until your mechanic can deal with the problem. However, if jumpstarting fails too, your car might have to be towed.

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