Understanding Starter Motor Problems

Understanding Starter Motor Problems
Ever wonder what starter motor problems are? Are you stuck in an emergency and start questioning yourself on how to start a car with a bad starter? Then you are not alone. Many drivers on the road experience the same problem. Starter motor problems are common among car owners today and it is important to know what to do in case you have one.
Not only do starter motor problems cost a lot but they also are a hindrance for you to get back on the road. You can’t afford to get stranded on the side of the road. The good news is, there are ways to fix starter motor problems and in some cases, it could be as simple as replacing worn-out parts.
In this article, we will talk about some of the most common starter motor problems, signs if you have one, and what causes them to fail. So if you are ready to learn, then please read on.

Common Starter Motor Problems

We know that starter motors have different parts or components that work together to produce electricity. But some of the parts can wear out faster than others, and this is what causes starter motor problems. Let’s take a look at some of these common starter motor problems and how they affect your vehicle.
Common Starter Motor Problems

Dead Battery

In some cases, the problem is not with the starter motor but with your battery. If the battery is dead or weak, it will not be able to supply enough power to start your engine. This can happen if you have left your lights overnight or if you are driving in very hot conditions (like in Arizona). Sometimes, simply jump-starting a vehicle can solve this problem.

Faulty Solenoid

Solenoids are those small devices that attach to the battery and control how electricity flows through your vehicle. If a solenoid is faulty, it may not be able to send enough power to the starter motor and cause it to fail. A bad solenoid can also cause electrical problems with other accessories (like air conditioning).

Worn Brushes

Brushes are among many components of the starter motor. They are small brushes that rub against the solenoid and cause it to send power to the starter motor, which in turn spins when you try to start your car. If these brushes become worn out or damaged, they may not be able to deliver enough power to start your vehicle.

Faulty Ignition Switch

In cases where the starter motor is getting power, but not enough to start your car, it may be due to a faulty ignition switch. The ignition switch is what you use every time you turn on the engine.

Loose or Corroded Connections

Since there are a lot of components that go into starting your car, it’s possible that there is a loose connection somewhere. This could be the battery terminals or connections to other parts such as the starter motor.
As a car owner, it is important to at least understand how these components work and how to troubleshoot them in case they fail. This will give you a head start in identifying the problem and how to fix it. If you’re not sure how to do this, take your car to an auto repair shop and let them diagnose the issue.

Symptoms of a Bad Starter Motor

While there are some cases where a failing starter motor doesn’t give you any hint of being worn out, there are also obvious signs that you need to have it replaced. If your starter is failing, then you may notice these signs:
  1. Engine Cranking But Not Starting: You turn the key, and the engine cranks but doesn’t start. This could mean that your starter motor is failing. The starter motor is responsible for cranking the engine, and if it’s not working properly, the engine won’t start.
  2. Clicking Sound When Turning the Key: If you hear a clicking sound when turning the key, it’s possible that there’s a problem with the starter motor. This clicking sound can be caused by a weak or dead battery, a faulty starter solenoid, or a worn-out starter motor.
  3. Slow Cranking: When you turn the key and your engine cranks slowly, it’s a sign that your starter motor may be failing. This could be due to worn-out starter motor brushes, a weak battery, or a faulty starter solenoid.
  4. Grinding Noise When Starting: If you hear a grinding noise when starting your engine, it could indicate a problem with the starter motor. This noise is often caused by a worn-out starter motor gear or a faulty starter solenoid.
  5. Smell of Burning: If you smell burning when trying to start your engine, it could be a sign of a failing starter motor. This can be caused by an overheated starter motor due to prolonged cranking, which can result from a weak battery, a faulty starter solenoid, or worn-out starter motor brushes.

How to Diagnose Starter Motor Problems

  • Check the battery: Before assuming the starter motor is the problem, check the battery. Make sure it’s fully charged and has no corrosion on the terminals. Using a battery with a small capacity or a poor state of charge will make the starter fail to reach the designed output power.
  • Listen for sounds: When you turn the key, listen for sounds coming from the engine. Listen to whether the starter gear pops up and the sound of running to confirm whether the electromagnetic switch and the armature are in action.And listen to whether the pop-up and running sound of the starter gear is normal, including: abnormal sound of flywheel damage, starter gear and internal damage; high noise during operation; sound of the starter not stopping working and rotating with the engine.
  • Inspect the wiring and voltage of the starter: Confirm that the S-terminal plug connecting the starter to the car starter switch has been inserted in place. Measure the voltage of terminal B of the starter, which should be consistent with the voltage of the battery.
  • Test the battery terminals for looseness and poor contact, check for broken lines and grounding conditions:

Poor wiring harness and wiring (wire harness grounding, wiring harness short circuit, loose and rusted wiring parts), the voltage applied to both ends of the starter is insufficient, and the starter works under low voltage for a long time.

  • Check the ignition key and protection relay for poor return and stuck conditions:When the ignition key returns automatically, measure the S terminal of the starter. If there is voltage at the S terminal, please check the ignition key and the protection relay. This situation will cause the starter to still be energized after the engine is started, so that the starter can not be disconnected from the flywheel of the engine, and the starter gear will be driven by the flywheel to rotate at high speed passively,and the starter gear will be damaged if it is energized for a long time.
  • Check the oil viscosity: The engine is locked and the viscosity of the engine oil is high, which will cause a large starting resistance.
  • Seek professional help: If you’re unsure about any of the steps or don’t have the necessary tools, it’s best to seek professional help. A mechanic can diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action.

Causes of Starter Motor Failure

Now that we are through some of the common symptoms of a faulty starter motor, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes and how to prevent them:
  1. Wear and Tear: The components of the starter motor can wear out over time, particularly the brushes. To prevent this, have your vehicle serviced regularly and replace worn components as needed.
  2. Faulty Wiring: Faulty wiring, such as loose or corroded connections, can prevent the starter motor from receiving the necessary electrical current. To prevent this, regularly inspect the wiring and connections and have any issues repaired promptly.
  3. Faulty Solenoid: The starter solenoid can fail, preventing the starter motor from engaging. To prevent this, have your vehicle serviced regularly and replace the solenoid as needed.
  4. Dead Battery: A dead or weak battery can cause the starter motor to fail. To prevent this, have your battery tested regularly and replace it if necessary. Additionally, ensure that all electrical components are turned off when the engine is not running to prevent unnecessary battery drain.
  5. Environmental Factors: Extreme temperatures, exposure to water or corrosive chemicals, and other environmental factors can cause starter motor failure. To prevent this, try to park your vehicle in a covered area or garage when possible, and avoid driving through deep water or other hazardous conditions.
By taking these steps, you can help prevent starter motor problems and ensure that your vehicle starts reliably every time. Regular maintenance and inspections can also catch any issues early, before they cause significant damage to the starter motor or other components.


Starter motor function is critical to the overall performance of a vehicle. After all, if you can’t start your car, what good is it? It’s important to stay on top of these issues and perform regular maintenance on your starter motor. If you suspect that your starter motor is malfunctioning, contact a professional to diagnose the problem.
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