How to Start a Car With a Bad Starter

Close-Up Photo of a Car's Start and Stop Button

If your car is having difficulty starting, it is crucial that you take steps quickly to identify and address the cause. First check the battery and electrical connections.

An inoperable starter can be frustrating, but there are ways you can try to revive it. One method involves gently tapping on it with a hammer or scrap wood.

Check the Battery

When trying to start your car with an inoperable starter, it is crucial that you inspect its battery first as a weak or dead battery could also pose as much of a complication.

Your battery provides your car with the energy it needs to start its engine and run all other systems, temporarily depleting itself when activating its ignition system but then replenishing as you drive via its alternator.

An improper battery may cause your car to run more slowly or not turn over at all, as it fails to provide sufficient electricity to the starter relay/solenoid and prevent it from turning the engine over when you turn over the key.

Check your battery using a voltmeter; for optimal car starting performance you must see between 12.2 and 12.8 volts minimum for proper functioning.

Signs that your battery may be failing are when it begins cranking slowly before stopping altogether, which could indicate either an insufficient charge in your battery, mechanical problems with your engine, or an improper starter setup.

If your car starts slowly and you are uncertain as to the source, calling in a mechanic might be best. They will be able to identify the issue and help address it directly.

Starters are an integral component of your vehicle’s electrical system and should always be functioning at their best to avoid costly repairs. Failure can have serious repercussions; so it is crucial that you identify what the cause may be before spending money on unnecessary repairs.

When your starter fails, you will likely hear a clicking or grinding sound as its teeth have failed to mesh with those on your engine’s flywheel.

Once you hear this noise, it is crucial that you immediately stop cranking the engine as this could damage the teeth of the flywheel and lead to costly repairs down the line.

Warning signs that it’s time to replace your starter include hearing an unpleasant grinding noise when trying to start your car and hearing clicking sounds when starting the engine. If this is happening to you, then replacing your starter as soon as possible would likely be beneficial.

Check the Electrical Connections

First step when starting a car with a failed starter should be checking its electrical connections, with loose or corroded connections between battery and starter motor a common source of failure, as well as dirt or debris accumulation on these connections.

With access to a multimeter, it is simple and quick to measure voltage, resistance and current in your vehicle’s starting circuit. This tool makes assessing its condition without needing to visit a mechanic easier!

Your best option for testing this connection is conducting a simple test: connecting the positive and negative leads of your meter to the respective terminals on the solenoid that connects to the starter solenoid, turning on your ignition, pressing the starter switch, and waiting – if nothing happens then everything should be in working order!

One solution would be to connect a jumper cable between the positive and negative battery terminals and touch it to the positive terminal on your starter’s positive terminal. If this does not work, there could be issues with either your jumper cables or relay.

The starter relay is an essential component of your vehicle’s starting system that takes power from the alternator and transfers it directly to the starter motor. Unfortunately, over time this important part can become blocked with residues and debris due to high temperatures, corrosion or other sources, restricting electricity going to its destination – the starter.

Failure to identify and address this problem with your multimeter can become a significant source of concern. If this fails, professional mechanics should be brought in to repair your relay.

Once you’ve identified the source of your issue, starting up the engine should be simple! Make sure your battery is charged up and all electrical connections are secure before trying to start it again.

After this step, run your solenoid directly off 12V power to see if any clicking noises emanate. If this occurs, the solenoid may be defective and should be replaced immediately.

Check the Solenoid

The solenoid is an integral component in an ignition system’s electrical circuit that controls current flow. It ensures that electricity reaches all its intended destinations without overburdening or shortcircuiting – should it fail, it may lead to issues in other areas of your vehicle’s electrical system.

As soon as you turn on your car’s ignition switch, electrical current flows through two circuits – one for interior components such as seats and speakers and one directly powering up the starter motor – before traveling through a solenoid to send power directly to it. For optimal operation of these systems, it is critical that they work correctly.

Sometimes solenoids become malfunctioning due to issues with their starter. You can check to make sure it works by checking resistance and continuity between its terminals with a multimeter.

If the resistance between your solenoid terminals is very high or there is no continuity, that indicates it has failed and should be replaced immediately. This should serve as a warning that replacement is necessary.

Before using a solenoid, be sure to test its connection using a circuit tester or test lamp. Connect one lead from your tester directly to the solenoid’s feed terminal while touching both leads together will light a lamp as an indicator that electric current is reaching it.

Make use of a voltmeter to verify that battery voltage is reaching the solenoid on top of your starter, making sure the red lead connects to its positive terminal while black leads are connected to its negative terminal.

The ideal voltage reading should be 12 volts or higher; if your meter shows no battery voltage whatsoever, this indicates an issue in your ignition or starter control circuit; possibly with either your solenoid being damaged or with your engine’s mechanical system.

Check the Wiring

When starting a car with an unresponsive starter, the first thing you should do is inspect its wiring to assess if a more serious issue could be at play.

Your car’s electrical system needs wires in good condition for it to function effectively and prevent fire or other electrical problems from developing. Furthermore, it’s crucial that you know which wires connect to which circuit.

With a multimeter, it’s possible to check the strength and circuit of each wire, as well as check for damage or frayed connections.

Locate the grounding points on your car (any exposed metal part that serves as a ground point). If these aren’t connected properly, starting your vehicle could prove challenging.

Corrosion, rust or loose wiring could be to blame. A wire brush can help clean connections while simultaneously checking them for signs of corrosion that might obstruct electricity flow.

Check your starter motor’s pinion gear to identify any missing or damaged teeth, which could obstruct engagement with the flywheel ring gear and be the source of starting issues in your car. This could be one cause of starting problems.

Breakdown of your solenoid is another problem that can impede proper start up of the engine. A solenoid is a small cylinder attached to the starter motor via “piggybacking”; typically located on the driver’s side of your vehicle’s engine block.

Your car’s ignition system relies on this small and delicate piece of machinery for starting. If its functioning is compromised, your car won’t start and you will require professional repair to fix it.

Your starter solenoid cables and terminals could also be to blame for difficulties starting your car, especially as they tend to collect grime and rust that causes its solenoid to malfunction.

If you are new to mechanics, or unfamiliar with your starter and solenoid system, consult a professional to inspect both before attempting repairs on your own. Doing this could save both time and money in the long run.