8 Symptoms of a Bad Starter

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The starter plays a small but important role inside your engine. Without it working properly your car won’t start or it will struggle to start. 

Unfortunatly, diagnosing a bad start is difficult and often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. 

Don’t worry, I’m here to help. In this post, I am going to go over the key signs of a bad starter and what you can do to fix it. 

Let’s get started. 

8 Symptoms of A Bad Starter

1. Car Doesn't Make Any Noise When Starting

One of the most common and obvious symptoms of a bad starter is when your car doesn’t start. The starter is an electric motor that turns the engine over, which allows it to suck in air and begin the combustion process.

A bad starter will cause a silent start. This means you won’t hear anything when turning the ignition.

This is a very important fact because if the car sputters or you hear some other noise, it could be something else. On the other hand, when there is no noise or movement at all, this is a clear sign that your starter is not working.

If your engine doesn’t start and it’s doesn’t make any noise, it’s because your starter is not engaging with your engine.

Pro Tip:  The starter is an electric motor. If your car doesn’t make any noise when you try to start it, you should also inspect your battery. Since the battery is much easier to test, this should be your first step. If your battery is working properly, then it’s highly likely that the issue is with your starter.

2. Car only makes Clicking Noise When Starting

Another common symptom of a bad starter is when your car doesn’t start, but you can hear the starter working. You will likely hear the turning or clicking sounds of the starter.

If the starter sounds normal, then its likely that the pin or bolt that works to turn over the engine is not working properly.

This means that the internal components of your starter are likely damaged or not working properly. One of the most common reasons for this is dislodged or damaged flywheel. This will prevent the starter from properly turning over your engine.

Determining the reason that your starter is not turning over your engine is typically difficult. I recommend you have a professional mechanic inspect your vehicle if you suspect this to be the issue.

3. Grinding Noise

One of the most significant signs that your starter is bad is if you hear grinding noise when your try to start your car. The grinding noise will typically start as soon as your turn your key to start your engine.

This issue is common in older vehicles or cars that have sustained damaged to the starter or flywheel. If you do hear grinding coming from your vehicle, I don’t recommend you continue trying to start your vehicle. It’s very unlikely that it will start, and continue attempts will result in more damage to the starter system.

This grinding noise is coming from the flywheel and the gears that help turn over the engine, when your starter begins to grind its because the flywheel or the gears are worn out or damaged.

They are no longer locking together and turning over the engine. The result is that the flywheel and the gears are rubbing against each other. This metal-on-metal rubbing creates the grinding noise that you are hearing.

4. Overheating Starter

If your starter receives continuous electricity, this can cause your starter to overheat. 

When your starter overheats, it will likely give off a burning smell, and in some cases, you might see smoke coming from your hood. 

This typically happens due to one of two reasons. 

  1. Wiring or connection issue
  2. Continuous running of the starter

With wiring or connection issues, this can cause your starter to continue running or cause a short in the electronics. This can cause your starter to overheat. 

The second reason is after extended and continuous use of the starter. This can happen if you continuously try to start your car, but it does not. Eventually, your starter will overheat and get damaged. 

It’s best to let your starter rest since its unlikely to start working if it didn’t work within the first three attempts. 

You can typically differentiate a starter issues from other issues becuase the smoke or foul smell typically happens before or just as you turn on the car. Other issues typically cuase smoke or foul smells after the car has been running for some time. 

5. Strange noises - Rattling or Whining Noise

You can typically tell if your starter is dying based on the sounds it’s making. If you are hearing a whining or squealing noise, then this is a sign of a failing starter.

Other common sounds include knocking or rattling sounds when you try to start your car.

When your start starts making new noises that it never has before, it’s typically a sign that your starter is going bad. If you do, suspect issues make sure you listen carefully when you start your car.

I recommend you roll down your windows, turn off your radio and A/C, and listen to your starter as you start your car. This will allow you easily hear what sounds your starter is making.

6. Oil On The Outside Of Your Starter

Another sign that your starter is bad is if you see oil stains on your starter. This is not the fastest or easy way to determine if your starter is bad.

To check if there is oil, you will need to get under your car. While the location of the starter varies depending on the make and model, most starters can be seen from the driver side under the front of the vehicle.

If you see oil dripping or old oil stains on your starer, this is a sign that your starter is going bad.

The main reason behind an oil-soaked starter is that there is a leak on the seals or gaskets on your image. The most common leak that causes this issue is the rear main seal of your engine.

When this seal leaks, it will lead directly to the starter, causing an oil-drenched starter.

7. Starter Keep Running After Engine Is On

Another very common sign that your starter is bad is if it continues to run after your car is already started. This is a hard symptom to identify because the sound of the engine typically drowns out the sound of the starter.

You are more likely to hear this if your car is in idel. You will likely hear the clicking and whirring sounds of the starter running.

Remember, your starter should turn off as soon as your car is fully started. So, if you suspect that your starter is running even after your engine is running, you should take your car to a professional.

Several reasons can cause these issues, including faulty wiring or sensor issues. Another common reason is that the relay may get stuck in the open.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly because it can damage your entire starter system if not addressed.

It’s best to take your car to a professional mechanic immediatly since this is an issue that most people can’t diagnose or repair at home.

8. Lose of Power When Starting Car

Another common symptom of a failing stater is a loss of electricity of power when you start your vehicle. 

Most commonly your lights will become dim for a moment as your start your vehicle. Your dashboard or your radio might also turn off when you start your car. 

This is typically due to a short curcuit somewhere inside the starter. 

When this happens the starter will need to pull additional power from other parts of your vehicle. As a result, some electronic features will lose power momentrily. 

Overtime its likely that this short circuit will cause other issues and can cuase other issues to the starter system. 

You should take your car to a professional if you experience this issue. 

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