Symptoms of a bad starter

By YOUCANIC on Jun 19, 2019

Troubleshooting Car Won't Start Problem

There are endless problems that can prevent a vehicle from starting. Sure the problem could be a bad starter, but a no start condition does not always equate to a faulty starter.

There are several other components you need to check. 

Weak Battery

The first thing you should check is the battery. Use a digital multimeter and set it to the voltage setting.

Check the voltage of the battery.

The battery voltage should be at least 12 volts. If you do not have a multimeter; simply turn on your headlights.

The headlights should stay bright for at least 1 minute. If the headlights start to dim considerably after 1 minute that means you have a weak battery.

Many auto parts stores perform free battery and alternator test. If you can get your car to start, take it to a store near you to get it tested free of charge. 

Battery Connections

weak battery

Before condemning a faulty starter check the condition of the battery cable and battery terminal.

A corroded cable and battery terminal would deliver less voltage to the starter. Therefore a clicking noise can be heard meaning insufficient battery power.

The following video shows you how to clean battery terminals and post using a Battery Terminal Brush.


Engine seized

bad starter in car

Check if the engine is seized (locked) by manually turning the crankshaft. 

Especially if the car overhead or oil light was on while driving. Start by turning the engine over by hand at the crankshaft pulley.

This way you can verify a possible seized engine. If you’re unable to turn the engine over; then the engine possibly threw a rod or main bearing can possibly become loose.

In addition, when an engine is seized the starter will have a hard time turning the engine over therefore a grinding noise can be heard and the starter eventually will become hot.

Ignition switch

bad ignition swtich preventing car from starting

First, let’s test the ignition switch. Try to start your vehicle and if the starter is making some noise that means the ignition switch is delivering power to the starter. At this point, the ignition does not need to be replaced. 

One of the quickest ways to test for a good ignition switch and ignition switch wire is to test it at the starter. There is a ( +) terminal located on the starter. Use a voltmeter and connect the negative side of the voltmeter to the ground of the vehicle.

This can be on the frame, a bolt, on the engine bay, transmission and so on. Next, take the positive side of the voltmeter and probe the (+) terminal. Have someone turn the key over. If power is reaching to the (+) terminal then the ignition switch is working properly. 


Let’s begin with the starter fuse since it is the easiest to check. Locate the starter fuse.

The starter fuse is usually located around the engine bay in the fuse box; it can also be located underneath the steering wheel and some time behind the passenger side panel.

Use a fuse puller and remove the fuse. Check the fuse and make sure it is not blown.

Starter relay

There are four terminals on a starter relay. Two terminals are for power and the other two terminals are for the load side.

On a typical starter, terminal number 86 and 85 are for the power side. And the load side is number 87 and 30. Give power to number 86 and 85. You should be able to hear a clicking noise.

Next, use a multimeter and set it to the ohm setting. Connect the power side and negative side of the multimeter to number 87 and 30.

There should be continuity and reading should be zero. If there is no reading; the relay is faulty.

Test Starter

bad starter symptoms remove and test

Use a battery jumper and connect the negative side to the body of the starter. Connect the positive side of the jumper to the (b) terminal.

Next, use a jumper wire or a screwdriver and touch the (b) terminal to the (s) terminal. This should give power to the starter. If the starter motor fails to move, then the starter is faulty.


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