Symptoms of a bad starter
There may come a day that you may experience your car not starting. However, there are symptoms that your starter is on its way out. Some signs of a faulty starter are:
- car won't start
- clicking noise,
- grinding noise,
Eventually, a no start when the starter fails completely. One of the most common ways to verify a bad starter is to hit the old starter with a rubber mallet. This will allow the starter to work a couple more times before it completely fails.
A no start does not always equate to a faulty starter. There are several other components you need to check as well.
Troubleshooting a car with bad starter
In this article, we will show you how to check the starting system before condemning a faulty starter. Let’s begin with the easiest component to check and work your way up.
Step 1: Check 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 12.2 volts and up. 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 starts to dim considerably after 1 minute that means you have a weak battery.
Step 2: Starter makes noise at start up
A starter making noise is an indication that your starter is failing.
Some of the noises are:
- clicking noise,
- grinding noise,
- clacking noise,
- starter solenoid gear free spinning
However, 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.
Conduct a voltage test. Connect the negative lead on the voltmeter to the negative side of the battery and the positive lead on the positive side down at the starter. The voltage should be very close to battery voltage if the battery voltage is much lower. Also, if the battery cable is corroded it should be replaced.
Step 3: Check if engine seized
You should check for a possible seized engine if your car died while driving. 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. However, if your engine was in good running condition before the starter issue, then you do not have to check for a seized engine.
Step 4: Good battery but no start
There are a few components in a starting system that can cause a no start.
The components are:
- ignition switch,
- starter relay,
- starter fuse,
- corroded starter cable,
- poor connection,
Here is a break down how to test each of the following:
First, let’s test the ignition switch. Try to start your vehicle and if the starter is making some noise that means 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 ( s) 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 (s) terminal. Have someone turn the key over. If power is reaching to the (s) terminal then the starter is faulty.
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 sometime behind the passenger side panel. Use a fuse puller and remove the fuse. Check the fuse and make sure it is not blown.
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 click 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.
Connect a wire and connect the (s) terminal. Take the wire and touch the positive side of the battery. This should give power to the (s) terminal. As long your battery cables are good this test should start the starter. However, if the starter fails to turn the engine over, then it’s time to replace the starter.
Step 5: Bench Test
To bench test a starter. First, remove the starter from the engine. 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.
Remember, be mindful when conducting this test, it can be dangerous.