If your car is facing starting issues, you’d want to get to the bottom of it ASAP.
This Article Contains
- How To Test A Starter Solenoid (Step-by-Step)
- 4 Common FAQs On How To Test A Starter Solenoid
Let’s get started.
How To Test A Starter Solenoid (Step-by-Step)
Testing the starter solenoid isn’t a complicated process. It involves the same steps you’d follow when testing the starter relay or even the starter solenoid of your lawn mower.
To get started, you’ll need to follow these simple steps:
- Step #1: Locate the starter solenoid
- Step #2: Conduct a click test and check the battery
- Step #3: Test the current from the solenoid
- Step #4: Measure the voltage drop from the solenoid
Here are some tools you’ll need for the job:
- A set of wrenches and spanners (in case you’ll need to move components)
- A voltmeter or a digital multimeter
- A small jumper wire
It’s also ideal to have someone that’ll help you turn the key switch or press the start button while you perform tests.
Now, let’s take a look at how you could test your starter solenoid:
Step #1: Locate The Starter Solenoid
To get started, locate your starter solenoid by following these simple steps:
Open Your Vehicle’s Hood
The car starter solenoid is located in your vehicle’s engine compartment. To gain access to it, pull the hood release handle near the driver’s door. When you finish, open the hood by releasing the safety latch on the front part of your vehicle.
Find The Starter
Your car’s positive battery cable connects directly to the starter. So, an easy way to find the car starter is to identify the positive terminal of the battery and then follow the positive battery cable.
Identify The Starter Solenoid
Once you’ve located the starter, you can now easily find the starter motor solenoid. This is the smaller cylinder attached to the top or side of the starter.
The starter motor solenoid has three connection points — two of these points are for the solenoid’s input and output terminals, while the other point is the control circuit terminal.
The input starter terminal carries a wire that connects the starter solenoid to the car battery. Meanwhile, the output starter terminal carries a thick wire that powers the starter motor.
So, now that you’ve located the starter solenoid, you can conduct a click test.
Step #2: Conduct A Click Test And Check The Battery
After finding the starter solenoid, conduct a click test to see if the solenoid works properly.
Observe A Clicking Sound While Someone Turns On The Ignition Switch
Let someone turn on the starter switch while you stand near the engine. When the starter motor solenoid engages, you should hear a clicking sound.
If you hear a clicking sound but the starter motor isn’t moving, the solenoid could be engaging but not receiving enough battery power.
If there’s no sound, the starter solenoid is likely malfunctioning or you might have a dead car battery. In this case, you could test the battery to check if it indeed is the cause of your starter problem.
Here’s how you can test your car battery:
Test The Battery
If your starter fails to engage when you turn on the key switch, try testing your battery voltage using a voltmeter. Here’s how:
- Connect the positive (red) lead wire of the voltmeter to the battery’s positive terminal.
- Next, connect the negative (black) lead wire of the voltmeter to the battery’s negative terminal.
- Observe the voltmeter reading — the battery voltage should be around 12 volts before you start the vehicle. If the reading is below 12 Volts, or if there’s no reading at all, your battery might be too low or dead.
If your battery voltage is fine but the solenoid produces a weak clicking sound, try checking for current resistance in the control circuit. Here’s how you can do this:
Step #3: Test The Current From The Solenoid
When the starter solenoid produces a weak clicking sound, the fault could be with the control circuit or the solenoid.
To determine the cause of your starter problem, start by checking for current resistance in the control circuit.
Check For Current Resistance Using A Jumper Wire
The thin wire connected to the solenoid — referred to as the ignition switch connection — helps complete the control circuit. This connection only has current when you turn on the ignition key or press the start button.
An easy way to test for resistance in this control circuit is by using a jumper cable to complete the circuit. Here’s how you can do this:
- Connect the jumper cable between the control circuit terminal (the ignition circuit lead) and the input solenoid terminal.
- Observe a solid clicking sound from the starter motor solenoid. If your connections are okay but you don’t hear any clicking sound, the starter solenoid could be faulty.
You can further use a test light to check if the starter solenoid is indeed the cause of your starter problem. Here’s how:
Check For Current Resistance Using A Test Light
To check for current resistance using a test light, here are the steps you could follow:
- Connect the red lead wire of the test light to the input solenoid terminal.
- Next, ground the black lead wire from the test light to any bare metal surface on your vehicle’s body. You could also use the negative terminal of the battery as a ground connection point.
- Now, observe the light — if it turns on, then the starter motor solenoid is receiving power from the battery.
- Next, check if the starter solenoid is transferring power properly. To do this, shift the test light’s red lead wire to the output solenoid terminal. However, keep the black lead grounded.
- Let someone turn on the ignition key or press the starter button. Observe the light — if it doesn’t turn on, the solenoid is likely failing to transfer power and might need replacement. However, if the light turns on but there’s no clicking sound or starter engagement, the issue lies with the car starter. To resolve this, you’ll need to get a starter replacement.
If the test light turns on but you hear a weak clicking sound, you might need to measure the voltage drop on the starter solenoid. Here’s how:
Step #4: Measure The Voltage Drop From The Solenoid
In case you hear a weak clicking sound when you turn on the key switch, the starter solenoid might be drawing insufficient power from the battery. In this case, you should check the voltage drop on the starter solenoid.
To check this, set your multimeter to 15 or 20 Volts on the DC Voltage scale. From there, here are the steps you could follow:
- Start by measuring the voltage drop from the battery. This will determine the amount of voltage drawn by the starter solenoid when it engages. To do this, connect the positive lead wire (red) of the multimeter to the positive terminal of the battery.
- Next, connect the negative lead wire (black) of the multimeter to the negative terminal of the battery.
- Observe the multimeter reading — your car battery should produce approximately 12 Volts when nothing is drawing power from it.
- While holding the multimeter, let someone turn on the ignition switch or press the starter button. If your battery has no issues, the voltage reading should drop from 12 Volts by approximately half a volt (0.5 Volts).
- Next, measure the voltage drop from the solenoid. To do this, place the multimeter’s positive lead wire on the output solenoid terminal. From there, place the multimeter’s negative lead wire on the input solenoid terminal.
- Finally, let someone turn on the ignition switch while you observe the voltage drop reading. The reading should match the voltage drop you measured on the battery (about 0.5 Volts). If the voltage drop is a match, then your starter problem is likely caused by the car starter and not the solenoid.
If the voltage drop is less than half a volt, then you have a faulty solenoid. If the voltage drops too much, you might have a faulty electrical connection.
4 Common FAQs On How To Test A Starter Solenoid
Here are some common FAQs on testing a starter motor solenoid:
1. What Is A Starter Solenoid And How Does It Work?
The starter solenoid is an electrical device that works as a special type of electric relay. It forms part of the starter circuit and helps transmit electric current from the battery to the starter.
This device also works with the pinion gear. When you turn on the ignition key or press the starter button, the starter motor solenoid shifts the starter pinion gear to mesh it with the engine flywheel or flexplate.
But when your starter solenoid malfunctions, the starter pinion might not engage properly or the starter motor won’t receive enough power. And when you don’t have proper starter engagement, this might cause damage to the pinion gear or other critical engine components.
2. Why Is My Starter Solenoid Faulty?
Here are some possible reasons behind a bad starter solenoid:
Dead Battery, Loose Battery Cable, Or Corroded Battery Terminal
Whether you’re dealing with a tractor starter solenoid or a small lawn mower solenoid, you’ll need electric power. So, if you have a dead battery, a loose battery cable, or a corroded battery terminal, you likely end up with a faulty solenoid.
Faulty connections in the control or starter circuit might cause a high electrical current to flow through the solenoid. This could cause excessive heat that would end up welding critical parts together and leaving you with a bad starter solenoid.
If you’ve got worn-out wiring, this could lead to an inadequate current supply to the starter motor solenoid. This could leave you with a faulty solenoid or a bad starter motor.
If your car leaks oil, some of that oil could reach the starter solenoid and cause corrosion to its critical components — leaving you with a bad starter solenoid.
3. What Are The Signs Of A Faulty Starter Solenoid?
If you suspect that you have a faulty starter solenoid, there are several signs to look out for. Most of these will be similar to the signs of a faulty starter relay.
Here are the top warning signs you could look out for:
Engine Does Not Start
When you have a bad starter solenoid, the starter motor won’t work. This means the engine won’t start when you turn on the starter switch or press the start button.
However, if your vehicle has an automatic transmission, the engine could sometimes not crank because of the neutral safety switch.
The main function of the neutral safety switch is to ensure that your car can only start when the transmission is in park or neutral. So, if your engine won’t start, start by ensuring that your transmission isn’t in gear.
No Clicking Noise When Starting The Engine
The clicking noise you hear when you turn on the ignition switch comes either from the starter solenoid or the starter relay. So, if you don’t hear anything while starting your car, you could be dealing with a bad starter solenoid or a faulty starter relay.
4. What Is An Easy Way To Get My Starter Solenoid Replaced?
When the starter solenoid starts failing, you’ll usually need to get it replaced. This procedure requires special equipment, so you shouldn’t try to do it yourself.
Ideally, you should get hold of a mobile mechanic that’ll come to your home since you likely won’t be able to drive your car.
When searching for a mechanic, always ensure that they:
- Are ASE-certified
- Give a service warranty for all their repairs
- Use high-quality replacement parts and tools
You’d be glad to know that RepairSmith gives you an easy way to find such highly qualified mechanics!
RepairSmith is a convenient and affordable automotive repair and maintenance solution with ASE-certified technicians.
- ASE-certified mechanics will come and help you with your starter repairs right in your driveway — there’s no need to take your vehicle to an auto repair shop.
- All repairs have a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty.
- You get affordable pricing with no hidden costs.
- Only high-quality replacement parts and tools are used.
- You can easily book your repairs online at guaranteed prices.
- RepairSmith offers its services seven days a week.
Curious to know how much a starter solenoid replacement will cost with RepairSmith?
Simply fill out this online form to get a free quotation.
Testing your starter solenoid can easily help you diagnose your car’s starting issues. And once you figure out the problem, you’ll likely need to get a replacement for your starter solenoid or any other faulty component.
And if you’re wondering who you should contact for starter repairs, give RepairSmith a try! They’ll send you an ASE-certified technician who will sort out your car starting issues right in your driveway!