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There are several signs of a failing starter motor.
Here are a few of the most common:
The most common symptom of a bad starter is nothing happening when you turn the key. The most likely reason for this is the starter relay or motor has burned out.
Note that this can also be a symptom of a dead battery or failing alternator, so it’s best to have a mechanic inspect all the major electrical components.
The starting circuit should open once the engine has cranked and the key released.
However, if you hear a grinding noise once the engine has started, it could be that the main contacts in the starter solenoid have been welded in the closed position, warranting a starter repair.
If this happens, turn your car off immediately. If the starter remains engaged, it can cause severe damage to the whole starter system and the transmission flywheel, leaving you with an inoperable engine.
If you activate the ignition and hear a noise you weren’t expecting, listen carefully. Clicking, grinding, and whirring noises can be telltale signs of a bad starter.
When parts within the starter become worn or don’t engage, a grinding, whirring, clicking noise is often the first indicator. If ignored, this can also damage the engine flywheel ring gear.
A whirring sound could also indicate that the starter isn’t engaging with the flywheel. As a result, your car engine won’t crank.
It’s wise to have your car looked at by an auto repair expert as soon as possible in this case, as it could mean having to install a new starter.
There may be a time when you turn the key and hear the starter activate, but the flywheel doesn’t engage with the starter motor. The teeth on the flywheel may be stripped, or the starter motor’s pinion gear isn’t meshing with the flywheel.
In this case, you need to see your mechanic about starter replacement services.
If you turn the ignition switch and it doesn’t take the first time, but it does when you try again, there’s likely an issue with the starter relay.
The starter relay transmits power to the starter. It can be an internal relay built within the starter motor, or an external relay that is mounted outside the starter.
Dirt, overheating, a faulty connection, or greasy contacts can disrupt the operation of the starter relay, causing occasional starting failures that require a starter repair.
If any of these issues describe your current vehicular troubles, you likely have a faulty starter, and a starter replacement needs to happen ASAP.
A starter replacement typically costs between $440 and $551.
Labor costs can be between $112 and $141, while the parts cost between $307 and $410.
Of course, this is exclusive of tax and fees. The prices may also vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model and if any related repair jobs are necessary.
If your starter motor is beginning to act up, it’s always a good idea to have an auto repair company install a replacement as soon as you can.
If neglected, a faulty starter can cause dim lighting or damage other, expensive components like the electrical system, ignition system, transmission, engine, and battery.
Additionally, vehicles with automatic transmission systems won’t start at all if there’s an issue with the starter motor.
If you have a manual car, it’s possible to push start the engine by putting the car in neutral with the clutch engaged, pushing the car until it reaches about ten MPH, then disengaging the clutch.
Aside from the potential damage a failing starter motor can cause, you can also find yourself with an inoperable engine. As such, it’s best to have your vehicle starter inspected by a professional mechanic.
Let’s take a closer look at the starter:
The starter is an electric motor that spins the engine when you turn the ignition key. The car starter is essentially responsible for getting the engine up and running.
It consists of a DC (direct current) electric motor and the starter solenoid. When activated, the solenoid closes the high current electric circuit and sends the car battery power to the starter motor.
A small electric current travels to the starter solenoid when you turn the ignition switch. The solenoid energizes, moving to close its contacts, while simultaneously sending the pinion gear to mesh with the flywheel ring gear.
When the solenoid contacts close, battery power is delivered to the starter motor — the motor spins, starting the engine.
Simply put, when the starter receives power from the car battery, it engages the flywheel ring gear and cranks the engine.
Depending on the vehicle, it may have a DD starter (direct drive), PLGR starter (planetary gear), PMGR starter (permanent magnet gear reduction), PMDD starter (permanent magnet direct drive), or an OGSR starter (offset gear reduction).
DD starters have their components attached in a line and run off the armature, while PLGR also runs off an armature but is better at increasing torque.
A PMGR and PLGR starter are similar, except the PMGR uses permanent magnets. Similarly, DD and PMDD starters are very similar, except PMDD uses permanent magnets instead of field coils. OSGR starters don’t run off any armature.
On average, your car starter motor should last between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. In many instances, the car starter will last the vehicle’s life.
Additionally, vehicles that start and stop more frequently, such as newer cars with automatic engine stop-start functionality, are more prone to failure.
It’s important to note that, unless you’re comfortable with engines and have the proper equipment and know-how, replacing a starter is best left to the professionals.
With that out of the way, the first thing to do is locate the vehicle’s starter.
In rear-wheel cars, you can often find the starter under the passenger’s side of the engine, just below the exhaust manifold. Check on the driver’s side above the transmission or under the exhaust manifold on front-wheel-drive cars.
You’ll also need some tools, including:
With these tools in hand, here’s a general guide on how to replace a starter motor:
For a more detailed guide on how to perform a starter replacement, check out our step-by-step guide.
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