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How To Test A Starter Solenoid (Step-by-Step Guide)

October 15, 2021

If your car is facing starting issues, you’d want to get to the bottom of it ASAP. 

One of the first things you need to check is your starter solenoid.
And if you’re wondering how to test a starter solenoid, you’re in luck! 

This article will highlight the four easy steps of testing a starter solenoid. We’ll even take things a step further by covering some common FAQs on how to test a starter solenoid.

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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:

Here are some tools you’ll need for the job:

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.

Here’s how:

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:

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

Here’s how:

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:

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:

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:

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 Wiring

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.

Worn-Out Wiring

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.

Oil Leaks

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:

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.

With RepairSmith:

Curious to know how much a starter solenoid replacement will cost with RepairSmith?
Simply fill out this online form to get a free quotation.

Closing Thoughts

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!