By Erik Watkins

8 Common Signs Of A Bad Starter & How To Tell It?

Last updated: May 17, 2023
Signs Of A Bad Starter

A starter is a crucial part of our car. As its name implies, it works to start a car. Thus, if there are any problems with this part, the cars cannot operate as usual. It is even more frustrating when it happens on your vacation trip.

As a result, you need to get hold of some common symptoms of a bad starter to repair it in time and reduce potential risks. Let’s scroll down this article to have full knowledge of this issue.

8 Warning Signs Of A Bad Starter 

What happens when a starter goes out? The engine can’t crank up or work intermittently; there are some abnormal noises, smoke, or oil leak; the lights are dim due to the weak battery. Knowing some common symptoms of a bad starter will help you in some specific situations.

1. The Engine Cannot Start

This is an obvious sign: the car is silent whenever you turn the key and press the “Start” button. This might be because the starter motor or relay has been damaged. It can also be a problem with the electrical system.

Of note, a dead battery can cause the same issue. Thus, you should contact a professional mechanic to check the starter, electrical parts, and ignition system. An experienced expert can help you diagnose the exact reason. 

2. Weird Sounds: Grinding, Clicking, Or Whirring

When turning the key or pressing the “Start” car button, pay attention if you start to hear weird sounds that you have never heard. Any grinding, whirring, or clicking noise can foretell the starter’s damage.

Indeed, if your vehicle has worn-out or had improper starter components, you can hear these abnormal sounds. Do not ignore it, or the engine flywheel may get damaged.

3. The Starter Doesn’t Stop After Starting

After starting the engine and releasing the key or activating the Start button, the starting circuit ought to shut off. Yet, once the engine is going and you hear a constant grinding sound from underneath the car, the starting relay may have jammed.

When this occurs, the relay will keep operating as if you were attempting to start a car. The relay will become trapped in the “on” status, seriously harming both the transmission flywheel and the entire starting system. Thus, you must solve this issue as soon as possible. 

4. Intermittent Working Of The Engine

You most likely have a starter relay issue if you try to start your car and the engine does not ignite right away, then you try again, and it works.

Moreover, the starter may occasionally make a clicking noise when you switch the ignition on due to a faulty relay. So, take your car to a qualified repair if you notice both intermittent operation and a clicking sound.

5. Release Smoke

When the vehicle cannot start, but you keep trying to start it, the system might become overheated. This way, smoke will emanate from beneath the engine because the sustained power supply makes it hot.

A short circuit, a bad fuse, or an issue with the ignition switch are all potential reasons. Yet, whatever the case, you need to get in touch with a licensed technician immediately.

6. The Motor Cannot Start Despite The Starter Works

Have you ever seen the starter may turn on but the motor won’t turn over? This is also one of the starter motor problems symptoms.

In this instance, a flywheel-connected gear has been stripped or dislodged. The engine won’t start in either case. When this occurs, you must have a mechanic replace the starter.

7. Oil Leaks

Oil Leaks
Oil Leaks

Your starter system is placed close to the bottom of your engine. Engine oil frequently leaks down your starting system since this area of your car is so hot. The lifespan of your starter may be significantly shortened if this keeps happening. 

In case oil leakage persists for a long time without any solution, the staters might get into trouble. Thus, whenever you see any oil leakage, you might check your starter and handle this issue immediately. 

8. Dim Lights And Weak Battery

The dashboard lights and functional headlights may normally work to inform you that the car has enough electricity for the starting mechanism, but its engine cannot turn over.

Since cranking your engine requires a lot of electricity, this may cause a problem with your battery. Try operating it with a starter pack or jumper. If it does, this suggests a battery issue.

What Are Reasons For The Car Starter Problems?

After you know how to tell if a starter is bad, let’s continue with the reasons. So, you can pay attention to them and reduce the risks of damaged starters. Here are some common causes:

  • Loose wiring: As mentioned before, this car part requires electricity to work. If the wires are loose, the contact cannot transfer electricity to make the starter function.
  • Corroded or dirty connections: This problem makes the contacts less effective and cannot provide enough electricity because the starter needs a lot of electricity to start.
  • Battery corrosion: This issue causes a dead battery. Then, you need to replace this component.
  • Worn-out and damaged components in the starter: Every component has its function. Thus, if any of them gets damaged, it will affect the car starting the process. 
  • Oil leaks: Leaking oil will cause undesired failure while destroying the starter. You should ask an engineer to check and solve it as soon as possible. 
  • Bad relay: When the relay has gone bad, the electrical signal from the battery will never reach the starting motor. Thus, no matter how many times you turn the key, your engine won’t crank.

Bonus Tips: How To Solve The Issues Of Starters

How To Solve The Issues Of Starters

Inspect The Battery

Inspect the battery and the battery wires to make sure everything is operating as it should be. Your car’s issues might be coming from the bad battery rather than the starter, which could be weak or dead or just have damaged battery wires.

Gently Tap The Starter

Use a solid object to gently tap the car starter (remember not to pound it). Sometimes, because tapping can make the electrical components back in touch, power connections will work again to provide electricity. 

However, your automobile could only respond to this remedy temporarily—just long enough for you to reach the closest servicing facility.

Change The Transmission

Imagine that the automatic gearbox of your automobile is set to “park,” but the engine won’t turn over. Try starting the vehicle in “neutral” if that’s the situation. 

When the automobile starts in “neutral,” a mechanical issue may be keeping it from operating in the “park” mode, such as a broken neutral safety switch.

Check The Gas Tank

Although it may sound redundant, is your gas tank empty? Your automobile won’t start for sure for that reason! Sometimes, you might forget it and try to find the answer to know if your starter is bad. 

Thus, please check these simple things before bringing your car to the auto repair shop.

What Will Happen If You Do Not Repair It?

The first thing that can happen if you don’t repair or replace the damaged starter is that your car cannot crank normally. Moreover, many related outcomes can appear when you leave this issue for a long time: 

  • Quickly damage to the car’s electrical system 
  • Make lights dimmer
  • Affect your transmission or engine
  • Battery drainage

The failure of starters may affect your daily activities and harm your other systems. Should you not repair it in time, replacing other components will cost you more money. 

The last thing is that you do not want to find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, unable to get your car to a garage because it won’t start. It is crucial that you act quickly to solve the issue and seek expert assistance.

Car or Truck Engine Won’t Start? How to Diagnose a Bad Starter


If you are a car owner, it’s crucial to get the hang of some common signs of a bad starter. This article has provided you with all the necessary information to handle it yourself. 

Yet, when the situation is more severe, you must take it to an experienced mechanic. Otherwise, other components will be affected and get damaged. It will cost you a lot of money to repair all of them. 

Moreover, no in-time solution can interrupt your daily activities and even threaten your safety when trying to drive with a dead starter.

Automotive Mechanic at PowerAll

With 7 years experience in management positions leading automotive mechanics at PowerAll, Erik Watkins wishes to share useful knowledge and information about automotive mechanical equipment.


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