Updated at: 10-08-2023 - By: Lucas

You expect your car to start easily every time you get in it. But sometimes, when you least expect it, it lets you down. Before it fails, the first sign is that it is hard to start. Most people make the mistake of trying over and over to start the car. If you do that, you’ll only make things worse.

Do not freak out if you find yourself in this kind of situation. Most problems with the starter happen in the same places, and it’s easy to run a diagnostic. If your car won’t start, it might be because a part of the starter is broken. It could also be a bad connection or not enough power.

Understanding your starter

It gets the gas in your car’s engine to burn. When the car is turned on, electricity flows from the battery to the starter motor. In a starter motor, the engine is moved by gears. When the starter relay is turned on, the starter rotor will start to move, which starts the engine.

Troubleshooting starter not engaging

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Battery Voltage

The first thing you need to do is make sure your car’s battery has enough power to start the engine. If you don’t have enough power, your starter won’t work. A voltmeter can tell you if your battery has power.

Getting a reading from a voltmeter is easy. Set the device to 12V and connect the voltmeter to the terminals on your battery. Turn on the headlights of your car and take the test. Your voltmeter should show a reading between 12.4 and 12.6 volts.

If your reading is lower than these numbers, your battery won’t be able to start your car. You can fix this problem by giving your car a jump start, and it will work fine after that. If the battery goes dead again, you should think about getting a new one.

Battery Corrosion

When your battery terminals corrode, white and green deposits will show up on them. You can use a mix of baking soda and water to clean your terminals. One part baking soda and three parts water should be used.

If you don’t have baking soda, carbonated drinks like sodas can be used instead. The carbonic acid will clean the terminals and get rid of the deposits. Make sure that the cleaning solution never gets past the filler caps when you are cleaning.

Check Your starter motor.

It is hard to get to the starter motor. Depending on the car you are driving, you may have to take apart other parts of the engine to get to it. You should take out the intake manifold and then check your starter motor in the following ways.

Tighten the mounting bolts and any other wires that are connected. If the mounting bolt is loose, the starter drive won’t be able to turn the flywheel in the right way. When you try to start your engine, it will make a grinding sound. This means that the pinion gear on the starter and the ring gear on the flywheel are rubbing against each other.

Check the gear’s pinion. It is a small gear on the front of your car’s starter that turns the engine by turning the flywheel. You should make sure that your pinion gear’s teeth are not worn down or broken. If your car’s teeth are broken, the engine won’t start.

Move your pinion gears around. They should only move in one way. If it doesn’t move or moves in both directions, your starter needs to be replaced.

Check your flywheel.

A flywheel is a big, heavy wheel that is connected to the engine and transmission. This wheel turns when the starter pinion gear hooks up to it. This turns the engine of your car.

How to check the flywheel on your car

Take out the starter and put the transmission in neutral.

Use a ratchet to turn the crankshaft by hand. At the front or bottom of your engine block is a pulley. As you watch how the pion gears move, the pulley should move. If the gear teeth are damaged, the flywheel will need to be replaced.

The Starter Solenoid

Depending on the type of car you have, it could be a starter solenoid or a starter relay.

It’s the top cylinder in your starter. It hooks up to the positive side of your battery terminal. If the solenoid breaks, you won’t be able to start your car.

How to inspect your starter relay

Start by turning off your car’s start system so it can’t start by accident. Start by taking out the fuel pump. You can also disconnect the thick wire that goes to the middle of your distributor cap.

You need to use your car jumpers to connect the wire from your distributor that you took off to a bolt. You should make sure to ground it to a part of your metal bracket that is not painted.

Start your engine and pay close attention to what it sounds like. If you hear a loud click, the starter relay is working right. A weak click means the connection is not tight. Check and tighten the wires that go to your starter solenoid.

If your wires are broken, electricity from your battery won’t get to the starter. If all the wires are connected and the car still won’t start, you need to replace the starter solenoid.

Signs of a poor starter

Your car won’t turn over.

The most obvious sign is if your car won’t start when you turn the key in the ignition. A signal should be sent to the starter relay with electricity. If it doesn’t work, it means that a circuit in the starter system is broken. No matter how many times you try to start your car, it won’t work.

A sound like a click

It can happen that your battery’s voltage is low. The clicking sound you hear over and over is a weak electrical current that starts your car’s engine. Your car won’t start if the starter relay doesn’t get a full signal.

Occasional difficult starts

Sometimes your engine will start right away, and other times it will take a few tries. If this happens to you, it could be because the starter relay has a lot of dirt and dust on it. Clean it up and see if that fixes the problem. If it still acts this way after you clean it, your starter relay has seen better days.

Diagnosing your starter system using your headlights

After you’ve checked everything, you might want to do one more thing to be sure. Your starter system won’t be a problem if your headlights are checked.

The test is easy to take. You will need help to turn on your car’s headlights and then start the engine.

There’s no sound, and neither do the headlights.

It means that your starter system is broken or that the battery is dead. When the terminals on your battery rust, they stop electricity from getting to your starter motor.

When you start your car, the lights go out.

When this happens, there are more than one thing that could happen. It could mean that your battery is low on power. If the battery has enough power, the problem may be with the motor that starts the car. If the starter motor has a short, it might use too much electricity.

You could also have a problem with the engine instead of the starter system.

The headlights work, but the engine won’t start.

If this happens, it means there is too much resistance in the circuit. It could mean that there is an open circuit and the electrical current is not getting to the starter motor. You should check to see if one of the starter’s parts is broken.

When a starter is broken, it is only a matter of time before it stops working. You should be able to tell what’s wrong with the starter by the sounds it makes when the engine won’t start.

The problem might be as simple as a loose battery terminal connection. It can also be difficult and need you to take out your starter motor for a closer check.