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7 Signs of a Bad Starter: Car Won’t Start!

Discussion Topic: Signs of a bad starter

It’s never a pleasant feeling when you turn the key in the ignition and your car won’t start. You might immediately assume it’s a dead battery, but what if it’s not? It could actually be a problem with the boot system. And the thing is, early problems are more common than you think. In fact, drivers often confuse poor starting symptoms with other vehicle problems, making diagnosing the problem difficult. That’s why you need to know Signs of a Bad Starter. I will discuss this topic shortly

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What Is a Starter?

The starter, a small electrical motor powered by the car battery, plays a crucial role in getting your car up and running.

It is an integral part of the starting system, which also includes the battery, battery cables, a starter relay, connecting wiring, ignition switch, Transmission Gear Position switch, Clutch Interlock switch (manual transmissions), and in some cases the engine computer.

If any of these components malfunction, your car won’t start, leaving you stranded and in need of a tow truck. Simplifying the explanation, the starter is essentially the motor that jumpstarts your vehicle’s engine.

7 Signs of a Bad Starter

There are multiple potential reasons for your car not starting, and a bad starter is just one of those. Here are some common symptoms indicating a faulty starter:

Signs of a Bad Starter


When attempting to start your car, the dashboard warning lights illuminate, yet the engine fails to crank or spin over. This is a definitive indication of a faulty starter.(1), (2)


Experiencing a dreaded “clicking” noise when turning the key is often a clear indication of starter failure. However, it’s important to note that even without the clicking noise, if the car fails to start and nothing happens, the starter may still be the culprit.(3), 4


An engine that cranks over very slowly, appears to drag or struggle, can be another symptom of a failing starter. (5), (6)

4. Smoke or burning smell

If you smell smoke or burning when trying to start your car, it may indicate a blown starter fuse or a worn-out fusible link that protects the electrical components. This is a significant sign that the starter is going bad. Another possible cause is excessive power being drawn through the electrical supply, resulting in the overheating of the starter.

Regardless of the cause, it is crucial to address this starter failure issue promptly to ensure the safety of your vehicle and prevent further damage. Contact a licensed technician immediately for assistance. (7)


If you have a moment, consider opening the hood to check for any signs of a leak in the oil system. This can sometimes cause the starter to malfunction, leading to potentially costly repairs. In such cases, it is typically necessary to replace the starter, and it’s important to repair the oil leaks to prevent future issues with your new starter.

6. Grinding or clicking noise

When turning on the ignition in your car, you might hear clicking sounds. These sounds usually indicate a problem with either the battery or the starter motor. To troubleshoot, check if the battery is fully charged. On the other hand, a whirring or grinding sound is likely caused by worn-out gears on the starter motor, which fail to mesh with the flywheel. (8), (9)

7. Your engine won’t crank.

If your engine isn’t revving up even after attempting a jumpstart, it’s time to call roadside assistance and bring your car to the nearest Brad’s Car Tunes. When a jumpstart fails to start your engine, only a certified technician can help!

How to Start a Car with a Bad Starter

Having trouble starting your car with a bad starter? No worries! Here’s a step-by-step guide to get your car going when the starter isn’t working:

Ensure your car is off the road and away from traffic. Put it in park or neutral (for manual transmission) and engage the parking brake for safety.

Pop the hood and find the starter motor. It appears as a large metal cylinder with a smaller cylinder stacked on top. The location may vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model. Beware of hot exhaust parts and potential electrical hazards!

Give your starter motor a gentle tap with a hammer or similar object. This percussive maintenance can help unstick the starter brushes, allowing them to engage and start the system. If your car starts after tapping, it’s wise to visit Firestone Complete Auto Care for thorough starter repair. Remember, avoid tapping too hard to prevent damage to the starter housing.


If tapping doesn’t work, you can try jump-starting your car. Call a friend with a working vehicle battery and grab a pair of jumper cables. Follow these steps:

  • Inspect the positive and negative terminals on both batteries for corrosion and looseness.
  • Connect the positive clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery, then connect the other end to the positive terminal of the live battery.
  • Connect the negative clamp to the negative terminal of the dead battery, and then attach the other end to the negative terminal of the live battery.

5/Use a working car to charge the battery:
Start the working vehicle and let it run for a few minutes to charge the inactive car’s battery.

6/Attempt to start your car:
While the jumper cables are still connected, turn the ignition of your vehicle. The extra power from the live battery should be enough to start the engine and bypass the dead battery.

7/Disconnect your vehicle and drive to your nearest repair shop:
Once the car has started, carefully disconnect it from the working vehicle. Start by removing the negative clamp attached to the negative terminal on the helper vehicle, and then remove the negative clamp on the negative terminal from the jump-started vehicle. Next, remove the positive clamp on one end of the positive cable from your helper’s vehicle. Finally, remove the last positive clamp from your vehicle’s positive battery terminal. Keep the jumped car’s engine running until you reach your destination or a repair shop.


Related: How To Test a Starter Relay

Timothy Ballard

I’m Timothy Ballard, owner of a used car dealership in Springfield. I love just about everything automotive, but I have a special place in my heart for trucks. I’m an ASE Certified Master Technician, so I know my way around a car. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling with my family and hiking new trails.

1 thought on “7 Signs of a Bad Starter: Car Won’t Start!”

  1. Common Indications of a Faulty Starter:

    Whirring, grinding, or clicking sounds when attempting to start your car.
    A single loud click when trying to start the vehicle, but without any engine crank.
    Normal functionality of the instrument cluster, headlights, and radio, yet no response when turning the key.

    These telltale signs can help identify potential issues with the starter.


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