How long do starters last?

Nine Signs of a Failing Starter

Usually, there are a few warning signs that your starter is going to fail before it actually does. The better understanding you have of these problems, the easier it'll be to outline them to your mechanics when they ask you about the car's history. The biggest signs are:


Starter Failures Can Be Tricky to Diagnose

The above bad starter conditions could be the resu

The above bad starter conditions could be the result of a dead or partially discharged battery. Whenever your car fails to start properly the first thing to do is evaluate the battery.

Other failure modes could also deprive the starter of electrical power. For example, wiring to the starter may be disconnected or damaged. The ignition key switch (or start button) may be defective. One of several safety interlocks may have failed like the interlock that prevents the car from being started unless the transmission is in ‘park’.

See Also: Causes of a Car That Won’t Shift Out of Park

Before spending the bucks to replace a seemingly faulty starter, these other possible problems should be ruled out. A skilled technician will look for such problems when the starter seems to have failed before just replacing it.

What Happens if You Dont Repair A Failing Starter?

There are several things that could happen if you don't take the time to have someone repair or replace your failing starter. The biggest possibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Electrical system damage
  • Dim lighting
  • Damage to your transmission or engine
  • Battery drainage
  • Vehicle refuses to start

Along with damaging your other systems and leading to more expensive repairs, starter failure can leave you stranded. The last thing you want is to end up in the middle of nowhere with a car that won't turn over and no way to get it to a garage. Therefore it's essential you take steps early on to correct the problem and have professional help.

Are You Seeing Any of the Bad Starter Symptoms?

Now that you know what the different bad starter symptoms are, you should be on the lookout for them at all times. You don’t want to allow one of these bad starter symptoms to go unnoticed and pay the price for it later. If you ever suspect that something might be wrong with your car’s starter, you should let your mechanic look at it and then replace it as necessary.

By replacing a bad starter, you’ll guarantee that your car will start up every time you put your key into your ignition. You’ll also guarantee that a bad starter won’t wreak havoc on the rest of your car and cause other issues to pop up. While putting a new starter into place might not be the cheapest auto repair in the world, it’ll be well worth doing it to avoid any complications down the line.

Common Symptoms

Most of the time, a starter motor and relay don’t just fail with no signs beforehand. However, that can happen too. Still, look for these seven symptoms that your starter is going bad.

#1: Engine Won’t Turn Over

The most common indicator that there is a problem with your starter is that nothing happens when you turn the key or push Start. The probable cause is that the starter relay or motor has burned out, or that there is an electrical problem. However, note that the problem may be caused by a dead battery as well. If you experience this symptom, you need to contact an experienced mechanic to inspect the starter, the ignition system, and other electrical components because it can be a sign of multiple issues.

#2: Noise – Clicking, Grinding, or Whirring

If you begin to hear a noise that you haven’t heard before when turning the key or pushing Start, you should pay attention. Any clicking, grinding, or whirring noise can indicate impending death for the starter. When the starter components are worn out or are not engaging properly, it often produces a grinding noise similar to the one you hear if you accidentally engage the ignition switch again after starting the engine. If you ignore the grinding symptom, it can also result in damage to the engine flywheel.

#3: Intermittent Issues Starting the Vehicle

If you try starting your car and the engine doesn’t ignite instantly, then you try again and it works fine, you more than likely have a problem with the starter relay. The starter relay either sends full electrical current or sends nothing to the starter. It’s an all or nothing function. Sometimes a damaged relay can cause the starter to make a clicking sound when you turn the ignition.  So, if you experience both of these–intermittent starting and a clicking sound–take your vehicle to an experienced mechanic.

#4: Starter Stays On After Starting

The starting circuit should close after starting the engine and then either releasing the key or letting go of the Start button. If you hear a continuous grinding noise coming from under the vehicle after the engine is up and running, it may be that the starter relay has become stuck. When this happens, the relay will continue to run as though you are trying to start the car. The starter relay sticks when it has become welded together. You need to address this problem immediately. If the issue persists, the relay will be stuck in the ‘on’ position, which ultimately causes serious damage to the entire starter system and the transmission flywheel.

#5: Smoke

The starter is mechanical and is powered by electricity. If your car doesn’t start and you continue to try to start it, you can cause the system to overheat. When the starter overheats due to continued power being supplied, you will see or smell smoke coming from underneath the engine. Possible causes could be a short circuit, a blown fuse, or a problem with the ignition switch. Regardless, you should contact a certified mechanic as soon as you notice this situation.

#6: Starter Engages But Motor Won’t Start

You may turn the ignition switch or push Start and hear the starter activate, but the motor doesn’t crank over. Sometimes the issue with the starter is mechanical. In this case, a gear that is connected to the flywheel has stripped or become dislodged against the flywheel. Either way, the engine won’t turn over. When this happens, you will need to have the starter replaced by a certified mechanic.

#7: Battery

You may have lights on your dashboard and your headlights are working, so you think you have power to the starting system, but the engine isn’t turning over. This actually can be an issue with your battery because a lot of power is required to crank your engine. Try starting it with a jumper or starter pack. If it starts, this indicates a weak battery is the source of the problem. Many times, especially during the winter months, starting problems are related to the battery.

But How Much Does Car Starter Repair Cost?

Well, it simply depends on the type of car that you drive and also the auto shop you are to consider. So if you plan to do the task yourself rather than spending some amount of money in repairing or replacing the car starter then this one could help you a lot.

Doing it yourself could also be a great idea especially if you are equipped with information and the right tools as well. You might need to have your best tool chest having complete tools needed to deal with this problem. Or there could be wide numbers of products out there that you could choose from like this one.

How Often Should You Change Your Starter?

How long does a car starter last? As there’s no specific way to tell, you should watch out for the warning signs. Sometimes, it just stops working without showing any symptoms. Otherwise, you should be alert for these signs:

  • It takes several attempts for the starter motor to engage.
  • The starter turns over slower than the normal time. It may happen even if the car has a brand new or fully charged battery.
  • The starter motor does not work on a hot engine but functions normally when the engine cools down.
  • Unusual screeching sounds coming from the starter.


What Are the Most Common Bad Starter Symptoms?

In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to worry about seeing any of the bad starter symptoms appear when you’re behind the wheel of your car. But if you have a car that’s on the older side, it’s likely only going to be a matter of time before at least one or two of the bad starter symptoms pop up. And when they do, you should be able to recognize them and spring into action to do something about them. Here are 7 of the most common bad starter symptoms.

1. Your Car Cranks a Whole Lot When You’re Trying to Start It

When you turn your car key in your ignition to start your vehicle up, it should start right up on most days without any trouble. This will indicate that your starter is strong and healthy and able to do its job. But there might be times when your car cranks a whole lot before your engine eventually starts. There might also be times when it just cranks and cranks and cranks without starting up at all.

There are some other issues that can cause your car not to start when you put your key into it and turn it. A bad battery or a bad alternator, for example, could be to blame for your car not starting on command. But if you can hear it cranking and not starting, that’s usually one of the most prominent bad starter symptoms. You’re going to need to have a mechanic check out your car to see if you need to replace your starter right away.

2. Your Car’s Interior Lights Get Dim When You Go to Start Your Car – Bad Starter Symptoms

Have you noticed that your car’s interior lights have started to get dim almost every time that you go to start your car? This is another one of the more common bad starter symptoms. It’s typically an indication that there is a short circuit located somewhere in the wiring for your car’s starter. It results in your starter using up more electricity than it should when you attempt to start your car, and it doesn’t leave enough electricity for your interior lights to shine bright like they normally do.

In the event that you notice your interior lights dimming when you start your car, you should also keep an ear out for what can best be described as a chugging sound. If you hear it, there might be bearings that have gone bad within your starter. It’s going to be another indication that you need to schedule starter replacement as soon as you can.

3. Your Car Makes a Loud, Grinding Noise When You Start It

You don’t ever want to hear any grinding sounds coming from your car. You especially don’t want to hear them when you’re trying to start your car up. They’re going to be a sign that there is a mechanical problem with your car, and that mechanic problem could be tied to the gears that are used to connect to your starter. They might be worn down too much, or they might not be engaging like they’re supposed to.

Either way, this is one of the bad starter symptoms that’s going to be pretty much impossible to ignore. You’re going to hear your car grinding all the time when you go to start it, which is going to make it difficult for you to overlook the issue. You might also find that this problem will get worse and worse with time. You’re going to want to have someone take a look at your car to see if you need to have your starter replaced.

4. Your Car Makes a Whirring Sound When You’re Starting It – Bad Starter Symptoms

As we touched on earlier, your car’s starter is designed to engage with the flywheel in your engine when you turn your car key in the ignition. If it doesn’t do that for whatever reason, it’s going to be a problem. It’ll lead to you having to deal with a condition called “freewheeling” that involves your flywheel spinning on its own without any assistance from the starter. And it can cause complications in your engine over time if you’re not careful.

There is a mechanism that helps your starter to engage and disengage with the flywheel that can go bad and cause this bad starter symptom. When that happens, it’s going to lead to “freewheeling” happening all the time. It’s also going to lead to you having to replace your starter as soon as possible.

5. Your Starter Continues to Run Once Your Engine Has Started

Does your car ever sound like it’s still trying to start up even though the engine is running? This is obviously not going to be something that you want to hear. Of all the bad starter symptoms listed here, it could potentially cause the most problems within your car if you don’t do something about it. It’s eventually going to lead to other parts sustaining damage if your car keeps on trying to start despite the fact that it’s already on.

You should shut your car off right away if you ever experience this particular problem. You can then try to start it up again to see if that fixes the issue. If it does, you should be in the clear, though you should still keep an eye and ear out to see if it happens again. But if the issue still exists, it’s going to let you know that you need to have your car serviced and probably repaired.

6. You See Smoke Coming From Your Engine After Starting Your Car

The absolute last thing that you want to see when you’re behind the wheel of your car is smoke coming from your engine. This is one of the most serious bad starter symptoms around. Your starter contains both electrical and mechanical components, and as a result, there is a slight chance that you could end up with electrical issues and hot metal components coming into contact with one another. And that could lead to smoke shooting out from under your car’s hood.

If you ever see smoke coming from your car for any reason, you should pull off to the side of the road and shut your car off immediately. You’ll actually be lucky if you’re able to walk away from this situation only having to replace your starter. You might also have lots of other parts that’ll need to be replaced. You might even need to repair or replace your engine because of what happened.

7. Your Car’s Starter Is Covered With Oil – Bad Starter Symptoms

The starter in your car is positioned in a place where it’s going to be forced to deal with some rough conditions day in and day out. It’s all the way near the bottom of your engine, which means that it’s routinely subjected to very hot temperatures and many different fluids that might leak from your car. Oil is one of the fluids that can sometimes work its way out of your engine and coat your starter.

If your car’s starter is soaked with oil at the moment, it’s likely been like that for a while. It’s also likely in need of replacement. If you continue to drive a car around when its starter has oil all over it, it’s not going to be too long before it’ll need to be removed and replaced with a new starter. This is one of the least common bad starter symptoms, but it’s still worth monitoring your car for this issue.

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