Inside Your Car 19 April 2022

5 Signs Your Starter Motor Problem Will Lead to Starter Motor Failure


The car’s packed, the boat and trailer are hooked up and you’ve finally managed to wrangle the kids into their seats, all set for a weekend full of adventures. But when you switch the ignition your car won’t turn over, leaving you and the family stranded in the driveway.

Before you call off the trip, take a few moments to learn more about this important engine system and how the experts at mycar can get you back on the road ready for adventure in no time.

How a starter motor works

Your starter motor plays a significant role) in getting your engine started. Once you turn the key to the start position, the solenoid completes the electrical connection between the car battery and the starter motor. The pinion wheel is pushed forward to engage with the ring gear of the engine flywheel, which turns the crankshaft over so the combustion process can begin.

Once the engine turns over, the ignition switch has a return spring so when the key is released it springs back and switches the starter motor off. The pinion wheel also retracts to disengage from the flywheel, which helps prevent any potential damage.

Where is the starter motor?

The starter motor location varies but in many cases it sits where the engine joins to the transmission, but in some cases it is inside the gearbox or hidden under other engine components.

How to tell a starter motor is bad

Starter motors are generally quite reliable, often lasting the lifetime of the vehicle.. However, if you’re unlucky enough to experience a faulty starter motor, here are some common symptoms to look out for.

1. Electrical Smoke (Engine Smoke)

If there is a problem with the electrical system or the starter motor is faulty, it may overheat which can lead to smoke coming from the starter motor.

2. Your car makes a noise when starting

Have you noticed odd noises coming from the engine when starting your car? This could be down to a loose starter motor, or damaged teeth on the pinion gear or flywheel, which means they’re not able to engage or disengage as they should.

3. The starter motor won't turn off

Another indicator of a bad starter is when it doesn’t stop, even if the engine is up and running.

A continuously running starter can be due to a number of reasons, from binding in the ignition lock cylinder to a faulty solenoid. It’s well-worth some further investigation from a professional to get to the bottom of the issue.

4. Oil in the starter motor

An oily starter motor can often be the result of a slow oil leak coming from the engine. This is fairly common among older vehicles and is usually due to a combination of heat, age and mileage.

Keep your eyes peeled for oil leaks when your car is parked. It’s always best to catch them early, before the oil saturates the starter, which can cause damage beyond repair.

5. The click of doom

If you’ve got a full car battery, you go to start your engine and hear some clicking noises and the engine doesn’t crank over. You try again, a few more click before it finally turns the engine over. Phew! This clicking noise is the main sign your starter motor is on the way out and needs to be checked. Eventually the couple of clicks will turn into many and it won’t start at all.

How to test a starter motor

While there are a few tests you can do yourself to try and pinpoint your starter motor issues, nothing beats a professional diagnosis. It’s well-worth getting in touch with your local mycar service centre to help you get your engine back up and running.

The easiest tests you can do yourself involve checking the electrical system and inspecting the starter motor wiring. Start by popping the bonnet and checking the battery terminals for corrosion or dirt. If the battery looks clean, you can use a multimeter to test the voltage to see if there’s enough juice in the battery to power the starter motor.

If the battery is in working order, check out the solenoid to make sure the wiring is connected properly. The solenoid is the smaller cylinder that’s often attached to the top of the starter. Lastly, use a circuit tester to check if the electrical current is making its way to the solenoid and through to the solenoid output.

How much is a starter motor?

The cost to fix or replace your starter motor is not only dependent on the issue itself, but also on the make and model of your car. If you’re looking to replace your starter motor you can expect to be out of pocket about anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the brand of car and difficulty of the job.

To get a transparent quote and a repair timeline, we recommend visiting your local mycar for a professional diagnosis. Plus, if you’re a little strapped for cash, we offer a range of payment options including ZipPay, so you can be back behind the wheel sooner.


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