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March 26, 2019 3 min read

Problems with your car’s starter system can come out of the blue. Then you’re stranded with a car that won’t start. However, there are some instances in which your car will give you some warning when the starter isn’t working optimally. The car will struggle to start. Finally, the day will come when it refuses to start at all.

There are several issues that might arise causing problems with the starter system. Here are things you can check out if you think your starter is faulty or worn out.

  1. Establish your battery’s voltage

Using a voltmeter, you can check your battery’s voltage levels. Insufficient voltage means the battery cannot operate the starter motor. Attach the voltmeter’s positive lead to the positive terminal of the battery. Do the same for the negative lead and terminal. Then switch on the car’s lights. The ideal reading will be 12.6 volts. This means the battery is 100% charged. A reading of 12.4 volts means the battery is 75% charged. Anything less than that is a problem.  If the battery is less than four years old, check if any cells have failed using a hydrometer. For an older battery, it’s time to replace it.

  1. Visual check for some obvious issues

By looking at the starter system, there are some things that are clear indications of a problem. These include:

  • Loose electrical connections – tighten these immediately. The connections allow for the flow of electrical energy. If they are loose, the transfer of electrical energy is disrupted.
  • Dirty connections – clean these with a cloth using a cleaning agent. Dirty connections inhibit the transfer of electrical energy.
  • Corrosion on the battery terminals – use a baking soda and water solution to get rid of the corrosion. Corrosion prevents the movement of electrical energy.
  • Exposed and dirty wires – replace or clean right away. Exposed wires pose the risk of starting an engine fire.

Beyond these simple measures, there are further steps that can be taken to establish if the starter system is working properly. However, they are more complicated and may require the services of a mechanic.

Check the mountings

The bolts mounting the starter system should be tight. Loose bolts mean the starter can’t properly engage with the flywheel that it operates. If the bolts are tight, the problem could lie inside the starter motor itself.

Remove the starter

Now is the time when the starter system needs to be removed for closer inspection. Follow the directions in the car’s manual for removing the starter motor.

Once the starter has been removed from the engine, inspect the pinion gear. If the teeth of the pinion gear are worn, it cannot engage the ring gear on the flywheel. Check the movement range of the pinion gear. Try to move the gear using a screwdriver. It should only move in one direction. If it moves in both directions or won’t move at all, your starter needs to be replaced.

Get some help from a professional

You might be unsure of how to proceed or afraid your inexperience will make the problem worse. Take the starter to your nearest auto-parts shop. Most shops test your starter for free. Experienced mechanics can easily spot the problem and advise you on the way forward.