Starter Diagnosis & Troubleshooting Tips

Real-Costs-of-Repairing-a-Starter

Cranking an engine with a starter puts the following into play:

  • Cylinders draw in air and fuel mixture
  • Air and fuel mixture is compressed
  • Ignition occurs either due to a spark or heat of compression
  • Engine starts running and no longer needs the starter to crank it

When the starter turns too slowly – or if it doesn’t crank at all – the engine simply won’t start.

What can cause a starter to fail?

In order for a starter to get an engine running, it needs to be able to crank the engine at an adequate rpm.

And in order for it to do that, it needs the correct voltage and amperage which can only be supplied if:

  • The cranking battery is in good condition and fully charged
  • The various battery and cable connections are in good condition
  • The starter has a good ground connection
  • All electrical cables are in good condition and not corroded

Any of these issues can cause slow or no cranking which will not start the engine. They can even cause internal damage to the starter.

If nothing happens when the ignition switch is set in the start position, it could signal a variety of issues with a variety of components:

  • Starter motor has failed completely
  • Open circuits in the ignition or starter circuit wiring
  • Transmission linkage has a neutral safety switch and the vehicle is not in neutral or the switch is faulty

Other causes of no cranking can be a compromised solenoid, loose or corroded battery cables or even a low or dead battery.

Check the batteryThings you should check

Before determining if you need a new or replacement starter from Elreg Distributors, make sure you check and inspect these elements (in the order presented here):

  • Battery: This should be the first thing you look at. Make certain the battery has enough voltage power to turn on the starter. A battery with no juice (or extremely sulfated) can’t generate the volts or amps needed to start the engine.
  • Cable and Connections: Your battery can be in excellent condition and your starter perfectly fine, however if the cables and connections in between aren’t good, you’re still going to have a problem. Make sure connections are all solid and there is no corrosion. Also make sure that the cables are not corroded inside.

Something else you should look at is the cranking speed.

Usually, an engine cranks at around 200-250 rpm. If your engine cranks at that speed but doesn’t start, there’s a good chance your starter and starting circuit is okay.

One more test you can perform is a no-load free running test. Here’s how to run it:

  • Remove the starter from the vehicle
  • Support the starter in a large bench vice
  • Use a battery & jumper cables to power the starter
  • Hook the negative cable to the starter housing & the positive cable to the positive lead
  • Jumper the battery positive terminal to the solenoid ignition terminal

Most starter motors spin around 2500-3000 rpm.

If yours turns slowly or not at all, you need a new starter.

solenoidA bad solenoid can cause starter problems

A solenoid relays the power from the starter to the battery. Depending on your set up, the solenoid can be mounted on the starter or somewhere else in the engine area.

Corrosion, poor grounding at the solenoid mount or substandard battery connections will keep the solenoid from performing.

In this instance, replacing the solenoid is required if it’s defective or stuck in an open/closed position.

Starter problem & solution table

As mentioned throughout this blog, a faulty starter can be caused by many factors.

This handy table below provides a quick glance at symptoms, causes and actions required to fix common starter problems.

Issue Possible Causes Potential Solutions
Engine does not crank
  • Dead battery
  • Melted fusible links
  • Loose connections
  • Faulty ignition switch
  • Faulty magnetic switch, relay, neutral start switch or clutch switch
  • Mechanical problem in engine
  • Problem in car alarm system
  • Check battery charging state
  • Replace fusible link
  • Clean and tighten connections
  • Check and replace switch operation
  • Check engine
  • Check service manual for system tests
Engine cranks too slowly to initiate start
  • Weak battery
  • Loose or corroded connections
  • Faulty starter motor
  • Mechanical issues with engine or starter
  • Check and charge battery
  • Clean and tighten connections
  • Test the starter
  • Inspect engine and starter and replace worn out parts
Starter does not stop running
  • Damaged pinion or ring gear
  • Faulty plunger in magnetic switch
  • Poor ignition switch or control circuit
  • Ignition key keeps binding
  • Check gears for wear and tear
  • Test starter pull-in and hold-in coils
  • Check switch and circuit elements
  • Check key for damage
Starter spins, engine does not crank
  • Faulty over-running clutch
  • Damaged or worn pinion gear or ring gear
  • Inspect for over-running during proper operation
  • Check gears and replace as needed
Starter does not engage or disengage as it should
  • Malfunctioning magnetic switch
  • Damaged or worn pinion gear or ring gear
  • Bench test the starter
  • Check gears and replace as needed

 Come to us for all your starter needs

Whether you need complete starter units or repair kits for your fleet, Elreg has the products, services and expertise to see you through.

To start, you can:

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