Car trouble always seems to hit at the worst time doesn’t it? You’re already running late for that important meeting, hop in, turn the key, and nothing. Our reliance on our vehicles in this day and age is immense, so when it stops working it throws a wrench into our whole day. Not to mention denting our pocketbooks. Anytime something happens with a car, dollar signs flash through our minds. How stressful!
Problems with a starter are one of the most common issues seen in the auto repair industry. Luckily, sometimes it’s a problem that can be worked around in order to get your car running and get it to a mechanic for the fix that it needs.
The starter has a relay between its motor and the car battery. If the relay and starter motor aren’t working, this can cause your car to not start.
What can cause a starter to go bad?
- A wire is loose – You need good connections in order for electricity to flow. A loose wire can stop those juices from flowing.
- Oil leaks – Oil leaking onto the electrical portions of the vehicle under the hood can cause your starter system to stop working.
- Parts have gone bad – Parts of the starter have just simply worn out over time.
- The connections on the battery are corroded – Corrosion disrupts the flow of the energy from your battery.
Signs of a bad starter
- One of the first signs people notice when the starter is about to go bad is a whirring sound when you turn the key or press the start button. Unfortunately, this is usually followed very quickly by the starter’s impending death.
- You turn the key but the engine doesn’t crank. Nothing happens.
- When you try to start, all you hear is a clicking sound. Click. Click. Click. Every. Time.
- Your lights and electrical are working normally, but the engine won’t fire up. This indicates the battery is working and is likely not the issue.
That’s good info, but what do I do now?
- Check the battery for corrosion. If the battery connectors are corroded, this might be causing the problem. To avoid shock, DISCONNECT YOUR BATTERY FIRST. Once you have disconnected it, you can use sandpaper to clean off the rust. Wipe them clean and then reconnect.
- If the battery isn’t corroded, check the wires connected to the battery terminals. If they are loose, tighten them.
- Use a voltmeter to check the battery’s charge. This could be contributing to your car not starting. If the battery isn’t holding producing enough voltage to start your vehicle, your battery is likely the issues.
- Try a jump start. If you have another vehicle or if you have that good old reliable friend or family member who can come to the rescue, try to jump start it.
- One of the oldest tricks in the book to get a starter that has problems working again is to tap it with a hammer, however, most newer vehicles have the engine placed in a way that makes the starter hard to get to. If your car’s starter is accessible, try this out while having someone turn the key. Sometimes starters develop dead spots and the tap of the hammer might be just enough to get its motor moving.
- Do you have a manual transmission? If so, you’re in luck! Learning how to drive that stick shift has finally paid off for you! Vehicles with a manual transmission can be push-started. Yep, your heard that right.
Please use caution with this option. Your vehicle should obviously be on a level plane and away from traffic in order to maintain your safety and the safety of those good samaritans that are assisting you.
Follow these steps to push-start your car:
- As mentioned above, make sure your car is on a level plane and you are away from traffic and other sources of danger.
- Have one person sit in the driver’s seat and turn the key to the “Run” position.
- The driver should shift the car into first or second gear and keep their foot pressed down on the clutch pedal.
- Now another person or persons should start pushing the vehicle from behind. Again, use caution. Remember this is a rolling hunk of metal that could easily run you over.
- Get the car is rolling at a rate between five to ten miles per hour. You’ll have to guess on this unless you have a smart watch that can tell you how fast you’re moving. On average, a fit human jogs around four – six miles per hour, so if you’re not a smart watch or FitBit wearer, you can use that metric as your guide.
- Once the car is moving fast enough, the driver should release the clutch quickly which should cause the engine to rotate and start. If it didn’t work, you’re probably just not going fast enough yet.
- If the engine started, hooray! Celebrate and then drive straight to your mechanic using your best manual transmission driver skills, because if it stalls, you’ll have to repeat this process all over again.
- If none of these things work, you unfortunately will need to have a mechanic look at it. If you are fortunate enough to have a mechanic friend or family member in your life, maybe they can come to you. If not, you’ll likely have to call for a tow.
Some things to remember in order to keep your starter working in the future. Make sure you take care of any oil leaks right away. Keep your battery connections free from corrosion. Follow proper steps to maintain good battery health and life.
Hopefully one of these tricks works for you and you can get to that auto shop and have whatever repairs that are needed taken care of. Tomorrow when you hop in to get to that meeting, your car will start right up and you’ll be on your way.