How to Start a Car with a Bad Starter

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Car starters tend to malfunction pretty frequently. When this happens, you will be unable to get your car running and might feel stranded. Thankfully, however, you can still start a car with a bad starter. This article will tell you how to get your car going even if your starter will not cooperate.

Signs of a Bad Starter

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Before you can implement a solution you must first diagnose the problem. A bad starter has many symptoms which will reveal the starter as the cause of the malfunction.

1. Your Car Will Not Start

When your starter malfunction, you might notice it too late. The most glaring symptom of a bad starter occurs when your engine will not start. However, other issues might also keep your car from starting. When you try to turn your key and only get a clicking noise, you probably have a bad starter.

Additionally, all of your lights and electronics should still work. The starter does not affect the battery, so you will still have power. So when the lights turn on but the engine will not engage, you probably have a bad starter. You might have a different issue, such as a bad alternator, but a bad starter is the most common problem when your care will not start.

2. Starting Problems that Come and Go

Sometimes a starter will tell you it has problems before it finally leaves you stranded. When your starter starts to go bad, you might have trouble starting your car on and off before it finally ceases entirely. Listen to the sound your ignition makes every time you turn on your car. When something starts to sound off it might indicate a bad starter.

Listen for clanking or grinding sounds when you try to turn on your car. The absence of sound also indicates a bad starter, so listen for the regular clicking sound to make sure your starter still works. Or maybe the engine fails to start a couple of times before actually engaging. Whenever one of these issues occurs they tell you that something needs fixing. 

3. Your Starter Continues Running After Engine Turns On

After you turn your key or press your on button, your starter should disengage. The circuit delivering power to the starter is designed to close after you stop turning the key or pressing your ignition button. When the starter keeps going you will hear that clicking sound even though the engine started running.

This usually happens when the contacts in the solenoid have actually welded together, keeping the circuit closed. Now your starter will continue to run since it cannot disengage. Solving this problem immediately will keep too much damage from occurring to your starter and your engine as a whole.

4. Engine Starts Smoking

When you keep trying to turn on your car and therefore keep giving it power, you will cause it to overheat. This causes electrical issues and you may see smoke coming from your engine. Stop trying to turn on your car, since you will only overheat the starter. Instead, you need to take the proper steps to fix the problem.

Also Read: How to Correct Low Engine Compression

How to Get Your Car Started with a Bad Starter

Ethnic mechanic changing detail in car engine

Once you diagnose the problem you can pop the hood and try to solve it. A bad starter could have many causes, so you might need to try several different methods in order to fix it. When one solution does not work simply try another one. It might take some time but at least it will not leave you stranded.

1. Check the Connections

Whenever you encounter a problem with your vehicle’s engine, you should first check the wiring and connections between your different engine components. A loose or disconnected wire might cause the whole of the issue. Inspect the wires leading to and from your battery, as well as the ones around your fuses. Make sure all connections are snug and attached so that they do not disconnect when you drive.

2. Examine Ground Connections

The ground connection runs through the starter and transmission. It helps deliver power to the starter. When the connection gets impeded for any reason, it results in a sluggish start. Check to make sure that the ground connection is operable and not impeded by anything. 

3. Examine the Solenoid Cable of the Car Starter

Often times, the starter’s solenoid cable will cause many of your car’s starting problems. Examining the solenoid cable may likely point towards the culprit of your difficulties. The starter is usually located at the rear bottom of your engine, near the transmission. 

The solenoid sits on top of the starter. You can usually identify a solenoid issue when the starter seems uncontrollable, such as it does not stop even after the engine engages and turns on. Rust and grime can build up on the solenoid, causing it to malfunction. 

When experiencing a solenoid issue, you can fix it with a bypass. Run a bypass cable along the solenoid cable. Then, connect a 12 volt cable from the battery directly to the connection between the solenoid and the starter. Listen for the clicking sound to ensure a correct attachment. Like many solutions on this list, it is temporary. Therefore, try to get your starter replaced as soon as possible to avoid further issues once you get your car started smoothly.

4. Clean Off Any and All Corrosion

Engine parts tend to corrode over time, especially with older vehicles. In colder climates, salt from snow plows amplifies this corrosion. When parts corrode too much, they become inoperable and start to malfunction. 

Additionally, batteries will corrode when they get old. Check your battery for corrosion and battery acid. You will see little white and greenish white flakes around your battery if it is corroding. Battery acid can eat through nearby components and render them inert. 

You can clean the corrosion with baking soda and water. Once you clean off your battery and anywhere impacted by the battery acid, check the starter for damage. Examine the connections and solenoid, and clean off any corrosion you see.

You can deal with non-battery related corrosion with sandpaper or a rag. Once clear, your connections should operate as normal.

5. Bypass the Ignition Switch and Relay

If you cannot find any noticeable connection issue, this technique might do the trick. Using a screwdriver with a non-conductive handle, touch the tip of the screwdriver to the “S” terminal of the solenoid. Then, use the screwdriver shaft to touch the solenoid’s battery terminal. This connection should work to get your car started. However, a weak battery connection or faulty starter will cause this solution to fail.

6. Tap the Starter with a Tool

Ok, it sounds dumb but believe it or not, it works. Sometimes you might just have a gear stuck inside of the starter. This will cause a malfunction and could be the cause of the whole dilemma. To fix it, tap on the starter a couple of times lightly with a small tool like a wrench. If available, use a piece of wood to avoid denting the starter.

The tapping breaks up anything causing a stuck gear. Even if this process works you should get your starter checked out so that the issue does not continually occur or build up to something worse.

7. Jump Start Your Car

Sometimes your battery might not be giving enough power for your starter to properly operate. When this is the case, you need to jump start your car. With a set of jumper cables, connect positive to positive and negative to negative on your battery and the spare battery. Leave the connection for several minutes to charge your battery. Then try to give the car a start. 

This also works when your battery is causing the malfunction and not your starter. Since a bad battery might cause most of the problems that keep your car from starting, you will most likely end up jumping your car when it does not start. 

If this does not work and you have tried everything else, all you can do is call a tow truck. 

8. Push Start Your Car

As a last ditch effort you can try push starting your car to get it going. You can only push start a car that has a manual transmission. This method ideally works when you have the car on a slope facing downhill or a group of people to help you push. You will need at least one other person to help push, since someone must man the wheel to both steer, brake and activate the ignition. 

The process of push starting gets the gears turning and bypasses both a bad battery and a bad transmission. Once you get to 10 miles per hour you can let the clutch go and hopefully it starts up. Repeat until the car starts or your helpers get tired.

Also Read: How to Bypass Limp Mode on Your Vehicle

Conclusion

Once you diagnose and try these solutions, either your car will run or it will remain stopped. Either way, get in contact with a mechanic as soon as you can. Most of these fixes will not permanently fix your problem. The sooner you get your starter examined the more reliable your vehicle will be.

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