The Starter, For Starters

By: The Auto Guy Email
By: The Auto Guy Email

Many years ago, people had to turn a crank on the front of their car to get it started. Luckily now, you simply turn the key and a starter kicks in and starts the vehicle. But a starter is a part that wears out over time and you might have some troubles when it does.

Here’s how a starter works. The part itself bolts onto the engine and when electrical power is sent through the starter, this gear will pop out the end of the starter and engage with the flywheel, which is attached to the crankshaft on the back of the engine. The crankshaft then spins the engine and it starts up.

Sometimes, figuring out if you have a problem with your starter can be confusing. I have seen plenty of people go out and buy a new battery and the problem is actually their starter. Many times a mechanic needs to do some diagnostic work to figure out what the problem is, but here are a few things you can do on your own if your vehicle won’t start.

First of all, are the dash lights on when you turn the key on? If not, the battery could be completely dead or you might have a bad connection somewhere in the electrical system.

If you do have dash lights, but there is no sound at all coming from under the hood when you try to start the vehicle, try your wipers on high speed. If they‘re barely moving, the battery is probably very low and you might need a jump start. But if the wipers are going as fast as they normally do, your battery is probably in good shape.

Try putting the vehicle in neutral to see if it will start because there’s a safety switch that only allows the starter to turn the engine over if the vehicle is in park or neutral. If the starter doesn’t turn over in park or neutral and you don’t hear any sound coming from under the hood, a mechanic is probably going to need to do some diagnostic work to pinpoint the issue. Things such as the anti-theft system might even be causing the problem.

If you do hear a noise coming from under the hood but the engine won’t turn over, pay attention to what the noise sounds like. If it is a rapid “machine gun” sound then you probably have a low battery and you might be able to jump start it. But if it clicks only one time or does a horrible grinding noise, then you might have a starter that is beginning to act up.

In that case you are probably going to have to get the vehicle towed in and possibly replace the starter. But that’s still easier than getting out and turning a crank on the front of your car every time you want to go somewhere, right?


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