How to Start a Car With a Bad Starter – 6 Steps to Get the Car Going!

If you are having trouble getting your car’s engine to start, the issue could be related to the starter motor.

The starter is a small motor responsible for turning over the engine and getting it running. It does this by engaging the flywheel and quickly forcing it to rotate. It’s powered by the car’s battery and is activated when you turn the key or the push start button. If the starter is not functioning correctly, it can be frustrating and inconvenient.

This article will explore some of the common causes of starter problems and how to troubleshoot and fix them.

Causes of a Bad Starter

There are a few things that lead to faulty car starters. Identifying them can help you avoid a starter crisis, especially in an emergency.

  • An improperly connected or damaged starter wiring can prevent the starter from receiving the proper power it needs.
  • Corroded connections can lead to a bad starter. Rusty or dirty contacts can prevent the starter from receiving power and cause it to fail. This problem is also frequent with battery terminals. Power can’t reach the starter if your car’s battery terminals are corroded
  • A starter with faulty or broken internals, usually happens with age.
  • Oil leaking from the engine onto the starter will cause failure if it gets into the electrics.
  • If the relay or fuse that controls the starter is faulty, it can prevent the starter from engaging and cause the car not to start.

Signs of a Bad Starter

Several possible causes can cross your mind if your car is not starting. If you notice some of these signs, your vehicle has a faulty starter.

  • Starting the car makes a grinding noise.
  • Freewheeling means that the starter is turning, but the engine is not. This is usually caused by a bad connection between your car’s starter and the flywheel.
  • The car starts intermittently. This can also be a problem with the battery.
  • There is a clicking sound when you try to start the vehicle. This usually means that there is a problem with the starter solenoid.
  • You cannot turn off the starter while the engine is running. This could signify a problem with the starter motor, solenoid or the connection between the starter and the ignition switch.
  • The car emits a lot of smoke when you try to start it.

How to Start a Car with a Bad Starter Motor

  1. Examine the Car Battery

It is a good idea to check the battery when diagnosing a problem with the starter. 

Firstly, check the battery’s voltage. A healthy battery should have a voltage of at least 12.4 volts. Anything below 12.4 means the battery is either flat or may not have enough juice to start the car.

Furthermore, you should check the battery’s connections. Maintain clean and secure connections to the battery.

  1. Examine the Connections

Examine all the connections to the ignition switch. The starter is controlled by the turn of the key, so you can check connections all the way back to the key. It is a bit excessive but a corroded terminal or a poor connection will not allow the right voltage to be passed to the starter motor.

If the connections are loose or corroded, cleaning or tightening them is a good idea. But if the connections look fine and the starter still doesn’t work, something may be wrong with the starter or the electrical system.

  1. Check the Starter Solenoid

Solenoids are small devices that help the starter engage by transferring electrical power from the battery to the starters motor. A faulty solenoid can prevent the starter from working. 

You can usually find the starter solenoid attached to the starter motor. Clean and secure the solenoid’s connections first. If you have a voltmeter, you should check there is 12 volts at the positive wire. If there is 12 volts at the positive, you can check the operation by checking the other terminal’s live while trying to start the car with the key. If no power switching is evident on the voltmeter, then the solenoid is likely faulty and needs replacing. 

A solenoid failing is rare. Usually, they are intermittent. When they fail, the starter motor continues engaging once the car is running, you typically hear a loud screeching.

  1. Tap the Starter with a Hammer

Tapping the starter with a hammer or another tool can trigger it. However, this should not be your first course of action as it involves some risks.

In most cases, tapping the starter too hard may even cause further damage to the starter. But if you must do it, be super careful. For example, gently tapping the starter with a hammer or spanner can be helpful. But overdoing it can lead to further damage.

jump-start cable set
  1. Jump Start the Car

First, park the two vehicles close to each other. Make sure they don’t come into contact with each other. Next, turn off the ignition and all electrical systems on both vehicles.

Locate your car’s battery and do a visual inspection. If it’s leaking fluid or emitting smoke, do not attempt to jump-start it. Also, you should find a safe and well-ventilated location. Make sure you are doing this away from any flammable materials.

Find the positive end of the good battery, connect the positive end of the jumper cable to it, and attach the other end to the positive terminal of the bad battery. Next, you should join one end of the negative jumper cable (usually black) to the good battery’s negative terminal. After that, connect the other end of the negative cable to a chunk of metal surface on your car (earth). This metal surface can be a bolt on the engine block. Now you can start the bad vehicle.

Depending on the health of your car battery, it might take up to 20 minutes to get it charged. It is wise to keep the car with the good battery running while doing this; that way, you don’t potentially ruin another good battery.

Then remove the jumper cables after switching off both vehicles. 

  1. Push Start the Car

Push-starting or bump start is also an effective method to start manual vehicles with bad starter motors. It is easier to execute on a downhill slope.

Firstly, take your position at the steering wheel while others stay behind the car.

Next, put the car into gear with the clutch pedal down while the others push. Let them keep going until the car is moving at a reasonable speed. Then to start the vehicle, release the clutch quickly. The vehicle’s momentum acts as a starter motor to turn the flywheel and begin the combustion process inside the engine. In essence, no starter motor is needed when push-starting a vehicle.

Do Starters Fail Suddenly?

Replacing starters is not as common as you might think; a car not starting can usually be traced to a battery, starter relay failing, or an ignition switch fault. Starter motors rarely fail without warning.

Usually, a start failing will give indications it’s on its way out, such as staying engaged; you will hear a loud screech after the car starts for a second or two. You may also begin to hear a few clicks without the car starting when you turn the key. Then, the vehicle will suddenly fire up. These are perfect indications to look out for that the car’s starter is potentially failing, and replacement should be sorted before it is too late. If a starter does fail, you have no risk of the vehicle switching off when driving; the problem only comes when trying to restart the car after keying off or stalling it.

Final Thoughts

Many car owners struggle with car starter problems, although starter motor troubles are rare and usually traced back to other issues. Knowing the problems associated with bad starter motors and how to start a car with a bad starter is a good precaution to get yourself out of a situation.

My name is Tom although my friends call me Tommy. Messing around with cars and bikes has always been a hobby of mine even from a young age. So I made it my day job 17 years ago. I am a fully qualified mechanic as you would expect. I've worked in all different areas of the motor trade, valeting, panel beating, engine repairs, I'm sure you get the idea. I enjoy sharing my wealth of knowledge and experience with others, which is the reason I spend a lot of time here writing for this website.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.