Common Starter Motor Problems

Common Starter Motor Problems
Car Maintenance, Starter Motor

We are all too often guilty of relying too heavily on our cars and taking for granted the fact they’ll get us from A to B without any problem. However, what happens when you get in and press the push to start button (or turn the key) and nothing happens?

It is always important to first test your battery as a significant percentage of starter motor problems are battery related, especially during the winter months. If there’s no loss of power, then you can rule out your battery from blame. Instead, if your engine isn’t starting and you’re stuck going nowhere fast you need to look out for tell-tale signs of a starter motor problem.

Starter motor faults are more common than ever as manufacturers opt for fitting fuel-efficient stop/start technology in newer vehicles. This technology increases the strain placed upon a starter motor when driving, increasing the likelihood of a problem and the need for a replacement starter motor.

What Is A Starter Motor?

A starter motor is required to turn over (crank) an engine during the ignition process, allowing it to suck in air and fire. It is comprised of two main parts:

  • Primary motor - This turns the crankshaft and starts your engine
  • Solenoid - This simultaneously engages the drive gear and closes the primary motor’s electrical contacts

We’ve put together this handy guide to help you get to the bottom of a starter motor problem. As always, if you are unsure about what you are doing enlist the help of a trained professional.

Engine Doesn’t Turn Over

The most common sign of a starter motor problem is when you press the start button, and nothing happens. If the engine doesn’t turn over - and your battery is working fine – it is possible that the primary motor or solenoid has burned out.

Intermittent Starting Issues

If it takes a couple of presses of the start button to get your engine running, this can be an early sign of a faulty starter motor. The cause of this problem is most likely the starter relay. This relay either sends the full electrical current to the starter, or nothing at all. If it’s the latter, it’s a good indicator of a starter motor problem.

Clicking Noise

A common experience for drivers with a problematic starter motor is the sound of clicking when trying to turn the engine. This sound can often be attributed to a damaged starter relay.

Grinding Noise

If a starter drive gear is worn it means proper contact isn’t being made with the flywheel. This can result in a grinding noise, similar to what you hear if an attempt to restart an engine is made when it has already started. Ignoring this sign may result in damage to the engine flywheel.


This happens when an attempt is made to turn over the engine, but instead of starting a whining noise can be heard. This noise is the result of the starter motor incorrectly engaging the flywheel. If this is happening, contact your local garage as soon as possible to investigate further.

Starter Motor Stays On

When working correctly, power should be cut to the starter motor once the start button is released. If the starter motor is staying on, this is likely due to a failure of the main contacts within the starter solenoid. Seek advice if this is occurring to limit serious damage to the entire starting system and flywheel.

Smoke When Starting Engine

If a starter motor is being supplied too much power, it will eventually overheat and smoke. There will be smoke visible from under the engine if there is a starter motor connection problem also. The cause of this is often a short circuit or a faulty ignition switch. If you can see smoke accompanied by the smell of burning, these are signs of potentially serious problems. We recommend contacting your local garage for further advice.

Oil-Soaked Starter Motor

Starter motors are often located in close proximity of the bottom of the engine, making them susceptible to becoming soaked if an engine is leaking. Clearly, if a starter motor is covered in oil its performance and lifespan is limited. Identify and fix the leak and replace your starter motor to limit the likelihood of serious malfunction occurring.

Replacement Starter Motor

With starter motors being placed under more pressure to perform than ever before - thanks to stop/start technology - it’s very difficult, nigh on impossible to avoid experiencing a starter motor problem. If you need a starter motor replacement, then look no further than us. We are one of the UK’s largest suppliers of high-quality, low-cost starter motors for almost any make or model of vehicle. Visit our online parts store and find the starter motor you need today for less! Fast delivery and a peace of mind warranty are included as standard.

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