Troubleshooting and Rebuilding or Replacing a Starter Motor

Starter Motor Testing and Troubleshooting

Car or truck won’t start?

Here’s what the sounds mean:

Rapid clicking when key is turned to start:

  • Dead/low battery (charge the battery and try again)
  • Dirty terminals/connections (clean connections)

Single loud Click/Clunk sound when the key is turned to start:

  • Relay is engaging and kicking Bendix out but not sending power to the motor.
  • The motor is getting power but brushes are worn and not contacting(light tapping with a hammer may give you 1 more start).

You hear the motor spin but it doesn’t engage engine:

  • Bendix Gear not being pulled and or worn out Bendix Drive.

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For further troubleshooting symptoms and causes, refer to the Car Starter Motor Troubleshooting Chart below.

Car Starter Motor Troubleshooting Chart

Engine will not crankDead battery

Melted fusible link

Loose connections

Faulty ignition switch

Faulty magnetic switch, relay, neutral start switch, or clutch switch

Mechanical problem in engine

Problem in theft deterrent system
Check battery state-of-charge

Replace fusible link

Clean and tighten connections

Check switch operation; replace

Check and replace as needed

Check engine

Check service manual for system tests
Engine cranks too slowly to startWeak battery   Loose or corroded connections

Faulty starter motor

Mechanical problems with engine or starter
Check battery and charge as needed

Clean and tighten connections

Test starter

Check engine and starter; replace worn out parts
Starter keeps runningDamaged pinion or ring gear

Faulty plunger in magnetic switch

Faulty ignition switch or control circuit

Binding ignition key
Check gears for wear or damage

Test starter pull-in and hold-in coils

Check switch and circuit components

Check key for damage
Starter spins, but engine will not crankFaulty over-running clutch

Damaged or worn pinion gear or ring gear
Check over-running clutch for proper operation

Check gears for damage and wear; replace as needed
Starter does not engage/disengage properlyFaulty magnetic switch

Damaged or worn pinion gear or ring gear
Bench test starter

Check gears for damage and wear; replace as needed