A Failing Starter

Signs of a Failing Starter and When to Replace It

Prashant Salla
Prashant Salla5 min read
Signs of a Failing Starter and When to Replace It

In the realm of automotive mysteries, few things are as disheartening as a car that refuses to start. You turn the key, hoping for the comforting purr of the engine, but all you're greeted with is a disheartening silence.

Could it be a drained and dead battery, a faulty ignition switch, or perhaps a fuel system problem? While these possibilities exist, one often overlooked culprit is the indispensable starter system. 

In this article, we'll discuss the symptoms of a bad starter and why it's crucial to replace them promptly.

Replacing Your Starter with Goodhood 

Once you notice signs of starter failure, replacing it as soon as possible is the best way to avoid further damage. It's important to note that starters are designed to be replaced in the event of failure, so attempting a repair may not always be worthwhile.

If you're not too mechanically inclined or don't have the time to replace your starter yourself, hiring a good mechanic is the easiest and safest option. Goodhood can get you back on the road quickly and safely with experienced technicians who are familiar with your car's make and model.

The Function of the Starter

The starter is an electric motor that works with the battery to engage the engine and get it going. It's a crucial part of the vehicle's starting process, as it uses electricity to initiate the combustion cycle of your engine (a process known as cranking).

Signs Of A Failing Starter

Clicking Sounds

One of the most common signs of a failing starter is a rapid clicking sound when you turn the key. This typically indicates that the starter solenoid is receiving power but failing to engage the starter motor fully.

Intermittent Starting

If you experience sporadic starting issues, where the car starts fine one day but struggles the next, it could be a sign of a failing starter. As the starter's internal components wear out, their ability to engage the flywheel consistently diminishes.

Grinding Noise

A grinding noise when starting your vehicle is a cause for concern. This usually occurs when the starter gear isn't properly aligning with the flywheel, indicating worn-out or damaged starter gear teeth.


Freewheeling refers to a situation where you turn the key, but the engine doesn't crank at all. Instead, you hear a high-pitched whirring sound. This typically happens when the starter gear fails to engage the flywheel entirely, often due to a worn-out drive mechanism.

Electrical Issues

A failing starter may cause electrical problems in your vehicle. The electrical components of the starter may draw too much current from the battery, leading to dim headlights or other electrical issues.

You might also notice dimming interior lights or a voltage drop when attempting to start the engine. This occurs because the starter motor draws significant power from the battery.

When to Replace Your Starter

Recognizing the signs of a failing starter is crucial, but knowing when to replace it is equally important. Here are indicators that it's time to replace your starter:

Consistent Starting Issues

If you frequently encounter starting problems and have ruled out other potential causes, like a weak battery or faulty ignition switch, it may be time to replace your starter. When the signs of a failing starter become more frequent and consistent, it's a clear indication that the internal components are deteriorating and no longer functioning optimally.

Age and Mileage

Like many automotive components, starters have a limited lifespan. Most starters are designed to last between 80,000 to 150,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer and driving conditions. 

If your vehicle has surpassed this mileage range and you're experiencing starting issues, it's wise to consider replacing the starter as a preventive measure.

Diagnostic Testing

If you're uncertain whether your starter is the culprit behind your starting troubles, a diagnostic test can provide valuable insights. Visit a trusted mechanic or an auto repair shop that can perform a comprehensive diagnostic test on your vehicle's starting system. This will help pinpoint the specific cause of the problem and determine if the starter needs replacement.

Visual Inspection

If you think you're comfortable working under the hood, you can perform a visual inspection of the starter. Look for signs of physical damage, such as corroded or frayed wires, loose connections, or excessive wear. If you notice any of such issues, it's a good indication that the starter requires replacement.

Professional Recommendation

Seeking the advice of a professional mechanic is always a prudent decision when dealing with automotive issues. If you're unsure about the state of your starter, consult with a qualified mechanic who can assess its condition and recommend whether a replacement is necessary.

Replacing Your Starter

When it's time to replace your starter, there are a few options available:

OEM Starter

Opting for an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) starter ensures that you're getting a direct replacement for the original starter installed in your vehicle. OEM starters are specifically designed to meet the manufacturer's specifications, offering reliable performance and compatibility.

Aftermarket Starter

Aftermarket starters are produced by third-party manufacturers and are often more affordable than OEM options. However, it's crucial to ensure that the aftermarket starter is compatible with your vehicle's make and model and meets the required quality standards.

Professional Installation

Unless you have advanced mechanical skills and the necessary tools, it's recommended to have a professional install the new starter for you. A trained technician will ensure proper installation, minimizing the risk of damage to other components and ensuring optimal performance.


The starter motor is a known crucial component of your vehicle's starting system and should be replaced promptly when it fails. Taking the time to recognize the signs of a failing starter and getting it replaced in a timely manner can save you costly repairs in the long run.

If you're having trouble starting your car or suspect that your starter may be failing, contact Goodhood for a thorough diagnostic test and expert advice. Our experienced ASE-certified technicians can help you get back on the road quickly and safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a starter last?

Most starters are designed to last between 80,000 to 150,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer and driving conditions. However, if you're experiencing starting problems or notice any signs of failing, it's likely time to replace your starter.

What is the cost of replacing a starter?

The cost of replacing a starter can vary depending on your car's make and model. Generally speaking, an OEM starter will be more expensive than an aftermarket option. It's also important to consider labor costs for professional installation. Contact Goodhood mobile auto repair services for an accurate estimate.

When should I replace my starter?

Signs of a bad starter include clicking sounds, intermittent starting, grinding noises, freewheeling, and electrical issues. If you notice any of these symptoms or if your car surpasses the recommended mileage range for starters, it's time to consider replacing it. You can also consult with a professional mechanic for an accurate diagnosis.