A failing starter can quickly transform a smooth drive into a stressful experience.
So, is it worth the risk?
More importantly, how long can you drive with a bad starter?
We’ll answer your questions and provide safety tips to avoid additional damage or a roadside disaster.
Let’s dive in.
This Article Contains:
- How Long Can You Drive With a Bad Starter?
- How to Start the Car with a Faulty Starter System
- How Much Does a Starter Replacement Cost?
- 3 FAQs about a Bad Car Starter
How Long Can You Drive With a Bad Starter?
It’s best to avoid driving with a faulty starter. Instead, call a mobile mechanic to fix your car right where you are or arrange a tow to get it to a repair shop.
Here’s why: The ignition switch kicks in when you turn the key to start your car. This lets power from your battery flow to the starter motor through a relay. The starter motor then spins, and a small gear in the front end, known as the pinion gear, engages with the engine flywheel to get your engine running.
A faulty starter motor or relay can disrupt this process, resulting in unpredictable starting issues. Plus, repeatedly starting your car with a faulty starter drains your battery. A weak or dead battery can wear out the starter components faster.
This domino effect can leave you stuck with a car that won’t start.
But what do you do if you’re stranded with a flat battery or a bad starter?
Fortunately, you can try a few emergency techniques to get the car started temporarily before taking it to the mechanic.
How to Start the Car With a Faulty Starter System
Note: Before trying alternate ways to start the car with a bad starter, ensure that the steering wheel isn’t locked, as this can block the ignition from turning fully to the start position. Turn the steering wheel and check for tire rotation.
If that doesn’t resolve the problem, you can try these steps to start your car temporarily, but be cautious and prioritize safety:
A. Inspect the Battery
Start by checking the battery — a weak or flat battery can mimic starter issues. To check the battery, follow these steps:
- Park safely, use the emergency brake, and turn off the engine.
- Check the battery cable, look for visible signs of corrosion on the car battery terminals, and clean them with a battery terminal brush.
- Use a multimeter to test the battery voltage. A fully charged car battery typically reads around 12.6 volts.
- Perform a load test or use a battery load tester to assess the battery’s ability to maintain voltage.
Additionally, inspect the alternator, as a bad alternator can lead to battery issues and affect the overall starting system. If the issue is linked to a weak battery, jump-starting the car can supply the needed power.
To jump-start a car, you’ll need a set of jumper cables and a portable jump starter or another vehicle with a good battery. Here’s a simple guide:
- Park the working vehicle facing the car with the dead battery.
- Locate the positive and negative battery terminals.
- Attach one end of the red clamp to the dead battery’s positive terminal and the other to the positive terminal of the working battery.
- Now, clamp the black cable to the dead battery’s negative terminal and the working battery’s negative terminal.
- Start the working vehicle and then attempt to start the dead vehicle.
- Once the jump-started car’s engine runs smoothly at idle, disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order they were attached.
If your car doesn’t start, it could mean you have a bad starter motor.
C. Tap the Starter
A bad starter motor and its components, particularly a bad starter solenoid, can sometimes become stuck due to wear. By tapping the car’s starter, you can free up the stuck components and allow the starter gear to engage with the ring gear of the engine flywheel.
- Locate the starter motor. It’s typically situated near the back of the engine.
- Identify the solenoid, a smaller cylinder connected to the car’s starter with electrical wires.
- Gently tap the solenoid with a rubber mallet or the screwdriver handle. While tapping, have someone turn the ignition key to the start position.
D. Push-Start (Manual Transmission)
If tapping the starter motor doesn’t work, try push-starting your car. But this only works if you have a manual transmission and someone to push the car.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Ensure the area is safe for pushing the car.
- Turn the ignition key to the on position.
- Shift the car into second gear and press the clutch down.
- Get your friends to push the car until it reaches 5 to 10 miles per hour (MPH).
- Release the clutch swiftly to start the engine, and press the gas pedal gently.
5. Bypass the Starter Solenoid
Bypassing a bad starter solenoid involves manually connecting the electrical circuit to engage the starter motor without using the starter solenoid. While it can be a temporary solution in emergencies, it’s considered dangerous and is best left in the hands of a professional mechanic.
Remember, these are emergency fixes. Eventually, you’ll need to replace the faulty starter. So, let’s see what it’ll cost you to get a new one.
How Much Does a Starter Replacement Cost?
Typical costs for a car starter replacement range from $720 to $850. The price can change based on your car type, location, and if extra work or parts are needed.
Here are the average costs of some additional replacement components (excluding labor):
- Ignition switch: $20 to $50
- Starter solenoid: $20 to $150
- Starter relay: $35 to $40
Got more questions?
Let’s address them next.
3 FAQs about a Bad Car Starter
Here are a few queries about a bad starter and their answers:
1. How Can You Tell If You Have a Starter Problem?
Some common signs of a faulty starter motor or relay include:
- Engine cranks slowly or struggles to start
- Absence of cranking noise
- Repetitive clicking, whining, or grinding noise when starting the vehicle
- Smoke or burning smell from the starter motor due to a blown fuse
- Dashboard lights dimmed when starting the car
- Car requires frequent jump starts
- Engine oil stains on or near the starter
Note: Sometimes, the engine may crank and not start due to insufficient fuel, a bad alternator, fuel pump, or spark plug.
2. What Causes the Starter to Go Bad?
Several factors can contribute to a failing starter, like:
- Bad starter solenoid, pinion gear, field coils, starter gear, or other starter components
- Exposure to water, moisture, dust, and debris
- Motor oil leaking onto the starter
- A weak battery, a damaged battery cable, or a worn electrical component like the alternator
- Faulty ignition switch
- Excessive heat, often due to repeated start attempts or insufficient cooling
- Incorrect installation or incompatible components
3. What’s the Average Lifespan of a Starter, and How Can You Extend It?
The average lifespan of a car starter is 80,000 to 100,000 starts.
To extend its life:
- Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.
- Regularly check and service the battery, the electrical connections, and the ignition system, including the starter motor, spark plugs, spark plug wires, etc.
- Use proper starting techniques.
- Avoid over-cranking.
- Use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts when replacing components.
- Park in a garage to protect from extreme temperatures.
- Warm up the engine in cold weather.
- Always seek professional inspection for any starting issues.
Fix Starters Effortlessly with AutoNation Mobile Service
A malfunctioning starter strains the battery and wears out essential parts. This could potentially damage your car’s electrical system and leave you stranded.
The best thing to do is avoid driving and seek professional assistance, like AutoNation Mobile Service. Our expert technicians can conveniently address starter issues right from your driveway.
Contact us today for hassle-free starter service and benefit from a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on auto repair parts.