5 Common Symptoms Of a Bad Starter

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For a car to start, the “Starter” must be in good shape. The starter is a system introduced in vehicles to aid the process of starting the engine. When you turn your car key, the starter kicks up and moves the crankshaft, which puts the engine to work.

So, if the starter is bad, apparently, your car won’t start, or it’d be difficult to start. But what are the symptoms of a bad starter? The commonest sign of a failing starter is hard starting.

But, it’s not just hard starting that shows your starter is going bad; besides, there are many other issues that could cause hard starting, too. Thus, in this article, we have covered the most common signs of a bad starter.

What Makes A Car Starter Go Bad?

There are pretty many scenarios that could make your vehicle’s starter system go bad. These factors include:

  • Oil leaks
  • Extreme driving conditions
  • Wear due to aging
  • Electrical faults
  • Another faulty component that wasn’t fixed

You may be puzzled how the last point above can affect your car’s starter system, right? Now, this is how it happens.

Modern cars are more sophisticated than ever; virtually all the components are interconnected. Thus, when one fails, it can affect the performance of another, and put more strain on practically all other components of the vehicle.

So, if the faulty component is not fixed or repaired earlier, the excessive strain on other connected components could cause them to wear off or break down – that’s how your car’s starter system can be indirectly affected by another faulty component.

More so, let’s assume your oil is leaking and dropping on the starter, over time, the oil drops can block certain parts of the starter, causing it not to function as usual.

On this note, it is important to fix any detected issue with your car, regardless of how insignificant the affected component could seem.

Related Post: Symptoms Of a Bad Oil Pressure Sensor

Top 5 Symptoms Of a Bad Starter

Symptoms Of a Bad Starter

When you start experiencing any of these signs, you should get your “Starter” checked and fixed (if need be).

1. Hard Starting

As hinted above, a vehicle with a bad starter system would not easily start-up; you’d have to crank it over and again before it’d catch. So, if you discover your car is hard starting – and this is unusual – one of the things to check is the starter.

However, it is important to note that a bad oil or bad fuel filter can also cause hard starting because such would prevent oil/fuel from getting into the engine.

With this notice, it implies to say that when your car is hard starting, there are three main places to check.

2. Car Won’t Start At All

If the starter has already gone bad – failed completely – you may not be able to start your car until it is replaced. This scenario typically occurs when you ignore paying attention to the early signs the failing sensor has been showing up before going bad completely.

Again, it is important to say that if you’ve got a dead battery or an empty gas tank, your car won’t be able to start up.

So, you should also look into these aspects, first, before concluding that the starter could be the reason why your car isn’t starting.

3. Loud Grinding Noise When You Try To Start The Car

Yes, this is another common sign of a failing or broken starter. The starter, just like every other metallic component in your car, can break. However, metals don’t break easily, except in cases of severe collision, accident, or extreme driving conditions.

If you’re trying to start your car and you hear what seems like a sharp, grinding noise coming from beneath your car (or the engine bay), that’s a sign you should pay serious attention to, and in most cases, it could be a broken starter that’s causing the noise.

Apparently, this would call for complete replacement as you cannot fix a broken metal. Even if you attempt welding the broken parts, they’d still fall off, over time, as you drive through bumps and rough pavements.

4. Thick Smoke Coming From Beneath Your Car

Scary as it may seem, this is also a sign that your car’s starter needs your attention. Actually, the smoke doesn’t mean the starter is burning, it could be oil that dropped on the metallic surface, burning off as your car heats up while driving.

Usually, the smoke would be accompanied by a strong unpleasant smell. Just find a way to clean up the starter – wash off the oil drops – and that could fix the problem for you.

Notwithstanding, it is important to say that the starter can overheat due to extreme driving conditions. When this happens, it can also cause smoke to come out from beneath your car when you park.

5. Warning Lights Are On

If you look at your car’s dashboard and discover that all – or most of – the warning lights are on even when your engine hasn’t started up – that’s another sign of a bad starter. The lights are on because your engine can’t start.

You may need to actually troubleshoot your vehicle before concluding the fault is from your start. However, if you’re sure every other thing in your car is in good shape, the only traceable reason why all your dashboard lights are on is a bad starter.


Summarily, listed above are the commonest symptoms of a bad starter, and what could cause the starter to fail. If you start noticing any of these, you need to take your car for inspection and have the starter fixed, or replaced, to avoid further damages.

Most definitely, the worse scenario that could occur when you have a bad starter is that your engine won’t start, no matter how it cranks.

But you shouldn’t wait until this “worst scenario” occurs before sorting the situation. Just as the popular maxim says, “a stitch in time, saves nine.”

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