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What Are The Signs Of A Defective Starter Motor Of A Car?

Did you hear an uneasy ticking from your car when you switched it on to run an errand? It’s best to inspect the source of the clicking sound. It might be symptomatic of a faulty starter. When ignored, it may damage the engine flywheel.

If you notice an unmistakable and loud clicking sound, you’re likely going to need a new starter. Any spare parts companies, like Sunway Autoparts, can replace it for you. 

Your starter motor engages the engine every time you switch on the car. Needless to say, this part works recurrently and is prone to damage and great stress. No matter what you do, this component will wear out over time.

What Exactly Does A Starter Motor Do?

Before learning to detect the signs of a defective starter, it is essential to know how your starter is supposed to work. 

When you switch on your car or turn the ignition key, the twisting motion engages the switch, also known as the solenoid, on the starter motor. In its turn, the solenoid engages a gear, whose rotational power fires up your engine. 

A car engine cannot come to life on its own. Your starter motor is the little powerhouse that gives your engine the needed boost to fire it up. 

Tell-tale Signs Of A Defective Starter

It’s rare for starter motors to fail outright, without any warning signs. If you notice any of the following symptoms or a combination of them, immediately contact your local auto mechanic and arrange for an inspection. 

  • Buzzing Sound
  • Audible Clicking
  • Irregular Engine-starting Problems
  • Grinding Sound
  • Starter Clicks, But Car Doesn’t Start
  • An Oily Starter Motor
  • The Smell Or Sight Of Smoke When Starting The Engine
  • Starter Stays Running Even After The Engine Has Started

Buzzing Sound

An unfamiliar buzzing sound when you turn your key usually means that there is electricity flowing to your starter, but the motor still isn’t activated. This sound is an early warning sign of a faulty starter motor.

Audible Clicking

A loud clicking sound, either in a rapid tempo or in slow pulses, is conspicuous proof of a defective starter. No other part makes these noises when they’re about to fail.

Irregular Engine-starting Problems

Does your engine start smoothly sometimes and take longer other times? This erraticism may point to problems with your relay or starter motor. 

Grinding Sound

The metal-on-metal grinding sounds may be caused by the starter motor failing to properly engage with the flywheel, probably because the starter gears are worn. Do not let this warning sign persist: the engine flywheel is expensive to fix. 

Starter Clicks, But Car Doesn’t Start

If you can hear your starter engage and your car still won’t start, it’s probably because your starter motor has failed to activate other gears properly. Ultimately, this leads to an unsuccessful engine start.

An Oily Starter Motor 

An oily starter motor drastically reduces its lifespan. Due to the starter’s position within the engine framework, it is highly susceptible to damage from oil leaks. If your starter is sludgy, fix the oil leak and get it replaced immediately. 

The Smell Or Sight Of Smoke When Starting The Engine

An electric current powers your starter. Due to the heat that’s undoubtedly generated from electricity transforming into kinetic energy, the starting motor can sometimes overheat. If this occurs, you’ll likely see or smell smoke coming from behind or under the engine. Causes include a worn-out starter or a failed ignition switch, among others. 

Starter Stays Running Even After The Engine Has Started

Once you turn the ignition key or switch on the car’s engine, the action of releasing the key should discontinue power to the starter motor. When the starter stays running even after your engine is running, it means that the solenoid or neighboring gears responsible for starting have failed. 

This complication can ultimately cause serious damage to the starting mechanism and engine flywheel which can become very expensive to fix if not immediately checked out and remedied.

Some Ways To Prolong Your Starter’s Lifespan

Heed the following tips to make the most of your starter motor and prolong its lifespan:

Grease-free Connectors and Solenoids 

Preventing an oily starter is the surest and easiest way to prevent your motor from going bad. A clean motor also ensures that it receives power efficiently instead of reducing the current available to turn the solenoid and engage the engine. 

Periodically Inspect The Flywheel

Over time, the flywheel can become cracked, worn, or even lose its teeth. This deterioration impinges on effective engagement with neighboring gears on the starter motor. If the starter motor is forced to work with a problematic flywheel, its lifespan will quickly diminish.


Starter motors are one of the most important components in your car. However, problems related to it are virtually unavoidable. 

Diligent maintenance and proper servicing can prolong the life of a starter and prevent inconvenient disruptions. Even then, over some time, the starter motor will run its course and wear away. 

The two components inside the starter that commonly fail are the solenoid and the starting motor itself. 

Ask a trusted auto mechanic or a professional firm for preservation tips or replacements, whenever necessary.

One Comment

  1. My car wouldn’t start earlier this morning and it got me late to work, thanks for letting me know that this could be a problem with my starter. I hear a faint grinding sound every time I start it, so it may be a problem with the gears like you mentioned. This car was a hand-me-down from my mother and it’s a bit old so I think it may be time to get it checked at an auto repair shop to get looked at. I’m still not good when it comes to fixing vehicles myself so this may be the best option for me.

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