How to Diagnose and Replace a Starter

December 11, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

How to Diagnose and Replace a Starter

When the starter in a vehicle goes bad, we usually have no warning. We simply try to insert our key and start the ignition, but all we hear is a “click.” Of course, that could mean a couple of things for your vehicle, so it’s important to make sure it’s actually your starter before you run off to buy a new one.

Diagnose Your Starter Problem

To make sure your car’s starter is actually the problem, check your:

  • Battery. Use a multimeter to check your battery to make sure your charge is at least 12.2v. You can also use a load tester to check the Cold Cranking Amps recommended on the side of your battery. If this number is well under the recommended amps on your battery, it might be causing your starter problems.
  • Anti-theft immobilizer. If the little anti-theft chip in your key starts to break down, you will have problems starting your car. To check this, simply turn your key in the ignition and look for the flashing “Theft” or related light. You’ll need to get a new key with the right anti-theft chip and your car will start again.
  • Neutral lock. Sometimes, putting a car into “Park” might not always work. When this happens, the neutral safety lock kicks in to prevent your car from starting. To fix it in an automatic car, check your neutral safety switch by the transmission, as well as the electrical connections on the safety switch. In manual cars, simply press the clutch down and then check your clutch safety switch.
  • Fuses and relays. Check all of your fuses and starter relay areas with your car manual. Make sure the connection isn’t broken in your fuses. You’ll feel and hear the relay click when you start your car, as well.

How to Replace Your Starter

Now that you know the starter is the problem, it’s time to get to work. First, you need to figure out where your starter is located. Then, you’ll need:

  • A socket set with extension
  • Wrenches
  • Thread-locking fluid

To start, disconnect your battery so no power is going to the starter. Then, remove all of the bolts from the starter and take stock of the wires – you’ll need to make sure to put everything back together the right way. Also see if the connection looks bad by cleaning the wires and checking for any damage.

If there are no connection problems, it’s time to replace your starter. Remove all of the wires and gently pull out the part. Take the starter to your local auto parts shop, have them test it for function, and then buy the replacement if needed.

When replacing the new starter, sand down and clean the connections and wires before installing the new part. Use a little thread-locking fluid when screwing in the starter bolts to prevent corrosion and loosening. Make sure all bolts are tightened down all the way.

Now, it’s time to turn your battery back on and try your key in the ignition! Hopefully your engine starts and you can get back on the road.