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Bad Starter Symptoms: 7 Signs Your Starter Is Dying on You

Bad Starter Symptoms: 7 Signs Your Starter Is Dying on You

Have you been having a tough time getting your car to start recently? Your car’s starter could be to blame. This is one of the most obvious bad starter symptoms around, and it’s something that you should not ignore since it could eventually lead to your car not starting at all. You should keep your eyes peeled for any problems with your car’s starter and address them sooner rather than later. Learn about what a starter does, how you’ll know when it’s on its last legs, and how much it’ll cost to replace it below.

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What Does Your Car’s Starter Do?

Before we take a deep dive into the different bad starter symptoms that you might see when your starter is on the verge of dying on you, you need to know exactly what a starter does within the context of your car. It’s a part that, as you might imagine, plays a very important role when it comes to getting your car’s engine up and going when you first go to start your car.


When you stick your car key into your ignition and start your vehicle up, the solenoid in your starter system will send an electrical current to your starter motor telling it to start up your engine. From there, your starter motor will use the electrical current to spin the flywheel in your engine. That will usually be enough to give your engine the boost it needs to start running. And once it does, your starter will disengage from the engine and sit in waiting until you shut your car off and then ask it to do its job again.

How Long Does a Car Starter Last?

There is, unfortunately, going to come a time when you’ll see some of the various bad starter symptoms start to pop up when you go to start your car. But the good news is that you shouldn’t have to see these symptoms very often. In fact, there is a decent chance that you might not ever see the bad starter symptoms. Your car’s starter could last for the entire time that you own your car and not ever give out on you at any point.


Generally speaking, you should be able to get anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 miles of life out of your car’s starter before it begins to break down. If you’re constantly starting your car up multiple times each and every day, that might cause your starter to wear down on you sooner than that. But overall, your starter is very durable and should last you for almost as long as you have your car.

What Are the Most Common Bad Starter Symptoms?

In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to worry about seeing any of the bad starter symptoms appear when you’re behind the wheel of your car. But if you have a car that’s on the older side, it’s likely only going to be a matter of time before at least one or two of the bad starter symptoms pop up. And when they do, you should be able to recognize them and spring into action to do something about them. Here are 7 of the most common bad starter symptoms.

1. Your Car Cranks a Whole Lot When You’re Trying to Start It

When you turn your car key in your ignition to start your vehicle up, it should start right up on most days without any trouble. This will indicate that your starter is strong and healthy and able to do its job. But there might be times when your car cranks a whole lot before your engine eventually starts. There might also be times when it just cranks and cranks and cranks without starting up at all.


There are some other issues that can cause your car not to start when you put your key into it and turn it. A bad battery or a bad alternator, for example, could be to blame for your car not starting on command. But if you can hear it cranking and not starting, that’s usually one of the most prominent bad starter symptoms. You’re going to need to have a mechanic check out your car to see if you need to replace your starter right away.

2. Your Car’s Interior Lights Get Dim When You Go to Start Your Car – Bad Starter Symptoms

Have you noticed that your car’s interior lights have started to get dim almost every time that you go to start your car? This is another one of the more common bad starter symptoms. It’s typically an indication that there is a short circuit located somewhere in the wiring for your car’s starter. It results in your starter using up more electricity than it should when you attempt to start your car, and it doesn’t leave enough electricity for your interior lights to shine bright like they normally do.


In the event that you notice your interior lights dimming when you start your car, you should also keep an ear out for what can best be described as a chugging sound. If you hear it, there might be bearings that have gone bad within your starter. It’s going to be another indication that you need to schedule starter replacement as soon as you can.

3. Your Car Makes a Loud, Grinding Noise When You Start It

You don’t ever want to hear any grinding sounds coming from your car. You especially don’t want to hear them when you’re trying to start your car up. They’re going to be a sign that there is a mechanical problem with your car, and that mechanic problem could be tied to the gears that are used to connect to your starter. They might be worn down too much, or they might not be engaging like they’re supposed to.


Either way, this is one of the bad starter symptoms that’s going to be pretty much impossible to ignore. You’re going to hear your car grinding all the time when you go to start it, which is going to make it difficult for you to overlook the issue. You might also find that this problem will get worse and worse with time. You’re going to want to have someone take a look at your car to see if you need to have your starter replaced.

4. Your Car Makes a Whirring Sound When You’re Starting It – Bad Starter Symptoms

As we touched on earlier, your car’s starter is designed to engage with the flywheel in your engine when you turn your car key in the ignition. If it doesn’t do that for whatever reason, it’s going to be a problem. It’ll lead to you having to deal with a condition called “freewheeling” that involves your flywheel spinning on its own without any assistance from the starter. And it can cause complications in your engine over time if you’re not careful.


There is a mechanism that helps your starter to engage and disengage with the flywheel that can go bad and cause this bad starter symptom. When that happens, it’s going to lead to “freewheeling” happening all the time. It’s also going to lead to you having to replace your starter as soon as possible.

5. Your Starter Continues to Run Once Your Engine Has Started

Does your car ever sound like it’s still trying to start up even though the engine is running? This is obviously not going to be something that you want to hear. Of all the bad starter symptoms listed here, it could potentially cause the most problems within your car if you don’t do something about it. It’s eventually going to lead to other parts sustaining damage if your car keeps on trying to start despite the fact that it’s already on.


You should shut your car off right away if you ever experience this particular problem. You can then try to start it up again to see if that fixes the issue. If it does, you should be in the clear, though you should still keep an eye and ear out to see if it happens again. But if the issue still exists, it’s going to let you know that you need to have your car serviced and probably repaired.

6. You See Smoke Coming From Your Engine After Starting Your Car

The absolute last thing that you want to see when you’re behind the wheel of your car is smoke coming from your engine. This is one of the most serious bad starter symptoms around. Your starter contains both electrical and mechanical components, and as a result, there is a slight chance that you could end up with electrical issues and hot metal components coming into contact with one another. And that could lead to smoke shooting out from under your car’s hood.


If you ever see smoke coming from your car for any reason, you should pull off to the side of the road and shut your car off immediately. You’ll actually be lucky if you’re able to walk away from this situation only having to replace your starter. You might also have lots of other parts that’ll need to be replaced. You might even need to repair or replace your engine because of what happened.

7. Your Car’s Starter Is Covered With Oil – Bad Starter Symptoms

The starter in your car is positioned in a place where it’s going to be forced to deal with some rough conditions day in and day out. It’s all the way near the bottom of your engine, which means that it’s routinely subjected to very hot temperatures and many different fluids that might leak from your car. Oil is one of the fluids that can sometimes work its way out of your engine and coat your starter.


If your car’s starter is soaked with oil at the moment, it’s likely been like that for a while. It’s also likely in need of replacement. If you continue to drive a car around when its starter has oil all over it, it’s not going to be too long before it’ll need to be removed and replaced with a new starter. This is one of the least common bad starter symptoms, but it’s still worth monitoring your car for this issue.

How Much Does A Starter Replacement Cost?

If you find that your car is experiencing any of the bad starter symptoms that we’ve talked about here, it’s imperative that you take it to a mechanic to get it looked at right away. You’re going to be asking for trouble if you try to push a bad starter beyond its expiration date.


So, how much does a new starter cost? It’s all going to depend on what kind of car you have and which mechanic you take it to. But on average, most people pay somewhere between $350 and $550 for starter replacement. That price includes about $215 to $400 for parts and about $130 to $160 for labor. A new starter is going to set you back quite a bit in most cases, but it’s the only surefire way to make bad starter symptoms disappear for good.

Are You Seeing Any of the Bad Starter Symptoms?

Now that you know what the different bad starter symptoms are, you should be on the lookout for them at all times. You don’t want to allow one of these bad starter symptoms to go unnoticed and pay the price for it later. If you ever suspect that something might be wrong with your car’s starter, you should let your mechanic look at it and then replace it as necessary.


By replacing a bad starter, you’ll guarantee that your car will start up every time you put your key into your ignition. You’ll also guarantee that a bad starter won’t wreak havoc on the rest of your car and cause other issues to pop up. While putting a new starter into place might not be the cheapest auto repair in the world, it’ll be well worth doing it to avoid any complications down the line.