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Car Starts Intermittently – Everything You Should Know!

Car Starts Intermittently

If you are trying to figure out why your car starts intermittently, you need to know common starter problems. These issues can arise and creep up for a variety of reasons, sometimes suddenly and sometimes slowly building over time. Whenever you have damaged parts, like corroded terminals, loose or damaged internal connections, a broken system component, or other internal issues, you will notice it by your vehicle’s performance.

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If you notice that your car becomes difficult to start or your car starts intermittently, this can be a clear sign of starter issues. Unfortunately, if you let the problems go on for too long and the system completely fails, this is past the point of no return. If you repeatedly turn the key in the ignition and the engine does not fire up when it should, this is a sign of the starter being damaged and broken.

Five starter inspection tips


Fortunately for car owners, the starter problems are quite common and can happen to just about anyone – making them easy to diagnose and easy to repair. Whether your car starts intermittently from a bad electrical connection or a faulty strayer piece, we have provided you with five troubleshooting tips that are the most common sources of engine starting issues. 


  • Battery Voltage


You need to know if you have enough power to turn on the starter motor by analyzing and determining the amount of voltage in your battery. You can figure out the voltage in your battery by using a simple tool – a voltmeter. This tool can help you determine why your car starts intermittently. 

Checking Battery Voltage Steps

First, you have to set your voltmeter to a high battery voltage range. On a DC voltage scale, this number will generally be 20 or higher.


Second, you have to turn on the voltmeter and analyze the different leads on the apparatus. Connect the test leads across the battery terminals to form a bridge between power sources. Touch the negative lead, with the – sign, to the battery, and the positive lead, with the + sign, to the other post on the battery. 


Third, turn on your car’s headlights to get started with analyzing the battery voltage to see why your car starts intermittently.


Next, read the display on the voltmeter to determine the battery levels and reading. A functioning battery that prevents the car from starting intermittently should range between 12.4 volts and 12.6 volts. If the voltage is less than 12.4 volts, then you have to recharge the battery and restart the engine to see if it is now working properly. 


If you have a reading of fewer than 12.4 volts, then you might need to perform another test to check your battery’s power levels. 


  • Cables and Wires


If you have corroded battery terminals, broken wires, damaged connections, or loose connections, this can prevent the proper electrical flow and travel. This is a common problem that you might experience with a battery or starter system that has not undergone much mechanical help or monthly inspections, as it should. 


If you notice some dirt or debris on the battery terminals, you need to follow the steps to clean the battery to keep it working properly and prevent the car from starting intermittently.

Inspecting Cables and Wires

First, you need to mix 8 ounces of warm water and one tablespoon of baking soda, thoroughly mixing the solution until it is completely combined. Then, disconnect the terminals from the battery and put the solution on the battery post to clean the debris and dirt.


After this cleaning, clean the battery top with the solution to remove dirt, contaminants, acid, and debris. However, don’t let the solution touch under the filler caps, which could harm other components.


Once this is done, remove the caps from the battery and check the electrolyte level, adding fluid if necessary to keep the distilled water to the right level. 


Lastly, check and clean the tray, reconnecting the terminals, and starting the engine once every step is complete. When looking at why your car starts intermittently, you need to follow the steps of cleaning and inspecting cables and wires. 


  • Starter Solenoid


Checking the connections and the starter solenoid’s functioning or the starter relays can prevent your car from starting intermittently. The positive battery cable connects to the solenoid and must be in good condition to prevent the solenoid or starter relay from failing. 

Signs of Bad Starter Solenoid

When looking at the signs of a bad starter solenoid and why your car starts intermittently, there are key symptoms to look out for. 


First, nothing may happen when you turn the key in the ignition. If the car does not do anything, then the solenoid can be the cause of the issue. 


Next, you might hear one, singular click that comes from under the hood. If the solenoid is trying to engage but can’t quite work, then the internal components are stuck, causing the audible noise. 


Third, suppose your car starts intermittently, and you have a starter solenoid issue. In that case, you might hear a repeated clicking sound that can come from the engine compartment; this sound will relate to a dead battery or a faulty solenoid. 


Lastly, if your car starts intermittently, your car will sometimes start, and sometimes it doesn’t. This can be directly related to the starter solenoid, meaning you need to perform the steps to check this part’s health and lifespan. 

Checking the Starter Solenoid

To check the starter solenoid, you have to disable the starting system by removing the wire from the distributor cap or disconnecting the fuel pump fuse. This can prevent the engine from starting as you need to check the solenoid if your car starts intermittently.


Next, listen to any sounds coming from the starter solenoid or relay. If you hear loud clicks, the electrical current is working correctly and reaching the solenoid. However, if there is a weak clicking or no noise, the wires might not be fully connected and can cause the starter solenoid not to be working correctly. If the starter solenoid is not connected, it can cause the car to start intermittently.


Make sure you check for disconnected or contaminated wires that can prevent the electrical current from getting to the starter motor. However, if the motor and the wires are in good condition, this is not the reason why your car starts intermittently. 

Issues that Present Like a Bad Solenoid

Other problems and components in your vehicle can present as a bad starter solenoid, causing your car to start intermittently. Some of these issues include a bad battery – if your voltage is low enough, it will not provide enough power to start your vehicle.


Another problem that is like a bad solenoid is a damaged fuse, which can cause the starter to not work correctly and lead to a no-start condition in your vehicle. If your car starts intermittently, a broken fuse or broken wiring can be the culprit, since damaged wires to the battery or the starter solenoid prevent the power from reaching the starter.


Next, if your car starts intermittently, the alternator can be an issue that might lack power and not be capable of starting the car. If it does not recharge the battery and provide power to your vehicle’s electrical system, it can cause intermittent starting and performance disadvantages.


Furthermore, the last part that can present as a bad solenoid is the starter. If the starter goes bad, it can cause a lack of power to the car and cause the car to start intermittently. 


  • Starter Motor


Your starter motor’s main components include the main housing, overrunning clutch, field coils, brushes, starter solenoid, and the armature. If your car starts intermittently, it could be due to an issue with the starter motor setup. Depending on the kind of model and vehicle you have, you might need to check the starter motor by inspecting it. 

Checking the Starter Motor

First, make sure the starter mounting bolts are tight, and there are no loose connections. If you have loose mounting bolts, the starter drive will not turn the flywheel, and you will hear a loud grinding noise. Next, if the mounting bolts are secured tightly, you have to remove the starter motor and check the connections to ensure the flywheel is cranking the engine at the right level.


You or a mechanic will have to use a screwdriver to rotate the pinion gear to see if the apparatus moves in one direction or in both directions. If the apparatus moves in two directions or is not moving correctly, you need to replace the starter. Replacing the starter can prevent your car from starting intermittently. 


  • Engine Flywheel


The engine flywheel is the heavy wheel between the engine and the transmission that is in charge of cranking the engine by operating the starter pinion gear. 

Checking the Engine Flywheel

After you have removed the starter motor, you need to set your transmission to Neutral. Rotate the crankshaft by turning the center bolt on the crankshaft pulley, determining if the pulley is causing issues with the serpentine belt and the alternator. Analyze the rotating flywheel to see if the teeth are in good condition. If your car starts intermittently, your flywheel might be missing teeth, or the flywheel teeth are damaged. 


Determining the main reasons as to why your car starts intermittently can help you diagnose the problem behind the issue and prevent your car from getting worse over time! Knowing the five tips to diagnose a bad starter can help your car run at a high-performing level for a long period of time. 

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