The starter solenoid is responsible for transferring the electrical current from the battery to the starter itself.
While it is not very common for the starter solenoid to go bad, it might get damaged due to excessive heat, moisture, or bad wiring.
Luckily, the starter solenoid would tell you when it is about to go bad before it even does.
This article covers the most common signs of a bad starter solenoid, along with the common causes of damaging your solenoid. We also provide you with a step-by-step guide to replace your starter solenoid by yourself to save on labor costs.
What is the starter solenoid?
The starter solenoid is one of the most forgotten and important components of the ignitions system.
The starter solenoid is responsible for receiving the starter relay's battery power and activating the starter to get the engine going. Thus, without a starter relay, the electrical circuit is not complete, and the engine cannot start.
In addition to transferring the battery current, the starter solenoid is responsible for creating an electromagnetic force to generate the required mechanical force needed to move the pinion. Once the pinion moves, the engine’s flywheel gets started.
The starter solenoid is made to be very durable, and it is very uncommon to deal with a bad starter solenoid. That been said, the starter solenoid doesn’t last forever, and you might deal with situations of a bad starter solenoid.
What are the main signs of a bad starter solenoid?
Like any other component of your vehicle, the starter solenoid tells you when it goes bad before it even does.
There are very common signs of a bad starter solenoid; some of them are easy to detect while others are a little more tricky and require some level of keenness before you detect them.
The starter solenoid makes a rapid clicking sound
As a driver, you always need to remember that hearing any weird noise coming from your vehicle is not a good sign, whether it's coming from the starter solenoid or other parts.
Once you hear these noises, you must take immediate action and get the vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic. While some of these sounds might occur due to simple issues, other sounds can be very serious and might be referring to significant damages.
One of the first and most common signs of a bad starter solenoid is hearing weird rapid clicking sounds. These sounds happen as the solenoid is not receiving the right amount of electrical current.
One of the main reasons for this issue is loose connections and issues with the wiring.
The starter keeps rotating
When you release the starter button or turn off the ignition, the starter should stop rotating. However, with a bad starter solenoid, the starter will not understand as you turn off the switch and keep going.
According to automotive experts, one of the first causes for a continuous rotating starter is a melted or damaged starter solenoid surface due to high heat.
This problem must be taken care of to avoid dealing with complicated damages requiring very high repair costs.
A clicking noise coming from the solenoid without starter rotation
When you turn on the key in the key housing, the starter solenoid moves, then the starter rotates to get the engine going.
As your starter solenoid goes bad, you might hear the clicking sound and the slight movement in the starter solenoid happening, but you won't see a corresponding starter rotation, and thus, the engine won’t start.
In this case, the culprit could be a broken solenoid connection due to erosion, breakage, or dirt.
The driver gear reverse
typically, once the starter starts rotation, the drive gear is not supposed to reverse; otherwise, there is something wrong with the starter solenoid.
One of the biggest root problems, in this case, could be a broken spring due to electricity loss.
What are the common examples of a starter solenoid problems?
As we mentioned earlier, it is very rare to deal with a bad starter solenoid. However, if the starter solenoid goes bad for any reason, here is what really could have gone wrong:
The starter solenoid fails to reset
When your starter solenoid goes bad, it is very likely for this part to get stuck and not reset. Even if you tried to turn off the ignition switch or release the starter button, the starter solenoid wouldn’t be able to reset.
The starter solenoid will not function as usual
Another important example of a bad starter solenoid is that it will lose its ability to suck frequently.
The drive gear fails to restore at the right time
When your starter solenoid goes bad, the return spring can get weaker and weaker, resulting in a reversed action from the engine’s flywheel ring gear. This reversed action usually happens as the drive gear fails to restore at the right time.
The starter solenoid is not able to get the starter going
Finally, when the starter solenoid goes bad, it will no longer be able to get the starter going. Instead, the starter will make continuous sounds while the engine doesn’t work.
What causes a bad starter solenoid?
There are a lot of reasons resulting in a bad starter solenoid, including:
Issues with the wiring
It is very common to deal with loose or improperly connected wires in your vehicle’s starter system.
As these wires go bad, the starter solenoid will not receive the right amount of current supply resulting in damaging it.
Problems related to heat generation
The starter solenoid is not made to stand high currents for longer periods because the high current generates a lot of heat that could damage the solenoid.
When you leave the ignition switch on the “on” position for a long time, the starter solenoid is expected to get damaged due to being exposed to the high current for a long time.
Issues with too much moister
Like most electrical-related parts, you never want the starter to receive any moisture to maintain its lifespan.
If moisture made its way to the starter solenoid, you would notice a clicking sound followed by a starter failing to start.
This moisture causes solenoid corrosion, which results in significant solenoid efficiency reduction.
The starter solenoid is one of those vehicle components where you don’t need to over tighten for any reason.
As you over tighten the starter solenoid's bolts, there is a high potential for damaging or bending these bolts inside the starter solenoid itself. As a result, the electrical current and thus, the efficiency of the starter solenoid drops significantly.
What should I do when the starter solenoid goes bad?
Suppose you noticed any of the previously mentioned signs of a bad starter solenoid. In that case, you must take your vehicle to a professional mechanic, have it inspected, and take care of any repairs.
Some of these repairs might be as simple as replacing some of the wiring systems, while other repairs might require replacing the entire starter solenoid part.
Before making any final repair decisions, you want to first confirm with the mechanic that the starter solenoid is the culprit because other components can affect the starter solenoid's functionality within the starting system.
How can I troubleshoot my starter solenoid?
It is important to confirm that the starting problem is related to the starter solenoid before taking any action and replacing it.
Here is what you need to do to troubleshoot your starter solenoid:
- While keeping the battery connected, set the emergency brakes and put the vehicle on neutral or park
- Using a voltmeter, inspect the battery and make sure there is nothing wrong with the battery itself
- Go back to the driver’s seat and turn on the ignition switch while monitoring the dashboard lights
- Test the voltage in the medium size wires in the battery and make sure that there are about 12 volts in the medium size wire
- Please take out the red port connected to the starter solenoid and connect it to a jumper wire and watch for a spark
- Have an assistant turn on the switch and listen for a clunk indicating starter motor engagement.
- If you don’t read 12 volts in the voltmeter and the starter doesn’t activate, there is a problem with the starter solenoid, and you need to replace it.
How to replace a starter solenoid?
If you confirmed that the starter solenoid is the culprit in your starter system, the solenoid must be replaced.
Since the starter solenoid part is not very expensive, it might be worth learning how to replace the starter solenoid by yourself instead of spending money on labor costs.
Here is step-by-step guidance on how to replace your vehicle’s starter solenoid:
- Jack up your vehicle with a jack and a jack stand. If you’ve never raised your vehicle before, it is important to refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for more detailed instructions. If you don’t have a copy of the manual, you can download one from the internet or get a copy from your local mechanic.
- Once the vehicle is raised, disconnect the battery cables to prevent any electrical shocks as you work with the vehicle.
- Locate your vehicle’s starter under your vehicle. If you could not visually find it, you could refer to the owner’s manual for more details.
- Before disconnecting the starter, make sure to take a note or a picture and note which wire is connected to which side. One of the wires should be connected to the battery, and you don’t want to switch these wires when reinstalling the starter.
- Disconnect the starter using a wrench and a screwdriver and if it requires, take out the starter mounting bolts
- Now, disconnect the starter solenoid from the starter itself by unbolting the two large bolts
- Compare the old solenoid to the new one to make sure you got the right one. You can also refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for a more detailed description of what solenoid you should buy.
- Reinstall the new solenoid by first sliding it to the starter and then screwing it gently.
- Reinstall the starter to your vehicle, and make sure to follow your notes when connecting the two wires.
- Give your vehicle a test drive, and make sure everything is working properly. Keep in mind that if the vehicle didn’t start, the problem might not be related to your improper installation; it could be another component in the starter system, causing the problem.
Sometimes your starting problem might be related to the starter itself and not only the starter solenoid. In that case, unfortunately, you need to replace the entire starter for about $430 to $700.
Before replacing the starter, you need to set back and make sure it's worth the replacement. In other words, if your vehicle is very old and the repair costs approach the value of the vehicle, you might think of junking this vehicle.
Luckily, Cash Cars Buyer pays the most cash for junk cars along with FREE towing! Give us a call for more details.
The starter solenoid is responsible for transferring the electrical current from the battery to the starter to get the engine going.
While it’s not very common to have a bad starter solenoid, there are common signs of a bad starter solenoid, including hearing a rapid clicking sound from the starter solenoid, continuous rotation of the starter without engine starting, the starter cannot rotate, and drive gear reverses.
If you noticed any of these signs, you must get the vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic first to confirm the starter solenoid causing the issue and, second, to get the problem resolved.
A faulty starter solenoid can be a headache and might result in significant vehicle issues. Thus, you need to take care of it as soon as possible.