Have you ever considered what would happen if the starter motor in your car goes bad? Being a simple and quite reliable device, most drivers will not give much thought about this possibility. However, you should know that your car will be stranded at your driveway or a parking lot if the starter motor fails. Besides being frustrating, diagnosing this issue and replacing the starter if needed is not a straightforward job. In this article, we will explain the symptoms of a failing starter motor and what you need to replace it.

What are the symptoms of a faulty starter motor?

Turning car keys in the ignition and having no reaction from the car is something most car owners have experienced. Although an issue with the starter motor may cause something like this, let’s start by ruling out other possibilities. With a flat battery, interior lights will not work and the dashboard will be dark. Another potential cause is the ignition switch itself, which can have too much play that prevents flow of electrical current. Sometimes, a problem with the key fob will trigger an anti-theft function. Checking the battery condition, wiggling the key inside the ignition barrel or using a spare key can help pinpoint the problem.

Why do starter motors fail?

The starter in any car is nothing more than a powerful electric motor with some gears attached to it. When you turn the key, it will stay engaged and crank the engine until it starts. With the engine running, you will release the key and the starter motor will disengage. With all that said, there are only two failure modes that you may encounter. The most common one is that the electric motor itself fails and doesn’t spin, because of excessive wear. Another possibility is an issue with the gear mechanism, which prevents the starter from engaging with the engine. You will easily recognize this, as it will cause a high-pitched sound when turning the key.

Is it hard to replace the starter motor?

Having determined that the starter motor causes the problem, you are probably considering the ways of replacing it. Removing the alternator itself is quite easy, as there are only several bolts and a pair of wires attached to it. However, gaining access is a different story, because of the limited space and various components in the way. In most cases, the only way to get to the starter is by going underneath the vehicle. On some cars, you will even have to remove parts like engine mounts or intake manifolds. All this requires various special tools and equipment, together with a fair amount of skill.


As we have explained in this article, diagnosing and replacing a faulty starter motor is not a brain surgery. However, if you don’t have the right tools or don’t feel up to the job, consider hiring a professional. At FixMyCar, we have certified and seasoned technicians that can come to your home and solve all starter motor issues. This will ensure that all important components are checked and your car is ready to hit the road.