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How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter

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The process of firing up the car starts with the starter; but what if you can’t start it?

Here’s how to start a car with a bad starter.

Your car uses multiple parts to start up – a problem with any of these parts can make the ignition process unsuccessful.

The process of firing up the car starts with the starter.

The starter motor is a relatively small system that is responsible for providing torque to the engine.

The starter motor sends the torque to the engine.

The device is responsible for sending a high level of torque quickly – as this is essential for ensuring ignition can occur in the engine.

The starter sends a signal to this motor.

We take a look at methods used to start a car with a bad starter.

How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter?

Firing a car with a bad starter

A bad starter can cause different symptoms in your car.

When the starter is bad, the normal way of ignition will not work.

Instead, you will need to learn how to start a car with a bad starter.

You also need to understand why your starter might be faulty and how to recognize signs of a bad starter.

Signs Your Starter Is Faulty

While failure to ignite is a common sign of a bad starter, there are other symptoms that you should not overlook.

The primary purpose of the starter is to signal the engine to ignite.

This is done through a high torque sent from the starter motor toward the engine.

Thus, many people think that the car not starting is the only way to determine if the starter is bad.

There are other signs that may signal a faulty starter.

We will look at a few additional symptoms that you should look for below.

Weird Sounds When Starting

A common sign that there are problems with a starter is strange sounds coming from the car.

These sounds can be heard when you turn the key. In some modern cars, a button is used instead of a key.

In these situations, the sounds will be emitted from the car once the starter button is being pushed.

There are different sounds that may occur when you start the car.

Listen for a grinding noise.

This may indicate faults with the physical structure of the starter motor.

Sometimes, the car may still start.

The sound may become louder over time.

Eventually, the starter may fail and the car would not start.

A Smoking Car

When a car emits smoke, most people think that there is a problem with the engine.

It is, however, important to consider the fact that the starter forms part of the entire electrical system in the car.

There are situations where smoke coming from your car originates from a problem with the starter.

This usually happens when you find it a struggle to start the car.

You turn the key, you hear sounds coming from the car, but it simply won’t start. You continue to try.

This eventually causes the starter to overheat.

When the starter overheats, it can cause other electrical problems to develop.

Some of these electrical problems can cause your car to start emitting smoke.

Lights Without Starting Up

Sometimes, a starter will fail completely.

This means turning the key won’t produce any type of action in the car.

In other cases, however, you may find that turning the key turns the lights on.

Unfortunately, your car remains in the same position, as the starter won’t actually ignite the engine.

This is another common sign that there are problems with the starter motor.

The car gets power from the battery when you turn the key, but the motor won’t send torque to the engine to initiate the ignition process.

Common Causes For A Bad Starter

How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter?

Apart from understanding the symptoms that signal a bad starter, it is also important to consider the causes.

There are numerous reasons why you may find that the starter is faulty.

When looking at possible causes, you should note that a starter has a lifespan, just like other parts in your car.

This means you will need a replacement for your starter at some point.

Fortunately, however, starters do tend to last for quite a long period of time.

In some cases, your starter may become faulty sooner than expected.

If this is the scenario, then there is likely a reason behind the issue.

An initial step to take is to try and find the cause behind the bad starter.

Sometimes, finding the cause leads to a simple solution.

It also helps you understand whether a complete replacement of the starter and accompanying motor may be needed.

Below, we share a few common reasons for a starter to become faulty:

  • Debris can accumulate on the connections of the starter and motor. This causes the connections to become dirty. In such a case, the connectors may not be able to send torque to the engine.
  • If wires attached to the starter or motor are loose, then communication will be interrupted. In this case, turning the key will not start the engine. The lights may come on, but connections to the starter motor may be disrupted.
  • The starter system in a car consists of multiple parts. When any of these parts become damaged, then you may experience problems with the starter. The parts may wear out over time, for example. In other cases, corrosion and similar issues may affect the parts.

Apart from these, it is also important to consider the possibility of an oil leak.

There are times where you may find the problem lies with oil leaking from the car instead of the starter itself.

Depending on where the oil leak occurs, the oil may drip onto the starter motor.

This causes the motor to become drenched in oil, which affects its functionality.

It is generally easy to see if an oil leak is causing bad motor symptoms.

Simply open up the hood and take a closer look at the starter motor.

You should be able to see if there is any oil accumulating on this device.

If this is the case, you will need to look for the source of the oil leak.

When no fixes are implemented to stop the oil from leaking, this may cause permanent damage to the interior parts of the starter motor.

Troubleshooting Steps For A Bad Starter

Once you find that your motor is bad, the next step is to implement a few troubleshooting steps.

Troubleshooting can help you understand why the problem has occurred.

This allows you to implement the appropriate steps for fixing the bad motor.

By understanding the reason for a bad motor, it is also generally easier to determine what you can do to start the car.

Start With An Inspection

Your first step should be to inspect the starter itself, as well as any cables that run to or from the device.

Open up the hood and check the starter motor.

Make sure cables from the battery are running to the motor and other appropriate areas of the car.

See if there are any signs of damage to the battery cables.

You should also make sure the battery is not dead – as this would cause the starter to fail as well.


Once you are done with the inspection, you can try to tap the starter.

Use a hard object to tap the starter.

Make sure not to tap too hard, as this could cause permanent damage to the starter and other components.

The reason for a bad starter could be loose connections or dirt.

By tapping the starter, the connections may create contact again.

This sometimes also helps to remove dirt from the connectors.

What To Do If Starter Is Not Working?

When asking what to do if the starter is not working, tapping is often one of the first recommendations you get.

This is because tapping is a very simple solution that can be done by anyone.

If this does not work, you can proceed to other methods that help bypass the starter and ignite the engine.

It should be noted that some steps may be different for automatic cars.

When asking how do you start an automatic car with a bad starter, you can still attempt to use a screwdriver to force ignition.

People often also ask will an engine turn over if the starter is bad.

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors.

When the engine won’t turn over and nothing happens in the case where you turn the key, there are two possible problems with the car.

The first possibility is a faulty solenoid.

The solenoid in the starter motor may be worn out.

This means it cannot effectively relay torque through the motor toward the engine of the car.

There is also a possibility that the problem lies with the motor itself.

It is possible for the motor to be burnt out.

Apart from these issues, take note that electrical issues can also make the engine fail to turn over when you turn the key in the ignition.

Electrical issues may lie with the cables that run from the battery to the starter system, but can also be due to connection problems between the ignition and the starter motor.

When you have tried to tap the starter and used the screwdriver technique, but nothing seems to work, then your next option is to call a workshop.

A workshop would usually be able to send a mechanic to your location.

This helps you get the bad starter diagnosed by a professional – and the appropriate repairs can then be implemented.

The car may need towing to the workshop if the mechanic is unable to bypass the starter.

How Do You Bypass The Starter On A Car?

If the starter in your car is bad, one of the easiest workarounds is to attempt to bypass the starter.

There are a few methods that can be used for this process, but you should first consider the type of ignition your car uses.

The use of a screwdriver or a car jack hand crank from the trunk is generally a common option for bypassing the starter.

This method can be used on different types of cars.

Some people have found it useful to use the screwdriver process with electric ignitions too.

Some people have also had success when using a set of jumper cables.

In these cases, however, it is often not the starter itself that has faults.

The problem would rather lie with other areas if the jumper cables do allow you to start the car.

When bypassing the starter, it is important to listen to any sounds coming from the starter motor.

When the standard screwdriver method fails to work, listen for a humming sound.

This generally indicates that there is a problem with the solenoid and not the motor itself.

The video below will explain a little more about it; this guy is entertaining to watch as well.

How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter With A Screwdriver

The most common method used to start a car when the starter is bad would be with a screwdriver. A lot of people are aware of this method, as it is usually the initial recommendation.

Before getting started with this step, it is important to make sure the screwdriver used has a handle with insulation.

Remember that an electrical discharge is sent from the starter to the engine.

If your screwdriver does not have insulation on the handle, then you may experience a shock in the process.

Once you have the right screwdriver, you want to locate the starter motor.

Look for a post on the starter motor.

There is a thick cable connected to the post. P

lace the screwdriver’s tip on the post.

Position the screwdriver so the shaft touches the terminals on the starter motor.

These are the terminals that connect to the solenoid in the motor.

Once the screwdriver is in position, you should get someone to turn the key in the ignition.

This should help you get the car started if the starter is bad.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Starter?

The costs of having a starter replaced depend on a number of factors.

The starter itself will usually be relatively affordable.

In most cases, you should be able to pick up a starter for a price between $50 and $100.

This, however, is not the only cost to consider.

If the ring gear of your motor is worn, then this needs to be replaced too.

In most cases, you should be able to get ring gear for under $200.

The cost depends on the type of ring gear and starter used in your car.

Apart from these costs, you also need to take labor fees into consideration.

The labor fees depend on where you take your car.

The average cost of having a starter replaced varies between $400 and $500.

If you take all costs into account, then you are looking at a price between $450 and $600 to replace the starter.

Should the ring gear need replacement as well, the cost will be between $650 and $800.

Prices tend to differ between workshops, so it is a good idea to get a few quotations first.

This will allow you to get a better deal on the replacement of your car’s starter.

Final Words

A bad starter means ignition fails, leading to a car that won’t start – no matter how many times you turn the key.

Learning how to start a car with a bad starter can help you in these situations.

We looked at multiple methods that can be used in the scenario. 

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