Signs of a Failing Starter

Car Care

Don't Let these Signs of a Failing Starter Go Unnnoticed

It is common to assume that a vehicle not starting is the direct result of a dead battery, but sometimes the problem is the vehicle's starter. How can you tell if the starter is the problem as opposed to another electrical component? Besides not being able to start your vehicle, here are some warning signs that your vehicle's starter could be malfunctioning.

Starter Warning Signs:

Grinding noise

The starter drive gear will often produce a grinding noise that is similar to the one that is heard if you start your engine and then accidentally hit the starter again when it is worn out or not engaging properly. If the grinding symptom is ignored, it may also result in damage to the engine flywheel.


Freewheeling occurs when your crank the engine and simply hear a whining noise from the starter without the engine cranking. When this occurs, it means the starter gear is not engaging with the flywheel.


Smoke can indicate a few different problems with the starter or starting circuit. Smoke usually signifies that too much power is being drawn through the electrical supply to a starter, either because the starter is shorted, has been operated too long without a rest or that there is a connection problem.

Oil soak

The starter is often located around the bottom of the engine and is vulnerable to soaking from leaks from your engine oil or other drivetrain fluids. An oil-soaked starter likely has a short life remaining.

Malfunctioning solenoid

The solenoid pushes the starter drive into the flywheel to allow cranking and transmits electrical current from the battery to the starter motor when you turn the key in your vehicle's ignition. Without the solenoid, the starter will not work.