How To Start a Car With a Bad Starter? (Complete GUIDE)

How To Start a Car With a Bad Starter – Starting a car with a bad starter can be a real hassle, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of a failing starter. It’s crucial to understand what a starter is, how to identify problems associated with it, and methods to get your car moving in the event of a bad starter.

Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling when you turn the key in the ignition, only to be met with silence from the engine?

It’s a common headache for many drivers and could be a sign of a faulty starter.

When your car fails to start, it’s essential to distinguish between starter issues and other potential problems that mimic similar symptoms.

How To Start a Car With a Bad Starter

Understanding the Starter System

The starter is a vital component responsible for initiating the engine’s operation by converting electrical energy into mechanical energy.

The starter is a small yet crucial part of your vehicle, functioning as a motor powered by the battery. It kickstarts the engine, enabling your car to operate.

Positioned between the battery and the starter motor is the starter relay, responsible for transmitting power.

When this crucial part malfunctions, it disrupts the entire starting process, leaving you stranded with a non-responsive vehicle.

Without a functional starter relay and motor, your vehicle won’t start, potentially necessitating a tow.

Read Also: How To Start A Car With A Blown Head Gasket?

Identifying Common Bad Starter Symptoms

Recognizing the warning signs of a bad starter is vital in addressing the issue promptly.

Here are some common symptoms:

How To Start a Car With a Bad Starter

  1. Unusual Sounds: A clicking noise when attempting to start your car may indicate a failing starter. Sometimes, a starter might fail silently or make other distinct sounds like whirring or grinding.
  2. Dashboard Lights but No Engine Response: If your dashboard lights up, but the engine remains inactive, it could signal a starter problem.
  3. Engine Failure to Crank: Even after a jumpstart, if your engine refuses to rev up, it’s a clear indicator of a starter issue.
  4. Smoke Emanating from the Car: Overheating of the starter due to repeated attempts to start the car might lead to smoke. In such cases, professional assistance is crucial.
  5. Oil Presence Around the Starter: If the starter appears soaked in engine oil, it could indicate an oil leak, potentially causing starter malfunctions.

Factors Contributing to Starter Problems

Several factors can contribute to a bad starter:

How To Start a Car With a Bad Starter

  • Loose Wiring: Interrupted connections between the starter and electrical power can prevent the engine from cranking.
  • Corrosion and Dirt Buildup: Dirty or corroded connections disrupt power flow, resulting in a weak crank or no crank at all.
  • Battery Corrosion: Corrosion from overheating, leaks, or battery aging can lead to electrical issues.
  • Worn-Out Parts: Over time, parts within the starter system may wear out, necessitating replacement.
  • Oil Leaks: Older vehicles might experience oil leaks that can render the starter inoperable.

Diagnosing and Troubleshooting Starter Problems

When faced with a non-starting car, consider these troubleshooting tips:

  1. Inspect the Battery: Check for a weak or dead battery, ensuring the battery cables are intact.
  2. Gentle Tapping: Lightly tap the starter to potentially re-engage the electrical components.
  3. Transmission Adjustment: Switching from ‘park’ to ‘neutral’ might resolve issues caused by a faulty neutral safety switch.
  4. Fuel Gauge Check: Ensure your gas tank isn’t empty, a simple yet often overlooked reason for a car not starting.

How to Start a Car with a Bad Starter

If you find yourself dealing with a non-operational starter, here’s a step-by-step guide to temporarily get your car moving:

  1. Park Your Car Safely: Move your vehicle to a safe location away from traffic and engage the parking brake.
  2. Locate the Starter Motor: Identify the starter motor under the hood, usually resembling a metal cylinder.
  3. Try the Tapping Method: Gently tap the starter to potentially free up any stuck components.
  4. Jump-Start Your Car: Utilize jumper cables connected to another vehicle or a portable jump starter.
  5. Charge the Battery: Allow the working vehicle to run for a few minutes to charge the dead battery.
  6. Attempt to Start Your Car: Try starting your vehicle while the jumper cables are still connected.
  7. Drive to a Repair Shop: Once started, drive your car to a repair facility for a comprehensive inspection and starter repair or replacement if necessary.

Checking for a Blown Fuse

Checking the fuse is an essential yet straightforward method to test a bad starter:

  • Disconnect the Ground Wire: Disconnect the ground wire from your battery.
  • Locate the Fuse Box: Find the fuse box near your battery or on the driver’s side dashboard.
  • Check for the Starter Fuse: Look for the starter fuse, usually labeled as “IG.” If broken, it indicates a blown fuse requiring replacement.

Can You Jump-Start a Car With a Bad Starter?

Jump-starting a car can often address starting issues stemming from a weak or discharged battery. It provides enough power to the starter, enabling the engine to crank.

You can achieve this by using another car’s battery and jumper cables or a portable jump starter.

Push-Starting Your Engine

Push-starting, also known as bump-starting, is an alternative method that works for manual transmission vehicles:

  • Prepare Your Vehicle: Keep the ignition on and put the car in first or second gear.
  • Push the Car: Have someone push the car to attain a speed of 5-10 miles per hour.
  • Release the Clutch: Let go of the clutch to start the engine.

Will a car stay running with a bad starter?

Typically, a running engine won’t immediately stall due to a bad starter, but it’s not entirely impossible. A series of events needs to occur before the engine might stall due to a bad starter motor.

If the starter is shorted or faulty, it can cause the car battery to discharge, potentially leading to a situation where the engine could eventually stall.

How long before a bad starter goes out?

Typically, the average lifespan of a starter is around 100,000 to 150,000 miles for cars, trucks, or other vehicles. This estimation provides a general guideline for the expected duration before a starter might begin showing signs of wear or failure.

What causes a starter to go out?

Several factors contribute to a starter going bad. Normal wear and tear due to extended exposure to high temperatures is a common cause. Over time, the teeth on the flywheel and pinion gear can wear out, leading to improper interlocking.

This improper interlocking prevents the flywheel from rotating correctly and often results in the distinct whirring sound heard when starting a car.


Understanding the intricacies of a malfunctioning starter system is pivotal for any vehicle owner navigating potential car troubles. A malfunctioning starter can exhibit a spectrum of symptoms, each acting as an early warning signal for underlying issues that demand swift attention.

These indicators, such as clicking noises or dashboard lights illuminating without engine response, serve as crucial red flags hinting at possible starter problems.

Consistent adherence to regular maintenance routines is pivotal. Elements like wear and tear resulting from prolonged exposure to high temperatures or the gradual degradation of essential components like the flywheel and pinion gear significantly impact the starter’s longevity.

Diagnosing problems with the starter necessitates a systematic approach. This includes meticulous checks of the battery and its connections, employing gentle tapping on the starter to potentially resolve stuck components, and exploring methods such as jump-starting or utilizing push-starting techniques, specifically for manual transmission vehicles.

These methods might serve as temporary fixes, seeking professional assistance is critical for a thorough assessment and the implementation of enduring solutions.

It’s imperative to acknowledge that while the average lifespan of a starter typically falls between 100,000 to 150,000 miles, various factors can influence this duration.

Unforeseen circumstances or harsh operating conditions may accelerate wear and impact the starter’s durability.

Thus, possessing the knowledge of how to start a car with a bad starter becomes invaluable during unexpected emergencies. Remaining informed, prepared, and comprehending the steps to effectively address a problematic starter ensures smoother rides and mitigates the impact of potential breakdowns.

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