When things go wrong in your car, one of the most striking indicators you get is an array of unusual and sometimes even unsettling noises. It’s almost as though your car is trying to communicate with you when it’s hurting. It’s important that we act when we hear irregular sounds, because while they may not occur while the car is showing any defect, they are a warning sign of potentially serious damage ahead.
One of the most important sounds to listen for is that of your car’s starter. Various sounds that you could hear when starting your car may be telling you that your car’s starter is faulty. On the other hand, other noises when starting could indicate a battery problem or other issue. In today’s article, we’ll explain to you two main things:
- What a bad starter sounds like
- The symptoms of a bad starter
What does a Bad Starter Sound Like?
When it comes to your starter, there are 4 key “problem” sounds to listen for. Think of these as the language of your car trying to tell you that something is wrong:
1 – The “grinding”
2 – The loud “click”
3 – The “whirr” that comes and goes
4 – The high-pitched “screech”
These sounds can be caused by different specific things. For example, the intermittent whirring noise you hear is caused by worn or bad solenoids. You shouldn’t automatically assume, however, that these noises are certainly indicative of starter trouble. It’s crucial you remember that a faulty starter will definitely make these noises, but these noises aren’t always caused by a faulty starter.
For instance, if you hear a click, or a rapid series of clicks, while turning your key with no subsequent engine noise or lights on the dash display, this is actually more likely to be a problem with your car’s battery. Equally, if you hear cranking but no sound of the engine coming to life, then that could be faulty spark plugs or a bad fuel pump.
5 Symptoms of a Bad Starter
There are several key signs that your starter is experiencing difficulty. Look out for any or all of the following when you are struggling to start your car:
1) All the noises mentioned above
The noises, while not definitely indicative of starter trouble, are the first warning sign that you should listen for. They are clearly irregular noises from the car, and so we easily pick up on them when they occur.
2) All lights but no sound
When you turn the key, do you notice that the dashboard and instrument panel lights all come on as they should, but there’s no familiar whirring of the engine coming to life? This is a clear warning sign that the starter needs attention. As we mention above, if there are no lights then it could be a flat battery that’s stopping you, but when the lights are on, the battery must be working normally.
The lights dimming as you’re trying to start can also be caused by both a bad battery and the starter, so make that part of your checking, too.
3) You don’t hear any crank from the engine
As we mentioned above, sometimes the engine cranks but won’t start, and this is most likely to be an issue with the ignition or fuel system. It’s when the crank is distinctly absent that you have to start worrying about the health of the car’s starter.
4) You see and/or smell smoke from the engine
Smoke is one of the clearest signs of difficulty with the starter. When the engine is failing to start because of other problems like the battery, parts won’t heat up and smoke. The starter, on the other hand, will get extremely hot as it tries to do its job and get the engine going, thus releasing smoke.
If you are ever unsure as to the cause, this is one of the best visual indicators.
5) You can see the starter is covered in oil
Those of us who are a little more confident around a car engine can also look for the starter and check whether it has a coating of oil. In case you’re not sure where to look, the starter is typically located on the driver’s side of the engine. You can follow the cable from the battery’s positive terminal to where to it reaches a connecting post. That post is part of your car’s starter. Look for two cylinders, one smaller than the other. That’s it.
If you notice it’s covered in oil, then that’s the final sign that your car’s starter has gone faulty. You may need some assistance to sort that one out.
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Problems with your starter can be caused by loose wiring, dirty connections, worn parts, oil leaks and other wear and tear in the engine. Stay on top of your car’s regular maintenance, and check for the symptoms and signs that we mention above. If you remain vigilant, then you won’t be caught out in any difficult non-starter situations. Stay safe on the roads!