A faulty starter is not the most expensive or profound repair to need. In fact, it’s fairly common if you own a car for a long time. It can be one of the most derailing, however, because if your starter does not work, how can you start your car? Luckily, there are a couple symptoms that tend to show up before your starter fails, so if you can catch it early, you can pick your own time for the repair and preserve your schedule.
There are a lot of issues that can cause the lights to dim. Often, they revolve around the battery or alternator. Modern starters typically have a solenoid built in, and if the starter solenoid malfunctions, the resulting power draw can cause dimming lights just like an underperforming electrical system because it is not drawing the right current. On top of that, starters that are beginning to fail often need multiple passes to engage, which means more electricity drawn.
The Engine Cranks and Stops
Another frequent issue is the engine cranking and stopping. This can also overlap with engine intake issues. If you have a clogged engine air filter, for example, it can choke the engine. In the case of the starter, it is usually because there are missing gear teeth on the starter, causing it to fail to fully engage with the engine. If you see dimming lights and have this issue, check your air filter. If that is clean, it’s time to have a starter diagnostic done.
Grinding in the engine is usually the sign of something that is really wrong, but the grinding noises you hear from a faulty starter are not in the engine like the noises you might hear from an engine issue. Instead, they come from under the car, from the repeated attempts by the starter to engage with the engine starting mechanism gearing. Typically, this is because there are too many broken teeth on the starter gears to engage properly, and it is an escalation of the earlier symptom with cranking and then failing to turn over.
Smoke or Smoke Smells
Lots of car issues cause smoke smells, but issues like your oil filter or leaky oil pan grommets cause a smell like burning oil. The burning smell caused when a starter goes bad is an electric smell, often with a whiff of metal to it, like you might smell near a welder that has been in operation recently, but not quite the same.
Engine Will Not Turn On
The final stage is full starter failure, and it can happen with no grinding or cranking issues to warn you. Often, though, those issues persist for days or even weeks before the ultimate failure. If you encounter a problem with your starter, it’s best to resolve the issue right away so you do not wind up trying to start the car and hearing just a slight buzz and then nothing as the starter totally fails to engage the engine. Luckily, you can find a replacement from the same place you trust for VIN lookup and help with your vehicle diagnostics.