Have you ever faced trouble trying to start your car and all you hear is this dying sound from the engine when you turn the ignition on? One of the most likely culprits here will be the starter and that it has decided to stop working.
A starter is an essential component of any car or truck as it helps crank up the engine allowing you to begin your journey. Since they are normally engaged only when you start the engine, they should last a lifetime.
But that’s not always the case as you can face issues with your starter at any point without prior warning.
So, by now you must be wondering, how long does a starter last?
Well, the answer is simple. Starters are built to last for at least 80,000-100,000 starts but there are many reasons why your starter can prematurely fail.
Today i’m going to take you through everything you need to know about the lifespan of a starter, how to troubleshoot a faulty starter, when it’s time to change your starter and i’ll also throw in some care tips so you get the most out of your car.
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What is a starter?
A starter is a small, but powerful motor that is powered by your car battery and coupled with your engine to get your car running. It’s one of the most important components of your car as without a fully functioning starter or starter motor, you will not be able to start your car.
How Long Does a Starter Last?
On average a starter in your car or truck will last for up to 150,000 miles or for 80,000-100,000 starts. They are meant to last longer than your car but are prone to issues which would result in them dying out when you least expect it.
How does a starter work in a car?
Every car comes with a built-in PCM or a computer that checks if the ignition key matches the security system of your car. Then the same PCM will check and see if your transmission is on neutral (in case of an automatic car) and if the clutch is engaged (for manual cars).
Since the starter requires strong electrical current to work, you need to ensure that your car’s battery is at full capacity and the connections are not corroded.
So when you turn on the ignition of your car and everything is in working order, the starter will then crank the engine just enough so the piston lifts and a suction is created.
The suction then draws in fuel and air into the engine that gets ignited by a spark created by the ignition system (spark plugs). This in turn starts the engine and you’re good to go.
Why does a starter motor fail?
There are a number of reasons why your starter won’t work properly and at times it can be a combination of more than one fault.
- The wiring from your starter might be loose
- The car battery is either dying, corroded or dead
- The connections at the starter may be dirty or clogged with debris
- Oil has leaked onto the starter
- Fuse has blown or wiring has worn out
How do you know when it’s time to change your starter?
Once your starter fails there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it apart from changing the unit. Here are some things you will experience when your starter fails. If this happens, it’s best to change the starter of your car.
- The starter builds up a slow crank and you hear a lifeless sound
- Your car does not start
- Complete silence when you turn on the ignition
- If you hear a loud click but the car still won’t start
- The engine starts but dies down quickly
- The starter will remain engaged the whole time when the car is running
- There is smoke coming from the engine block
- Dashboard lights and headlights are on, but the car won’t start
How much does it cost to repair a car starter?
It entirely depends on the type of vehicle you drive and size of the engine. In order to change your car starter you will need to shell out on service charges and labor since the engine has to be accessed in order to replace the starter.
So, if you’re going ahead with this method, you’re going to look at around $175-$350 for a full replacement (aftermarket or OEM).
Whereas, if you’re looking to save some money, you can have the starter rebuilt by visiting your local auto electric shop. These guys would charge anywhere from $65 to $150 to rebuild your starter, but this would not include manual labor.
You’re going to spend another $100 on labor which amounts to roughly $50-$100 less than what you would have paid for a new one plus labor.
How do you service your car starter?
This is something I would not recommend you trying unless you’re a certified mechanic or you actually know what you’re doing. There are many tools you will require and components that have to be checked and tested before replacing or removing your car starter.
Tools needed to service your starter
- Sockets and wrenches of the right size
- A screwdriver
- A pair of pliers
- A battery terminal extractor (puller)
- A jack to elevate the car/truck
Mechanics generally follow these steps while servicing any starter motor.
- The first thing to be done is to examine the starter and ignition switch in case there is any loose wiring.
- Next, the faulty starter will be removed and a new one will be placed in the car.
- Now, you are to check the power supply to your new starter and ensure that it’s getting adequate power supply.
- Finally check the supply cables, relay, battery and grounds to determine if anything else needs to be adjusted.
Tips to prevent car starter failure
One of the best ways to ensure that your starter lasts a really long time is by keeping all the components of your engine in check. These tips should help you maintain and probably prolong the life of your starter, thus getting the most out of it.
Keeping your battery in healthy condition – This means that you should not let your battery drain out completely and to always ensure that your battery is at full charge while starting your car. If your battery is low, the starter won’t work and can ultimately get damaged if you attempt to start the car on a low battery. Keep a pair of jumper cables in the boot of your car in case you need a quick start up.
Regularly service your car – Another way you can ensure the longevity of your car starter is by regularly servicing your car. The mechanics will keep an eye on all the main components of your car and inform you if there’s an issue with your starter or connection within the car.
Troubleshooting your starter at home
There are a bunch of tricks you can try to get your car to start if your car has stalled all of a sudden. This can be attributed to different things such as loose connections, transmission settings, or a weak battery.
- Look under the hood of the car – The first thing you can do to check why your starter is not working is to look under the hood of your car, generally around the area where the starter is located. At times the problem might not be due to the starter, but a faulty battery or wiring. So make sure to check your battery levels and if the wires or terminals are corroded in any way.
- Tap and wiggle the starter – Another thing you can try is to wiggle the starter. Doing so gently will eliminate any dust or debris that has collected on the terminals. But ensure that you do this carefully because too much force can damage the starter and connection points.
- Adjust your car transmission – At times if you’re driving an automatic car, check the transmission setting and see if your car is in park mode. Cars are designed not to start if they are in parking mode. This is a safety feature built-in to automatic cars and the only way you would be able to start your car is by shifting the transmission into neutral
- Check your fuel gauge – Time and again, the most common reason behind your car not starting is low fuel levels. It’s a quick fix and you would only have to top up on fuel to get going.
However, if you do have a good quantity of fuel in your car and everything seems to be in place, then it would be best to contact a mechanic and have them either replace or repair the starter, depending on what your budget is.