How to Guides

How To Replace A Starter

Zaki Moulvi posted this on Jun 4, 2014

Everyone who has ever owned a car has been there before. You go outside in the morning to start her up and nothing.  The problem then becomes trying to figure out if it is the battery, starter or alternator that is making you late for work.  A jump start will temporarily fix the problem, but if it is the starter that has stopped working, you will only run into the same trouble the next time you go to start your car.

How Can You Tell It is The Starter?

With a dead battery you get nothing.  No noise, no lights, no attempts at turning over.  If the alternator is the issue you will hear it trying to crank to no avail.  A starter on the other hand will click as you turn the key but will not turn over the alternator. You will still have battery operated functions like the headlights and stereo.  Jumping starting your car may get the car started, but not before you hear a lot of screeching and grinding coming from the engine.

How Does The Starter Work?

The starter acts as a relay between the battery and the alternator.  When you turn the key a volt of electricity is sent to the starter which in turn will send it to the alternator enabling your engine to start.  The solenoid inside of the starter pushes forward a special gear when the battery sends it power.  The gear will connect with another and spin together, sending voltage to the alternator.  That spinning will continue until the engine is engaged and its RPM exceeds the cranking speed.  At that point the gear will retract.

How Does The Starter Break?

Starter motors will typically last the lifetime of your vehicle.  What does break is the solenoid or gears inside.  That grinding noise you hear when you try and jump start a car with a broken starter is the gears clashing against one another because they have bent and are unable to engage.

Replacing the Broken Starter:

There are some people who think that they can easily replace the broken parts inside of the starter to get it working again.  Maybe, but the money and time spent will be just as much, if not more, than if you buy a new starter from

Tools For the Job:

  • Car Jack and Jack Stands
  • Safety Goggles
  • Socket and Ratchet with Extension
  • Work Gloves

Getting the Job Done:

First thing you need to do is check your owner’s manual to locate the starter inside of your engine.  You may be lucky and be able to access it entirely from the top, but some models have them tucked away close to the transmission.  If that’s the case with your vehicle, then you will need to jack it up in order to get to the starter.

  • Remove the battery ground wire
  • Disconnect the wires connected to the starter
  • Use the ratchet the unscrew all of the bolts holding the starter in place
  • Remove all additional supports that are holding the starter to the block
  • Be careful not to force bolts that are overly tight, instead use a lubricant like WD-40 or grease to loosen it
  • Once all of the bolts and support brackets are removed you can take the starter out.
  • Install the new starter, but don’t tighten the bolts until after the battery cable has been reattached to it
  • Now firmly tighten the bolts and support brackets so that the starter is secure in its place
  • Reconnect the ground cable to your battery and start her up

If yours is one of those vehicles where the starter is accessible only from under the car, all the steps are the same except that you are doing them while laying on your back.  Make sure to not only jack up the car, but let it rest on the jack stands.

As you can see, replacing the starter is not a difficult job.  The difficult part is in figuring out whether it is the starter that is causing your car not to start or if the battery or alternator is to blame.  

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