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How to Test a Starter


Starter Motor Test: An Expert Guide

Starter motor issues are common among vehicle owners. A faulty starter could significantly affect the ignition process, ultimately leading to dangerous driving experiences. This guide will show you how to test your starter and avoid any potential problems.

To begin, check for loose connections within the starting system. Ensure that the battery is fully charged and turn on the electrical switch to see if the starter motor is electrically-powered. If it does not respond, then proceed to conduct a voltage test using a multimeter.

Once you have successfully checked and confirmed that there are no loose connections and there is power being delivered to the starter motor, do a load test. This test ensures that the internal components of the starter such as brushes, armature, bearings etc., are working correctly. Use a suitable device which would apply high current into the starter windings momentarily. If those parts fail during this process, it confirms that they need replacement.

Finally, ensure that all grounds are soundly connected with due attention given to signs of corrosion or rusting at joints as these indicate constraints in connectivity.

If your car sounds like it’s struggling to wake up in the morning, it may be time to check if the starter is also having a case of the Mondays.

Signs that indicate a starter problem

To identify a faulty starter, you need to know the signs that indicate a starter problem and tackle them accordingly. In this section on “Signs that indicate a starter problem,” we provide you with a solution for testing your starter with the sub-sections that cover battery test, inspection of the starter terminals, and checking the starter’s solenoid.

Battery test

When it comes to evaluating the battery’s performance of an automobile, there are various tests that one can conduct.

One such test is to check the battery voltage using a voltmeter. This test should be conducted when the engine is off, and it should measure between 12.4V and 12.7V for a healthy battery. If the reading falls below this range, it is likely that the battery needs replacement.

Another important parameter to measure is the cold cranking amps (CCA). CCA refers to a battery’s ability to start an engine in cold temperatures. A fully charged battery should have more than enough CCA required for your vehicle’s engine. The recommended CCA rating will be mentioned in your car owner’s manual.

Lastly, load testing with a professional-grade tester can help identify if there are any weaknesses in the battery itself.

Battery Test Parameters To Check
Voltage 12.4V to 12.7V
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) Manufacturer recommended ratings
Load Testing Using Professional-grade Tester

While conducting these tests might not necessarily indicate that there is starter trouble, they will help ensure that the underlying issue isn’t related to a weak or faulty battery.

It is always wise to practice good maintenance by regularly checking and cleaning your car battery terminals and connections. Additionally, turning off all accessories and lights when your car is idle or parked can also help minimize undue strain on your car’s electrical system overall.

By conducting proper battery tests at regular intervals, drivers can keep their vehicles running smoothly while avoiding potentially expensive starter repairs down the line.

Time to play mechanic and inspect those starter terminals, unless you’re a fan of being stranded on the side of the road.

Inspection of the starter terminals

When examining issues with a car starter, checking the connections of the starter is crucial. Here’s how to inspect the starter terminals and identify potential issues:

  1. Turn off the engine and remove the key from the ignition.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on the battery and loosen their bolts with a wrench or pliers.
  3. Disconnect the wires connected to both terminals by sliding them off carefully.
  4. Clean off any dirt or corrosion present on all parts with a wire brush or sandpaper.
  5. Reconnect all wires before fastening each terminal securely in its place.

In addition to physical inspections, consider checking for burning smells, strange noises and other signs of unusual behavior that may indicate problems with starter connections.

Ensure that your vehicle is safe and reliable by inspecting starter terminals regularly. Neglecting these basic maintenance steps may lead to costly repairs down the road. It is better to address any issues now, rather than waiting for more severe damage. Stay ahead of any major problems.

Before testing the solenoid, make sure it’s not just your car’s way of saying it needs a nap.

Checking the starter’s solenoid

Testing the function of the starter’s magnetic switch is essential in diagnosing potential starter issues.

A 3-Step Guide for evaluating the starter’s magnetic switch:

  1. Disconnect all wires from the switch.
  2. Use a multimeter to test resistance across the switch terminals.
  3. When the ignition key is turned, check if there’s voltage flowing through the circuit.

Additional specifics to consider when assessing if a solenoid problem exists can include checking for power at both terminals and common faults like electrical arcing.

A real-life example that demonstrates how testing a solenoid can identify starter problems: A vehicle owner complained of his car not starting even though the battery seemed fine. Conducting a check on his starter indicated that his solenoid had malfunctioned, preventing adequate power from reaching through and initiating the ignition system.

Get ready to rev your engines and test your starters, because it’s time to separate the weak sparks from the strong.

Preparing for starter testing

To prepare for starter testing, you need to take certain precautions. Disconnecting the battery and removing the starter are two critical steps that you must take. This will ensure a safe environment for you to test the starter properly.

Disconnecting the battery

When preparing for starter testing, one of the steps includes disconnecting the battery. This is necessary to ensure safety during the electrical part of the testing process.

Here’s a 6-step guide to disconnecting the battery:

  1. Turn off all electronic components.
  2. Identify and locate the battery’s negative terminal.
  3. Use a wrench to loosen the nut on the negative cable clamp.
  4. Gently remove the cable clamp from the terminal.
  5. Tape or cover any exposed metal parts or cables with insulating material.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 for positive cable clamp if needed.

It’s important to know that removing only one side is sufficient for most tasks involving starter testing. However, when working on sensitive electrical systems, both sides may need to be disconnected.

To prevent hardware damage and ensure smooth performing electrical system, it’s crucial to follow these suggestions while disconnecting battery:

  1. Wear protective gloves and eyewear while handling the battery terminals.
  2. Avoid touching any metal objects with loosened clamps/nuts.
  3. Reconnect and tighten clamps properly after completing starter testing.

Following these instructions will ensure your safety and prevent any accidents while conducting starter testing.

Looks like the starter’s gonna need some starter testing of its own before it gets removed.

Removing the starter

To begin the starter testing process, it is essential to remove the starter from the vehicle. This can be done by following a few simple steps:

  1. Disconnect the battery – before removing the starter motor, disconnecting the battery is crucial. This ensures that no electrical current is passing through when you are working.
  2. Locate the Starter Motor – depending on your vehicle’s make and model, the starter motor may be situated in different areas. Consult your vehicle manual or seek professional advice if unsure.
  3. Remove Electrical Connections – Once located, remove any electrical connections attached to the starter motor, including wires and bolts.
  4. Unscrew and Remove – Using a socket wrench, unscrew and remove any bolts holding the starter motor in place.

It is worth noting that while these steps provide general guidance for removing starters, specific details may vary based on individual vehicles’ requirements.

A common issue when removing starters is dealing with stubborn nuts or bolts that do not easily come off. A story shared by a professional mechanic suggests that using penetrating oil to loosen them up will help make this process more straightforward. It’s important to state here that one needs to ensure they are using lubricant that isn’t potentially dangerous and corrosive away from certain metals (this information should be available on the product label).

Get ready to play musical chairs with your starter as you bench test it like a pro.

Bench testing the starter

To test a starter with bench testing technique, you can diagnose the starter’s problems and repair it without the car’s use. In this section, you will know how to bench-test the starter for your vehicle with three different sub-sections: Testing the starter’s solenoid, Conducting a voltage drop test and Checking the starter motor’s current draw.

Testing the starter’s solenoid

To assess the functionality of the starter’s solenoid, a bench test should be conducted. This process involves verifying whether the solenoid is able to take power and churn it through the coil to spin the starter gear.

Here is a step-by-step guide on Testing the Starter’s Solenoid:

  1. Disconnect battery terminals
  2. Remove starter motor from engine
  3. Detach all wires from solenoid
  4. Connect voltmeter across solenoid battery & motor terminals
  5. Energize with a trigger switch; voltage should read at least 9V
  6. Solenoid is faulty if there is no voltage or it drops below 9V upon activation.

It is important to note that if a part of testing fails to produce correct results, it indicates that either the whole starter or a particular component requires replacement.

It is recommended that any person not confident with handling automobile components should seek assistance from certified mechanics.

According to Car and Driver magazine, “a car’s start-stop system can save up to 10% fuel in city driving.”

If your car’s starter was a student, it would be failing voltage drop tests faster than you can say ‘detention’.

Conducting a voltage drop test

When testing the starter, it is crucial to conduct a thorough voltage drop test. This test measures the amount of voltage that is lost when electricity passes through different components of the starter circuit.

To conduct a voltage drop test:

  1. Connect a voltmeter to the battery’s positive terminal and to the starter’s main terminal.
  2. Check for a passing reading and move on to other components like solenoids or wiring connections that may be causing resistance by repeating step one.
  3. If any readings show more than 0.2V drops, then there is an issue with resistance in that component, replace or repair as needed.

It’s essential to note that not all starters will have all these components. Still, if there is an issue with any component besides the starter itself, it can cause starting issues.

In addition, regularly testing your vehicle’s start-up components can extend their lifespan and prevent unexpected starting struggles. Don’t overlook this critical step when maintaining your vehicle.

Don’t wait until you’re stranded where testing becomes difficult or impossible. Regular maintenance such as voltage drop testing can detect underlying issues before they become major problems and ultimately prevent future expenses in repairs.

Let’s hope the starter motor’s current draw isn’t too high, or else we’ll be jumpstarting our wallets as well.

Checking the starter motor’s current draw

The performance of the starter motor is crucial to the overall function of the vehicle. A crucial aspect is determining its current draw.

To check this, follow these five steps:

  1. Disconnect the battery before starting work.
  2. Connect an ammeter in series with the positive battery terminal and starter motor cable.
  3. Turn the key to start and record the current reading on the meter.
  4. Compare that reading to manufacturer’s specs for current draw.
  5. Analyze results and replace starter if necessary.

It is important to note that over time, a failing starter can cause other problems such as draining your car’s battery and requiring more frequent jumpstarts.

A true fact: According to Consumer Reports, “more than 80 percent of all car batteries fail within three years.”

Let’s hope the starter passes the bench test, because getting stranded on the side of the road is not exactly a starter for good times.


After conducting thorough testing of a starter, one can determine its functionality and identify potential issues. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure the longevity of your vehicle’s engine. It is crucial to maintain your starter regularly to avoid unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs.

  1. To test a starter, first identify the problem by checking the battery, electrical connections, and fuses.
  2. Then, use a multimeter to check voltage and resistance levels.
  3. Finally, examine the motor for wear and tear.

It is important to note that intermittent starting problems can be challenging to diagnose and lead to false positives. Therefore, it is recommended to seek professional assistance when uncertain.

Pro Tip: Regular maintenance can prevent starter malfunctions. Inspect wiring for signs of wear or corrosion regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the typical symptoms of a failing starter?

A: Some common symptoms of a failing starter include a clicking sound when turning the key, slow or weak cranking, and strange noises coming from the engine.

Q: How can I test my starter?

A: To test a starter, you can perform a voltage drop test, a starter current draw test, or a bench test. It is important to consult your vehicle’s manual or a professional mechanic for specific testing procedures.

Q: What tools do I need to test a starter?

A: You may need a battery charger, multimeter, jumper cables, and a starter/alternator tester for different testing methods. Consult your vehicle’s manual or a professional mechanic to determine the necessary tools for your specific make and model.

Q: Can a starter be repaired or do I need to replace it?

A: In some cases, a starter can be repaired by replacing faulty components such as brushes, solenoids, or bearings. However, it may be more cost-effective to replace the entire starter if it is severely damaged or worn.

Q: How often should I test my starter?

A: It is not necessary to test your starter on a regular basis if it is functioning normally. However, if you notice any of the symptoms of a failing starter, it is important to have it tested and possibly replaced as soon as possible.

Q: Can I test my starter myself, or should I consult a professional?

A: While it is possible to test your starter yourself, it is recommended to consult a professional mechanic for accurate testing and diagnosis. Testing a starter can involve working with high voltage and proper precautions must be taken to avoid injury or damage to your vehicle.

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