How to Diagnose and Replace the Starter in 10 Steps

The car starter issue is very common, and it happens probably with every car. This is a problem that sometimes pisses you off because you are in a hurry and the car won’t start. The job of a car’s starter is to kick the engine in your car, so that it starts. One of the most common signs of a bad starter is when you try to start the car multiple times, and it won’t start. If it happens, it means that your starter may need to get replaced.

You can diagnose and replace the starter yourself, and you won’t need to get your vehicle to a technician and spend money, but you will be required to have some essential tools for that. First of all, you should know how to test a starter to get to know if the problem is with your starter or something else is going wrong.

How to Test a Car Starter

Following are the common ways to test a starter. Make sure you go for these ways to find out if your car starter is working correctly or not:

Check by starting the car

Try to start the car, and if it creates a whining sound and doesn’t start, it means that your starter has a problem and either it needs to get diagnosed or replaced.

Check the battery connections.

Open the hood of your car and check if the wires connected to your battery are dirty or corroded. If the wires are not strongly connected, it may create a lack of power to the starter, make sure everything is okay there.

Check the solenoid

Inspect the solenoid of your car and make sure all the wires are connected and running properly. A damaged or loose wire could be a reason your starter is not working properly.

How to test starter with a multimeter

Testing the battery’s voltage with a multimeter is also a way to test a car starter, but here you will need a multimeter. If you have a multimeter, it’s well and good, but if you don’t have one, you can buy it from Amazon.

You will be required to set your multimeter to its DC setting and its dial to 20 to test from 0-20 volts. Now place the red probe on the positive (+) and the black probe on the negative (-). Now, if your battery is working correctly, you will be getting a reading of 12 V.

How to test a starter solenoid with a circuit tester

It is essential to check if the current is getting to the solenoid, and you will be required to have a circuit tester. You need to place one lead of the circuit tester to the feed terminal of the solenoid and the other lead to bare bodywork metal. If you see the tester is lightning up, it means that the current is getting to it, and the problem is with the starter or solenoid itself.

If you don’t have it, then you can get one from Amazon.

How to test a starter with jumper cables

If you have a jumper cable, you can check test the starter, but you have to be very careful. First of all, make sure the ignition is turned off and the transmission in the park. Now connect one end of the positive (red) jumper cable to the battery’s positive side and touch the other end of the red cable to the positive terminal on the starter motor. If the starter spins or cranks the engine, the problem is with the connection, relay, or cables.

If the engine doesn’t crank, connect the negative (black) jumper cable as a ground between the negative terminal and the drivetrain of the battery. Now, touch the red cable to the positive terminal of the starter, and if the starter cranks the engine, it means that the problem is lousy chassis ground. Make sure you do everything very carefully.

How to Diagnose a Starter

Here are a couple of things that you can do to diagnose a starter for a temporary period-

  • Open the hood and check if all the cables are connected well. If any cable is loose, get it fixed so that the current goes to the starter.
  • Tap the starter with a hard object. Make sure you are tapping it, not destroying it. Sometimes, gentle tapping can power the starter back.
  • Charge your car’s battery because sometimes low battery may be why your car won’t start. You can charge it using a trickle charger. After you are done with charging your battery, make sure you connect the cables the same way they were connected before.
  • The quickest fix for a bad starter is jumpstarting. If you are stuck somewhere, and your car won’t start, you can jumpstart it and get to a technician and get it fixed. You can also get the vehicle towed if the jumpstart doesn’t work.

So these three are the quick ways to diagnose a car starter, and you should try them if you get stuck.

Now, as you have got to know ‘how to test a starter’ and how to diagnose it, it’s time to know how to replace a car starter for good.

How to Replace a Car Starter (10 steps)

Replacing and diagnosing starter problems is not a very tough task, and it doesn’t require profound technical knowledge. With a few steps, you can tackle this problem.

1. Disconnect the battery

You need to disconnect the battery first, and you can use a socket or hand wrench to do it. Lose all the nuts that secures the cable on the battery’s negative terminal. Now, slide the cable up and off the terminal and tuck the cable to the side of the battery. Make sure the cable doesn’t touch the terminal.

2. Jack up the vehicle if needed.

Now you need to access the starter, and for that, you may need to lift the front of the vehicle off the ground. You can use a jack to lift the vehicle. Just place it beneath the designated jack points and lift it off.

3. Locate the starter

The starter has a wire running to it from the fuse box or battery, and it looks like a large cylinder attached to a smaller one. The small cylinder is a starter solenoid that is attached to the starter. If you cannot locate the starter in your car/vehicle, you can search about it on the internet through your vehicle’s model, and that way, you may get the guidance.

4. Disconnect the wiring

As you have located the starter, use appropriate tools to disconnect any connection that goes to the starter. In a few cases, you get the clips that you need to disconnect for the wiring, and in some cases, you need to loosen the bolts that hold the wires in position.

5. Remove the starter and its retaining bolts.

Most of the starters have two retaining bolts that hold the starter in place, and you will need to use a socket of the appropriate size to remove the bolts. After removing the bolts, you can freely remove the starter.

6. Install the new starter

Now, it’s time to install a new starter. Compare both old and new starters and make sure both the starters are pretty identical and the holes for the bolts are at the same place. The new starter solenoid may have four terminals instead of two, but that wouldn’t make any issue.

7. Slide the starter

Now, you may need one person to help you with sliding the starter into the exact mounting location. Different vehicles have a different mounting place, and you are supposed to position it in the same place.

8. Insert the retainer bolts

After sliding the starter to the exact mounting location, use the appropriate wrench or socket to insert the retainer bolts and tighten everything correctly. If the bolts are not tight, the starter will vibrate when the engine runs.

9. Connect the wires to the solenoid

Now, connect all the wiring to the starter solenoid that you had disconnected from your old starter. Check if everything is connected correctly to avoid any issues. If your new starter solenoid contains four terminals and your old one had two, there is no need to worry. You have to utilize only the top and the bottom terminal on the new solenoid and if your old and new solenoids have four terminals, connect them the same way they were connected to the old one.

10. Reconnect the battery

Now, as you are replacing the starter, it’s time to connect the battery, which is the final step. Ensure that the battery is charged and everything is connected tightly and correctly.

So this was all about how to replace a starter. Now, get in the vehicle and attempt to start the vehicle. If you had done everything correctly, the car would start.


Here you got to know everything about how to diagnose and replace a car starter. The starter problem is very common, and with the help of all the information given above, you can fix this problem.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions. Hope you find them helpful.

How do I check for a bad starter?

There are so many ways through which you can check for a bad starter. You can check the starter with a multimeter, jumper cables, or a circuit tester. These are the essential tools that you will require to check for a bad starter. Also, some signs of a bad starter, such as your car’s engine won’t crank, you hear a whining sound when your car starts, smoke comes from the car, etc. If you see any of these signs, the chances are higher that your starter has some problem.

Yes, with the help of some tools, you can test a starter on a car. Tools like a multimeter, circuit tester, or jumper cables can help you to test a starter.

In most vehicles, the starter is found on the driver’s side of the motor, and it is situated just below the left bank of cylinders. If you are confused, you can Google about it, and with the help of your vehicle’s model number, you may find a guide that will help you find the exact location of the starter.

It looks like two cylinders are attached in which the smaller one is a solenoid. Finding the image of a car starter should not be a big deal.

Yes, with the knowledge of the proper steps, you can replace a starter yourself. You will need a couple of tools, such as an appropriate size wrench and screwdriver, and you can do it yourself.

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