Your car’s starter system is something that you may only become aware of if it fails to operate correctly. Every time you turn your ignition key or press the ignition button, the starter motor comes to life and begins to turn the engine. Once the engine fires and starts to run, the starter motor disengages and your car is ready to drive away. The starter motor pulls a hefty dose of electricity from the battery, as it has a big job to do in turning a cold engine. It then needs to disengage quickly in order to avoid becoming damaged by the engine’s revolutions or draining the battery too much. In reality, the starter system is a brilliant combination of electronics and mechanical engineering.
If your car is failing to start, and you’ve checked that the battery has a charge and there is fuel in the tank, the problem could be related to the starter motor. As soon as you are aware that an issue is developing it makes sense to get the starter system checked out by a professional before it lets you down totally. Don’t be stranded at home or the roadside, contact your nearest AutoMend mechanic for friendly advice and a value for money repair at a time to suit you. With access to over 9,000 members nationwide, including mobile mechanics and car and van garages, we are ideally placed to help you. Our members are among the most highly skilled professionals in the industry, and they are always on hand to get you out of trouble with their expertise in repair and maintenance services.
It’s always useful to know a little about how the various systems in your car actually work, so here is a brief overview of a starter system. There are several different variations in use in modern cars, and they may differ in the details but the basic principles tend to be the same across all makes and models.
Turning the ignition key or pressing the ignition button powers up the starter system’s electronics. Your car’s internal combustion engine can then be started by being turned – it turns slowly at first and then the speed increases. Turning the engine at high speed allows fuel and air to be sucked into the cylinders and compressed, enabling the ignition process which powers the engine.
The starter motor is powered by the battery and is connected via thick wires to the battery’s terminals. It needs to be a powerful electric motor, and it requires a great deal of electric current in order to overcome the friction within the inert engine (plus all the ancillary parts which include the alternator, water pump and oil pump). A solenoid controls the amount of current going into the starter motor. It begins with a low input which increases until the motor is up to full speed, and then disengages to prevent the motor draining the battery when the engine is running.
The starter motor engages with the engine flywheel via a pinion and gear ring arrangement. Once the motor has turned the engine with sufficient rotations to allow it to fire (somewhere between 85 and 150 revs per minute), it needs to disengage quickly. If the starter motor were to fail to disengage, it would continue to be spun by the engine. The centrifugal force caused by the engine’s rotation would damage the motor, so a Bendix gear is used to ensure the motor is able to disengage before any damage is done. The starter system has now done its job, and you can drive the car.
There are a number of indications of problems with the starter system, here are just a few of them.
Keep an eye on your dashboard display or your interior lights while you start the car. If the lights dim during starting, you may have a problem such as a short circuit within the starter system. If you continue to drive without getting this diagnosed and corrected, you will be putting an excessive strain on your car battery. The end result will potentially be a damaged battery and a stranded car.
When you turn the engine over, listen out for noises.
A ‘chugging’ noise accompanied by lights that dim on starting may be a starter motor bearing issue. This needs to be resolved as soon as possible, or your car will eventually fail to start at all.
A sharp ‘click’ when you start the car is usually the sound of the solenoid closing an electrical contact. A rapid series of clicks when trying to start the car could be a faulty solenoid, or it could be an indicator of low battery power.
Once the car has started, listen out for ‘grinding’ or ‘whirring’ sounds with the engine running. Either sound could be the starter motor having failed to engage properly with the flywheel or failing to disengage correctly after starting. If allowed to continue, you will end up needing a starter motor replacement.
We are one of the largest car and van maintenance and repair networks in the UK, and we wanted to make it easy for you to find a mechanic who was close at hand. Simply tell us your vehicle make and the type of repair you are looking for. We will then ask you to tell us where you are – type in your postcode and pick the nearest town. We will provide you with all the details you need to get your starter motor repaired - a list of garages, along with their distance from you and their phone numbers. You can either call up an AutoMend mechanic directly or ask for as many online quotes for the work as you want – the service is no-obligation and totally free for you to use.
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