How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter

In the unfortunate event that your car cannot start, you may be faced with a bad starter. It will be beneficial to be already prepared in this situation. The following steps will provide you with the proper knowledge on how to start a car with a bad starter. It is critical to note that a bad starter must be rebuilt or replaced; however, if you are stranded, these methods will offer alternative solutions to get your vehicle started.

How to start a car with a bad starter
How to start a car with a bad starter

Vehicle Preparation

Before you begin, make sure that the car is in park, or in neutral with the parking brake pulled on. It is also helpful to have at least an eighth of the gas tank full, to confirm that the vehicle is not running from low fuel. This will also prevent the fuel pump from burning when repeatedly starting the car, which could occur on an empty tank.

How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter:

Method 1: Push-Start for Manual Transmissions

If your vehicle has a manual transmission, you have the option to push-start the car using these steps:

Step 1: Park the car downhill, or you will need to have assistance from at least one other person.

Step 2: Verify that there is nothing in the path of the vehicle or any risk of other danger.

Step 3: Leave the key in the on position and the car in neutral without the parking brake.

Step 4: With control of the steering and easy access to the brake, push the car until it starts to pick up some speed (about 5+ mph).

Step 5: Once you have some momentum, push the clutch in, shift the car into first gear, and then let the clutch out.

This method will jolt the drivetrain and start the vehicle if performed correctly.

push-start the car
push-start the car

Method 2: Rocking the vehicle

If your vehicle is automatic, or you are not able to push start the vehicle, you can also rock the car back and forth to shift the starter with two simple steps. If your car is manual, make sure that it is in gear.

Step 1: Leave the car in park with the parking brake off.

Step 2: Rock the vehicle forward and backward while turning the key.

This may move the starter internally to create a connection.

Method 3: Striking the Starter

You will need a rod or stick. In some vehicles, you will not be able to reach the starter to execute this method.

Step 1: Locate the starter

  • If you have access to a smartphone, the best option is to look up where the starter is for your specific vehicle make and model.
  • It is located between the transmission bell-housing and the engine.
  • It is a cylindrical shape.
  • You may be able to access the starter from either the top of the wheel well, underneath the hood, or underneath the vehicle.

Step 2: Tap the starter with the rod or stick multiple times.

Step 3: Turn the key to test the starter.

Step 4: If the vehicle will not turn on, and you have close access to the starter, you can continue this process:

  1. Turn the key in the on position with the vehicle in park.
  2. Use a screwdriver to short the solenoid (on the back of the starter) by touching the screwdriver to the positive and negative leads on the solenoid, which bypasses the circuit.

Be careful not to strike the starter too hard, which can cause damage to the transmission bell housing. Note that shorting the solenoid can blow a fuse or fusible link, or cause further damage. This method is a last resort.

Technical Notes

Make sure that you are in a safe environment and be mindful of harming yourself or the vehicle before trying any of the methods listed above. It is imperative to state that a bad starter must be replaced or rebuilt as quickly as possible. Relying on a bad starter or trying to start a car with a bad starter can lead to further damage to the vehicle. 

How to start a car with a bad starter

FAQs

What are the symptoms of a bad starter?

  • The vehicle will not turn on when putting the key into the ignition and turning to start.
  • Hearing a single click when turning the key to start position.
  • Or, not hearing any click at all.

Note that the symptoms could also be caused by a dead battery or a number of other issues that need to be ruled out.

How do you test a starter?

To properly test and verify the starter, it would have to be removed; however, there are options to check in an urgent situation.

  • First, check if the battery has lost charge, or if it has a bad connection to the starter.
  • Check to see if the batter is still operating by checking interior lights or headlights.
  • If you are unsure, try jumping the battery as a secondary check.
  • Check if the vehicle does turnover when turning the key, but it just does not run. This rules out the starter as the issue as there is likely a different problem.

With these options tested, the problem is likely the starter.

How long will a bad starter last?

If you can start the vehicle, you should not rely on a bad starter. If you turn the vehicle off, the faulty starter may not work again. The vehicle must be taken to an automotive repair shop or your garage if you cannot replace or repair the starter on your own.

Conclusion

There are multiple methods on how to start a car with a bad starter, at least for a temporary fix. The intent of these methods is to create a connection for the starter, which will create power to the engine. Whether you choose to push start the vehicle, rock it back and forth or strike the starter, you should find a quick solution to get the vehicle started.

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