Informational Guide

How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter

Every time you hop in the car, you expect it to start without a problem. We review how to start a car with a bad starter here so you can get back on the road.

When you hop in the car in the morning, you expect it to start without a problem. However, if the vehicle has a bad starter, that might be impossible.

Knowing how to jump start your vehicle or motorcycle is crucial. We will review how to start a car with a bad starter so you can get back on the road again.

Have you been asking yourself, “what are the symptoms of a bad starter?” If so, we have the answers you need. What are the signs of a bad starter? Here are a few of the most common issues a bad starter causes.

  • Your Car Won’t Start 
    One of the most obvious signs of a bad starter is when your vehicle doesn’t start. If you recently put in a new battery and you know the charging system is working correctly, the failure could be due to a defective starter instead.
  • The Clicking Sound 
    What does a bad starter sound like? One of the symptoms of bad starter solenoid is the dreaded clicking noise that happens when you turn the key. However, this issue can also be caused by a dead battery. If your headlights turn on, the battery is fine, and you should look at the starter instead.
  • Burning Smell Or Smoke 
    If you ever smell a burning scent or see smoke, you know there's a problem. When too much power gets to the starter, it can overheat, which would cause both problems. A blown fuse, loose connection, or short circuit can lead to trouble with the starter system, all of which need to be resolved immediately.
  • Interior Lights Dimming Down 
    If the lights inside the cabin start to dim every time you try and start your vehicle, there might be a short circuit in the system. With a short circuit, there is less power for the vehicle components that need it the most.
  • Freewheeling Situation 
    Freewheeling occurs when the flywheel and electric starter motor are unable to connect, which produces a whining sound when you attempt to crank over the engine. This can be a scary situation and should be looked at immediately.
  • Slower Starting Speed 
    It shouldn’t take a lot of effort to start the vehicle. If you turn the key and it seems to take longer, your starter might be going out. This is also a problem if your vehicle starts sometimes but not others. Get it fixed before it fails completely.
How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter

Causes of A Faulty Starter

Are you asking, "How do I know if my starter is bad?" Figuring out how to diagnose a bad starter doesn't take a lot of expertise, but it does help to know what might have caused it to fail in the first place.

While it's important to answer – how do you know if your starter is going bad, it's vital to understand what causes the situation in the first place.

Faulty electrical connections

The starter contains many electrical connections. If any of these go bad, the starter will suffer.

Defective Solenoid switch (engaging relay)

The solenoid switch is responsible for telling the starter what to do. Without it, the starter will not activate or it will get stuck on.

Damaged electric motor

Without the motor, the starter cannot run, just like your vehicle will not move without a working engine.

Malfunctioning single-pinion gear, starter pinion, or freewheel

The gear operates much like a transmission, telling the starter how to operate.

Tips & Tricks on How to Start A Car With A Bad Starter

Can you start a car with a bad starter? Once you know how to tell if a starter is bad, it’s time to get your vehicle running.

Use A Hammer

If you give the starter a gentle thump with a hammer, it might start working again. For the best results, do this while cranking the car. However, you don't want to whack the starter too hard, or you could cause more damage.

Use a Jump Starter

Can you jump start a car with a bad starter? While jump starters were created to deal with dead car batteries, they might also have a place when handling a defective starter. Sometimes it creates enough power when used on the positive motor of the starter motor. Alternately, you can use your jumper cables with the red cable to the positive terminal of your battery, with the other end of that cable on the positive terminal of the starter motor to see if it will start.

Give it a Push Start

Can you push start a car with a bad starter? You should be able to push start any manual transmission car, even with a bad starter and battery. Put some strong people behind the car and push while you switch the ignition on. Make sure the car is in a moving gear, and you get it to about 10 mph before letting go of the clutch.

Use a Screwdriver

Do you know how to start a car with a bad starter with a screwdriver? Of course, you can use it to remove screws and hotwire the car, but it is also possible to use this valuable tool with our next suggestion.

Bypass the Relay

If you need to know how to start a bad starter on automatic transmission cars, this is a good option. Use your screwdriver and touch the starter to the positive terminal and solenoid terminal, which creates an electrical connection. It will bypass the relay, sending 12 volts of current to the starter solenoid.

Fix the Starter

If you need to figure out how to know if a starter is bad and you’ve diagnosed the problem, why wouldn’t you just get it fixed? Instead of trying to figure out can you jump a car with a bad starter, you would do better having it repaired. Then, your car will start every time you turn the key.

Tricks On How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How long will a bad starter last?

The brand new starter should last around 80,000 miles. This isn’t a part that you would replace until you start to notice problems. Learn how to check if a starter is bad so you will know when to replace it.

Can you test a starter without removing it?

The best way to test the starter is to use your jumper cables to bypass the electrical system. Simply connect the red cable to the positive terminal of the battery and touch the other end of that cable to the positive terminal of the starter motor.

How do you test a starter with a multimeter?

Yes, you can use your digital multimeter to see if the starter is getting the power it needs. Check the various electrical connections to see where the fault is located.


Now that you know how to tell if your starter is bad and how to get back on the road, there’s no reason to stand around any longer. Don’t let a defective starter stop you from getting where you want to go.