What Does a Bad Starter Sound Like? – Bad Starter Symptoms

The starter relay is located between the starter motor and the battery.

When the motor and the starter relay are not working properly, you may hear a bad starter sound, it would be impossible for you to back out of your garage or parking lot without a tow or jumpstart.  It is the symptoms of a bad starter!

What Does a Bad Starter Sound Like?

Starter Sound

There are different types of bad starter sound. It could be a whirring noise or successive clicks.

Learning what a bad starter sounds like will help you fix the problem as soon as possible.

Common Bad Starter Symptoms

Whirring Sound When Starting Car

When you hear a whirring sound when starting your car, it’s a sign that there is something wrong with the starter. It might be due to a malfunctioning kicker solenoid.

You can use a hammer to tap on the solenoid to fix the problem. However, it is best that you replace the solenoid right away to prevent further damage to the starter. A jumpstart can’t fix this problem. You should get your car serviced as soon as possible.

Single Loud Click

Does the car power go off with a single loud click whenever you turn your ignition key? The culprit is not the starter. It’s possible that it is a battery problem.

The minimum voltage required to get the ignition started is 7 volts. Loose, corroded or grimy battery terminals might be causing the glitch. You should check the battery terminals under the car hood, and wash them to fix the problem.

Click here to undestand how to test and diagnose bad ignition coil symptoms.

Grinding Sounds

A tiny ring gear that juts out of the starter engages the flywheel teeth and pops out when you start your car. If the teeth or the ring has deteriorated, the gear won’t be able to start the car engine and turn the flywheel.

You will hear grinding noises when you start your car. It's important to fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent bigger damage to the starter and your vehicle.

Rapid Clicks

When you hear successive rapid clicks and your car won’t start at all, you should check the battery because it might be drained. Perhaps you unintentionally kept the headlights on overnight.

check the battery

The rapid clicks that you’re hearing might also be caused by a bad alternator. If your car can be jumpstarted, the cause of the problem is certainly the battery.

However, you can’t fix this glitch by simply using the best battery. You have to check the battery cable or the starter to determine the best course of action.


Smelling or seeing smoke escaping from the hood when you start the car is a sign of a bad starter. If the starter is faulty, it will consume an excessive amount of power when you switch the ignition on.

The starter motor will have a short circuit and smoke will come out of the hood. The smoke could also be due to a burnt-out starter, which may occur if the engine is cranked over and over again.

This is a serious problem. Starting the car repeatedly will cause further damage to the starter as well as the vehicle. You should tow your car to a service shop or call a mechanic to fix your vehicle as soon as possible.

Dimming Dashboard Lights

Do you notice that the starter motor seems sluggish when the engine starts? If the dashboard lights turn dim whenever you crank the engine, you are definitely not imagining things. You have to replace or fix the starter.

Another culprit is a bad battery. If the battery is in perfect condition, but the starter motor still seems sluggish, then the problem is definitely with the starter.

Causes of Starter Problems

Some of the most common causes of a broken starter sound include dirty connections, loose wiring from and to the starter, oil leaks, worn-out or damaged components within the starter system, and battery corrosion.

How can you fix a bad starter noise problem? Here are some troubleshooting tips that you can try.

Tap the Starter Gently

Do you remember hitting the side of your old television to fix it? You can do the same thing with your starter.

Tapping the starter gently helps its electrical components come in contact with one another and power it up. Don’t pound it. Use a hard object to tap the starter lightly.

However, this is only a temporary solution. You still need to take your car to a service center to get it fixed properly.

Check Under the Car Hood

If you hear some noise when you start your car, you should check the battery cables and the battery to see if everything is working properly. The problem may not be with the starter. It could be due to broken battery cables or a dead or weak battery.

Checking the fuel gauge does not seem to be a bad idea either. If your gas tank is empty, your car certainly won’t start!

Change Your Car’s Transmission

What if your car refuses to start even if it's in the "park" mode? Try to start it in “neutral”. If it works, there is most likely a technical problem that is preventing your vehicle from starting. One of these is a broken neutral safety switch..

Related: How to shim a car starter

Oil Soak

Since the starter is usually placed underneath the engine, it is susceptible to soaking from engine oil leaks or fluids from the Drivetrain. A starter that is soaked in oil will not last for a long time. Thus, you should fix the leak problem and replace the starter before it malfunctions. 

Jumpstart Your Car

Jumpstarting the car is a quick fix for a faulty starter. This way, you can get your car on the road for the time being, and take it to the service center. If jumpstarting the car doesn’t work at all, you have to tow your vehicle and repair or replace the starter.

A skilled mechanic can determine what’s causing the starter problem sound and fix it right away. This is a better and more permanent solution to the problem.

20 thoughts on “What Does a Bad Starter Sound Like? – Bad Starter Symptoms”

  1. The car starter problem sound once heard is always disheartening but dont panic here are what it sounds like and what the issue can be. Lovely post guys

  2. Learning the car starter problem sound is a great way to fix the problem… Knowing the symptoms gives you an insight into how to handle it..your article is an eye opener and it will save me a bucket load of cash..thanks a bunch for posting

  3. A faulty starter sound if understood will help slimline the problem and help know what to be done to fix the problem. Thos is an article than will help reduce the money to be spent to fix a car faulty starter.

  4. It’s always good to check when the car make noises, in my casei’ve identified it’s about a bad starter solenoid sound… I have to replace the solenoid soon.

  5. I have really gained from this post. Now I know how car starter problem sound is like. Thanks for this post.

  6. This write up is very important. It gives us the idea about the symptoms of having a faulty starter sound.

  7. It really pays to know what a dead starter sound is like, as to immediately check for car problems before they get worse. Ignoring it would only cause even more expenses if the car really breaks down.

  8. The dead starter sound is such a common problem for many car owners. It’s good to learn that the problem is so easy to fix.

  9. I remember once I panicked because of a faulty starter sound. Had I known better I would have simply tried out some of these solutions. Thanks for sharing.

  10. The bad starter solenoid sound is best fixed by replacing the starter unit. Doing so can prevent a lot of future problems.

  11. It appears as though most of these car starter problem sound are a result of some issue with the starter unit. I would advice replacement of the starter unit if anyone experiences this problem.

  12. The bad starter solenoid sound is the most recognizable and very common. Whenever you hear it it usually a sign that you car needs to get checked.

  13. Motorists fear nothing more than the dreaded dead starter sound. In many cases, a simple jumpstart could do the trick but it could be a sign of deeper underlying issues with the car.

  14. Dirty terminals have been known to be a major cause of faulty starter sound. For this reason the battery terminals should always be checked and kept clean regularly.

  15. The single loud click is the car starter problem sound I am most familiar with. I never knew it was caused by the battery. Thank you for the knowledge.

  16. A dead starter sound is an indication that your starter no longer works as intended. The best course of action is usually to have a professional mechanic have a look at it.

  17. The faulty starter sound I fear the most is the grinding sounds. It usually indicates a problem with the transmission and that can be very costly to fix.

  18. Once you know what a broken starter sound like you can easily identify the source of the problem. Thank you for giving the explanation of the different starter fault sounds and what they mean.

  19. Thank you for giving tips on how to tell what a broken starter sound like. I remember I used to get this frequently on my previous vehicle. Usually a new battery can fix this.

  20. Car starter problem sound is something many finds difficult whenever they travel. Thanks for this review.


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