How Do I Know When My Starter Is Going Bad on a Dodge Ram?

by Marion CobrettiUpdated July 05, 2023

During normal operation, the starter in your Dodge Ram uses its pinion gear to turn the flywheel to set the engine in motion. Once your truck's engine starts, the starter disengages its pinion until the next time that you attempt to start the engine. As your starter ages, it begins to wear down and will eventually fail from everyday use. However, your starter will display a few common signs before it becomes completely defective. With a few common tools, you can locate the root of your Dodge Ram's starter troubles right at home.

Things You Will Need:

  • Hydraulic jack
  • Jack stand
  • Flashlight
  • White painter's tape
  • Wire brush
  • Socket wrench set

1. Start your Dodge Ram's engine just as you would normally

Start your Dodge Ram's engine just as you would normally. Wait 10 seconds, and turn the engine off. Start your engine again, and this time pay close attention to the amount of time it takes before the engine actually starts. Your engine should start almost instantaneously. If you are experiencing extended crank time or the engine sounds like its rotating slower than normal, you have a problem with the starter.

2. Apply the emergency brakes on your Dodge Ram

Apply the emergency brakes on your Dodge Ram. Position a hydraulic jack behind the front driver's side tire, and raise the truck 10 to 12 inches. Slide under your truck, and locate the starter at the rear of the engine. Your starter will be either black in color or silver. It looks similar to a thermos that you would use to hold coffee and has wires attached to the top of it.

3. Turn on your flashlight, and inspect the starter for damage

Turn on your flashlight, and inspect the starter for damage. Since the starter mounts beneath the truck, it is exposed to weather conditions as well as road debris. The cylindrical housing on the starter should not have any dents or cracks in it. Any physical damage that you identify could readily cause starter failure. Your starter has many gears within it that must work together with precision. A dent in the starter's housing could knock any one of its gears off track and cause the problem your experiencing.

4. Inspect the wires connected to the starter

Inspect the wires connected to the starter. Cracks in the wires' sheathing can also cause starter failure. This typically happens from extended crank times that cause the starter's wires to superheat and melt the plastic covering them.

5. Check the starter's wires at their connecting point on the solenoid

Check the starter's wires at their connecting point on the solenoid. All untreated metal exposed to the wraths of nature will begin to rust and corrode. Label each of the wires connected to your Ram's solenoid with white painter's tape. Remove the nuts holding each of the wires in place on the solenoid with a socket wrench. Pull each of the wires off their studs and inspect them. If you notice a buildup of rust or corrosion on any of the wires' connectors, clean them thoroughly with a wire brush. If the rust or corrosion does not come off easily, replace the affected wires.

6. Locate the starter's two mounting bolts at the base of it

Locate the starter's two mounting bolts at the base of it. Remove both of the bolts with your socket wrench, and lower the starter away from its position. Inspect the pinion gear on your Dodge Ram's starter. The pinion is the small gear that you see at the base of the starter. If any of the gears (teeth) are missing, chipped or broken, do not reinstall the starter, because it is defective.


If none of the common signs discussed here has solved the problem with your starter, since you already have it removed, take it in and have it tested. Your local auto repair shop more than likely offers free bench testing that may reveal other problems with the starter.

Video showing how to replace a bad starter:

Comments on this video:

  • Another great video. I admire your patience when going through your diagnostic steps for isolating the starter as the problem. There are a lot of folks who would have thrown a starter at it first. I also liked the remote switch, I'm going to have to get one of those. One more thing..I learned that I'm not the only person that casually says "B+", which is awesome.
  • I really appreciate the time people spend helping others with mechanical issues. This video makes it easy to follow and identify whether or not it's a battery or starter issue.

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