How to Test a Sticking Starter Solenoid

by Jon Christoff

Car owners who hear a clicking sound when attempting to start their vehicles may have a sticking starter solenoid. A starter solenoid, or starter relay, provides electric current to get engines started. Owners can easily check to see if a sticking solenoid is the issue, or whether there may be a bigger problem. By checking the solenoid, car owners can potentially save money on major repairs.

Park the car so you can access the starter solenoid. You may have to use a jack or ramps to elevate your vehicle, depending where the solenoid is located.

Check to make sure the ignition is in the "off" position, and ensure that the engine is cool.

Disconnect the smaller wires and leave the larger wires connected.

Attach the continuity tester to the smaller wires and the solenoid itself. The positive (red) cable goes on the wires, while the negative (black) attaches to the solenoid. The meter will indicate if the solenoid has the ability to operate properly.

Listen for a "click" when the starter button is pushed. The click is the solenoid becoming an electromagnet, which allows the engine to start.

Tap lightly on the outer casing of the solenoid if it didn't register when hooked up to the continuity tester. The handle of a screwdriver or a similar tool is recommended.

Reconnect all wires back into the solenoid and attempt starting your vehicle again. If it doesn't work, your solenoid needs to be replaced.

Tip

  • check The vehicle's battery, ignition switch and starter motor should be tested before the solenoid.

Warning

  • close When parking the vehicle on ramps, make sure the car is in neutral and the parking brake is on at all times. If the vehicle is parked on the ground, block the back tires.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jon Christoff has worked for "The Progress," a newspaper in Pennsylvania, since 2005. He has covered high-school sports, including several state championships, and Pennsylvania State football. His work has also appeared in the "Altoona Mirror," "Centre Daily Times," "Bedford Gazette," "Lewistown Sentinel" and "Johnstown Tribune-Democrat." Christoff is a 2004 graduate of Saint Francis University, where he earned his fine arts degree in English.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Auto Engine image by Andrew Breeden from Fotolia.com