How to Troubleshoot to Determine Whether a Starter or Starter Solenoid Is Not Working

by Zyon Silket
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Rolfo Rolf Brenner/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you turn the ignition key in your automobile and all you hear is a clicking noise or the engine turning over very slowly, the issue could be the starter or the starter solenoid. Both cause issues with engine failure and both present failure in the same manner. Fortunately, almost all vehicle manufacturers mount the starter solenoid to the side of the starter. This makes it easy to determine which of the two components is defective.

Step 1

Locate the starter and starter solenoid under your vehicle. In most cases, the solenoid mounts to the transmission housing or bell housing on the driver's side of the vehicle. The starter is usually approximately 8 inches long and cylindrical in shape. It has the solenoid bolted to it. Two wires are bolted to the back of the solenoid.

Step 2

Locate the metal contacts that connect the solenoid to the ignition and the solenoid to the starter motor. The two wires on the back of the starter solenoid connect to the metal contacts.

Step 3

Create a bridge between the two metal contacts by placing the shaft of an insulated screwdriver across both contacts. This creates a connection between the ignition and the starter motor. Have a second person turn the ignition on. If the starter motor turns on and creates a consistent hum, the starter is working fine, so replace the solenoid. If the starter motor does not turn on, the brushes in the starter motor are worn out. Replace or rebuild the starter motor.

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