How to Test Starters


The starter is responsible for cranking your engine when you turn on the ignition key. This helps to bring your engine to life. If you suspect the starter of not working correctly, you want to troubleshoot the starter before replacing it, since many different components besides the starter could cause your vehicle not to start.

Things You'll Need

  • Voltmeter
  • Battery charger
  • Battery cables
  • Working battery
  • Screwdriver
  • Place a voltmeter on the battery to measure the voltage output of the battery. If the battery reads less than 12 volts, charge the battery and then attempt to start the vehicle. If you are in a hurry, use a pair of jumper cables and connect the battery on your car with the battery from a working car. This eliminates your battery from the equation. If the car still does not start, move to the next step.

  • Turn on your headlights and then turn the ignition switch in an attempt to start the vehicle. If the lights dim, the ignition is working properly because it is attempting to send power from the battery to the starter. If the lights do not dim, the issue is with the ignition and not the starter.

  • Locate the two posts located on the back of the starter solenoid. The solenoid bolts onto the starter. The post on the left goes to the ignition switch. The post on the right has a jumper wire connected to it that goes to a connector located on the starter. Place the metal part of an insulated screwdriver against both connectors. This keeps the solenoid from engaging. Have a second person attempt to start the vehicle. The motor inside the starter should start to hum. If the starter motor does hum, the starter is okay and the starter solenoid is defective. If the starter motor does not turn on or it runs rough, the starter is defective.

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  • Photo Credit Don Johnston/Photodisc/Getty Images
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