If your car won’t start or takes several key turns before starting, you could have a malfunctioning or damaged starter. If you want to be absolutely sure the problem with with your starter and not some other part of the car, you can troubleshoot it a few different ways.
Look for Symptoms of Starter Failure
Your car can give several different signs to indicate a bad starter, so watch and listen for any of the following symptoms when you turn the key:
The engine does not turn over at all.
A loud click or clunk is heard, but the engine does not turn over.
The engine turns over very slowly. It may make unusual noises while turning over.
You have to turn the key many times before the engine finally turns over.
Smoke arises from under the hood of the car and the engine does not turn over.
Check the Battery First
If your car just plain won’t start, it could actually be a problem with the car’s battery. You can take your battery to a mechanic to have it professionally tested, or you can test it at home if you have the right equipment. If it seems fine during testing, then you know the problem is not with your battery.
If your battery is failing or completely dead, you’ll need to first replace it before you can continue troubleshooting your car’s starter. If you put in a fresh, charged battery and the car still won’t start, you can be confident that you really do have a faulty starter on your hands.
How to Fix Starter Failure
If you want your starter to be permanently fixed, you’re going to have to take it to a mechanic. However, if you’re really desperate to get your car running, you can still do one somewhat crude trick to get it to start: hit the starter with a hammer.
It may seem crazy, but some starter failures are caused by loose wiring, and giving the part a good whack can push things temporarily back into place. Keep in mind, however, that you should not attempt this solution more than one or twice, even if it doesn’t work.
The best way to be sure about your car’s problem is just to take it in to a mechanic. If you’re experiencing trouble with your car’s starter, go ahead and have it checked out professionally. It could save you quite the headache next time you try to start your car.