5 Symptoms of a Bad Starter Motor (and Replacement Cost)

(Updated on January 1, 2021)

Every vehicle has a starter motor in it. The purpose of the starter motor is to allow the internal combustion engine to start up. The starter is really nothing more than just an electric motor that starts the engine.

After the ignition switch is turned on, energy flows through the starter motor and causes the engine to suck in air and fuel. Meanwhile, the spark plugs receive electricity which allows the fuel inside the combustion chamber to be ignited.

This whole process is crucial for an engine to turn on and function properly. That is why if there is the slightest problem with the starter, then the internal combustion of the engine will fail.

Bad Starter Motor Symptoms

When you have a starter motor that goes bad, the symptoms will be easy to recognize if you know what to look for. The best thing to do is to get your starter checked right away after you first notice these symptoms.

Below are five common symptoms you can watch out for which indicate that your starter is bad and possibly needs to be replaced.

1) Can’t Start Vehicle

This will be the most obvious symptom that everyone should be able to notice. If you turn the key in your ignition and the engine won’t turn over, then the starter relay is likely damaged or worn out.

You won’t be able to even drive your vehicle at this point so you’ll have to tow it to the nearest auto repair shop and have them replace the starter.

2) Smoke from Engine Bay

If your vehicle is producing a lot of smoke and it continues to come out of it, then your starter might be shorted. The reason why smoke comes out is because electricity from the electrical supply is trying to pass through the shorted starter. This will result in a gray or black fog of smoke to appear from your vehicle.

3) Grinding Noise

A series of gears connects the flywheel and the starter together. Both components can cause grinding noises when they get too worn out. A bad starter motor will have grinding noises coming from inside of it and worn out gears will also cause these noises too.

Either way, you should immediately take your vehicle to the mechanic so they can see which one is causing the grinding noise.

Related: What Does a Bad Starter Sound Like?

4) Freewheeling

If there is no cranking coming from the engine and you start to hear a whining noise coming from the starter, this is a symptom known as freewheeling. This indicates that your flywheel cannot make contact with the starter gear.

As a result, you need to replace your starter right away.

5) Burning Smell

Whether you see smoke coming out of your car or not, a smoky smell inside and outside your car is an indication that your starter is bad. Most of the time, the smoke and the smell will occur at the same time.

But even if it doesn’t and you just have the smell, you should still get your starter checked out right away because the smoke may be coming next.

Starter Motor Replacement Cost

Looking for Replacement Parts?
We recommend Parts Geek or Advance Auto Parts for the best prices and selection.

The cost to replace a starter motor will depend on the repair shop or dealership that you bring your vehicle to as well as the make and model of your vehicle.

On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $500 in total to replace your starter. The parts alone will cost you anywhere from $200 to $360 and the labor costs will cost anywhere from $100 to $140.

It is not the most expensive replacement job you will ever need but it is certainly one of the most important. After all, if you can’t start your engine, then you won’t be able to drive your car at all.

So, as soon as you recognize the symptoms of a faulty starter, get it replaced right away before you get stranded somewhere.


2 thoughts on “5 Symptoms of a Bad Starter Motor (and Replacement Cost)”

  1. I changed the starter in my 08 Dodge Avenger 2.4 and then try to start it and it cranks right up. But I came out the next morning and it wouldn’t start so I got to jump and it took a little bit but it started up then I get a burning smell so I turned it off. Could I have hooked up the wires wrong to the starter?


Leave a Comment