How to start a car with a bad starter

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With the dawn of modern electronics, the chances are low but it still can happen that your starter motor fails.

There are only 2 ways that can help you in a pinch and that is to push start the vehicle, if it is manual, or to tap the starter motor with a hammer.

In this article, I will show you the best ways how to start a car with a bad starter.

2 ways to start a car with a bad starter

1. Push start the vehicle

This will only work on manual vehicles where you can pop out the clutch while the car is moving.

You can do this on your own and hopefully you are on a flat surface or facing down a hill to make your job easier.

The first step is to put the car in neutral, put on the ignition, and release the handbrake, on a flat surface now you need to climb out of the vehicle and push it by the door frame with the door open so you can jump in when needed.

The second step is to start pushing or letting the car start rolling, you don’t have to go fast between 4 to 6 MPH ( 6.4 to 9.7 KPH) is fast enough.

The third step is to jump into the car (if you were pushing) and engage the clutch and put the car into 2nd gear.

The fourth step is to quickly pop the clutch so the engine can start rotating, be quick on the clutch again if you hear the car burst into life so it doesn’t die again.

If the car dies again repeat the process until it is running.

2. Hit the starter with a hammer

This is a controversial method because it is only an old mechanic joke that you can fix almost everything with a hammer.

But in this instance, it can actually work if the plunger (the part of the shaft with the gear mounted on it that pops in and out) is stuck for some or other reason a good tap with a hammer can break it loose.

Another part that is prone to suffer from failure from age is the Solenoid, which serves as a switch that connects the starter to the car’s battery, sometimes these connections can fuse together and result in the power not being delivered to the starter, but a good wack with the hammer.

This will not fix the problem but can at least help you start the vehicle to drive it to a place where you or someone can replace the starter.

If you want to have a visual representation of where to hit it click here to watch ChrisFix do it.

4 Reasons why your car might not start

1. Dead or bad battery

If the battery is bad it usually doesn’t have enough power to turn the starter motor and will result in the instrument cluster dimming and the starter motor just clicking.

You can easily save a dead battery by recharging it but keep an eye on it if it loses voltage again there might be a parasitic drain in the car or the battery has a defect.

If the battery is totally dead the car will not react to any input you give it.

2. Faulty neutral safety switch

This is a switch that is usually mounted on the gearbox for automatics that can pick up if the vehicle is in the natural gear and on manuals it is usually mounted inside the vehicle at the top of the clutch pedal.

This is a modern safety standard to ensure the vehicle can’t be started in gear that can result in a runaway vehicle or unwanted incident.

These switches can fail over time and result in the car not starting at all.

3. Immobilizer system

Immobilizer systems are designed as an anti-theft measure, they can either be factory fitted or installed aftermarket.

Usually, the factory-fitted units have a much lower failure rate than the aftermarket systems but the chances are always there.

The job of the immobilizer system is to cut power to the ignition until the vehicle recognizes you as the owner, this is usually done with a programmable keyfob or remote.

If the transmitter that picks up the keyfob fails or then the keyfob battery dies then the ignition system will be un-powered resulting in the car not being able to start.

Sometimes after an engine replacement, the immobilizer might also need to be reprogrammed

4. Blown relay or fuse

All electronics in a car have a fuse protecting it from too much current draw, usually because of a short circuit to the chassis. 

So before replacing the fuse first control the wire that it is powering to make sure there aren’t any signs of a short that happened.

Electronics with a high amperage draw usually have a relay, the job of the relay is to give these high amperage electronics a direct connection to the battery while being activated by smaller switches that can’t handle the high amperage draws.

Over time with the relay moving from one contact point to the other the little arm inside can break off or the little contact can fuse itself to one of the contact points resulting in always staying on or off.

Final thoughts on how to start a car with a bad starter

It is really not a pleasant experience trying to start a car just to find out the starter is faulty, luckily with this article you have 2 methods on how to start the car with a bad starter and if it isn’t the starter the four main reasons that can cause the vehicle not to start.

Hopefully, you found the article helpful.