Do It Yourself Automotive Repair

Do It Yourself: Engine Starter Repair Instructions


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When you go to start you engine and it won’t even crank, starter repair may be in order. You can simply replace the starter, but that is not the only problem that can cause this symptom. Some of the most common problems that cause this symptom are; a faulty neutral safety switch, a faulty starter or a dead battery. This article will outline these common problems and how to diagnose these problems.

This article will begin with the most common problem that creates this symptom. That problem would be a dead battery. There are several ways to diagnose a battery, but the most accurate way is to have a professional test the battery’s cold cranking amps. To do this, you must remove the battery. The steps to remove the battery are;

  • First, remove positive and negative cables
  • Next, remove the battery hold down
  • Finally, pull the battery off of the battery tray

With the battery removed, you can now take it to a professional to test the cold cranking amps.

The next problem that can cause this symptom is a faulty neutral safety switch. This problem is commonly misdiagnosed as a faulty starter because it gives the exact same symptom. What this part does is senses what gear the vehicle is in and will not allow it to start if it is not in either neutral or park. The best way to diagnose this problem is to have a friend attempt to start the vehicle while you put a volt meter on the starter relay. If there is no current getting to the relay then the neutral safety switch is the part to repair. This part does not always need replaced, sometimes it simply needs cleaned and adjusted. Take a good look at the condition of the switch before buying a new part; you can save a lot of money by cleaning it.

After testing all of these components, you are now able to focus on the starter. A starter can fail in one of two ways. Most commonly, the rotating electronics malfunction, not allowing it to spin with enough torque to turn the engine. The less common way is when the starter drive doesn’t extend out to the flywheel and it just “free spins” inside the starter housing. The way to know that the starter is not working properly is by verifying that there is both voltage going to the starter and a proper ground coming out of the starter. Once those two items are verified, you now know the starter is malfunctioning. Most starters are relatively simple to replace with only two bolts holding them on the engine.

Starter repair can be as simple as you make it. Following these few simple steps in diagnosing the problem can greatly improve your chances of properly fixing the problem the first time. Very often, inexperienced mechanics will start by replacing the starter and working backwards. A proper diagnostic will save you a lot of time and aggravation.  Now it is time to go out there and start diagnosing.

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