The starter motor may be the component that is most taken for granted under the bonnet of a car – when you turn the key you just expect the car to get started and roar into life. But what happens when it doesn’t? How do you fix it? Is there anything you can do to avoid it? Read on as Scrap Car Comparison answers the questions you have about your starter motor.
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What is a starter motor and what does it do?
Without sounding too patronising, the starter motor is a motor within your car that, simply put, starts the engine. You might think that what starts the engine is turning the key, but turning the key simply kicks the starter motor into gear, which then in turns gets your engine up and running as a result.
If you go back to the early motor cars, you’ll notice that there’s a handle at the very front of the car (or at least a slot for the handle to settle into). Back then, once the ignition was switched on, you had to physically start the car with a hand crank connected directly to the crankshaft – this is that little slot we just mentioned. However, this method wasn’t particularly easy, nor was it convenient, but more importantly it was quite dangerous. Broken wrists from the engine kicking back were a regular hazard in the earliest days of motoring.
The earliest starter motors can be traced back to 1896, with various patents appearing over the next decade for electric motors. The discovery was that, because it would only need to be active for a couple of seconds, a small motor with high voltage would be able to provide adequate power to crank the engine. The hand crank began to be phased out of most available cars, with the electric starter motor becoming standard throughout the 1920s. Some cars, particularly those from the Communist bloc, such as Ladas, continued to have hand crank systems up until the 1980s.
What causes a starter motor to break?
Starter motor failures are electrical faults, so if you’re noticing an issue when trying to get going, chances are there’s an electrical gremlin somewhere under the bonnet. Switches, relays and connections could all be the reason behind the fault, as well as the motor itself. Any minute problem in the electrical power supply will cause the starter motor not to work correctly, so it’s imperative that you keep on top of your electrical system.
Can you start a car without a starter motor
If your starter motor isn’t working because of an electrical fault or the battery isn’t providing enough power, then a simple fix should get you going again. However, if the fault lies with the starter motor, then there’s not a lot you can do. If the starter motor isn’t working, then your car won’t start at all, and it will need to be fixed, or replaced, before you’re able to drive again.
How long does a starter motor last?
As with all types of automotive parts, there is no hard and fast rule as to how long a starter motor will last as it can vary from make to make and model to model. However, it would be a fair estimate to expect that the car’s original motor will last around 100,000 miles.
How to fix a broken starter motor
Your first port of call when trying to fix a broken starter motor is to ensure that all your electrical connections are secure, as something as simple as a loose connection can wreak havoc with your starter. If they’re all fine, then replacing the solenoid relay should be quite a simple task – check your specific car’s owner’s manual to see how to go about this as they can range from being as easy as changing a fuse to being a little more complex and requiring specific tools. If this doesn’t work, then it’s time for an entirely new motor.
How much does it cost to replace a starter motor
The cost of a starter motor will depend on the model in which you’re trying to fix, with some of the more premium brands fetching higher prices than those more common brands. As a general rule of thumb, it’s worth budgeting between £250-£500 to replace a starter motor.
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