Car Starter Stays Engaged | 6 Answers you Should Know

Car starting problems can be worrisome and an inconvenience especially if you’ve already made travel plans.

One possible problem that you can encounter is when the starter motor remains engaged with the engine after the key is released from the start position. You’ll likely hear an abnormal noise as the starter motor continues to run at high speeds!

Not sure what to do when this happens and what you can do to get the starter motor to disengage?

Then read on. This post explains the common causes of the car starter motor failing to disengage, the dangers posed if this is not fixed, and also suggests possible fixes to get the car starter working properly.

What Causes a Car Starter Motor to Stay Engaged | 7 Reasons

Some of the common reasons why a car starter can stay engaged with the engine are:

#1. Stuck Solenoid. The solenoid may be jammed and therefore continues to maintain the hold of the pinion gear of the starter motor with the ring gear hence the continued engagement.

The solenoid is responsible for engaging the starter motor’s pinion gear with the ring gear and disengaging it once the key is released to the Run position.

The solenoid may be stuck from wear and tear over the years of usage of the car taking its toll on the starter.

#2. The car’s ignition cylinder may be stuck in the start position forcing the starter motor to continue engaging the ring gear.

If your car’s ignition switch contacts are bad or damaged, for example when they are stuck in the closed position, the starter can fail to disengage.

#3. Fault such as a short in the starter relay. A short in the starter motor’s relay circuit can also be the cause. Get a qualified mechanic to inspect the relay circuit for any short circuit.

#4. Stuck Starter relay contacts

You can also have a case of damaged magnetic switch contacts on the car starter that are stuck in the closed position that keeps the starter engaged with the car engine.

#5. Faulty brand-new starter

It can also be a case of a faulty yet brand-new starter with a malfunctioning solenoid.

#6. Bad wiring connections

If you have just installed a new replacement starter, check that you have made the correct wire connections to the starter.

Interchanged wire connections can also cause the problem of the starter motor failing to disengage.

#7. Keeping the car ignition in the START position

Avoid keeping the car’s ignition key in the START position. As soon as the car engine turns over, release the key.

You may also be interested in why a car starter motor spins, fails to engage and turn the car engine over and what to do

The Dangers of Car Starter Staying Engaged

Failure of the car starter motor to disengage from the car engine when the key is released risks damage to the starter motor especially if this problem is not addressed in time.

The starter motor pinion gear can be damaged when they remain locked with the ring gear and rotate at high speeds.

To be safe, inspect the starter motor pinion gear and the ring gear for any signs of damage. Contact a qualified mechanic for assistance. You may have to replace the solenoid, starter motor, or even the ring gear if they are damaged.

What Happens When a Car Starter Stays Engaged?

This happens when the ignition key has been turned to the START position and the car starter has successfully started the car engine.

The starter then continues to mesh and rotate with the car engine instead of immediately disengaging with it.

The disengagement is necessary to avoid the engine turning the starter at high speeds that damage and shorten its service life. In addition to continuing to rotate at high speeds, the starter makes an unusual sound.

You may also want to read: Can a car starter drain the battery?

Symptoms a Car Starter is Still Engaged

Car Starter Engaged Sound

You can tell that the car starter has failed to disengage with the car engine when there is an abnormal noise from under the car hood after the car engine has started likely caused when the starter motor remains engaged with the running engine.

Tips to Prevent a Car Starter from Staying Engaged

The tips below can help minimize the chances of a stuck car starter:

#1. Should there be any signs of a stuck starter, arrange to have the solenoid or starter motor checked by a qualified mechanic. Delays in fixing this will likely cost you more – a faulty starter motor and ring gear too.

#2. Inspect the starter relay circuit or ignition switch too when replacing the starter or solenoid. If the underlying problem is not addressed and you’re quick to replace the starter then there’s likely to be a repeat of the starter staying engaged.

You may also be interested in why a car starter motor disengages even before the car engine starts

How you Can Fix a Car Starter that Stays Engaged?

If the car starter motor stays engaged, try the following: inspect the starter motor solenoid switch, starter motor relay circuit even the ignition switch in addition to the starter motor as they too can lead to the starter motor staying engaged.

Check the ignition switch contacts and connections. Confirm that they are firm and make solid connections and that the contacts make and break the starting circuit properly when you switch the ignition to START and release it.

If there are any bad – shorting or stuck contacts with the ignition switch, magnetic switch, or starter relay, replace the respective faulty component.

Related Questions

How to Fix a Stuck Car Starter?

If your car starter appears stuck with the starter motor continuously running even after the ignition key has been removed, then it is likely a case of a damaged solenoid. The solenoid contacts may be welded together.

Some users have managed to loosen the stuck car starter solenoid by tapping the housing with a rubber hammer.

This can fix the stuck solenoid in the short term but replacing the solenoid is probably a more reliable and long-lasting solution.

Final Thoughts

The car starter motor should immediately disengage as soon as the car engine has started. Failure to disengage can shorten the service life of the car starter.

Delayed or failed disengagement of the starter may be a result of voltage drops in the starter circuit, a faulty starter, or an ignition switch.

Even keeping the starter in the START position for a long time can keep the starter engaged.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment