Why the Starter Motor Fails to Spin yet the Car Starter Engages – What to Do

It is always frustrating if you can’t use your car when you need to. One cause that happens commonly is when the car is not able to start – often leading to missed appointments, and time troubleshooting that you’ll never get back, especially when you lack guidance on what and where to check!

If this is your situation then read on to find the likely causes and what you can do to fix them in without spending a lot of time and investing in car parts you don’t even need.

Why the Car Starter Motor may not be Spinning

If the car starter engages (you hear the click of the starter solenoid) yet the starter motor fails to spin then it could possibly be one of several reasons:

  • that the battery or starter connections are loose or damaged,
  • the car battery voltage is low or
  • the starter is faulty.

Can this be Fixed?

This depends on what is causing the fault. In the case of a loose or damaged battery or starter wire connection, or if the battery voltage is extremely low, you may be able to get the car starter spinning and turning the car over without investing in replacement car parts such as a car battery or starter.

If it is a faulty starter or battery then it is inevitable that you’ll need to replace the starter or battery.

What to Do (+What Checks to Do)

If the car starter engages (you hear the solenoid click when you turn the key to the START position) then do the following.

Hopefully, these checks will help you identify the cause much faster!

Without further ado let’s review each one.

1. Check if the car headlights dim when you attempt to start the car

If the lights dim when you turn the ignition to the START position then there’s probably a weak or bad car battery, a loose or bad wire connection to the battery or starter.

It could also be that the battery ground or the car starter ground connection is loose or damaged too. Check for corrosion and clean the connections and replace any damaged wires.

Checks and tests you can do to confirm if the battery ground wires are loose or damaged. You may also be interested in this post: 5 Common Signs of a Bad Battery Ground and Tests you Can Do to Confirm.

2. Check if the car battery is sufficiently charged

Is the battery low on charge or showing signs of physical damage? Use a digital voltmeter to measure the voltage of the battery.

An extremely low car battery voltage will not supply the power required to rotate the starter motor.

If the car battery voltage is low, use a car battery charger to charge the battery.

If you suspect that the car battery is damaged, you can use a car battery tester or have the battery tested at a reputable auto repair shop to determine if it is still in good condition or needs to be replaced.

3. Test the starter

If the wire connections are in good condition and the battery is sufficiently charged and in good condition yet the car starter motor does not rotate then:

  • the car starter may be stuck (read on to find out how you may get it working again) or
  • faulty and needs to be replaced. Test it at a reputable auto repair shop to confirm whether it is in good condition or not.

Related Questions

What are the Signs the Car Starter is Engaging?

If the car starter is engaging, there’ll be a solid click from the car starter (as the solenoid moves the pinion gear to engage with the flywheel) when you turn the car ignition to the Start position.

Closing Thoughts

If the car starter engages (there’s a solid click) but the motor does not spin then check the battery or starter connections. They might be loose or damaged.

A weak or faulty battery can cause the starter to fail to turn. Test the starter too as it can fail too.

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