What Happens When the Starter Solenoid Goes Bad?

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Is your engine slow to crank or, worse, not cranking at all? If your battery is fully charged and is in tip-top shape yet the problem persists, then you might want to take a look at your starter solenoid.

What is a solenoid? Also known as a starter relay, the starter solenoid, is part of the automotive starter system. The starter solenoid has two functions: it delivers current from the battery to the starter motor and produces mechanical movement so the pinion gear can engage and drive the engine flywheel.

So what happens when the starter solenoid goes bad? With a dead starter relay, your vehicle will likely be stuck. Unfortunately, cranking up the engine would be impossible in this situation.

Take note of these three common symptoms of a bad solenoid:

Probable causes:

Check if you really need a new starter solenoid by testing with a multimeter. Watch for the resistance of the holding coil. There should be resistance to confirm the starter solenoid is still good; however, if the resistance is zero or infinite, then this could mean the circuit has already shorted or is broken.

On the other hand, if you need a simple trick to get your vehicle started (disclaimer: this is just a temporary solution), you can use a screwdriver. Follow these steps on how to jump a starter solenoid with a screwdriver:

  1. Have a friend help you turn on the car key. Make sure your transmission is in park.
  2. Position yourself where you can access your starter and starter relay.
  3. Using a screwdriver, short the starter solenoid by connecting the two thick terminal studs. Repeat until you hear the starter kick in.
  4. Once you confirm the starter is running, start your vehicle.

Remember: if you have a bad solenoid, hacks are probably the last thing you should do. Your best option is still to change your starter solenoid.

For top-quality starter solenoid replacements sold at the most affordable prices, shop at CarParts.com. Check our selection of high-quality solenoids here.

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In the Garage with CarParts.com is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.

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