A Guide to Testing Starter Motors and Solenoid Troubleshooting

20 Jun 2024
A Guide to Testing Starter Motors and Solenoid Troubleshooting
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A Guide to Testing Starter Motors and Solenoid Troubleshooting

Testing the starter motor and solenoid involves a few simple steps. Before you begin, ensure that the vehicle is in ''Park'' or ''Neutral'' and the parking brake is engaged for safety. Here's how you can perform the tests:

Tools Needed

✅   Multimeter (to measure voltage and resistance)

✅   Jumper cables or a remote starter switch (optional)

Testing the Starter Motor

1️⃣  Check Battery Voltage

Before testing the starter, ensure that the battery has enough charge. A weak battery can cause starter issues. Measure the battery voltage with a multimeter; it should be around 12.6 volts for a fully charged battery.

2️⃣  Check Battery Terminals

Ensure that the battery terminals are clean and securely connected. Corroded or loose terminals can result in poor starter performance.

3️⃣  Listen for Clicking Sounds

When you turn the ignition key to the ''Start'' position, if you hear a clicking sound but the engine doesn't crank, it often indicates a faulty solenoid, a weak connection, or a bad starter motor.

4️⃣  Perform a Voltage Test

If there's no clicking sound, or if you suspect the starter motor is at fault, you can perform a voltage test. Connect the multimeter to the positive and negative terminals of the starter motor (or the main terminals of the solenoid). Have someone turn the ignition key to the ''Start'' position while you measure the voltage. If you get a reading close to battery voltage (around 12 volts), it means the starter is receiving power, and the problem might lie with the starter motor itself.

5️⃣  Perform a Current Draw Test

If the voltage is correct, you can also perform a current draw test. Connect the multimeter in series with the positive battery terminal and the positive cable going to the starter. When you attempt to start the engine, observe the current reading on the multimeter. Excessive current draw indicates a problem with the starter motor, such as worn-out brushes or internal issues.

Testing the Starter Solenoid

1️⃣  Locate the Starter Solenoid

The solenoid is often mounted on or near the starter motor. It has two main terminals: one for the battery cable and the other for the starter motor.

2️⃣  Perform a Continuity Test

With the ignition key in the ''Off'' position and the battery disconnected, use a multimeter to check for continuity between the battery terminal and the starter terminal of the solenoid. There should be no continuity (infinite resistance) when the solenoid is at rest.

3️⃣  Apply Voltage to the Solenoid

Use jumper cables or a remote starter switch to apply 12 volts directly to the small terminal (solenoid control terminal) on the solenoid. Make sure the vehicle is in ''Park'' or ''Neutral'' and the ignition is off. The solenoid should produce an audible click, and the starter motor should engage and crank the engine. If the solenoid clicks but the starter doesn't engage, the problem might be with the starter motor itself.

Remember that working on the starter motor and solenoid can be dangerous due to the high current involved. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with these tests, it's best to seek assistance from a qualified mechanic.


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