The starter on my engine works but makes grinding sounds

Written by david mcguffin
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The starter on my engine works but makes grinding sounds
Replace the starter as soon as it shows signs of wearing out. (Vintage Car Engine image by itsallgood from

If the starter on your vehicle is making grinding or grating noises when it starts up, then you will need to replace it as soon as possible. You may experience the grinding noise on occasion or every time you start the vehicle; regardless, it will continue to become worse, possibly leading to expensive repairs for one or more components.

Signs of Starter Failure

Sometimes you may experience a normal start, while at other times you may have a prolonged, strained effort by the starter to engage with the flywheel. Assuredly, the problem will continue to become worse until you cannot start your vehicle at all and the starter is failing to engage with the flywheel at all. If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere, try hitting your starter lightly with a hammer or a blunt object in order to coax it into re-engaging with the flywheel.

Grinding Noises

Grinding noises coming from the starter whenever you crank the engine indicates that it is not fully engaged with the flywheel. If the starter motor's ring or pinion gear continues to attempt turning the flywheel, even though it is not fully aligned with the gear teeth of the flywheel, it can cause damage to the flywheel. If the grinding continues for long enough, it can damage the teeth of the flywheel permanently, causing the flywheel to need replacement in addition to the starter.

Removing the Starter

From your vehicle's battery, trace the positive battery cable, which will split, travelling to the starter and the alternator. The starter is a component that looks like two small cylindrical pieces joined together and is about the size of a small football. The starter is usually in one of three places: on top of the engine, beneath the engine or underneath the air intake assembly. Once you are able to access the starter, disconnect the electrical connection tab leading up to it, unscrew the copper bolt connecting the positive battery cable and use a socket wrench to unscrew the two or three mounting bolts holding the starter in place.

Options for Replacement

New starters that you purchase from an auto-parts store usually come with lifetime warranties. An auto parts store can also provide a bench test for your starter motor in order to make sure that it is broken and needs replacement. Alternatively, you can also take your starter to a starter-alternator specialist and have it rebuilt, which will be cheaper than a new one from a parts store. You can also attempt to rebuild the starter motor yourself with a rebuild kit.

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