How to test your starter to see if it's functioning correctly.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1989 Toyota Celica Sport Coupe. Two months ago, after driving about ten miles to a shopping mall, I returned to my car and it wouldn't start. The ignition was completely dead. I got a jump and whipped over to Goodyear, who promptly stated that it was the battery (only one year old), and put in a new one. I still have the problem, but only when the engine is hot. Nothing happens, no click, no nothing. But all the accessories work. What does it sound like to you?

TOM: Sounds like the Goodyear folks were having a special on batteries that week, Ginny.

RAY: I think it's your starter. It's not unusual for starters to fail intermittently, and be affected by extreme heat. That would also explain why all the accessories continue to function even though the car won't start. My guess is it's an open circuit in the starter solenoid.

TOM: If you want to test it, here's what you do. Ask someone to show you where the starter is located (it looks like a can of stewed tomatoes with the label peeled off). Then, the next time it won't start, have an assistant turn the key to the "crank" position while you give the starter a soft whack with a broom handle or a baseball bat. That's often enough to get the open circuit to close and get the car started.

RAY: Or, if you don't want to play games and whack car parts with baseball bats (although I should add that many of our customers find this extremely cathartic), I'd just replace the starter. Given the information you've laid out, I think that's got an excellent chance of fixing it, Ginny.

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