How To Start A Car With A Bad Starter: Simple Walkthrough

You’re already running late for work or a special appointment when your car starts acting up. It’s frustrating. You call somebody to help you, but they only say you have a bad starter.

You know that jump-starting can help get your car started. That’s what most drivers do. But you wonder, can you jump-start a car with a bad starter? Let’s find out.

Knowing how to start a car with a bad starter is essential for every driver. This article will tell you five ways to get your vehicle running even with a bad starter.

5 Ways How to Start A Car With A Bad Starter

Before anything else, make sure you have the following tools before trying these five ways to start your car with a bad starter. If you do not have these, better call a mechanic for help.

  • A hammer
  • Gloves
  • A screwdriver

Provided you have all these helpful instruments, try these five methods to crank up your engine.

1.     Push-start Your Car

The immediate response for any driver who experiences a faulty starter is to call someone to push his car. It is the old-school method. But it only works with manual transmission vehicles.

To push-start your car, do the following steps:

A woman helping the driver and pushing the car.
  • Keeping the ignition on, place the car’s transmission in first or second gear.
  • Get some strong people to push the vehicle from the back to gain a speed of 5 to 10 miles per hour.
  • Once you get this speed, release the clutch to try and start the car.
  • Repeat the steps when your first attempt fails.

Expert Tip: If the vehicle still doesn’t start after several tries, have a go at jump-starting your car.

2.     Jump-start Your Car

The main reason your car fails to start is due to a weak battery. You will have to give enough amps to the starter motor to power up the engine. You do this when you jump-start your car.

You will need another car’s battery or a portable jump starter to do this method. Make sure you wear protective gloves and do the following steps:

  • Open the hood of the vehicle to locate its battery. You may need to refer to the car’s manual to find it. Check for leaks on the battery. Ensure the battery isn’t bloated.
  • Connect one end of the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the weak battery and the other to the positive terminal of the spare battery.
  • Connect one end of the black jumper cable to the charged battery and the other end to any bare metal on the car.
  • Turn on the ignition and wait for a few minutes to charge the battery.
  • Disconnect the jumper cables once the car gets started. Remove the negative clamps first before the positive.

Dead batteries can take about 5 to 20 minutes to boost up depending on the car’s engine type. If the vehicle still fails to start, the starter may be defective.

Expert Tip: Don’t jump-start your car if the battery is bloated or has leaks. Call the mechanic instead. You may need to replace that battery.

3.     Bypass the Starter Relay

You could also get your McGyver instincts running and tinker with your car’s electric motor. All you need is a screwdriver and an extra hand on the wheel. Make sure to check the battery’s voltage before doing this step.

A defective starter relay may also cause your car to act up. You can bypass the starter relay and see if the vehicle would budge. Follow these steps to dodge a faulty starter relay:

  • Get someone to stay behind the wheel or have your ignition switch turned on while you work on the car’s starter relay.
  • With the screwdriver’s metal shaft, connect the “start” terminal to the “battery” terminal.
  • Turn the ignition switch on and see if it starts the car. It should work if the batteries have enough voltage.
  • Remove the screwdriver once the engine gets cranked up to avoid damaging the pinion gear.

Starter motors tend to develop dead spots over time. A gentle tap with a hammer may remove these dead spots. Sometimes, you have to tap the starter to get the motor running.

4.     Check the Engine Grounds

Damaged engine ground wires can also keep your car from getting started. Rusted ground wires create an open circuit that may prevent the starter from running.

If faulty transmission ground is the reason for your starter issue, you can solve the problem with a jumper cable. Use the jumper cable to provide a direct ground transmission from the battery’s negative terminal to the starter frame.

5.     Disconnect the Solenoid Cable

Broken wires can cause a defective starter solenoid. In this case, you can get rid of the faulty wire. Use a good 12V wire to connect the solenoid and the starter. You will hear a clicking sound when it is successfully connected.

Turn on the ignition and see if the engine starts. Don’t forget to remove the 12V wire immediately once the car gets powered up. If not, it could damage the starter’s pinion gear. The pinion gear connects to the flywheel.

What Should I Check If My Car Still Won’t Start?

Several reasons may cause a starter motor to malfunction. Getting a professional mechanic is always the best way to solve a starter problem. But you can begin the basic troubleshooting to figure out what’s causing the trouble.

After doing all the tricks on your sleeve to try and get your engine running and your car still won’t budge, you may have to inspect the other parts of the vehicle. Here’s a checklist of items that you need to check.

Battery Voltage

You will need to know if the starter motor is getting enough power from the battery to determine the real cause of your car’s engine trouble. You may have a dead battery causing the vehicle not to start.

It’s no use doing all these steps to get your car started if you have a dead battery. You can only try tapping it with a hammer and see if it wakes up. But you can recharge a weak battery.

A multimeter to measure the voltage and temperature of the car’s battery.

To check the car’s battery voltage, you need a voltmeter or multimeter. Here are the steps:

  1. Set the meter’s scale to 20V. It must be higher than your battery’s voltage.
  2. Turn the meter on and connect the leads to the respective terminals on the battery.
  3. Turn on your car’s headlights and note the reading on the scale.

The battery voltage reading must be between 12.7 to 13.2 volts for a well-charged battery. If it goes below 12.4 volts, you will have trouble starting your engine. You have to charge the battery.


Check for loose connections from the starter to the battery. Make sure that the car starter properly connects to the battery. A ground cable connects to the battery’s negative terminal.

Another wire connects to the positive terminal. The other end of this positive wire connects the alternator and starter. Ensure that these connections are in good condition.

Ground Wire

The transmission circuit must be well grounded to ensure a smooth flow. Check engine ground wires for defects and damage. Faulty transmission grounds may also affect your car’s starter motor.

Damage to the ground wires creates an open circuit in the car’s transmission system. It can prevent the car starter from running. It’s good to check these ground wires regularly.

Solenoid Cable

A starter solenoid is an electromagnetic valve that relays electrical current from the battery to the car’s ignition system. A faulty starter solenoid causes transmission problems.

Solenoid cables and terminals collect grime and rust. It causes the starter solenoid to malfunction. You may need to replace the defective solenoid. Keep the solenoid cables clean and tarnish-free to keep the starter running smoothly.

Engine Flywheel

The flywheel works with the starter motor to ignite your car. Problems with the flywheel may also be the reason for start-up issues.

Flywheel for a car’s automatic gearbox.

If you suspect that the flywheel is the reason for your car trouble, here’s how you can check it out yourself:

  • Remove the electric motor and set the car’s transmission at neutral.
  • Using a ratchet or breaker bar, rotate the center bolt of the crankshaft pulley.
  • Check for any damage or missing teeth on the flywheel. It prevents the flywheel from engaging with the starter gear, causing the start-up issue.

You will need help working on the engine flywheel. Things can get complicated and messy. It is best to have a qualified technician look into it.

Acid deposits

Corrosion is a common cause of a defective starter motor. It is due to acid deposits on the battery cable and terminals. Keep your car free from corrosion.

How do you check acid deposits on your car’s battery cable? You will notice some white, green, or blue stains covering the wires, terminals, and posts.

To clean the corrosion, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Make a cleaning solution with one part sodium bicarbonate and one part water.
  2. Pour the solution over the affected battery terminal and soak for some time.
  3. Rinse the connectors with hot water.

Keeping your engine clean is another great way to prevent your car from breaking down. It is also wise to have it checked by a professional mechanic regularly. Vehicles also need a little love and care.

Alternator Problems

It isn’t always the car starter that causes your engine trouble. Sometimes, it’s the alternator. It’s good to know the difference.

The alternator is part of your car’s charging system. It is the one that gives power to the battery. You’ll know you have a defective alternator if you can’t start the vehicle after several attempts of jump-starting.

You can still drive your car with a bad alternator, but the best advice is to take it to the repair shop. You will likely have more engine trouble with a faulty alternator.

Car alternator inside the engine.

Here are the tell-tale signs that you have a defective alternator:

  • Electrical failures – Flickering headlights, radio not turning on, and dashboard lights not working are not just special effects of a horror movie. These electrical problems indicate a failing alternator.
  • Strange Noise – This is not another horror movie. When your car makes weird noises, it’s a clear sign of a crucial problem, like a bad alternator. You will typically hear a growling or whining noise when the alternator has issues.
  • Unpleasant Smell – The smell of burning rubber in a car could mean the alternator has overheated. It’s dangerous, and your alternator could fail pretty soon.
  • Broken Belt – Loose or missing belts is a common cause of a defective alternative. It’s not an obvious sign. You will have to look into the hood to notice it.
  • Frequent Stalling – Difficulty in starting your car may not always be due to an alternator problem. But when your car often breaks down or stalls, that’s a tell-tale sign that your car’s alternator is failing.

A faulty alternator and defective starter are both electrical problems with your car. They can have similar signs. It’s good to know how they work.

The starter is the one that ignites the engine. The alternator recycles the electric energy to recharge the battery. The two can’t function on a dead battery.


It’s easy to blame a defective starter motor when you can’t get your car started. After all, car starters are supposed to get your vehicle started. That is their function, but engine trouble is not always due to a faulty starter motor. You also need to check the battery and other parts of your car’s engine.

Jump-starting your car is not just a solution to your starter issue. It also helps determine the real cause of the problem. You can jump-start a car with a bad starter if you have a good battery and working alternator. The alternator ensures that the car’s battery remains charged.

Write your comments below if you have questions about how to jump-start a car with a bad starter.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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