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2003 Mitsubishi Lancer - Not starting

So my car died while driving and after attempting to start it, it makes a weird noise as if the starter spins, but does not engage the flywheel. I originally had someone try to jump it thinking the battery might possibly be dead. No luck with that. The tow truck driver stated it sounded like the timing belt might be gone. When I got home, I checked the timing belt and it was still intact. I checked the battery and got 12.36v. After researching it, I found other people who had the same issue and they replaced the starter which fixed it, so that’s what I did. Well, that didn’t work either so now I need some recommendations on what else to check!

In the video, you will hear me try to start it three times. The background noise is the fan, so hopefully that doesn’t muffle the starting sound too much.

Sounds like your flywheel is missing teeth, pull your starter back out and check the teeth on it.

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I pulled it back and tried to feel inside. It felt like the teeth were still there. Because of its location, I can’t physically see it though.

How did you determine the timing belt is intact? You can’t see it without a bit of disassembly.

I took the cover off and pressed on it to see that it has tension and was not broken or cracked.

The starter is not engaging with the fly wheel. The engine is not turning over at all, so it’s not the timing belt.

You may have gotten a bad starter off the shelf. It will not be the first time a new part did not work as it was supposed to.
I don’t think the bendix is kicking the gear out on the starter.

Take it back and have them bench test it.


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+1 to Yosemite, above.

Keep in mind the car quit on you while driving it. That is not something a bad starter motor or missing teeth would cause. Good luck and please keep us informed.

I guess I missed that part.

Maybe the belt lost some teeth and your engine is seized.
Then when you tried to start it…the starter tore the teeth off the flywheel.


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Given that the engine stalled out before all this happened, OP may be misinterpreting their timing belt test. Could try removing the spark plugs & turning the crankshaft using a socket on the crank bolt and verify the camshaft is also turning. Note that w/this test there is possibility of damaging the valves if the timing belt actually is broken, so if you feel unusual resistance to the crankshaft turning, stop. Another technique that’s easier to do might might cause more damage if the belt is broken is just crank the engine, ask a helper to look if the cranks pulley turns.

Last summer I replaced the starter on my corolla and the aftermarket replacement starter had this symptom, so that’s another possibility. Another starter, and it has worked fine since.

You can hear in the video that the engine is not turning over with the starter, and that the starter is not engaging.

I would do @George_San_Jose1 's first test and turn it over with a wrench on the crankshaft bolt to see if it is seized.


Thanks all. I will try everything that was suggested and get back with you guys.

I’ll try to see if I can get full access to the timing belt to see the whole thing. It had a top cover which I took off, so hopefully there is a bottom cover.

Well, got some bad news. Before taking it out, I performed a volt test according to the pamphlet which came with the new one. I checked voltage to the B+ terminal and S terminal to find that my readings were fine (B+ reading = battery reading. S reading = ~12.2v). I took the starter out and checked the teeth on the flywheel. Found that all the teeth, which were visible, were there and didn’t seem damaged.

I couldn’t get full access to the timing belt, but I went ahead and manually turned the crankshaft anyways which was not seized. I can’t have someone crank the engine since the starter won’t engage.

Since I had the starter out, I took it back to autozone for a bench test and they stated that it failed the test. I got another one and had them bench test it before leaving and they stated it was fine. I installed it in my car and it’s doing the same exact thing… I hooked a portable jump starter just in case to see if what I had wasn’t enough since it seemed to pass the bench test with no luck. I decided to check the two positive wires going to the starter to see if there was a short or something. I checked them to ground and to themselves with no continuity.

Not sure what else to check at this point.