98 Subaru Legacy GT Starter Issue

Last year my starter was giving me issues to the point where I needed to tap on it to start the car. I replaced the starter with a brand new one and it has recently begun having the same issues. What would cause a brand new starter to have these issues less than a year later? What can I do other than keep replacing the starter? Cost is a factor so any recommendations for home repair, etc. would be appreciated.

Is your battery in good shape?
How old?
Battery and starter connections clean and tight?
Does that replacement starter have warranty?
Have you verified with a multimeter exactly how much voltage is available at the starter?

The batter and starter both test “good” and are both under a year old and cable/posts are nice and clean. Replacement has lifetime warranty.


Thanks for the information

I’m kind of confused by something . . . the starter tests good, yet you have to tap on it in order to get it do its job, which would imply a bad starter

I hope it’s easy to replace, because it looks like you’re going under the car again

If you don’t mind my asking, what brand starter is it? Do you remember what name is on the box?


We do sometimes hear of rebuilt starters not working well. Brand new, less so.

It was new from AutoZone… I do not recall the name brand.

If it’s from autozone, it’s probably a duralast starter

Unfortunately, that may be the problem

With all due respect, I would rather install a decent remanned starter, versus a new chinese starter sold at autozone. But that same new chinese starter is probably sold at o’reilly, for example, under their house brand name

Unfortunately, those are the only parts stores in our area. Is there an online vendor you would recommend that has reputable parts?

Rock Auto has quite a range of parts, but it’s not so clear at helping determine quality or even country of origin.

Another option is to bring your problem to a local auto electric shop. People there will know better than anyone what to look for and what to do. If you end up needing a repair, they can do it, and if you need another new or rebuilt starter, they will know reliable brands, and buying from them may not cost you any more than mail order prices plus shipping.

As to the country of origin, I’ve found that it’s always marked, on the box. And in the case of those store brand parts, it’s usually not USA

I don’t see any reason to involve an auto electric shop

If OP needs to whack the starter in order for the engine to start, then the starter itself is almost certainly the problem

The replacement starter has lifetime warranty. That means OP crawls under the car, removes it, goes to autozone, where they give him another one. Then he installs it, and the car will start again

Getting parts warrantied at autozone isn’t a problem. But the mere fact that it needs to be done so soon does not speak well for the quality of the parts

OP has already paid for the starter, less than a year ago. I see no reason to spend additional money elsewhere

I hear plenty of stores of storebrand new parts not working well. I know plenty of guys that only get parts from the dealer, because they’ve gotten burnt with storebrand and/or aftermarket too many times. I can’t blame them.

If AZ or a Subie dealership are your only local sources, given the situation, I’d probably just buy another starter motor from the dealership. Ask for an OEM starter. It will be quite a bit more $$$ probably, but you need a reliable start. Otherwise driving the car is unsafe. You can save money on the labor if you have the skills and experience to install it. If you are unsure, at the very minimum ask someone who has done tis before to show you how the first time. Replacing a starter puts the driveway installer into a potentially dangerous position directly under the car, due to where the starter is located.

There’s some possibility – remote, but possible – of an electrical problem that is preventing adequate voltage to the starter motor, or a grounding problem. Unless you know how to test for that, probably the best bet is to discount this possibility. It usually wouldn’t be that if you can tap the starter and then it works. The way a mechanic would test for this possibility, they’d do a “voltage drop” test.

Maybe the problem is not the starter motor. Starter motor problems on Subarus are extremely rare.

Maybe the problem is the neutral safety switch. The tapping on the starter may be affecting the switch rather than the starter motor but since tapping the starter motor causes it to start the assumption is made that the starter is the culprit.
The switch is located on the trans close to the starter motor so it’s something for consideration.

“Starter problems on Subarus are extremely rare.”

With all due respect, I see 2 problems with that

  1. We’re not talking a Subaru starter. It’s a chinese autozone starter

  2. If whacking the starter motor causes it to work, how could it be the neutral safety switch?

I suppose you think the switch may be bad, and the fact that they’re close to each other means that tapping on the starter temporarily “fixes” the bad switch . . . ?

Seems a little far-fetched to me

In my opinion, that chinese autozone starter is the only problem

that’s based solely on what OP has reported to us

The original failed starter was the Subaru OEM starter motor. I’m not saying that the starter is not the problem; just that starter problems are very, very rare on Subarus. While working for 3 Subaru dealers over the years I remember replacing one starter motor and it worked fine most of the time. Just now and then it would balk a little. The owner of the car used it as a delivery vehicle so the starter went through a lot of key cycles every day.
The guys I worked with never had to replace starters either unless someone burnt one up trying to start a seized engine.

The point about it being the switch and affected by tapping on the starter is nothing more than the fact that both parts are located near each other and vibrations can carry through to the neutral switch. A knock sensor (a.k.a. Piezo microphone…) works the same way; tapping on the head sends vibrations through the Piezo which then sends a signal to the PCM which then pulls the timing back…

With a no-start condition it’s grade school easy to test and determine the real cause.


I still think it’s the starter, based on what we’ve been told

After all this is a 1998 vehicle, and the original starter failed 1 year ago.

Which would mean it failed after 16 years. That would probably be a lot of key cycles, if the car saw average use. Not bad

And now we’re dealing with a chinese new starter, which in my opinion is worse than a high quality remanned starter sold under the Denso name, for example

My first choice would have been to take the original starter out and fixed it myself or have a local auto electric shop do the work. I feel more confident in going that route than in buying a rebuilt or new non-OEM starter.

If the starter now in the car can be exchanged for another of the same brand, that is likely the cheapest way to go. And hope for better luck.

Of course it would be best to diagnose with certainty that the starter, not something else, is bad.

After about ten years it is fairly common for the Subaru starters to have a problem with the solenoid contacts wearing out. When that happens you just hear a load click when trying to start the engine. The worn contacts won’t allow the starter motor to run due to the high resistance of the worn contacts. You can replace the contacts for a low cost.

To see if there is trouble with the new starter check the voltage at the solenoid while trying to start the engine. If you have over 11 volts at that point then the starter is faulty. If you have less than that then the battery cable or battery is bad. Check the main ground cable also for a bad connection.

I have never had luck with Autozone starters. I replaced 2 that kept failing. I then got a NAPA and have had no problems since.

I’m not 100% satisfied with NAPA parts, but I have more confidence in them, versus Autozone parts

I don’t understand comments about Subarus being prone to starter issues. I worked many years for 3 different Subaru dealers and replaced one starter motor that entire time. During the course of the day mechanics swap tales about current and past goings-on and none of them have ever said anything about a failed starter on a Subaru.

In this particular case I’m not saying that the starter isn’t the problem; only that it would be very, very rare for the OEM to fail anyway and to have that followed up by an early failure of the aftermarket with the same symptom.

Just a short tale. Many years ago an uncle of mine had a bad starter on his Chevy. He replaced it and soon suffered the same problem. Replaced it again and repeat the wash, rinse, dry cycle yet again.

The problem? The neutral switch. Why did the starter work after tapping (beating in his case)?
When the starter messed up it would pxxx him off. He would get out of the car, slam the door, and whack the starter with a hammer which he kept in the back floorboard.
The engine would start not because of whacking the starter; it was because of the door slamming hard which then affected the neutral switch. I advised him to replace the switch and that solved the “bad” starter problems.

As to AutoZone and O’Reilly parts I’ve had very, very few failures of anything. The failure percentage would be in the tiniest fraction of a percent.