Ignition switch failure?

1998 VW beetle, TDI, manual, 230k miles.

Turned the key the other day, and the starter just whined without actually turning the engine over. I turned the key back to off and pulled it out of the ignition, but the starter continued to whine for about a minute before stopping. I’m guessing some circuit got shorted to make the starter keep running without the key in ignition?

Push-started it down the hill, drove 2 hours then sat for 2 hours…and it started up just fine as if nothing had happened!

Since that day, I’ve tried to start it 10+ times…no noise, nothing, not even the little click of trying to start with a dead battery. When I push-start it, it drives without issue.

So my starter got stuck permanently on for 1 minute or more, stopped itself, and refused to work at all. One more time, 4 hours later, started up without a problem…and ever since then, total silence when I turn the key.

Thoughts? Some wires get jostled out of place on my ignition switch? Starter solenoid messing with me?

As a non-mechanic, I’ve never had an ignition switch failure in over 50 years of driving new or old cars. Check your wires and connections but starters do go out. Solenoids can stick or become bad without warning. You can try banging the starter with a hammer to unstick it. It worked with our 61 Mercury 1000 miles from home. Maybe a mechanic with chime in but I don’t think you can even get just the solenoid anymore.

Replace the starter.

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The starter drive is worn out,


Replace the starter



Or, if you are a DIYer, take the starter to an auto electric shop. They can fix and bench test it. I tend to trust them more than I do a “rebuilt” from a parts place. “New” is a crap shoot, unless OEM, which may be very expensive.

And you are helping skilled people in your community.

My vote is for replacing the starter. The car is 23 years old, has going on a quarter million miles, and a diesel can be a bit tougher on starter motors.

Everybody who commented was right, it was the starter solenoid.

The part of this that hurts is, I actually replaced the starter a year ago while throwing parts at a no-start issue which turned out to just be the clutch switch. So this thing was only 1 year old. Lesson learned, don’t mess with “remanufactured” starters and just never trust a company.

I put the original starter back in and it worked perfectly. Made in Germany in 1998…

Thanks, all…I’d have a couple big bills from the mechanic at this point if it weren’t for the wisdom on this page.

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