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New starter failed, even newer starter problems

I have a 1998 Honda Civic DX with 225,000 miles. I had the starter replaced three months ago and the new starter failed recently. It was working fine and then suddenly I just heard a whirring sound when I turned the key and the car wouldn’t start. I was able to start the car by rolling it downhill and “popping” the clutch. I had moved since putting the new starter in so I had to take it to a different mechanic. He said the 3 month old starter was spinning (the whirring sound) but the arm was not coming out to engage the flywheel and he put in another new starter. That was only two weeks ago and now the car makes that whirring sound occasionally when I try to start the car and the car won’t start. Usually, after one or two more tries though, it does start. This morning it took six or seven tries. It seems as though this happens after the car has been sitting for a day or more and once it starts I can shut the engine off and restart it repeatedly with no problem. It seems unlikely that two new starters were bad. Can anyone think of anything that would be causing this? Is there something besides the starter that could account for this or is there something else that could cause the starters to go bad? Incidently, the other day I noticed a few drops of antifreeze dripping from where the upper radiator hose enters the engine but I wouldn’t think that could be related. It is not dripping near the starter but there are some wires nearby but they were dry. The battery is only about two year sold and I checked it with an inexpensive hand held gauge and it seems to be fine. I would think if it was battery related the engine would at least try to turn over.

Thanks for any ideas.

This newest starter should still be under warranty. Take it back and let the mechanic diagnose. However, don’t be surprised if he finds that the issue may be with the flywheel. If the issue is with the starter, then he should fix without any extra charge under warranty.

antifreeze issue is separate and may be fixed by tightening the upper hose clamp.

I had the same thought as Jay…the flywheel.

It’s possible that you have some missing teeth in the flywheel ring gear. That’ll occasionally (depending one the position the engine stops at) allow the starter to spin but not turn the crank.

Have the shope bench test the starter. Also have them check the flywheel for missing teeth.

Thank you for your responses. I took my car back to the mechanic and discussed the flywheel possibility with him. He restarted the car approximately 100 times and the car started every time and he felt that if the flywheel was missing teeth he would have hit the “bad” spot on the wheel one of those times and had trouble starting car. I mentioned to him that it seemed as though I only had this problem when it was particularly cold overnight but he didn’t think that could be related. He agreed to keep the car outside over night and sure enough the car wouldn’t start this morning. He said he spoke with someone at the parts place and they said occasionally on a new starter the clutch inside the starter will stick in cold weather. He is replacing the starter again. My only concern (other than this is the third time I am paying for labor on the same job, albeit with two different mechanics. It seems like the parts company should be responsible) is that it seems unlikely that I would get two brand new starters from two different places that were bad. The first one went bad suddenly and this one seemed to go bad gradually. Is there anything that could be wrong with my car, like something electrical, that is causing the starters to go bad?
Thanks again for your responses.

Unfortunately the quality of replacement car parts these days often leaves a lot to be desired. Its probably a rebuilt unit, for one. Then no matter how it is branded there is a probably a layer of about 3 different subcontractors underneath of whatever the brand is. You could also get a different brand that could still be from the same sub-contracting supplier. Quality control can often go out the window as its easy for each company to stand around shrugging pointing at another while you and your mechanic stand there stuck with the mess.

It seems as though this happens after the car has been sitting for a day or more and once it starts I can shut the engine off and restart it repeatedly with no problem.

It may not be the starter at all. I’d check the battery cables that supply power to the starter and engine ground. When the car sits, everything cools off and a connection may become flaky. After repeated attempts to start or once it gets going, that flaky connection heats up and makes better connection than when it was cold. Starters draw tremendous amounts of current. Even good looking connections can fail when drawing large currents…

You were right that it wasn’t the starter. The mechanic put another starter in yesterday and this morning I had the same problem. I pushed the car into the garage and blew a hair dryer near starter for an hour in the hopes that the car would start if it was warm but so far still no luck. I “jiggled” the wires from the starter to the battery but I am not sure what else to do in case it is a bad connection. I will have to get it going and bring it back to the mechanic on Monday. I will mention the wiring possibility to him and let you know what the problem is as soon as I know.

Any update on this? I’m having very similar issues - I just had a 2nd replacement put in yesterday and this morning (colder morning) I got a false start (started fine on second crank), but this tells me I’m going to have the exact same problems as the last. During the day especially if I’m running around town I have no problem with it cranking. I’m also not convinced its not the flywheel as the last starter did this for a couple months and finally stopped working altogether. Do missing teeth on flywheel cause a starter to ultimately fail altogether?

Yes, but it’s preceded by a pretty horrible noise as the starter pinion gear grinds against the worn-down flywheel gear teeth stubs. If you’re hearing only the starter motor spinning, it’s usually the starter’s pinion gear one-way clutch slipping.

This is what we’ve always talked about . . . guys who seek our help and don’t bother reporting back, as to what the ultimate solution turned out to be

I’m talking about OP from 2011, not the guy who revived the discussion

Looks like he got 4 responses, but HE didn’t bother to tell us what it took to fix the car for good

I will say that I’ve also had my fair share of bad remanned parts. Sometimes there is just a bad batch

I watched one of my colleagues go through 4 Ford remanned alternators, before finally getting one that worked correctly. They were all unopened boxes, so I’d say the dealer got a bad batch.

Hi kjs2,
I apologize that I didn’t respond sooner- for some reason CarTalk doesn’t recognize my username and password and, because my username isn’t recognized, I can’t reset my password.
Anyway, believe it or not I had a third starter put in and it also failed. The mechanic could find absolutely nothing else wrong with the car and finally contacted the manufacturer of the starters. It turns out that all three starters were bad and there was an issue with an entire “batch”, if that is the right word, of starters from that manufacturer. The mechanic put in a different brand starter and I just got rid of the car with 308,000 miles on it and that last starter was fine for the rest of the time- six years or so- that I had the car.
I don’t remember what the brand was of the bad starters (or the brand of the one good one for that matter).
I know this isn’t much help to you but I never would have suspected that 3 starters, or any other car part, could be faulty from the manufacturer.

We’re glad to hear you DID finally get the problem solved

If you read my comment from earlier today, you’ll see I watched a guy through 4 genuine Ford remanned alternators, before finally getting one that worked properly. As with your starter, probably a bad batch

BTW . . . what did you get to replace the Honda Civic?

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Ding, Ding, Ding! We have a winner! What do we have for him Johnny?

Wow! 6+ years and Steve ( @bauersteven ) jumps back on to give us an update!

Whoa Nellie! That’s got to be a record!
Thanks, Steve!

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@kjs2 … just b/c the OP of this thread’s problem turned out to be bad luck ;i.e. multiple bad replacement starters , don’t assume that is your problem. True, such a thing can happen. I’ve had multiple bad parts from the same batch like that. If I’m thinking that’s what’s going on, I’ll buy the next replacement part from a different vendor. Sometimes that is all it takes.

Another idea, many parts stores have a test fixture to test starters. Ask them to test it first before they sell it to you.

My solution to defective-from-the-box replacement starters is simply to have the existing starter repaired by a local auto-electric shop. Last time I did it, it cost $10 total. So that’s a third idea.

But before going down that route, make sure your shop does a simple voltage test first. During attempted cranking the voltage at both terminals of the starter (thick wire and thin one) should be at least 10.5 volts (terminal to starter case). If either is below that, work backwards towards the battery to figure out why. B/c the actual problem is probably not the starter.

Wow! I did my own about a year ago and parts cost more than that!
(not much more, but still more)

I had a friend that had a 1974Chevy V8 Station Wagon. He bought a “lifetime guaranteed” starter from Pep Boys and installed it himself. Pep Boys cheerfully replaced it when it failed. All 6 times over a 3 year period ! Of course it always failed in a Buffalo winter and he didn’t have a garage so he had to do it in the snow.

You are absolutely right. It is beyond inconsiderate of me to not have posted the resolution to this after asking for help on the board. The whole idea of a forum like this is to share information and to help others and I failed on that miserably.

I am sorry and it won’t happen again.


Score one for a reputable local Auto Electric Shop!

When the starter became intermittent on our 300,000 + miles Impala last summer. I pulled the starter off and using jumpers, tested A) the motor, and B) the solenoid.
The problem seemed to be the solenoid.

I took the starter to my local rural Auto Electric Shop (nothing fancy, almost in a garage) where Kermit the owner/operator bench tested the starter and confirmed my diagnosis.

He had a brand new solenoid in stock, included installation labor for free, re-bench tested it, and charged me 20 bucks total (testing, parts, labor, taxes), while I watched! It took a couple of minutes and I was on my way.

America, what a country! :

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Hey Steve!
I don’t have a problem with you. You came back and gave more info! It’s preferable for folks to get back sooner, but I’m patient.

Welcome aboard, again! :slight_smile:

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