Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Starter Check Question

I bought a new battery when my car would not start, but that was not the problem. There is no code, just sometimes the car won’t start. I am pretty sure it does not make a clicking noise, and if I keep trying to turn it over, eventually it starts. This happens maybe one day a week. It might click once each but I will now pay closer attention. It sometimes comes on after a few tries and sometimes at the most 10 tries. It has been doing this for about 2 months max.

My question is could this be anything but the starter and can I tell by putting it in neutral or doing anything else without having to take the car somewhere or without taking it apart? THANKS! Oh…also, is $179 for just labor high…I already bought a starter at a junkyard.

179.00 dollars might be high or low or just right for your area. But why pay someone to install a junk yard starter with out a warranty. If it does not last but a short time you will right back where you started.
This is a time to pay for a diagnostic to determine what is actually wrong. Most places will waive the fee if they get to do the work.
It would also help to know what this mystery vehicle is.

Could be other things: ignition switch, corroded battery cables or starter cables. Bad or loose battery or starter connection.

Yes, try putting it in neutral when starting. Also try jiggling the ignition switch.

You need to trace the voltage with a voltmeter, from the ignition switch to the actual starter terminal. If the latter reads above 10 volts when you try to start, the starter is bad.

I’m clueless as to what model-year this Nissan, Altima is. You don’t say.

It does seem like a starter problem, but could be a corroded battery cable/terminal, wires, neutral safety switch, ignition switch, relay etcetera. I wouldn’t replace the starter without diagnosing it first. However, it is difficult to impossible to diagnose it until it can be caught in the act of “not starting.”

It will probably keep getting worse (more intermittent). It’s possible that you’d have to leave the car with a mechanic or wait until it fails to start more than does start. Either will make diagnosis easier and more positive.

Are you sure it’s a starter and not the alternator. My truck gave me the same problems. But it was a Alberta or not a starter.

Battery connections are the first place to begin when you have a “No Crank” situation. Even
if you have a new battery, if the connections are loose, dirty or corroded, you will not be
allowing the full flow of current to pass thru the connections. The connection may be
enough to turn on the lights, but not enough for the huge flow that is needed to operate the
starter. This is where many people say that they know the battery is good….”because the
lights come on”. This is no more a battery test than licking a 9volt battery. It only tells you that there is electricity…not how many volts or the amperage that flows from the battery.
Jump starting may have wiggled the terminal just enough to allow the current to pass and start the engine, but tomorrow you have the same problem.

First remove the cables from the battery and use a wire brush to remove any corrosion and dirt from the battery posts and the cable terminals. There is a tool with a round wire brush for this purpose, found at any auto parts store for less than $10
Before connecting the cables, apply a coating of di-electric grease to the battery posts this will keep oxygen away from the connection so that it will not corrode as fast.

It is just as important that the other end of the cables also have a clean connection. Remove the positive cable from the battery again so that you do not short anything out. Follow both cables to their far ends, remove this connection and wire brush the connection and the cable terminal clean and retighten these connections.

If there was work done recently, there may have been an “engine to body” ground that was not installed following the work. These grounds normally run from the rear of the engine to the firewall and are uninsulated and most are a braided wire. If any of these are found unattached…reattach them.
Remember….this is not a “Sherman Tank” don’t over tighten the connections.
Tight…tight………………too tight…broke!!!


It will probably keep getting worse (more intermittent).

If it gets more intermittent, doesn’t it just get less regular?

Perhaps more frequent?


There’s a half dozen or so common causes for the intermittent no-crank symptom. On my Corolla I’ve had it caused by the battery, starter motor solenoid, the ignition switch, improperly connected wiring, and the clutch safety switch. Not all at once, those are separate instances yielding the same symptom.

Guessing might work, but it might prove to be expensive too, if you guess wrong. My preference when this happens is a voltage test at the starter motor during attempted cranking. Both starter motor terminals should measure at least 10.5 volts. If they do, the starter motor is probably the problem. If one or both don’t, work from there back towards the battery to find out why.

I think what you are trying to say is that you turn the key and absolutely nothing happens? Then all of a sudden the starter does work?

I would suspect the starter relay first…the ignition switch…and then the starter itself. If you pull the starter relay out… Pole 86 or 85 will have the spring loaded switched power from the ignition. So you can test for that and verify that the ignition switch is working properly. With the relay out… you can jumper pins 87 and 30 to test the starter solenoid and starter motor… So you have plenty of things you can check.

It can also be as simple as a loose or corroded ground like the guys already stated. You need nice clean tight connections at the battery…and good grounds all round.

Perform the above tests with a multimeter to see what you get… It will lead you directly to the cause of the problem.