Starter or solenoid help

Have to tap my starter to get car to start. Which needs to be replaced, the starter or solenoid? Can I do it myself do to tight fit?

If you have to tap the starter to get it to start, it’s the starter motor. Just to be sure, clean the electrodes going to the starter motor with some electronic contact cleaner available from any auto parts store.

You can replace this yourself. It seems sort of intimidating, but I think this project is well within your grasp. There are usually only two retaining bolts connecting the starter motor to the engine.

What kind of car do you have? I would suggest buying a cheap used starter motor from a junkyard if at all possible.


1994 Nissan Altima. I’ll give that a try and see how it goes. Thanks so much.

It might be either. If you hear a clicking at the starter motor assembly when you turn the key but it doesn’t start until you tap it, it’s likely the contacts referenced by Tehniker that are the culprit. If you hear only silence until you tap the assembly, the solenoid itself may be bad.

When the solenoid energizes, it slides a lever that (1) engages the starter motor gear with the flywheel, and (2) closes the contacts that enable the starter motor circuit. These contacts can and do get fried over time. Those are the ones Techniker suggests. If the solenoid itself is clicking, those are the culprit.

If there’s no sound at all until you tap the assembly, the solenoid itself may be hanging up and never moving the gear or closing the motor contacts.

The good news is that the solenoid is seperate from the motor assembly on these cars. They are repairable. On some cars it’s one assembly, and the whole starter assembly needs to be replaced.

Try cleaning all the connections first. Pos on battery, solenoid, both sides and connection to the motor, also make sure the cables have no open wounds or swelling, if so replace. Might as well check the dark side also. Free is better than unneeded.

Exactly, clean everything first.

I am not sure about this car but mine actually had a relay even before the solenoid. I replaced both to find it was my relay that was shot. Grrr…

Just out of curiosity. When you don’t tap the starter motor, do you hear anything when you turn the ignition? Do you hear the slightest click? I really think there is a good chance the electrodes on the starter (and to the solenoid) need cleaning and that might solve your problem. Use baking soda and water, along with a wire brush to scrub. And as always, when working with an electrical system, make sure the battery is disconnected.


Either way (assuming, it’s not a bad connection) you need to pull the starter. Google ‘toyota solenoid contacts’ to find out about replacing the solenoid contacts if they’re worn, assuming it’s a similar type of starter.