Starter whirring but no click

My ’04 Lancer finally broke down on me after 160k miles. When I turn the ignition key there is no click, but I can hear the starter whirring, so I am pretty sure the problem is it’s not engaging with the flywheel. Could this be caused by anything else than a faulty starter? I am asking because the bolts are really difficult to reach and are rusted on, so it will take a lot of patience the get the starter out. I might as well order the replacement now while I try to get the old one off the car. Thanks!

That usually means the drive pinion in the starter is worn.




I agree. unless there is broken teeth on the flywheel and there is nothing to grab too


We had a fork lift with all the teeth on the flywheel worn off. That was quite a project not being able to move the thing while trying to repair it where it sat. Back in 1973 but does happen from lots of starter use. Pretty easy to see once you pull the starter or the inspection plate on the flywheel.

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The over-run clutch in the starter drive has failed. I have not seen damaged flywheel teeth in the last 20 years. There is a possibility of a broken flex plate but the car would have stopped moving while driving.

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Thanks for all the answers! I guess the starter is coming off one way or another. Wow, this is a great forum, never got so many great answers so fast!

Yeah, the starter’s going to have to be removed. After its removed take a look at the gear that pops out of the starter and engages the flywheel. Notice anything wear on the teeth. You can also inspect the flywheel teeth if you’re curious, just look through the hole you exposed when you removed the starter; have a helper manually rotate the engine one complete turn, slowly, using the crankshaft bolt, while you watch the flywheel teeth go by. I expect however – as mentioned above – the problem isn’t the gears, it’s something broke inside the starter. A couple years ago I replaced the starter on my Corolla and the replacement starter had this same problem from the get-go. Whirring noise, didn’t crank the engine. I took it back, the parts place gave me another starter and that one worked fine. If Denso makes a starter that fits your vehicle, that’s the brand I have the best luck with.