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Starter will spin, but wont start engine

I have a 1998 chevy blazer and I cant get it to start. I removed the starter and turned the key and can see the starter popping out and spinning, but when I put it back into the flywheel all I get is clicking noise(like if the battery is dead) I had it on jumper cables so I dont think its the battery. Anyone have any ideas?

Sounds like a few options, starter motor is bad, working under a no load situation is not a guraentee the motor is good, or your engine is locked up, or you need to clean the connections. Could be broken teeth on the flywheel so many things can go wrong, do you have a history of starter problems?

Since it’s been removed already, you can now look in the hole where the starter motor came out and see the flywheel teeth. Everything look normal there? And the teeth on the starter look ok? If so, you probably just need a replacement starter. If you want to make sure, reinstall this one, then measure the voltage at both starter terminals – terminal to starter case – during attempted cranking. Both should measure above 10.5 volts. If they do, replace the starter. If not, find out why.

The problem could still be a bad starter, bad battery, bad battery cable, or all of the above.
Removing the starter motor and watching it operate is not a good test simply because the starter motor is free-wheeling without much of a load applied to it.

Many times those starters need to be Shimmed… Sometimes they like to be cockeyed and or shimmed back from the flywheel.

Try loosely bolting the starter in place…finger tight…see what you get.

But the guys all made very valid points to pay attention to…


Can you turn the engine by hand? Put a socket and breaker bar or wrench on the bolt at the front of the crankshaft and see if you can rotate the engine.

If you can, then check all your battery cables. My guess is (because I used to do this myself) is that you removed the starter and used jumper cables to check it and not the battery cables in the vehicle. You may have a poor connection between the terminal and the wire, under the insulation, or the ground cable is not well connected to the block.

If all that is good, then you need a new starter.

If you tested the starter by using the battery jumper cables, that doesn’t guarantee that the starter is good… and it also doesn’t mean the battery is good. Before making any assumptions you may want to check the battery out. It might have enough oomph to spin a starter without a load by not enough to turn the crankshaft over. It takes a lot more oomph to turn the crankhshaft than to turn a starter without any load.

How should the teeth look on the starter? Here’s a picture of mine. It’s from a 97 Subaru Outback legacy. Not sure if you can tell from the picture but on some of the teeth, the top edges are chipped away. But overall, I’m having the exact same issue, it clicks. It worked fine before I took apart the engine to replace head gaskets.

These teeth are fine.

Looks good to me… Grab that gear with your hand and Pull it out… It should come out and want to snap back under spring pressure… Make sure it is able to “throw”…that is how it interacts with the flywheel and functions. Sometimes they get stuck or reluctant to throw out…and need some good ole grease or oil.


The trouble most of the time with Subaru starters is the solenoid contacts wear out. You just hear a fairly load click in the START mode when that happens. The contacts can’t pass the high current power to the starter. You can just replace the contacts if you want to.

I don’t see anything wrong with the Subaru starter in the picture. Besides, starter motors on Subarus only fail about once a millenium.
Being mounted up high away from exhaust heat, water, and so makes them very bullet-proof.

@Umicar … have you done the experiment to see if your Subie starter motor it pops out and spins like it should when powered up on the work bench rather than installed on the engine? If it works ok that way, either something is binding between the starter motor and the flywheel when installed, the starter motor just doesn’t have enough umpfff to rotate the engine, likely due to worn solenoid contacts per @Cougar 's post above, or the engine is locked up for some reason.

Since it worked ok before you did the engine work, make sure you can easily turn the crankshaft by hand (using a socket/ratchet on the crank pulley bolt, spark plugs removed). It the engine turns freely, you could install the starter motor and see if it cranks ok with the spark plugs removed too. If it does, that might provide a clue. And you might can figure out a way to verify that the starter motor gears are properly aligned with the flywheel teeth. There’s upper and lower limits (in mm) on the distances between the two gears during engagement.