In this article, you’ll see how to start a car with a bad starter.

Starter problems are not that frequent especially if the engine starts properly and without long cranking.

But when it does happen, you might face towing, having to push the car, and other inconvenient situations.

This alone should be reason enough to know this.

If you find the time visit us at our YouTube channel where you can watch lots of useful videos about cars and car repairs.




Let’s just mention a few common scenarios when it comes to a bad starter problem:

  • You turn the ignition key and nothing happens, no cranking. Besides this, the dashboard warning lights go a bit dim, not totally.
  • A vague click sound is heard from the engine bay when you crank.
  • Slow cranking
  • Whizzing sound but no cranking

This article will show you how to start a car with a bad starter with the first and second symptoms.

In these cases, the usual cause of problems is worn-out or stuck brushes within the starter.

With the other causes, this may not help at all. If you have a bad solenoid, damaged rotor, bad bushes, or else this method is pretty much useless.

Also, know that this is not a valid repair in any way but rather a first-aid measure. So, just to get you back on the road again.

Once these symptoms and problems appear, know that you’re in either for a starter replacement or starter repair.

For more information about bad starter problems (with sounds included) click here to read the article dedicated specifically to that topic.



So, this is what you may be facing.

You turn the ignition key and nothing happens (there is no cranking whatsoever) and the dashboard lights go a bit dim.

Either this or you may hear a vague click sound from the engine bay.

Before you try what we’re going to show you, if possible do this:


  • Check if the battery is OK and if is it on its last legs. If you have any doubt about the battery try jump-starting the car to exclude this problem. For more information about a bad car battery click here.

  • Check if the battery clamps are clean and tightened. If they are not clean and tighten them. See how to do that by clicking here

  • If you have the possibility (and this is not always the case due to accessibility issues) check the connections to the starter. Especially the thinner cable on the solenoid. Check that the connections are clean and tight.

All of the previous has one goal: to ensure that the starter is the problem, not anything else.

If all of this turns out  OK then do this:

  • You’ll need something like a long wooden stick. A firm wooden broomstick is best for the job. Another option is a hammer. The hammer is widely used but try to avoid it as it may damage the starter housing. If you have to use it, use the handle if possible.


  • Find the starter: on some cars, it may be highly inaccessible. If this is the case with your car, then maybe consider not doing this at all. The starter will be a big cylinder-like appliance bolted to the transmission housing with one or two thick cables and one or two thinner ones coming from it.


  • Use the stick and tap the starter. In case of bad brushes, tap it on the rear housing as the brushes are located there. The logic behind this is that the vibration from the tapping will release the stuck brushes, they will gain contact with the rotor again and the starter will work.


Try to find a good angle for tapping so you don’t accidentally damage something around the starter, like wiring, hoses, or else. Make sure you have a good clearance and then tap.

  • If you’re forced to use the hammer do so gently! Just tap, don’t hammer away as you can damage or even break the starter housing! This is why a wooden stick is better, you get the needed force without causing any damage.


  • Now try starting the car. In most cases, when worn-out brushes are the problem this helps. Sometimes you may need assistance to do this. Someone will have to turn the ignition key while you’re tapping or vice versa.


But in most cases, you can usually do all this by yourself. Tap first and then crank.



So, how to start a car with a bad starter? One way is to use a simple wooden stick and tap it. Simple as that.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to start the car in minutes and be on your way.

Again, this is only a temporary solution. It may last a couple of cranks and you’ll probably have to tap it again. The brushes may get jammed again or they may be simply just worn out.

Repairing or replacing a bad starter isn’t that much of a fuss but it all depends on what car you drive. Accessibility issues and a crammed engine bay are the main obstacles in most cases.

This is one more piece of car advice that is good to know and may easily get you out of trouble in case of a bad starter.


Written by: Sibin Spasojevic


Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.