How to Replace a Car Starter

A man using jump cables to start his car battery.
If your car doesn't start, it's not always the battery's fault; it could be the starter. Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

Most people think that if their car doesn't start the problem is with the battery. So they try boosting it and it still won't crank up. Obviously it's something a bit more serious, like the starter. The car's battery sends a charge to the starter which in turn sends it to the alternator. The charge from the alternator enables the car to start. If the starter is worn out it won't accept or send a charge, and the car is dead. You can buy a new starter, which is rather expensive, or you can buy a rebuilt starter, which is just as good as a new one [source: Allen]. If the problem is really your starter, save yourself a trip to the mechanic and replace it yourself. Here's how to replace a car starter:

  1. Turn off the ignition and remove the negative battery cable from the battery.
  2. Remove the positive cable (the large cable that runs to the battery) from the starter.
  3. Disconnect all the bolts that hold the starter to the block, using a ratchet.
  4. Remove any other supporting brackets holding the starter in place.
  5. Remove all the bolts holding the starter. Don't force any bolts that are very tight and are difficult to remove. Rather, use a lubricant or grease to help you loosen the bolt.
  6. Remove the starter from the car.
  7. Mount the new starter on the block and attach it with the bolts. Before you tighten the bolts, reconnect the battery cable to the starter.
  8. Tighten the bolts of the starter.
  9. Reconnect the negative cable to the battery [source: part source].


Car Starter FAQ

What happens to a car when the starter goes?
When the starter begins to fail, it will create a grinding noise, very similar to when you start the car. Do not ignore this, as it could ultimately damage the flywheel. Once the starter completely fails, the car won’t turn on anymore.
How much does it cost to install a car starter?
The price you may have to pay to have a new starter installed depends on your location’s general labor costs and the make-and-model of the vehicle. Expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500.
How do I test if my starter is bad?
Common symptoms of a bad starter include the following: engine doesn’t crank; smoke comes out of the hood; the dashboard lights go on, but the engine doesn’t respond; the starter is covered in oil or you hear a clicking noise when you start the car.
Is it worth getting a remote car starter?
Remote car starters let you start your car remotely, making them convenient during cold and snowy or extremely hot weather. Many people find it worthwhile to get one installed, but it all depends on where you live and what your budget is.
Are car starters hard to install?
Installing a remote starter requires a good understanding of the car’s wiring and electoral system, so unless you’re used to working your own vehicle, it’s better to let a professional do it for you.