Most modern cars utilize electric starters. These are, essentially, a relatively small motor that is driven with a higher voltage and current that would be reasonable for a continuous operation. This allows the starter to deliver enough power to crank and start the engine. At such a high voltage level, the starter should burn out after just a few short minutes of continuous operation. But it shouldn’t burn out during the few seconds that are needed to start the engine of the vehicle.
There are separate components involved in the starter motor. The first is the starter solenoid, which is the one that most commonly fails. The starter solenoids acts like a relay. It engages a lever which in turn engages the starter. Then it closes high current contacts for the starter motor circuit. An electric starter motor is designed to operate for around thirty seconds maximum before they overheat because of the high-voltage characteristics. It is advisable to pause for at least ten seconds after spending ten seconds trying to start an engine that doesn’t want to start.
Sometimes the symptoms of a bad starter are like those of a bad battery. The vehicle’s headlights or dashboard lights may get dim when the ignition is cranked. The engine may turn over very slowly. If the vehicle makes a steady clicking noise but never turns over, then it’s more than likely a dead battery. If you turn the key and either nothing happens or you hear only one quiet click, it’s probably the starter. If the metal brushes located inside of the starter wear out it can cause a bad electrical contact. It is also possible that after waiting for a time and allowing the starter to cool that it will start again. Another way you can get your vehicle started is to tap on the starter with a hammer because this can knock the brushes back where they should be and allow the starter to work again. It can even continue to work for a period of several weeks without causing much of an issue. It will eventually die, however, and as soon as you encounter starter trouble you should get it replaced. If you don’t you risk your car not starting in the middle of a critical situation. It is absolutely impossible to prevent the starter motor from eventually wearing out, but when it does taking it to a skilled mechanic can make the process painless.