Can you jump start a car with a bad starter?

When I try to start my car, all I hear is a single clicking noise. I know a bit about cars, so I think it’s the starter motor or solenoid. How do I go about starting my car with a bad starter or a bad solenoid?

Rebecca Wardell · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
It sounds like your diagnosis for the starter motor or solenoid is correct! 
If you’re in a pinch: You can still start your vehicle with a bad starter or solenoid but you should head to a mechanic as soon as possible to get the issue properly diagnosed and fixed.
If the issue is with the starter: You can
jump start
your car, but doing so will not fix the underlying issue (which is usually shorts in the wiring). A jump start is to boost your car’s battery, not the starter itself.
If you decide to jump start your car that has a bad starter: It’s unlikely that your engine will die or stall while you’re driving—but never say never. In some instances, the shorted starter can cause a continuous battery discharge and your vehicle cannot operate without proper voltage.
How to handle it: Book an appointment with your mechanic to get the issue properly diagnosed and sorted. Jump starting your car works short-term, but doing it every morning is not a tenable solution.
If the issue is with the solenoid: There’s a relatively simple way to start the car using just an insulated screwdriver. Find a friend who’s willing to help and grab a long screwdriver with an insulated handle, then do the following:
  • Locate the starter solenoid under the hood: The solenoid will be a smaller cylinder on top of the starter motor with two wires attached. If you’re having trouble, follow the positive (red) cable from your battery or consult the owner’s manual.
  • Place the screwdriver across the two metal contacts located on the starter: Doing this bypasses the solenoid and directly connects the ignition switch and starter motor.
  • Start your car: Have your friend start the car while you hold the screwdriver across the contacts. Make sure you hold the insulated handle and remove the screwdriver as soon as the vehicle starts!
How to handle it: It’s best to head to a mechanic as soon as possible—especially if your car doesn’t start when you use the screwdriver method. If your car doesn’t start, this can indicate a more serious problem.
View full answer 
Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.

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