How does a car starter work?

My mechanic told me my car starter isn’t working. That sounds bad. What does a car starter do? How does it work?

If your car starter isn’t working, then sadly it’s as bad as it sounds. It means your car can’t start.
Essentially when you turn the key in the ignition or push the start button, you send an electric current through the car that does two things:
  • A pinion gets driven to turn the flywheel. The flywheel keeps your engine going, keeps it balanced, and you use it to send power from the engine to the wheels via the clutch (if you have a manual car).
  • The second thing it does is send electricity to a motor which will turn the engine over.
The basic premise is that your starter uses electricity to start your car. Because there are a lot of small moving parts to get this to work, they can wear down due to friction, which is likely what has happened to your car starter.
If you have any additional questions regarding your car starter and the other mechanical components of your car, or if it makes a weird noise you want to identify, you may find some use from a roadside assistance membership.
Jerry’s roadside membership offers a mechanical hotline where you can reach out and ask questions about your car. For as low as $4.16 a month, you can also get towing, lockout, and many other roadside assistance help so you’re never left stranded.
Lauren Smith
Answered on Oct 26, 2021
Lauren has written for World Nomads, the Matador Network, Korvia Consulting, and once upon a time Three Fates Games. She graduated from Columbia College of Chicago with a BFA in Creative Writing. After graduating, she moved overseas and lived in South Korea where she spent her free time traveling and going on road trips with friends. She misses the rest stop potatoes and is trying to figure out how to recreate them at home. She's now based outside of Chicago and when she's not writing she spends her free time reading, playing video games, and exploring whenever she can.

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