The starter motor is an essential component of an engine, responsible for initiating the combustion process. Many car owners wonder, “How long can you drive with a bad starter?” While starters are not frequently breaking parts, on average, a well-maintained starter can last between 100,000 to 150,000 miles (160,000 to 240,000 kilometers). This lifespan is based on typical driving conditions and regular maintenance. In this article, I will share with you the risks and limits of a dead starter, providing insights and guidelines for vehicle owners.
Factors that influence the lifespan of a starter
The question of “How long does a starter last?” is influenced by several factors, each playing a critical role in its overall performance and longevity. These factors can determine when and how a starter might go out. Let’s explore these determinants in detail:
- Driving habits.
- Short Frequent Trips: Constantly making short trips can strain the starter, especially if the vehicle doesn’t reach its optimal operating temperature.
- Regular Servicing: Keeping up with your vehicle’s regular maintenance, including timely oil changes, ensures all components work harmoniously, benefiting the starter.
- Environmental factors.
- Extreme Weather Conditions: Particularly very low temperatures can place additional strain on the starter, affecting its durability.
- Vibration and wear.
- Rough Roads: Continuous exposure to vibrations from bumpy roads can impact the mechanical components of the starter over time.
- Electrical issues.
- Voltage Fluctuations: Issues in the vehicle’s electrical system, such as voltage spikes, can influence the starter’s operation and overall lifespan.
Recognizing the signs of a bad starter
Being alert to the warning signs of a malfunctioning starter is vital for every driver. Spotting these early indicators can save you from potentially costly repairs, unwanted inconveniences, and the risks associated with trying to drive with a bad starter. There are instances where a starter just stops working without much warning. Let’s explore some of these signs:
This noise results from the starter solenoid engaging but lacking sufficient power to start the engine.
If the engine turns over unusually slow when trying to start, it could point to a worn-out starter.
No cranking at all
Turning the key without any noise is one of the symptoms of a starter going bad. This situation might also cause dimming of internal lights, as the starter draws power from the battery.
Hearing a grinding or sharp buzzing sound during engine start-up suggests that the starter’s gear isn’t meshing correctly with the flywheel.
A burning odor, often accompanied by smoke, can emerge when the starter overheats due to excessive load. This is a sign of imminent failure and demands immediate attention.
Multiple failed attempts
Repeated unsuccessful engine start attempts, even after multiple tries, might hint at a starter issue. Refrain from excessive attempts, as it can deplete the battery.
Limits to driving with a bad starter
While many drivers wonder, “how long does a starter last?”, it’s crucial to realize that driving with a faulty starter might seem like a temporary fix. However, there are clear boundaries on how far and how long you can safely operate your vehicle under such conditions.
- Limited drivability.
- Driving with a compromised starter can be unpredictable.
- Battery drain.
- Continual attempts to ignite the engine with a malfunctioning starter can swiftly deplete your car’s battery.
- Increased engine strain.
- A defective starter can impose additional strain on the engine since it takes longer to start.
- Emergency maneuverability.
- A fully functional starter is vital in emergencies where you need to quickly start the engine and move the car to safety.
- Potential damage to other components.
- A malfunctioning starter can impact other car parts, like the ignition switch, the electrical system, and even the engine.