Most of us know the feeling of hopping into the car and turning the key only to have nothing happen. Sometimes you might even hear a click or a whirring sound that signals to you that you have a bad starter. You probably will immediately start worrying about how much that will cost and how long you’ll be without your vehicle while it is being repaired. So, how much does a starter replacement cost? Keep reading as we give you all the details you need to know about starter replacements and even offer some tips for doing the job yourself.
How Much Does A Starter Replacement Cost?
You can usually expect to pay around $400 to $600 for a starter replacement on most vehicles. If you have a high-end car, then your repair bill will probably be closer to $1,000. Now let’s break the price down a little further so that you can see exactly what you will be paying for. You will have to pay for both the replacement parts and labor costs associated with the repair. Here is how those generally break down.
A new starter is likely to cost you anywhere from $75 to $300, depending on your vehicle make and model. In addition to purchasing the part, you will also need to pay labor charges for a mechanic to replace the starter. Depending on what kind of car you have, it will usually take a mechanic anywhere from 1 to 4 hours to replace the starter. Most mechanics charge $75 to $150 per hour, so the labor costs for this job can range from $150 to $600. Adding together the costs for parts and labor will give you the job’s total cost, which usually comes in at about $500.
How Your Starter Motor Works
Your car starter has an electric motor inside that spins the starter gear. This motor receives power from your car battery. When you turn the ignition key, the starter solenoid closes, and the starter motor receives power. As this happens, the starter gear is also pushed forward to engage with the engine’s flywheel. Since the gear is now engaged, the flywheel will now spin as the starter motor turns.
This turning of the flywheel turns the engine’s crankshaft and moves the pistons up and down inside the cylinder walls. This starts the cycle of your internal combustion engine, and the engine should crank and begin to run on its own. As soon as the engine starts to run, you release the key, and the starter disengages. The starter gear falls back away from the flywheel so that it is not damaged as the engine runs on its own. When you turn off the engine, the process starts over again when you attempt to crank the car.
Signs Of A Bad Starter
So, how do you know when you have a faulty starter? There are several signs that you can watch for that typically let you know when your starter is dying. Here are some of the most common symptoms.
— Clicking Sound
If you just hear a clicking noise when you turn the ignition switch, then you may have a failing starter. Your starter solenoid may be faulty, which does not allow the contacts inside the solenoid to close completely. You might also have a bad starter motor that is unable to spin the ring gear with enough force to turn the flywheel. A clicking sound can also be a sign of a dead battery, so you should check your battery first. If that is not the problem, then the chances are high that you have a starter problem.
— Whirring Noise
A whirring noise often indicates that the ring gear is not properly engaging with the flywheel. It is most likely spinning freely without any resistance from the car’s engine. This might mean that the gear is too worn or the pinion is not engaging as it should. Either way, you are going to need the starter to work to get your car running again. In addition to a whirring noise, you might also hear a grinding noise when you turn the key. Any unusual noises when turning the key are not good signs, and a replacement starter is going to be necessary soon.
— Nothing Happens When You Turn The Key
If your car won’t start and nothing at all happens when you turn the key, it could be the result of bad electrical components or a bad starter. First, eliminate the obvious things like a corroded battery cable. If you don’t find any other issues, then your starter motor may have completely died. A car repair shop will be able to test the motor for you and tell you whether it is bad. If so, then you’ll need to go ahead and get a replacement.
Repair VS Replacement Of Your Car Starter
The question often arises whether you should repair or completely replace your starter. In most cases, it is a good idea to go ahead and replace the starter. Most auto repair shops can provide you with a rebuilt starter instead of a brand new one. This is common with many auto parts, like starters, alternators, and master cylinders. The rebuilt starter will likely come with a full warranty, just like a new one. The average cost of a rebuilt starter is usually going to be 25% to 50% less than a brand new OEM one from the dealership.
In certain situations, you might have your auto shop simply perform a repair of your starter. It usually makes sense when only a small piece of the starter is malfunctioning. For instance, if you can replace just the starter solenoid or ring gear, then it makes sense to just repair it. However, when the starter motor is having trouble, then total replacement makes the most sense.
Replacing A Car Starter On Your Own
Since labor costs can run over $500 in some cases, is it possible to replace your own starter to save some money? Absolutely! However, you should know that you need a little mechanical experience before attempting this job. Replacing a starter is a medium complexity DIY job that usually cannot be performed by a total beginner. Some vehicles, like a Toyota or Honda, are going to be easier than a BMW or Mercedes.
First, you will need to make sure that you disconnect the battery before starting the job. Failure to do so could result in electrical shock or damage to other electrical components. Next, you will need to locate the starter. In many cases, it must be accessed from underneath the vehicle. Sometimes you may need to remove other parts and accessories to get to it. Disconnect the power cables from the starter and then unbolt the starter from the car. Replace it with the new starter, and then connect everything back up. Turn the key, and your vehicle should start up!
The Bottom Line
If you hear a clicking, whirring, or grinding noise when you turn your key, then you will likely need a starter replacement soon. While you can perform the job yourself, most people turn to a qualified mechanic for the work. You can expect to pay around $500 in most cases for a starter replacement, although it might cost you more for certain types of vehicles.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to change a starter?
For most vehicles, it will take an experienced mechanic about two hours to change a starter. Some vehicles might require more time if the mechanic must remove other parts to access the starter. If you are performing the job yourself, you can usually expect it to take a little longer. You should likely set aside 4 hours or more to change a starter on your own.
Can you drive a car with a bad starter?
As long as the car is running, it will not hurt anything to drive a car with a bad starter. However, you may end up stranded if you drive your car in this condition. Once you arrive at your destination, you will normally shut off the car. If you have a bad starter, then you might not be able to crank the car when you are ready to leave. With a bad starter, there are not many things that you can do to get the car running again. In some cases, you might be able to tap on the starter lightly with a hammer to get it working again, but you should not always count on that. For these reasons, you should go ahead and get the starter replaced as soon as possible.
Can you replace a starter by yourself?
Yes, you can replace a starter by yourself. However, it is a fairly complex job that requires some mechanical knowledge and experience. If you have never attempted a car repair on your own before, then a starter replacement is probably not the best place to start. If you get part of the way through the job and run into problems, then you will need to get your car towed to a repair shop.
How do you know when to replace a starter?
You should replace your starter once you start experiencing problems with it. In most cases, the starter on a new car should last at least 100,000 miles. Starters do not need to be replaced as a preventive measure, so you don’t need to worry about a replacement until your starter begins to give you problems.