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Can a Starter Test Good And Still Be Bad?

Published by Dustin Babich on

Yes, it is possible for a starter to test good and still be bad. This can happen when the starter passes a bench test but fails to perform properly in the car, leading to issues such as a dead battery.

Understanding The Truth

Yes, alternators and starters can test fine and still be bad. It is possible for a starter in a car to fail, test good, and cause the car to have a dead battery intermittently. Testing the starter on a bench may show that it is functioning correctly, but it could still be a bad starter when installed in the car. Additionally, using jumper cables to test the starter only confirms that it is working, but there could still be other issues such as bad connections or cables. Autozone starter tests may not always be accurate, and it is important to perform voltage tests “under load” to identify any bad connections or wires.

If you suspect a bad starter, it is recommended to remove it and disconnect the negative battery terminal. Look for any dirt or corrosion that may be causing a bad connection. It’s important to note that a bad starter can be mistaken for other issues, such as a failing battery or a bad relay. Intermittent failure of the starter motor is also possible, leading to difficulty in starting the engine.

Signs Of A Bad Starter

It is possible for a starter to test good during a bench test but still be bad. Bench testing only determines if the starter operates, but it may not identify issues such as bad connections or cables. This can cause a bad starter to drain the battery or fail intermittently.

One misleading indicator of a bad starter is when the engine does not turn over, but you still have power in other areas, such as dashboard lights and headlights. This can be mistaken for a battery issue, as a significant amount of battery power is required to crank the engine over.

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Five common symptoms of a bad or failing starter include:

  • A clicking noise when attempting to start the engine
  • The engine cranks slowly or intermittently
  • The starter does not engage consistently
  • The engine fails to start completely
  • Smoke or a burning smell coming from the starter

It is important to rule out other potential issues, such as a bad starter relay or bad wires, before concluding that the starter is the problem. Testing the voltage “under load” can help identify any bad connections or wires. If the symptoms persist, it is recommended to have a professional mechanic inspect the starter.

The Pitfalls Of Testing

Can a Starter Test Good And Still Be Bad?

Starter testing can sometimes be misleading, as alternators and starters can test fine and still be bad. Bench-testing, while providing some insights, has its limitations in determining the actual condition of the starter. Flaws in the car testing process can lead to starters that appear to be functioning properly but actually have underlying issues.

Additionally, examining the starter under load is crucial to identifying bad connections or wires. It is important to address potential misdiagnoses, such as mistaking a bad relay or a failing battery for a bad starter. Starters can also fail interm

To rule out a bad starter, it is necessary to remove and inspect it, and to check for any corrosion or dirt on the battery terminals that may cause a bad connection. Understanding these pitfalls of testing can help in accurately diagnosing starter issues.

Frequently Asked Questions On Can A Starter Test Good And Still Be Bad?

What Can Be Mistaken For A Bad Starter?

Batteries can be mistaken for a bad starter. Even if there is power to the starting system, the engine may not turn over due to insufficient battery power. It’s important to rule out a bad battery before assuming the starter is the issue.

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Can A Starter Be Bad And Still Work?

Yes, a starter can be bad and still work. Alternators and starters can test fine but still be faulty. They may work intermittently or cause other issues such as draining the battery. It is important to check for bad connections or cables when testing a starter.

How Do You Rule Out A Bad Starter?

Yes, a bad starter can still test good. It may pass a bench test but fail when installed in the vehicle. Bad connections or cables can also cause issues. Testing the voltage “under load” can help identify bad connections or wires.

It’s important to rule out other possibilities like a bad battery or starter relay.

Can Starters Fail Intermittently?

Yes, starters can fail intermittently, causing the engine to occasionally fail to crank or start. This can be due to various factors such as bad connections, bad cables, or a failing starter relay. It is important to properly diagnose and test the starter to determine if it is the cause of the issue.


It is possible for a starter to test good and still be bad. Bench testing and other methods may indicate that a starter is in working condition, but it can still exhibit issues when installed in a car. Bad connections or cables, as well as intermittent failures, can contribute to a starter appearing fine during testing but causing problems in practice.

Therefore, it is important to consider other factors and conduct thorough inspections when diagnosing starter issues.

Dustin Babich
Categories: FAQ

Dustin Babich

Dustin Babich

As the passionate author behind, Dustin Babich is a knowledgeable expert in all things automotive. With a deep understanding of car tools, equipment, engines, and troubleshooting techniques, Dustin Babich shares invaluable insights, practical tips, and effective solutions to empower readers in overcoming car-related challenges.

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