How Long Can You Go with a Bad Starter and the Cost of Replacement?

Your vehicle’s starter is a critical component that ensures your car’s engine starts reliably. When the starter begins to fail, it can lead to various issues, and the question many car owners have is how long they can continue driving with a bad starter. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the signs of a failing starter, the potential consequences of driving with one, and the costs associated with starter replacement.

How Long Can You Go with a Bad Starter and the Cost of Replacement?

Driving with a bad starter is not advisable, as it can lead to unexpected breakdowns. The cost of starter replacement varies but typically ranges from $200 to $600 or more, including parts and labor. Timely replacement is essential to ensure your vehicle’s reliability and avoid potential engine damage or being stranded.

Here’s a table summarizing the key information about driving with a bad starter and the cost of replacement:

Driving with a Bad Starter– Limited driving is possible if the starter is failing but still starts intermittently.
– Driving with a completely failed starter is not advisable and can lead to engine damage.
– Risk of getting stranded or battery drain increases with continued use of a bad starter.
Cost of Starter Replacement– Cost varies based on factors like vehicle make/model, starter type, labor, and parts quality.
– Average cost range: $200 to $600 or more (including parts and labor).
– OEM starters are typically more expensive but may offer better reliability.
– Labor charges can vary by location and mechanic rates.
– Additional repairs, if needed, can impact the overall cost.
– Consider warranty coverage when purchasing a new starter.

It’s crucial to address starter issues promptly to avoid unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs.

Signs of a Failing Starter

Before delving into how long you can drive with a bad starter, it’s important to recognize the common signs that indicate starter problems. Being aware of these symptoms can help you take timely action:

  1. Slow or No Cranking: When you turn the key or press the ignition button, a healthy starter should engage quickly and crank the engine. If the cranking process is slow or non-existent, it’s a sign of a failing starter.
  2. Clicking Noise: If you hear a rapid clicking noise when attempting to start the engine, it may indicate that the starter solenoid is malfunctioning.
  3. Freewheeling: Freewheeling occurs when you hear the starter spinning without engaging the engine’s flywheel. This typically means the starter drive gear or solenoid is damaged.
  4. Intermittent Starting: Your vehicle may start fine one moment but struggle or fail to start the next. This inconsistency can be a sign of a failing starter.
  5. Dashboard Lights: Pay attention to warning lights on the dashboard, such as the battery or check engine light. A malfunctioning starter can trigger these indicators.
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How Long Can You Drive with a Bad Starter?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the severity of the starter’s condition and your willingness to take risks. Here’s a general guideline:

  1. Limited Driving: If you suspect your starter is failing but the vehicle still starts intermittently, you can continue driving for a short period. However, it’s essential to address the issue promptly, as the starter can fail completely at any time.
  2. Not Advisable: It’s not advisable to drive with a completely failed starter. Attempting to start the engine without a functional starter can lead to engine damage or leave you stranded.
  3. Towing: In many cases, a vehicle with a bad starter may need to be towed to a repair shop, especially if the starter has failed completely.
  4. Risks: Continuing to drive with a bad starter poses risks, including getting stranded at an inconvenient time or place. Additionally, repeated attempts to start the engine can drain the battery.

The Cost of Starter Replacement

Once you’ve confirmed that your starter is faulty or have experienced a complete starter failure, it’s crucial to understand the cost associated with starter replacement. The cost can vary based on several factors:

  1. Vehicle Make and Model: The cost of a starter can differ significantly depending on your vehicle’s make and model. Luxury or high-performance vehicles may have more expensive starters.
  2. Starter Type: There are various types of starters, including traditional starters and more modern, high-torque starters. High-torque starters are generally more expensive.
  3. Labor Costs: Labor charges for starter replacement vary by location and the mechanic’s rates. On average, you can expect to pay around $150 to $300 for labor.
  4. Quality of Replacement Part: You can choose between OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) starters and aftermarket starters. OEM parts tend to be more expensive but are often more reliable.
  5. Additional Repairs: In some cases, the mechanic may identify related issues, such as a damaged flywheel, which can increase the overall repair cost.
  6. Warranty: Some replacement starters come with warranties that can affect the overall cost. Be sure to inquire about warranty coverage when purchasing a new starter.

To provide a general cost estimate, starter replacement can range from $200 to $600 or more, including parts and labor. It’s advisable to obtain multiple quotes from reputable mechanics or repair shops to ensure you get the best value for your specific vehicle.

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Is a bad starter expensive to fix? The cost of fixing a bad starter can vary but generally ranges from $200 to $600 or more, including parts and labor.

How long can a faulty starter last? The lifespan of a faulty starter varies, but it can last for a limited time, with symptoms worsening over use.

Can you drive with a bad starter? You can drive briefly with a bad starter if it starts intermittently, but it’s not advisable due to potential risks.

Is it worth replacing a starter? Yes, it’s worth replacing a bad starter to ensure your vehicle’s reliability and avoid breakdowns.

What is the average price to fix a starter? The average cost to fix a starter ranges from $200 to $600 or more, depending on various factors.

What causes a starter to go bad quickly? Common causes of starters going bad quickly include wear and tear, electrical issues, and poor maintenance.

What can be mistaken for a bad starter? Other issues like a dead battery, faulty ignition switch, or damaged wiring can be mistaken for a bad starter.

What are the first signs of a starter going bad? Early signs of a bad starter include slow cranking, clicking sounds, intermittent starting, and dashboard warning lights.

Can AutoZone tell if your starter is bad? AutoZone may perform diagnostic tests to help identify a bad starter, but it’s advisable to consult a professional mechanic for a conclusive diagnosis.

How does a car act with a bad starter? A car with a bad starter may exhibit symptoms like slow or no cranking, clicking noises, and intermittent starting.

Will a bad starter still crank? A bad starter may crank slowly or intermittently, but it can eventually fail to crank the engine.

Can a bad starter drain a battery while driving? While it’s uncommon, a bad starter can cause electrical issues that lead to battery drain while driving.

What happens if you don’t replace your starter? Failing to replace a bad starter can result in unexpected breakdowns, leaving you stranded.

Is it more expensive to replace a starter or alternator? Starter replacement is generally less expensive than alternator replacement. Starter costs range from $200 to $600, while alternators can cost $300 to $800 or more.

Is a starter easy to fix? Starter replacement can be complex and is typically best handled by a professional mechanic.

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How long does it take a mechanic to fix a starter? Starter replacement can take a few hours, depending on the vehicle’s make and model and the mechanic’s experience.

Can AAA replace a starter? AAA provides roadside assistance, including jump-starting a vehicle, but they typically don’t replace starters. They may tow your vehicle to a repair shop.

How often do you need to replace a starter? The lifespan of a starter varies, but it may need replacement every 80,000 to 150,000 miles or more, depending on usage and maintenance.


A bad starter can lead to a range of issues, including difficulty starting your vehicle or complete engine failure. While it’s possible to continue driving for a short period with a failing starter, it’s not advisable due to the associated risks. If you suspect starter problems or experience any of the common signs of starter failure, it’s best to address the issue promptly.

The cost of starter replacement varies depending on factors like your vehicle’s make and model, the type of starter, labor costs, and the quality of the replacement part. To ensure your vehicle’s reliability and safety, consult with a qualified mechanic and consider obtaining multiple quotes for starter replacement.

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