How To Tell If Starter Relay Is Bad? Four Common Symptoms

How to tell if starter relay is bad? Well, it is one of the major but often neglected components of the ignition system. It rarely breaks down due to not having many moving parts. But, when it does, some bad starter relay symptoms will make you aware of the problem.

A failed starter relay means the car may not start at all. Corroded contacts, bad circuit, or a worn out relay could be the source of the trouble. You need to be watchful and monitor the relays on a regular basis to avoid sudden breakdown.

How To Tell If Starter Relay Is Bad?

The main function of a starter relay is to work as a switch for the starter solenoid by switching on a large current stream from a smaller one generated from the ignition switch circuit. It does the same for the starter motor when it is an automotive car. Due to the low price tag, replacing the component is the best option when it fails.

So, how to tell if starter relay is bad or not? Well, these are the warning signs to be aware of:

1. The Vehicle Is Dead

The most obvious symptom is a completely silent car that does not respond when you turn the ignition key. Once you turn the key or press the starter button, it will send a signal to the starter relay, making the current flowing through the relay’s coil. The current eventually pass through the starter solenoid and motor, making the engine to kick off.

But, these things don’t happen when the relay is bad or damaged. When the car does not start after turning the ignition switch, check whether the battery is dead or not. If it’s fine, the problem is definitely with the starter relay.

how to tell if starter relay is bad
The car won’t start at all, which will tell you something’s gone wrong about your starter relay


2. Starter Making Clicking Sounds

It happens when the relay cannot send a full signal. The relay either sends a fully electrical signal or nothing. But, a damaged or worn out relay that has not failed completely may try to close contacts during on and off. The unsuccessful attempts result in rapid clicking sounds.

This particular problem is the byproduct of an old relay and corroded or dirty contacts. A battery with low ampere can cause the same trouble. So, be sure to check it before deciding to change the relay.

3. Occasional Failures In Starting The Vehicle

A fully functional starter relay will transmit power to the starter every time it is engaged. But, damage could occur due to dirt, overheating, and other issues, enforcing the erratic operation of the starter. A bad wire connection or greasy contacts because of exposure under the hood could be the issues too.

bad starter relay symptoms
The solenoid of a bad starter can result from many possible reasons

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Checking the wires, cleaning the contacts, and repairing the broken leads will solve this problem.

4. Starter Does Not Get Switched Off

Turning the ignition key switches on the starter relay, leading to the operation of the starter solenoid and motor. Turning off the ignition key is supposed to create the opposite reaction. There is something wrong with the starter relay when it does not follow this regular route of operation.

You should be worried if it remains on long after the engine has kicked off. The possible reason could be the welding together of the contacts due to overheating or exposure to a high volume of current.