bmw car starter

6 Symptoms of a Bad BMW Car Starter

Waking up to a car that won’t start isn’t the way anyone wants to spend their morning. But it’s just the battery, right?

Why else wouldn’t the car turn over?

Well, even your BMW is prone to more issues than you like to imagine. All cars break down, and it’s often just luck of the draw that determines whose car won’t start on any given day.

So if your vehicle won’t turn over, it’s possible that your car starter is the culprit. Sometimes starters wear out, and it’s important to identify the issue at hand. Repair costs vary and letting your car sit too long will mean you’ve lost not only your starter but your battery too.

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So what are the signs of a bad BMW car starter? Let’s take a look at six common symptoms to look out for.

Car Starters 101

Before we can understand how to identify a bad starter, we need to grasp how car starters’ work. Let’s break down what happens every time you turn your key over.

Engines “spin” when they’re running and the starter is what starts the initial spinning. Modern cars use an electric starter motor composed of a shaft, gears, wires, and solenoid.

Once the key turns the solenoid establishes electrical current from the battery which then turns the starter shaft which starts the engine. It’s a little more complex than that, but those are the basics.

So, identifying your BMW car starter problems comes down to figuring out which part of the starter isn’t working. Generally, it’s the solenoid or some other electrically inclined problem.

However, it is possible for mechanical problems to arise. Here are our top six signs that you should watch out for.

It’s All About Sounds

Beyond your car flat out refusing to start, diagnosing starter issues comes down to sound. Anything other than the normal engine noise means that there’s something else going on.

Each sound corresponds to a different starter problem, although some sounds do overlap with what they could mean. It’s important to identify what sounds you’re listening to and understand their implications.

We’re actually lucky as car owners, that something as simple as noises can lead us to the issue at hand. Many car issues don’t come with such an easy indicator.


Your starter solenoid draws electrical current and uses to turn your engine’s flywheel. But when the solenoid gears wear out that engagement won’t happen. Meaning, your engine won’t turn over.

Think of it this way. The solenoid gear can’t “grab” the engine flywheel and so spins freely in place. The whirring noise you’re hearing is the solenoid gear spinning freely.

The fix here is usually a whole new solenoid.

Low Growl (RrrRrrr)

We know that’s hard to imagine, but this noise sounds like your car’s trying to start but just can’t quite get there. This problem is nearly always electrical. What’s happening, if a loss of current somewhere between the battery and the starter.

This could indicate several things, including issues with your battery.

Batteries that don’t hold enough charge are usually at issue here. This can mean a battery that holds no charge at all or a battery that’s experiencing voltage fluctuations. If the solenoid can’t draw enough power, the car won’t start.

A loose wire or other connection is another possibility. Faulty connections won’t transmit the necessary levels of electricity to start the car.


Clicking usually means the same thing as the above sound. However, it’s a much broader category that includes more starter-centric problems that are likely to occur.

Dead batteries and current drops can also cause a clicking noise, though usually clicking mean that very low current is reaching the solenoid.

Clicking can also indicate mechanical issues, though it’s hard to narrow them down without taking apart the car’s starter. For instance, mechanical problems with the starter’s gears or shaft will fail to produce noise.

If nothing engages (spins), then there’s nothing to make noise, and the only noise you’ll hear is the clicking.


Grinding noises usually indicate that you’re looking at a mechanical problem. The electrical components are probably fine, but either the starter itself or the solenoid gears are at fault.

Both the solenoid’s pinion gear and the flywheel have interlocking teeth that move in sync to turn over the engine. When these teeth wear (simple overuse) the can cause a grinding or gnashing noise.

Even the best BMW car starter will wear out over time.

Nothing at All

The worse sound of all. No noise coming from the starter means that somewhere in the assembly there’s something that’s either blocking or not receiving, current. A completely dead battery in the this is actually a good thing.

Other problems will probably include loose or corroded connections, bad wires (shorts, etc.), and solenoid switch issues These issues get tricky because you’ll end up tracing wires and connections until you come across the place where you’re losing current.

The Battery Test

Your car’s battery powers all electronic components, not just the starter. The includes headlights, the stereo, dashboard lights and other appliances.

If your appliances don’t work at all, you can chalk up the issue to a dead battery. Turning on the radio draws current independently from the starter. If you can listen to the radio, your battery is probably fine. And your starter is probably not.

Fixing a BMW Car Starter

Once you’ve diagnosed that your car starter is the problem, it’s time to weight your repair options. Depending on your DIY skill, you can probably take care of any starter issues yourself. This can save you time and money.

Though like any car repair, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the components you’re working with. And the easiest way to that happen? Detailed car manuals.

Fixing your BMW car starter is much easier when you’re referring to a high-quality manual with detailed instructions. So if you’re ready to get started on your repairs, check out our guides.

We’re here to help you make car repair easy.