ignition relay

Starter Relay Symptoms, Function & Replacement Cost

In Electric by Magnus Sellén5 Comments

ignition relayA vehicle has so many components in it that at times many of them are forgotten or overlooked.

When it is time for maintenance these smaller and lesser known parts like the starter relay are not given much thought, but in fact, every part is important and vital in ensuring the correct functioning of your car.

The starter relay is an electrical component that holds the responsibility of transferring power from the battery to the starter, which ignites the car’s engine. This small part does not commonly go through a breakdown but since it is an electrical component, anything can happen at any time.

In order to know when the starter relay is moving towards failure, you need to find out the symptoms of a starter relay failure and that is what we will help you out with.

Signs of a Bad Starter Relay

Since the relay is an electrical component, its performance can be affected due to a number of factors. Number one on the list of problems is the accumulation of dust and debris. Dust can disrupt the relay’s performance and cause it to malfunction. Other than that, a power surge from the battery can destroy a starter relay, so there are lots of things to look at.

We will come to the solutions once we know the symptoms of a failing starter relay.

1. Problems with Ignition

It’s quite obvious that any malfunction of the starter relay is bound to cause problems with ignition. Once you insert the key in the ignition and twist it to trigger the engine, the relay receives the information and does its job of transferring power further to the starter but a failing or bad starter relay will be inefficient and it will not be able to perform this task ideally.

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Therefore, if you feel the engine is not budging even when you are twisting the key, it could mean you have a bad starter relay that needs replacement.

2. Starter Doesn’t Go Off

It is possible that a relay is successful in sending power to the starter but it is not able to cut it off. When a relay is joined to the system it completes a circuit. However, if the starter relay is not working properly, it might give life to the starter but it might not be able to cut it off when the engine has started.

This can happen because the main components inside the relay have stuck together in the ‘closed’ position. If this happens, you are looking at extensive damage to the starter, circuit, and the transmission flywheel.

3. Irregular Startups

The problem with a failing starter relay is that it will work brilliantly sometimes and in other instances, it won’t work at all. The relay comes under lots of abuses because it is unprotected in the engine bay, so lots of heat, dirt, and dust that accumulates on it can alter its performance.

If you start your car once and it starts without fail, then you start it again and it doesn’t start at all, you are looking at a failing starter relay. Whenever this happens it is advisable to look for a mechanic that can help solve the problem.

4. Ticking Sound Coming from The Starter Relay

Sometimes when you try to start a car, you hear a ticking sound coming from the engine but the engine doesn’t start. This sound is actually coming from the relay which is signalling to you that there is the improper delivery of voltage and ampere from the battery to the starter.

This only happens if the relay is unable to send power further to the starter because it is unable to function properly.

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Cleaning A Starter Relay

As we mentioned before, a starter relay can take a lot of abuse in the engine bay by constantly battling heat, dust, and debris. This torment can affect a relays vital function; therefore, it is necessary to keep it clean from pollutants.

The starter relay should be cleaned monthly if not twice a week. Clean it more frequently if you reside somewhere where there is lots of dust. Cleaning a starter relay is easy, here we will give you a step by step guide to clean a starter relay.

Things you will need:

A blower
cloth (preferably microfiber)
Electrical Cleaner Spray

Locate the Starter Relay

The starter relay is situated right in the middle near the battery of a car. In most cars, it can be found inside any fuse box. It is a box-like structure that typically has a white housing. There are some wires coming in and out of it from below. When you see an object like that, you have probably found the relay. However, there are more than one relays in a car, so make sure you have found the right one.

Cleaning the Relay

Since the relay is an electrical component, it can blow up if you apply water to it directly. Therefore, you need to approach the relay with care. First, make sure your car is completely switched off then proceed to switch on the blower while pointing towards the relay. This will remove all the dirt and dust which recently deposited on the relay. Once you are done with the blower, take the cloth and soak it in the water ever so slightly.

Rub the outer part of the relay gently, removing all the remaining dirt with electrical cleaner spray. Once you are satisfied with the cleaning, use the blower one last time to ensure all the water has dried. Make sure it’s really dried, a small amount of water can short the lines and destroy other parts.

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Starter Relay Replacement Cost

Insert the key into the ignition and start the car, if you are still having trouble starting up the car, you need to visit the mechanic for relay replacement. Relays are generally very cheap and easily available. Therefore, your mechanic won’t charge you too much. Generally, you will be charged around $100 in total, including the labor cost and the cost of the new starter relay.

Hello I'm Magnus, the owner and the writer of this website. I have been working with cars since I was 16 and I'm specialized with in-depth Automotive diagnostics. Also been driving drifting for the last 6 years. I'm here to give you answers to all your automotive questions and I hope that you enjoy our content.

  1. Hi I’ve recently brought a Nissan Juke 2014 diesel.

    Fully serviced & MOT’d.

    I noticed last week problems starting the car. It wouldn’t start the first time so I removed the key and tried again the second time. This time I left it in ignition for 2/4 seconds before I started and it worked. It then happened again and now it comes up with ERROR when I start if I leave the error to go off a couple of seconds then start it cranks up first time.

    I took it back to the garage today and they said it’s an issue with the replays but couldn’t say which one? An auto electrician has apparently looked at this? I suppose I need to know whether the garage is doing everything they can or whether it’s somethibg that needs looking into more?

  2. I have a 98gmc Yukon suburban with breathalyzer installed but the hot wires to it were cut and hanging down under the dash.they didn’t have tape or wire nuts on the ends.I shoved them up and the end of one hit something right near the diagnosis port.acloud of smoke came out from under the dash. Now my truck won’t start what’s the problem.

  3. Hi there, trust u well, I have a 2005 Honda cbr600 and having starting problems, in most cases after driving for a while and if the bike switches off in between, when I try to restart it, it seems like the relay contacts(that send voltage to the starter when starting) gets stuck/ sticky and eventually drains the battery power because it’s now continuously send power to the solenoid and won’t stop due to the stuck contact, my question is, can I use a separate car starter relay as an extra relay solely for the power contact to the starter, and connect it in parallel to the existing relay??

  4. Hi my name is monique and I have a2000 Toyota Camry I was driving and the car made Avery loud noise and then a whiseling sound and then it sounded like something fell out of it and stopped can you please help me

  5. Due to a very high demand and high ammount of comments, you have to wait for some time for your car questions to get answered. If you want to get fast answers from a certified master technician you can ask your questions here:
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