Starter Not Engaging Flywheel: Causes and Fixes

A car does not announce when to start or not. While a car owner expects the car to start regularly without fail, it may not always be so.

It can be very frustrating to park a car only to get back into it and discover that the engine isn’t cranking when you engage the ignition switch.

This is a common problem that results from a vehicle’s starter, not engaging flywheel. If you are wondering what the issue could be, the causes are not farfetched from the factors discussed in the subsequent section. Discover the causes and how to rectify them below.

What Would Cause A Starter To Not Engage The Flywheel?

Understanding what is exactly wrong with a vehicle’s starter and why it fails to engage the flywheel can give headway on what to do to rectify the problem. The following are reasons why a starter may not engage the flywheel in a vehicle.

starter bendix not engaging flywheel

Low battery voltage

A vehicle’s starter motor does not work independently of the battery. So, having a low battery voltage means the starter will not engage the flywheel to allow the engine to crank and start the vehicle. Sometimes, when a starter spins but no crank, the battery may be responsible.

There are several reasons the voltage of a vehicle’s battery can be drained. Parasitic battery drain, loose connection, corroded battery terminal, etc., are all factors that must be checked to know what could be wrong with a vehicle’s battery.

Defective starter wiring

A vehicle’s starter motor is linked up with the battery through a wiring connection between both components. Any faults within the wiring connection can hinder the starter’s ability to engage the flywheel.

A loose cable connection is a common wiring defection that affects the proper functioning of a vehicle’s starter motor. Whatever it should be checked. 

Starter solenoid

The starter solenoid, which sits on top of a vehicle’s starter, pushes a plunger inside the vehicle’s starter, thereby pushing the pinion gear to meet the flywheel so it can turn the starter motor.

Since wires can become loose, dirty, or broken over time, the solenoid wiring can become defective, thereby lacking the capacity to engage the flywheel and starter motor correctly. So, if you are wondering why your Chevy starter is not engaging flywheel, this could be the cause.

Damaged flywheel

The flywheel is positioned between a vehicle’s transmission and the engine. Starting a car involves the starter engaging the flywheel to produce a crank that starts the vehicle’s engine.

This is the same for a large vehicle like a tractor. Sometimes, you may be wondering why a tractor starter is not engaging flywheel.

The flywheel can become worn-out, cracked, or even lose its teeth over time. When any of these happens, it becomes difficult for the starter to engage the flywheel properly.

Defective starter pinion or plunger

The starter pinion gears are located in front of the starter motor. They engage the flywheel and fires up a vehicle’s engine once the starter turns. Over time, the pinion gears can be susceptible to wear and tear, becoming difficult to engage the flywheel properly.

How Do You Fix A Starter That Won’t Engage?

chevy starter not engaging flywheel

Recharge or replace the battery

Suppose a vehicle’s starter fails to engage the flywheel due to low battery voltage. There, the battery should be inspected to ascertain the cause of the low voltage, especially if it occurs often.

Most often, getting a battery charger to properly charge the battery full can save the situation. Other times, you may have to get a new replacement for the old defective battery if this is the case. If a vehicle’s starter Bendix is not engaging flywheel, this may save the situation.

Inspect cables and tighten any loose connections

Loose cables are common faults in vehicles. It may be due to a previous repair around the starter or the vehicle’s battery when the starter wiring connection was tampered with.

So, you must inspect the connection between the starter motor and the battery to see if there is a loose connection and tighten it up, if any.

Ground the solenoid with a jumper wire

If you discover that the solenoid is not functioning correctly, get a jumper wire and use the wire to ground it to a bolt somewhere within the vehicle’s engine compartment. Then, start the vehicle’s ignition and pay close attention to the sound it produces.

The solenoid is expected to produce a clicking sound. If the sound is loud, the solenoid is okay; but if the sound is weak, that means you have to recheck the wire connection. If the issue persists, it would be best to replace the solenoid.

Inspect flywheel to ascertain any damages

Since the flywheel can become worn-out or damaged over time, it would help to inspect the flywheel. To do this, turn the car on and put the gear on neutral ‘N’. Then, get a ratchet to rotate the crankshaft. As you do so, ensure to observe the flywheel to identify any damages.

If the flywheel has any damages, it could be the reason you are having a hard time starting your car. It would be best to replace the flywheel immediately. Sometimes, you may have to find out how to align a starter with a flywheel to rectify the situation.

Replace worn-out pinion gears

If you discover that the pinion gears move in both directions when rotating it, then you must get a replacement for the part soon to enable the starter to function well by correctly engaging the flywheel.


Q: How do I know if my starter or flywheel is bad?

A vehicle’s starter is a vital component that helps start the engine when the ignition switch is engaged. So, to know if your vehicle’s starter or flywheel is bad, take time to observe your car when you start it.

If you turn the vehicle’s ignition switch ON and it produces a whining noise without the engine cranking, the vehicle’s starter gear is likely failing to engage the flywheel. That means a bad starter needs to be serviced or replaced immediately.

If this is your experience, don’t panic. Simply contact an expert auto mechanic to discover what it will take to fix the problem.

Q: Can flywheel cause car not to start?

If a car’s flywheel is worn-out, cracked, or its teeth are broken, it won’t be easy to properly engage the starter motor when starting a vehicle’s engine. Since both components work hand in hand, a defection in one can hinder a car from starting.

If you experience difficulty starting your car, you may have to inspect the battery, ignition switch, starter motor, and flywheel, among other components, to ascertain what could be wrong.

Some of these components can be easily accessible, while others may require the service of an expert auto mechanic.

Q: Does the starter connect to the flywheel?

A vehicle’s ignition process involves several components, including the starter, which turns the vehicle’s engine over and allows the flow of air that aids combustion.

The starter does not work alone during a vehicle’s ignition process. There is a flywheel on the vehicle’s engine with a ring gear on the edge attached to the crankshaft’s end. There is also a gear on the starter that fits into the ring gear’s grooves.

So, whenever a vehicle’s ignition switch is turned ON, it energizes the starter. Its electromagnet engages and pushes the rod attached to the pinion gear, which turns the starter after meeting the flywheel. In a nutshell, there is a link-up between the starter and the flywheel.

Q: Will engine crank if starter is bad?

It is impossible for a car’s engine to crank when the starter is bad. In fact, the inability of a car’s engine to crank is a major symptom of a bad starter motor. However, it can not hinder a vehicle’s engine from cranking.

Factors like a defective ignition switch, faulty battery, and other mechanical or technical issues can also be responsible for a vehicle’s engine not cranking to start. So, if all other components are okay, yet a vehicle’s engine refuses to crank, a defective starter may be the issue.

If you experience this challenge, the remedy is to get a replacement for your vehicle’s starter motor. You can contact a professional auto mechanic near you to do the job.

Q: Can a starter motor damage the flywheel?

All vehicle components work through a period before it finally reaches the expected lifespan. So, like other components, the flywheel can also reach its lifespan and go bad.

However, the flywheel also has a tendency of losing its teeth, becoming worn-out or cracked. When this happens, forcing a vehicle’s starter motor to work with a cracked flywheel can damage it faster than expected.

Final Words

A low battery voltage, defective solenoid, faulty starter wiring, or damaged flywheel can be the reason for a vehicle’s starter not engaging flywheel. The remedy for overcoming this problem has been provided above in this article.

You already know what to do if you are facing this challenge. If a friend complains about something similar, you most likely know how to advise them on what to do to rectify the issue.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

3 thoughts on “Starter Not Engaging Flywheel: Causes and Fixes

  1. hello .
    The battery is new, but when I start the car, I hear a slow sound from the starter, i.e. it drags. what’s wrong Is it directly the fault of the starter or the wheel?

  2. Hey Gary,

    You replaced your engine with new starter and battery. Are you sure the starter is a match to the engine?

    Reinstall the old starter and see if that will fix the problem.

  3. Had to replace engine in ’86 ElCo. Now have both new starter and battery. Have purple wire on the S post the solenoid and both the battery wire and ignition switch wires on the battery post on the solenoid. When I turn the key, the pinion locks into the flywheel even though I have shimmed the starter to 1/8 plus. The pinion does not move the flywheel, like there is not enough voltage to do so. any suggestions?

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