How To Test The Starter Motor (3.0L Nissan Maxima)

If you've been driving long enough, you know that eventually the starter motor is gonna' fail and when this happens, the most common symptom is that nothing happens when you turn the key (to crank and start the engine).

Well, the good news is that testing the starter motor is not hard to do and you don't need any expensive or exotic diagnostic tools to do it.

In this tutorial I'll help you test the starter motor on your Nissan Maxima, to see if it's causing the no crank condition you're currently experiencing.

Everything is explained in plain English and in a step-by-step way so that you can test it yourself.

Here are the contents of this article at a quick glance:

  1. Important Safety Precautions.
  2. Symptoms Of A BAD Starter Motor.
  3. Tools Needed To Test The Starter Motor.
  4. STARTER TEST 1: Applying 12 Volts To The Starter Motor S Terminal.
  5. STARTER TEST 2: Verifying The Start Signal.
  6. STARTER TEST 3: Voltage Drop Testing The Battery (+) Cable.
  7. Related Test Articles.

Important Safety Precautions

Suggestion 1: Even though the photos I'm using in this tutorial show the starter motor off of the car... you'll be testing it on the car since the test in this tutorial is an On-Car test of the starter. The photos I'm using show it off of the vehicle just to make it easier to show you where to make your connections.

If you need to bench-test the starter motor, the following tutorial will help you: How To Bench Test A Starter Motor (Step by Step) (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).

Suggestion 2: To successfully test the starter motor... it's important that the battery be fully charged. Also, the battery cable terminals and battery posts must be clean and corrosion free.

Testing the starter motor with a discharged battery or corrosion on the battery cables/terminals will lead to false test results that'll have you replacing good parts that don't need replacement.

Suggestion 3: Use jack stands to keep your Nissan Maxima up in the air... don't trust the jack alone! Take all necessary safety precautions, like using jack stands to hold up the vehicle, wearing eye-protection (safety glasses), etc.

Suggestion 4: If you're vehicle has a standard transmission... make sure that it's out of gear and in neutral, and the parking brake is activated/on.

Symptoms Of A BAD Starter Motor

When the starter motor goes BAD on your 3.0L Nissan Maxima, you'll see one of the following symptoms:

  1. Then engine doesn't turn over (crank) when you turn the key to start the engine.
  2. A jump start does not help. The vehicle's engine still refuses to crank.
  3. The battery has been charged and/or replaced and still your Nissan does not crank.
  4. When you turn the key to crank the engine, all you hear is a small knock and nothing else.

Although the above list is a not a very complete list of symptoms... the theme that runs thru' them, and any other related symptom, is that the engine will not turn over when you try to start it.

Tools Needed To Test The Starter Motor

You don't need expensive test equipment to test the starter motor on your 3.0L Nissan Maxima... but you do need a few things. These are:


  1. Jack.
  2. Jack stands.
  3. Remote starter switch.
    1. If you'd like to see what a remote starter switch looks like, you can follow this link: Actron CP7853 Remote Starter Switch.
    2. You can either buy this tool online or you can buy it at your local auto parts store (AutoZone, O'Reilly, Pepboys, etc.).
  4. Multimeter or a 12 Volt automotive test light.
    1. If you don't have a Multimeter or need to upgrade yours, check out my recommendation here: Buying A Digital Multimeter For Automotive Diagnostic Testing (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).
  5. A wire piercing probe.
    1. This tool is not an ‘absolute must have tool’ but I can tell you from experience that it makes it a whole lot easier to probe the S terminal wire for the Start Signal.
    2. If you'd like to see what this tool looks like, you find out more about it here: Wire Piercing Probe Tool Review (Power Probe PWPPPPP01).
  6. A helper.

As you can see... you don't need anything expensive. OK, let's turn the page and get starter with the first starter motor test.