STARTER TEST 1: Applying 12 Volts To The Starter Motor S Terminal

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

The very first thing I'm gonna' ask you to do, is to bypass the ignition switch and manually apply 12 Volts to the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid (identified with the letter S in the photo in the image viewer).

I use a wire piercing probe to pierce the S terminal wire and then I connect my remote starter switch to it and proceed from there. (to see what this tool looks like, go here: Wire Piercing Probe Tool Review (Power Probe PWPPPPP01)).

IMPORTANT: Before you perform this test... remove the key from the ignition switch to prevent the engine from accidentally starting.

OK, this is what you'll need to do:

  1. 1

    Jack up your Maxima and place on it jack stands. Don't trust the jack to keep your Maxima up in the air alone... use jack stands!

  2. 2

    Disconnect the battery negative terminal.

    You'll reconnect it back in one of the following steps, for now, it's a safety precaution as you set up the test.

  1. 3

    Attach one of the alligator-type terminals of the remote starter switch to the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid.

    Here's how I do it: I leave the S terminal wire connected to the starter motor. I then use a wire piercing probe to pierce the S terminal wire. I then connect the remote start switch to the wire piercing probe.

  2. 4

    Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery negative post. Make sure that the battery cables and posts are clean.

  3. 5

    Connect the remaining alligator-type terminal of the remote starter switch to the battery positive post.

    Now, apply 12 volts to the S terminal wire of the starter motor starter solenoid with your remote starter switch. As you apply these 12 Volts (to the S terminal wire of the starter motor solenoid), you'll get one of two results:

    1. The starter will activate and will turn over the engine
    2. -OR-
    3. The starter motor won't do a thing.

Let's take a look at what your test results mean:

CASE 1: The starter motor cranked the engine. This test result let's you know that the starter motor is OK and functioning. This also tells you that the starter motor is NOT receiving the activation signal from the ignition switch.

The next step is to go to TEST 2 and see if the starter motor is getting the 12 Volt Start signal on the S terminal wire (circuit). Go to TEST 2: Verifying The Start Signal.

CASE 2: The starter motor DID NOT crank the engine. This usually means that your starter motor is BAD and needs to be rebuilt or replaced.

I suggest 2 more tests and these are make sure that the starter motor is getting its 12 Volt Start signal and to test the battery cable (that attaches to the starter motor starter motor) for corrosion. This can be accomplished very easily with a voltage drop test.

  1. Go to: TEST 2: Verifying The Start Signal.
  2. Go to: TEST 3: Voltage Drop Testing The Battery Cable.

STARTER TEST 2: Verifying The Start Signal

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

In STARTER TEST 1 I asked you to bypass the ignition switch and apply 12 volts to the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid...

...In this test step, you're gonna' use a multimeter to see if the starter motor is being fed the Start Signal when you turn the key to start the engine.

You can use a multimeter or a 12 Volt automotive test light.

Ok, here's what you'll need to do:

  1. 1

    Lift the vehicle and place it on jack stands (if it isn't already up in the air). Now, while underneath the vehicle, connect the RED multimeter lead to the S terminal wire of the starter motor.

    The S terminal wire, of the starter solenoid, must remain connected to it's engine wiring harness connector for this test to work.

  2. 2

    Attach the BLACK multimeter lead to a clean and rust-free spot on the engine or on the vehicle frame.

    Here I'm going to recommend something to you: Use a battery jump start cable to ground the BLACK multimeter lead to a clean ground point on the engine. The reason why is that depending on how rusty and dirty the underneath of the vehicle... you may NOT be able to find a clean and rust-free spot to ground the multimeter's BLACK lead.

  3. 3

    Now, have your helper hop inside the vehicle and turn the key to crank the engine.

    The engine won't turn over, but the idea is to verify that the starter motor solenoid is getting the 12 Volt start signal from the ignition switch.

  4. 4

    Your multimeter is going to register one of two results: Either 10 to 12 Volts DC or no voltage at all.

    Alright, let's interpret the results of this test...

OK, let's make sense of the readings that your multimeter recorded in the test:


CASE 1: If your multimeter registered 10 to 12 Volts: This test result let's you know the starter solenoid is receiving the Start signal (crank signal).

This means that we can forget about the Safety Neutral Switch and the Ignition Switch being BAD. OK, now the next test is to do a very easy and simple voltage drop test. Go to TEST 3.

CASE 2: If your multimeter DID NOT register 10 to 12 Volts: This result exonerates the starter motor. Your starter motor is not BAD.

Here's the reason why... without this 10 to 12 Volt Crank Signal, the starter motor will not crank the engine. Now, although it's beyond the scope of this article to test the Neutral Safety Switch or the Ignition Switch, you have eliminated the starter motor and this means saving money by not buying a part your vehicle does not need.