STARTER TEST 1: Applying 12 Volts To The S Terminal
The first thing we'll do, to find out if the starter motor is fried or not, is to apply 12 Volts to it using a remote starter switch.
If the starter motor is bad, then manually applying 12 Volts with the remote starter switch, to the starter solenoid's S terminal, will not make it activate. On the other hand. If the starter motor is good and the problem is being caused by something else (like a bad neutral safety switch), then manually applying 12 Volts will make the starter motor activate and crank the engine.
NOTE: Getting to the starter motor solenoid S terminal (to manually apply 12 Volts) can be quite a challenge but not impossible. What I do is 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, I suggest you do the same (to see what this tool looks like, go here: Wire Piercing Probe Tool Review (Power Probe PWPPPPP01)).
NOTE: So which is the S terminal? The starter motor on your Honda has two wires attached to it. One wire is attached with a nut and this one goes directly to the battery positive post. The other wire, which is usually referred to as the S terminal, attaches to the starter motor using a female spade terminal.
IMPORTANT: Remove the key from the ignition switch for this test.
OK, this is what you'll need to do:
If you need to raise your Honda Civic (Civic del Sol or CRX), place on it jack stands.
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.
Attach a remote starter switch to the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid.
This is easier said than done. So take your time and make sure the connection is on the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid.
NOTE: You can also connect the remote starter switch to the starter motor solenoid's S terminal wire using some sort of wire piercing probe. If this is the option you choose, make sure the S terminal wire is connected to the starter solenoid when you are done setting up your connections.
Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery negative post.
Now, apply 12 Volts to the S terminal (or the S terminal wire depending on how you've set up the test) 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:
- The starter will activate and will turn over the engine
- 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. It also tells you that the probable cause, of it not working when you turn the key to start the engine, is a lack of the 12 Volt Start signal on the S terminal of the starter motor solenoid.
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 12 Volt 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) for corrosion. This can be accomplished very easily with a voltage drop test.
- Go to: TEST 2: Verifying The 12 Volt Start Signal.
- Go to: TEST 3: Voltage Drop Testing The Battery Cable.
STARTER TEST 2: Verifying The 12 Volt Start Signal
One of the things that can lead you to believe that the starter motor is bad is a dead battery. So, it's important that the battery on your Honda Civic is in a fully charged condition.
How can you find out? Well, one very fast test you can do to find out is to: Turn the key to the on position and then turn on the headlights for about 10 seconds (and after 10 seconds turn them off). Then, check the voltage, with your multimeter in Volts DC, of the battery. If the battery's voltage is around 12.4 Volts, then the battery is OK.
One other thing, both the positive and negative battery terminals and posts must be clean before you start this first test.
OK, enough yakking, here's what you'll need to do:
Grab your multimeter and set it in Volts DC mode.
Now, with the red multimeter test lead, probe the wire that connects to the S terminal of your Honda Civic's starter motor solenoid. How? by piercing the wire with a tool like a wire piercing probe (or any other suitable tool that you can attach the red multimeter test lead to).
Now, find a good clean metal spot on the Engine or directly on the battery negative terminal and Ground the black multimeter test lead to this spot.
When you've gotten everything set up, have an assistant crank the engine. Now the engine won't crank, but this is the only way to test and confirm the presence of the Start signal from the ignition switch (and by extension, verifying that the Neutral Safety Switch is working too).
Your multimeter will display one of two things:
1.) You'll see 10 to 12 Volts DC (if the ignition switch and the neutral safety switch are good).
2.) Your multimeter will register 0 Volts (which usually indicates that the ignition switch or the neutral safety switch is fried).
OK, let's make sense of the readings that your multimeter recorded in the test:
CASE 1: Your multimeter registered 10 to 12 Volts. This let's you know that both the ignition switch and the neutral safety switch are doing their job and supplying the Crank (Start) Signal.
Now, around 90% of the time, you could stop here and condemn the starter motor as bad and replace it and the problem would be solved. But to be absolutely sure, I suggest doing one more test.
The next test would be to voltage drop test the battery positive wire that connects to the starter motor with the nut. This is an easy and fast test, go to: STARTER TEST 3: Voltage Drop Testing The Batt (+) Cable.
CASE 2: If your multimeter DID NOT register 10 to 12 Volts. This tells you that the either the ignition switch or the neutral safety switch is bad. Without this Start (Crank) signal, the starter motor will not come alive and crank the engine.
Now, it's beyond the scope of this article to test either the ignition switch or the neutral safety switch, but you have at least eliminated the starter motor itself as bad.