Testing the starter motor is not as difficult as it may seem. I think you'll be surprised just how easy it is to troubleshoot a bad starter motor on your 1.5L Honda Civic.
In this tutorial, I'll explain how to test the starter motor. You'll easily and quickly determine if it's good or bad with your test results.
NOTE: All tests in this tutorial are on-car tests. The images I'm using show the starter motor off the vehicle in order to better explain the test connections only.
Contents of this tutorial:
APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles:
- 1.5L Honda Civic: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995.
- 1.5L Honda Civic Del Sol: 1993, 1994, 1995.
Important Testing Tips
The following testing tips will help you test the starter motor without complications:
TIP 1: You must perform all tests with a battery that's fully charged. If the battery has a low charge, charge it up before beginning any of the indicated tests.
TIP 2: The battery cable terminals and the battery posts should be clean and corrosion-free before starting the tests.
TIP 3: Read the entire article first to familiarize yourself with the tests.
TIP 4: If you need to lift you Honda Civic, place it on jack stands for safety. Don't trust the jack alone to keep your vehicle up in the air while you're underneath it!
TIP 5: Take all necessary safety precautions. Use safety glasses while working underneath the vehicle. Be alert and think safety all of the time.
Symptoms Of A Bad Starter Motor
A bad starter motor usually causes one of two problems:
- The engine doesn't crank. To be more specific, you turn the key to crank and start the engine, but nothing happens.
- An intermittent engine no-crank problem. In this type of failure, the engine cranks and starts most of the time, but now and then, it won't.
n most cases, the starter motor will fail and never function again. The end result is that the engine doesn't turn over to start (when you turn the key to start it).
Unfortunately, the starter motor can fail intermittently. In these cases, the starter motor functions well most of the time, but it refuses to come out and play every now and then.
An intermittent no-crank problem is the hardest to diagnose since you've got to test a starter motor when it isn't cranking the engine.
Why Does My Honda Civic's Starter Motor Look Different?
The 1992-1995 1.5L Honda Civic uses several different starter motors. The starter motor type will depend on the year of your Civic and whether the transaxle is automatic or manual.
If the starter motor on your particular 1.5L Honda Civic doesn't look like the one in the images I'm using, don't worry.
Its physical appearance may be different, but it works the same, and all test steps will apply.
Why? Because all 1.5L Honda Civic starter motor types will have an 'S' terminal and a battery (+) terminal. They are all tested the same way!
TEST 1: Applying 12 Volts To The 'S' Terminal
For your first test, you'll check if the starter motor activates and turns the engine over when you apply 12 Volts DC directly to its solenoid's 'S' terminal.
The easiest and fastest way to accomplish this test is with a remote starter switch. This is an inexpensive tool that will speed out the test.
If you don't have a remote starter switch, you can check it and buy it here: JEGS W80586 Heavy Duty Remote Starter (at: amazon.com).
IMPORTANT: All tests in this tutorial are on-car tests. The images I'm using show the starter motor off the vehicle in order to better explain the test connections only.
CAUTION: Remove the key from the ignition switch for this test.
OK, let's start:
Raise your Honda Civic and place on it jack stands. Remember, the only way to gain access to the starter motor is from underneath the vehicle.
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 one end of the remote starter switch to the battery positive (+) post.
Attach one end of the 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.
Also, in case you're wondering, you can leave the starter motor solenoid's 'S' terminal wire connected to the engine's wiring harness connector or not, the test will work either way.
Reconnect the battery negative (-) cable to the battery negative post.
Apply 12 Volts to the 'S' terminal wire of the starter motor starter solenoid with your remote starter switch.
You'll get one of two results:
1.) The starter will activate and will turn over the engine.
2.) 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 is the correct and expected test result.
You can conclude that the starter motor itself is OK. The next step is to see if the starter motor is getting the 12 Volt Start signal on the 'S' terminal wire. Go to: TEST 2: Verifying The 12 Volt Start Signal.
CASE 2: The starter motor DID NOT crank the engine. This test result generally tells you that the starter motor is bad.
I suggest you perform two more tests. First, make sure the starter motor is getting its 12 Volt Start signal. Second, and the most important of the two, is to voltage drop test the battery cable (that attaches to the starter motor solenoid).
- Go to: TEST 2: Verifying The 12 Volt Start Signal.
- Go to: TEST 3: Voltage Drop Testing The Battery Cable.