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A few days ago my 2003 Honda Accord would not start. Turning the key turned on all electronics and I could hear what I believe to be something in the fuel system spinning as I attempted to start the car. I replaced the battery, so that is not the issue.

I called AAA to have them tow the car. I pushed the car down the driveway so the tow truck could access the car. When the AAA driver got there, he wanted to observe the issue in case there was an easy solution he could help with. I turned the key and the car started right up.

The repair shop still thinks I should bring the car in to have the starter diagnosed (for a $110 fee). My question is: is it possible that I have a bad starter? Can a starter fail several times, and then work again without any work being done to it? Should I get the diagnostics done, or wait for this to happen again?

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Personally, I would start by having the started tested at a local parts house that will do it for free. In my experience, most places can do bench testing (with the starter off), which will provide more detailed information, or they can perform a less detailed test with the starter on the vehicle. Also, what kind of noises was it making when you attempted to start the car? –  bullrider Aug 26 '13 at 16:33
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My opinion is that it is entirely possible to have an intermittent starter problem such as the one you describe. Some sources suggest a good strong whack to the starter can help un-stick a sticky starter solenoid. Maybe things got jostled enough while you moved the car. –  mac Aug 26 '13 at 16:39
    
I did some more reading after posting; it seems the cheapest/easiest thing to try would be to make sure there is no corrosion on the battery to ensure a good connection. I did notice a little bit on the battery clamp when I installed the new battery. –  benr Aug 26 '13 at 21:40
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1 Answer

Sticky solenoid like Mac said. Or, a loose ground strap. Or, just a dead spot on the starter. It certainly can happen. It's probably something that replacing the starter would fix, but not necessarily (example being the one I had where it was a ground strap the detached and was just sometimes resting in the right spot. Replacing the starter didn't help, since the guy that did it didn't know that there was a missing ground since he didn't ever remove it!).

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Thanks for the comment. Because its been starting just fine since the initial problem (4 days now) and after a little more research, I think I'm going to skip the diagnostic unless the problem returns. The mechanic kept referring to looking at the flywheel, which scares me a bit and makes me think he's looking to find some major work. –  benr Aug 26 '13 at 21:42
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The flywheel comment is an interesting one. This can actually be the cause of an intermittent failure to start--if a few teeth on the flywheel are stripped, then if the flywheel comes to rest with these missing teeth lined up with the starter, the starter will spin without turning the engine. Generally you can hear the starter run in this case though--it will sound very different from normal as the engine isn't cranking--but you'll hear something. You described hearing something in the fuel system: maybe that was the fuel pump, but it might have also been the starter! –  mac Aug 27 '13 at 13:52
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