2003 Honda Accord, everything lights up fine but it has a really strange “groaning” noise, kinda quietly.

Then after a few tries it starts up perfectly fine. Sometimes it starts up first time, occasionally it starts half way through a groan (though usually when it groans I stop).

Here's a video of it, groans twice, starts the third time. The second attempt (15 seconds in) is the easiest to hear.


None of the troubleshooting I've seen even mentions this groan — I'm hoping its something like the ignition switch or a relay, but maybe the starter?

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

  • +1 for the video. At first glance, that feels to me either a starter/solenoid issue or a battery issue. I'd advise trying to change the battery in the first instance, as that's going to be very cheap and easy to do.
    – Dan
    Dec 11, 2015 at 9:56
  • It sounds like the starter pinion gear is not engaging intermittently, so the starter motor is spinning but the teeth are not engaging the flywheel. This video shows how the pinion gear is supposed to slide in and out to engage the flywheel. It could be that the sliding motion is sticking or you have damaged teeth on the pinion gear.
    – Zaid
    Dec 11, 2015 at 10:01
  • Here is a related question. Common issue on the Accord? If so, you'll probably find a good answer on the dedicated forums
    – Zaid
    Dec 11, 2015 at 10:04

2 Answers 2


From personal experience, I'd replaced ALOT of these working at the dealership. It wasn't just the accords either, it was quite a few Honda and Acuras that used the same design and power delivery system.

The most common issues I saw out of probably close to 100+ failures of these was:

  • Ground strap on the starter becoming corroded.
  • Bad ground to engine
  • Your power lead corroded
  • Bad ground or relay for your ignition.
  • Bendix pin or the solenoid on the starter itself not moving smoothly.

I will say that more times than not, it was the starter itself. Usually the pin would get corroded and jammed, or corrosion would occur on the connections at the starter itself. The fact that it starts up probably means that "Something" is wrong with the starter itself. Couldn't hurt to clean up everything while you're doing it though =)

Also that sound could very well be the starter, but it is a bit reminiscent of a relay or circuit breaker going bad. When the coil inside the relay burns, or the armature gets contaminated by something they can sometimes act up and look fine but will make that odd whining sound. Just food for thought though, I'd replace the starter and check all your cable while you're there.


My problem was the starter, it tested good at 2 Auto shops. Everything tested good.My husband was convinced the problem was the starter. We put a new/cheaper one on it anyway. Soon as he put everything back on the engine. I turned the key, it cranked up, it sounded like sweet music to my ear. I hope this help someone. Betty

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