Car is a '93 Mk1 Gold Cabriolet.

I have this problem where the starter motor will sound like its struggling to turn the engine over. It sounds very much like a dead or dying battery but this is not the case - battery seems fine and alternator is giving it enough juice.

The odd thing is this happens very sporadically. The car can start fine, be driven to work, then have this issue starting in the afternoon, be driven again for 5 mins, then start again fine. I would say 1 in 30 starts has this problem.

Each time, so far, I've been able to get the car going by cranking it (slowly) until the engine catches.

The car behaves normally otherwise.

Is this the symptoms of a dying starter motor?

  • 1
    This could also be the symptoms of a broken or corroded cable... Have you checked them?
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 19, 2019 at 12:15
  • 1
    Or a loose battery terminal/cable. Or a bad ground. All would produce the symptoms described.
    – Tim Nevins
    Feb 19, 2019 at 16:50
  • 1
    You could also (gingerly, I might add), feel the positive lead going from the battery to the starter to see if it's getting hot. If the starter is dragging down, the wire will get really warm. Check the temperature when it works just fine, then check again when it doesn't to see how hot it's getting. Feb 19, 2019 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


With these problems always start by taking the battery back to where you bought it and have it tested. Before reinstalling the battery go down to the starter tighten the electrical connections and starter mounting bolts. A previous responder alluded to the fact that poor connections tend to get hot when large currents flow thru them. A new starter will spin the motor faster using less current saving wear and tear on the alternator.

  • Yep, found that one of the connecting cables was slightly loose. I just pushed it back in more firmly and it's fine now. Cheers.
    – MeltingDog
    Mar 3, 2019 at 3:44
  • As soon as the motor starts the alternator begins replenishing the energy expended by the battery while starting the motor. What happens' to alternators is the bearings ware, the rotating member begins rubbing.the stationary structure around its perifery increasing the internal friction. The next time they ask "do I need a new starter? tell them to crawl under and tell me how hot it feels.
    – Bob S.
    Dec 23, 2020 at 3:47

A new starter will spin the motor faster using less current saving wear and tear on the alternator.

Alternator isn't working till the engine is up and running. It is the battery which powers the starter motor, so no wear and tear on the alternator

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