Honda civic vti 1999.

While we were trying to diagnose a no start/cut out condition (Help with odd start/no start car) the mechanic kept holding the ignition on crank for prolonged times and you could smell a burning smell develop. I asked him what it was and he said it was the starter.

Despite this he repeatedly kept starting again and holding it for a few seconds at a time and the burning smell kept coming back.

While this was happening I was thinking does this guy have any idea what he's doing hes obviously toasting something and I dont see what the need to hold the ignition on crank repeatedly, for a few seconds each time where this burning smell kept coming was.

Anyway we realised the problem was elsewhere i.e ignition cylinder however I just didnt get why he needed to be so ruthless when holding the crank/starter.

I think my starter may be gone now and I'm just wondering can it be neccesary to burn the starter out or was this guy just a maniac?

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    If you are trying to sell starter motors, maybe. Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


You could pretty much guarantee that he wouldn't treat his own car like this

Starter motors are not designed for continuous use and will overheat due to the high currents involved and should be left to cool down after use. If they overheat, the enamel insulation could be burnt off the copper coils causing shorts, or plastic components could melt. I believe car user manuals usually specify not to run the starter for long periods.

There is no reason for him to have done this other than to save his time while diagnosing the other issue.

If the starter is still starting the engine, then you are probably OK.

I would not go back to that mechanic again if he shows no concern for your property.

  • 2
    Yeah, its called the "Smoke Test" or "Letting the Smoke Out", I would not trust Anyone that uses this method when working on car electrical systems.
    – Moab
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 11:53
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    What an utter a$$wit of a mechanic. I can only imagine the countless times they've done this to others who are none-the-wiser and end up coming back to this guy to replace the starter. If confronted I bet they resort to some BS like "If the starter can't handle this then it was on it's way out anyways, I'm doing you a favor by not getting you stuck in a parking lot."
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 14:36
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    An obvious question: why don't they put some type of thermal cut-out on the starter motor? Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 18:27
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    @user253751 In general, adding a new component or feature to an existing component does simply increase complexity by n+1 but it rather exponentiates the complexity of the system as a whole. I think the drawbacks and edge-cases would quickly outweigh the damage done by an a$$wit mechanic.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 18:55
  • 4
    @user253751: Because if I'm being chased by an axe murderer and my car's having trouble starting, I'd rather risk burning out the starter than sit there with the starter refusing to run to save its own ass. Haven't you ever watched a good horror flick? Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 4:13

You need to ask your mechanic about this,I can not think about one single positive effect of trying to burn the starter out.

BURNING OUT A STARTER is the same as destroying it,a starter uses a lot of power when running i am talking about 100-200amps.

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The solenoid pull the gear in position and connect power to the brushes,the solenoid is a high power relay,if there is a bad connection in the solenoid it might fail.

The brushes feed electrical power to the field coils,larger starters have four brushes two are connected to the output side of the solenoid and the other two is connected to minus/ground/chassis.

What your mechanic might have tried to do is to burn off oil/grease from the brushes,The problem here is that burning off oil will create carbon and this is electrically conducting so it will have a negative effect on the starters performance.

In short find a mechanic that knows what he is doing.


If your starter is indeed ruined, I would take the repair bill to that mechanic and demand he pay for the damage he caused to the starter. If he knows anything about cars, he knew what he was doing and therefore intentionally burned up your starter. Not to mention he would have shortened the life of the battery for this type of "deep cycle" duty that a starter battery is not designed for. Anything over 10-15 seconds is excessive. Trying to start a diesel in the winter with no heat is one thing, but a 1999 Honda Civic should either start or not within 5 seconds.


This is a unique exception not applicable to your car, but cars with Multiair engines like my 124 Spider have a manufacturer specified procedure to prime the Multiair actuator (a.k.a. the Multair brick), after storage by extended cranking

However, the manual emphasises that the starter should be allowed to cool down for 5 seconds, for every 10 to 15 seconds of cranking

Additionally, the manual goes on to state that after 8 attempts (2 minutes of on and off cranking), the starter has to be allowed to cool for at least 10 minutes


Ironically, I found a link to the manual for another car with a Multiair engine, the Jeep Renegade, which details this procedure, but it also contains a warning further down that seems to contradict itself and suggest waiting 10 to 15 seconds instead, which I don't believe my manual has

Either way, this is a procedure the manufacturer has laid out with very specific timing, and they've laid out enough time for the starter to cool down if the procedure doesn't work immediately.

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