Starter Keeps Cranking With Key Off: 7 Reasons & Solutions

Why is it that my starter keeps cranking with key off? What could be the reason behind it? Let’s find out

Whenever you turn your ignition key, the starter motor turns the engine and allows the air to flow inside the combustion chamber. So, it plays a significant role in starting your vehicle.

Sometimes you may observe that your starter keeps cranking with the key off. There can be many reasons behind it, like faulty starter solenoid, low voltage in the battery, wiring issues, bad ignition lock cylinder, or bad starter relay.

Starter Keeps Cranking With Key Off

Why Does My Starter Keep On Cranking With Key Off?

Below are a few reasons why the starter goes on cranking even when the key is off.

#1. Malfunctioning Of Starter Solenoid

The Strater solenoid is an electromagnet switch that plays a significant role in starting the starter motor.

Whenever you turn the ignition switch, the battery provides power to the starter solenoid and activates the starter motor, which finally turns the engine. But if the starter solenoid will not work effectively, it can cause a starting problem in the vehicle and make the starter crank even when the key is off.

There are various reasons behind bad starter solenoids. For instance, if the plunger on the interior of the starter solenoid goes bad, it will not stop the electric current from reaching the starter motor.

Well, you can easily inspect the problem in the starter solenoid. Try pulling the solenoid wires when the engine is turned off, but the starter keeps cranking.

If you observe that your vehicle’s starter motor will keep rotating even after removing the wires, there is a problem with the solenoid.


If the starter solenoid has gone bad, it’s better to replace it. You can do it at home or take the help of a professional.

#2. The Switch Present Inside The Starter Solenoid May Get Stuck

A switch on the interior of the starter solenoid allows current from the battery to reach the starter motor. But when the switch gets stuck, electric current will keep flowing from the battery to the starter. Hence the starter drive remains engaged even when you switch off the key.

You must first find the purple wires connected to the solenoid’s S terminal. Try to do a light test on the purple wire. Whenever you turn the ignition switch, then the light will come on. But if the light does not come and the starter keeps rotating, there can be some problem with the switch.


You need to remove the old starter switch and replace it with a new one. If you don’t have experience handling such a problem, then take the help of a professional mechanic to change the solenoid switch.

#3. Problems In Starter Motor Wires

The starter motor is connected to the battery, solenoid, and battery with the help of wires. But if the stator motor wires get damaged, electric current cannot flow from the battery to the stator. Hence it keeps on cranking even after switching off the key.


Check all the cables thoroughly. For instance, the battery cables can get damaged with time, creating such issues. If such is the case, you must replace the battery wire connected to the starter motor with a new one.

Secondly, check the cables from the solenoid to the starter motor.You will find the purple wire on the starter motor and try to remove it. But if the problem persists, you can check the resistance in large and small terminals in the starter motor.

But we recommend you get help from a professional mechanic, especially if you have issues with stator motor wires.

#4. Malfunctioning Of The Starter Motor

A bad starter can also be why it rotates even after switching off the key. There can be internal problems inside the starter, creating such an issue. Additionally, there can be problems with the battery or engine for which the starter motor is cranking continuously.


The teeth on the starter gear can get damaged with time. The engine parts inside the starter motor can also malfunction because of overheating.

So, if you inspect the starter motor is damaged, you better replace it with a new one.

#5. Bad Starter Relay

A starter relay is a small electric device that plays a significant role in starting your vehicle. Whenever you start your car, the relay will give the solenoid a small amount of power.

Additionally, the starter solenoid will draw a big current from the battery. It will cause the solenoid to send power to the starter motor.

But the starter relay can malfunction with time so that it can close the circuit instead of opening. Hence the starter motor will run even when you take out the ignition key.


Change the starter relay if it has gone damaged.

#6. Issues In the Ignition Lock Cylinder

The ignition lock cylinder is usually located where you put your key to start your car. The cylinder passes through four stages to create a vehicle.

The first one is to open the lock of the steering column. The second phase is to turn all the electrical components inside the car, like the music system, lights, and radio.

The third phase is to activate the ECU and fire, and the fourth phase is the last phase, where the engine will receive power, and the vehicle will roll down its wheel.

But the ignition cylinder can malfunction with time. Hence you face severe problems like irregularities in starting your vehicle. Consequently, the starter motor can crank when you turn off the ignition.


You can lubricate the ignition lock cylinder using WD 40 to solve the starter issues. But if the problem persists, then investigate the ignition lock cylinder thoroughly. If it is damaged, then replace it with a new one.

#7. Low Voltage

Low voltage is another problem for which you can get a bad starter. The battery can be the primary culprit. So, check the battery voltage to ensure it is working correctly.

If the voltmeter reading shows 12.6 volts when the engine is in off condition, it is fully charged. But if the voltage drops to 10.3 volts, the battery has some issues.


If you find the car battery is damaged, it’s better to replace it with a new one. You have to spend a lot of money on replacing a vehicle battery.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1. What would cause a starter to stay engaged?

There can be various potential reasons for which the starter can stay engaged. We are listing some of them below.

  • Low voltage
  • Bad battery
  • Improper connection
  • Faulty switch in the solenoid
  • Malfunction of the starter solenoid
  • Bad starter relay
  • The problem with the ignition lock cylinder

#2. What happens when a starter doesn’t disengage?

If your vehicle’s starter is engaging but not disengaging when you turn off the key, it can cause overheating. The stator components will get damaged.

Simultaneously you will hear a grinding noise from the vehicle, which indicates that the starter gear teeth have worn out. Additionally, your car will have irregular starting, i.e., sometimes it may start, and sometimes it will not.

#3. Can a starter motor run continuously?

No, a starter motor should not run consistently. It should never function at no load or full load for more than some seconds.

If the starter motor constantly operates, the parts inside it will overheat. The windings will start to melt, which badly affects the engine.

Wrap Up

The starter motor plays a vital role in starting your car. But If the starter motor cranks even after turning off the key, it’s pretty frustrating.

We have listed some possible reasons why your vehicle has starter problems. You need to inspect accordingly and try to fix the issue as soon as possible for the smooth running of the engine.

Thank you for reading this article!

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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