Why Starter Keeps Cranking With Key Off [Reasons + Solutions] 

The starter keeps cranking with key off because of a faulty starter solenoid, stuck-on solenoid switch, and damaged starter wiring. Besides, a bad starter motor and a defective starter relay are other caveats responsible for this issue. 

If you don’t deal with this issue, it will cause severe damage to your car. And this troubleshooting guide will help you avoid the damage by breaking down those culprits. So, keep reading. 

starter keeps cranking with key off

Why Starter Keeps Cranking With Key Off [Reasons + Solutions]

This chapter will explain each of the culprits that cause the starter to keep running with the key off. Plus, we will provide the solution to those issues. 

Note: You can also read how to fix Starter fuse keeps blowing.

1. A Faulty Starter Solenoid

The starter of your vehicle will keep running with the key off because of a faulty starter solenoid. You can easily determine whether it’s the problem with the solenoid or ignition switch. 

Just pull out the thin wire when the starter keeps running but the key is off. If the starter of your car keeps cranking with the thin wire detached, we bet it’s the issue with the starter solenoid. 


Replace the starter solenoid if it’s at fault. Just watch the following tutorial and follow the procedure to change the solenoid correctly:

Alternatively, you can hire a professional to let him do this task for you. 

2. Switch Inside The Solenoid Gets Stuck

A stuck-on switch inside the solenoid allows power to flow from the big lead coming out of the battery to the starter motor. As a result, the starter keeps cranking even though you turn the key off. Now, let’s explain this.

When you turn on the ignition switch, two things will happen- (1). The solenoid pops out to allow the drive gear to turn the motor over (2).

There is a switch in there that allows electric power to flow from the batt wire to the starter motor wire.

If the switch doesn’t disengage or gets stuck and you leave the key off, the starter motor will continue to run until you go to your destination. This is because if the switch gets stuck, the starter drive remains engaged also. 


What you need to do in this case is- just check the purple leading to the solenoid getting power once you turn on the ignition switch.

We recommend you attach a test light to the purple wire with long enough wires so that you can see it from the driver seat. 

Every time you set the ignition switch to the start position, the light will come on. If it doesn’t come on when the starter keeps cranking, we bet the culprit is the stuck-on switch inside the solenoid. 

To solve this issue, replace the solenoid switch. If you are not mechanically inclined, hire a certified mechanic to handle this task for you. In rare cases, you may need to change the whole starter solenoid. 

3. Damaged Starter Wiring

The starter wiring is connected to the starter motor, solenoid, switches, and battery cables. The solenoid sends electrical current to the starter motor through the wiring. If the wiring gets damaged, it may cause the starter to keep cranking. 


We recommend you pull out the purple wire from the starter. If the starter still keeps cranking, it will be better to check the resistance between the large and the small terminals on the starter.

It would be best to call a professional to inspect the starter wiring if you are not electrically or mechanically inclined. 

4. Defective Starter Motor

A bad starter motor or an internal issue with the starter motor can cause the starter to keep cranking slowly. However, the slow cranking of the starter may also be a sign of a weak battery or engine issue. 


Basically, worn-out pinion gear teeth, overheated internal electrical parts, and bad ignition timing are the culprits that cause the starter to fail.

And replacing the faulty starter motor will be an easy solution to this problem. The following video will help in this case: 

However, the best suggestion we can give you is to call a certified mechanic to diagnose the starter motor. 

5. Bad Starter Relay

Usually, you can’t start your car if the starter relay is at fault. But sometimes, a defective starter relay acts completely in the opposite way.

In simple words, instead of opening the electrical circuits, it may fail to close them. Consequently, the starter keeps running even though you take the key out of the ignition. 

Besides, a binding ignition lock cylinder may also cause this issue. If you don’t deal with these issues immediately, it will turn into a serious problem. 


You can easily fix this issue by changing the bad starter relay into a new one. And the below tutorial will help you in testing and replacing the faulty starter relay: 


What would cause a starter to stay engaged?

A defective switch or electrically shorted cables cause the starter to stay engaged. Besides, a low voltage issue can also be responsible for this starter problem. 

What are the signs of a failing starter motor?

Here are some signs of a failing starter motor:
1. You won’t turn the engine on.
2. The starter will keep cranking but it fails to power the engine. 
3. Grinding noise
4. Smoke coming out of the exhaust

How long can a starter motor run continuously?

A starter motor is specially designed to run continuously for 30 seconds with a 1-2 minutes cool-down period between each cycle. If you attempt to operate the starter continuously under load, it will melt down the stator windings or the rotor. 


It freaks out every car owner when the starter of the vehicle keeps cranking without the key in the ignition. So, you need to find the source behind this problem and solve it. Otherwise, it will cause severe damage to your car.

Fortunately, we broke down every reason that can cause this issue. So, follow our guidelines and solve the starter issue. If the problem still persists, bring your car to a certified mechanic. 

About John M

John contributed as a technical head at an automobile company just 2 years after his post-graduation in Automobile Engineering. He loves to lead a free life, so he left his job & started blogging. Now, he does research on every automotive problem, part & product and seeks a better solution & best products & shares his findings with his readers to help them as well as to minimize their struggle.

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