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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey everyone, I've searched the forums and I hadn't seen anything quite like the issues I experienced so I'm hoping y'all can help.

Last Wednesday my Mazda 3 ran just fine (edit- No codes / CEL or any indication that anything was wrong) on the way to grab dinner with a buddy and when I came outside, it wouldn't start. It made a 'whirring' noise so we figured it was a dead battery. We tried jumping it with no luck but the whirring noise sounded stronger so we opted to replace the battery.

Replacing the battery didn't work so we thought it was maybe the starter and had it towed to my house. I purchased a remanufactured starter from AutoZone and had it replaced.. still won't start with the same whirring noise. I replaced the wire leading from the battery to the starter and no dice. I tried jumping it again at this point and it seemed to crank for half a second before it died.

At this point, I had it towed to Pep Boys who have diagnosed it with 'Bad Engine'. This Pep Boys has been good to me in the past with other services so to get such a vague response is a little upsetting and not helpful at all. I'm going in tomorrow to speak to the them and try to figure out what they tried to get it to run.

Has anyone ever heard or experienced something similar to this? The car has 83,000 miles on it so there's plenty of life left in the vehicle. Anything helps.

Thank you.
 

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"Bad engine" could be anything. It was running fine before it stopped so it can't be that bad.
Have you cleaned all the starter grounds and any control system grounds you can find?
 

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Take your car to a real mechanic. "Bad engine" is not a diagnosis. An engine doesn't "go bad" sitting in a parking lot while you are eating. Bad starter ground maybe? Its possible that you got a couple bad starters also, especially from AZ.....Been that route with them...
 

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A mechanic that looks at your car should be able to tell you what tests they performed and what results lead them to believe that some major part of the engine is broken. "It's broke" isn't much of a diagnosis.

Could you give us a bit more description of the "whirring" noise?

Does it sound like the starter (essentially an electric motor) is spinning freely, just not turning the engine itself over? That could be your new starter/solenoid is bad (they're usually rebuilt, and by the cheapest labor they can find, quality is secondary), where the solenoid isn't shoving the starter gear all the way into the flywheel. Did you also verify that the part they sold you is the right one for your car? It could also be the flywheel or the toothed ring on it have failed/separated and there's nothing for the starter to engage, did you look at it while the starter was out?

If it doesn't sound like the starter is spinning, does it sound more like the starter is engaging, but not spinning, making more of a humming sound? Could still be a bad starter. Could also be a locked up motor. Have you tried spinning the motor over by hand with a wrench on the crank pulley bolt? If the motor turns, it could be as others have suggested, a bad ground where the starter can't get enough juice to turn the engine.

But stop buying parts until you know what's wrong. Firing up the parts cannon based on "it might be" is a good way to have a pile of new parts that don't solve the original problem. We've all done it, and lived to regret it...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
"Bad engine" could be anything. It was running fine before it stopped so it can't be that bad.
Have you cleaned all the starter grounds and any control system grounds you can find?
I have not yet cleaned any grounds. It's getting towed back to my place from Pep Boys as we speak and that's the first thing I'll be trying.

Take your car to a real mechanic. "Bad engine" is not a diagnosis. An engine doesn't "go bad" sitting in a parking lot while you are eating. Bad starter ground maybe? Its possible that you got a couple bad starters also, especially from AZ.....Been that route with them...
It's definitely possible. I'll get in there with a wire brush and start scrubbing. It is possible I got both a bad (new) battery and bad (remanufactured) starter. I'll run a voltage test on the new battery and hopefully scrub that from the list.

A mechanic that looks at your car should be able to tell you what tests they performed and what results lead them to believe that some major part of the engine is broken. "It's broke" isn't much of a diagnosis.

Could you give us a bit more description of the "whirring" noise?

Does it sound like the starter (essentially an electric motor) is spinning freely, just not turning the engine itself over? That could be your new starter/solenoid is bad (they're usually rebuilt, and by the cheapest labor they can find, quality is secondary), where the solenoid isn't shoving the starter gear all the way into the flywheel. Did you also verify that the part they sold you is the right one for your car? It could also be the flywheel or the toothed ring on it have failed/separated and there's nothing for the starter to engage, did you look at it while the starter was out?

If it doesn't sound like the starter is spinning, does it sound more like the starter is engaging, but not spinning, making more of a humming sound? Could still be a bad starter. Could also be a locked up motor. Have you tried spinning the motor over by hand with a wrench on the crank pulley bolt? If the motor turns, it could be as others have suggested, a bad ground where the starter can't get enough juice to turn the engine.

But stop buying parts until you know what's wrong. Firing up the parts cannon based on "it might be" is a good way to have a pile of new parts that don't solve the original problem. We've all done it, and lived to regret it...
It is a more of an electric whirring noise.. not a humming sound. I'll turn the key and I hear a "whirr... whirr... whirr..." as if something is moving, but the next step in the process isn't being performed (really showing my lack of knowledge with that description). I did not verify it was the right starter as I've blindly trusted AutoZone before with no issues. That's something I'll be doing once it's back. It looked pretty similar to my OEM starter.. A quick search shows there seems to be a difference between the 2.0L and 2.5L. Is there a way to visually tell the difference?

I did not check out the flywheel / toothed ring component. That's a brilliant idea. Once the car is towed back to my place I'll be removing the starter (with the help of more automotive inclined friends) and taking a look underneath.


Thank you all for the help thus far. This is my 5th car in life and I've never experienced something this frustrating knocks on wood. I'll keep y'all posted.
 

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first thing i notice is a bit of replacing parts on a hunch with nothing to back that up. you're thinking along the right lines, but part replacement is not diagnosis. this is not me trying to give you a hard time. this should be a learning experience for you. before replacing the battery, a simple multimeter would have given you some idea as to what state the battery is in. many parts stores will test a battery or you can buy a load tester inexpensively to check yourself (i do this and never get stuck with a dead battery - i replace them before they fail completely). also the whirring noise tells you that something is turning so battery is not likely.

a starter can be easily bench tested. even a resistance check will give you some idea of what shape the motor windings are in. its possible to do this yourself or many parts stores will also do this for you. visual inspection and just turning the starter by hand to see if it spins freely.

starters have something like a clutch mechanism. as the motor turns, it forces the turning gear out to contact the flywheel teeth. you can move the turning gear like this by hand. i would also not trust a parts store to give you the correct part. i once had a replacement brake caliper that i couldn't mount. it was a reman'd one and the bolt holes for the mounting bracket were about 1/4" off. seems the piston was correct but the mounting bracket was the wrong part....had to put the calipers side by side.
 

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It would be helpful if you could get a video from the engine bay of the sound while someone attempted to start the car. I wouldn't recreate the issue though if you think it's causing any detrimental damage. Otherwise as stated I'd get it properly diagnosed by a mechanic or someone with more experience before throwing more money at it without knowing the issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
UPDATE-

Thank you all for the responses. I had the car towed to the local Mazda dealership as at that point I would've rather paid the extra money for a reliable diagnosis. The issue was a locked up alternator coupled with a tensioner belt issue.

The car drives beautifully now.
 
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