Can low voltage damage a starter?
We seem to find ourselves having regular conversations with the folks at Powermaster Performance. Why would that be? Because Powermaster Performance manufactures a lot of components that are directly related to a vehicle's electrical system and in some cases, connected directly to a vehicle's battery (and they really know their stuff). We received a question the other day from a gentleman who was concerned about how low voltage could impact his 6.0 Ford diesel engine (if the batteries and/or charging system can't provide enough voltage to the FICM, bad things happen). In researching the answer to that question, we contacted Brady Basner at Powermaster, to ask him about the impact low battery voltage has on various components.
We already knew alternators were not designed to recharge deeply-discharged batteries, but Brady told us about another common issue Powermaster sees in vehicles that are used seasonally or don't have batteries that are properly-maintained. This image is a photo from one of Powermaster's XS Torque starters, that is showing signs of damage from low voltage.
"What essentially happens is the solenoid plunger won't pull in hard enough to make contact to the terminals," says Basner. "Many times there is an air gap between the contacts and plunger and you'll see sparking and arc marks."
So what happens when someone calls Brady and says they don't drive their car very often and the starter failed? He tells them to buy an OPTIMA Digital 400 battery maintainer and stop replacing their batteries every spring.