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Updated: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm Published: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm

The electric starter is sure a lot less strenuous and a lot more convenient than the starters of the old days. When cars were first built, the owner stood in front of the car and actually hand cranked the engine to life. Today, all it takes is a turn of the key and you're off. The electric starter is simply a powerful motor. Turning the ignition key activates a device called a solenoid (SOL-e-NOYD). The solenoid pushes the starter's drive gear forward meshing with the engine's flywheel. As long as the key is turned all the way clockwise, the starter will spin the flywheel. Releasing the key causes the solenoid to retract the drive gear out of the way once the engine fires. Since the starter requires more electricity than any other device on your car, it's easy to see why a stubborn engine can wear down a cold battery in the winter.

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