What Is Starter Motor: Comprehensive Overview

Electronic devices use switches to regulate when and where power is used. An automotive relay is a common type of switch, often used in car headlights. Another type of electronic switch is a starter motor. Indicated by its name, a starter motor is compatible with motors and features safety designs that are not found in relays. Here, you will find some of the basic information about starter motors that will help you understand their functionality and practical usage. 

What Are They?

Starter motors are like switches for motors that turn power on and off. They are designed with protection against current overloads for the motor. Starter motors are produced in variable sizes to suit the rating and dimension of the specific motor that each is assigned to. Starter motors also protect their devices from low voltage.

How Do They Work?

Starter Motors have electrical contacts for incoming and outgoing signals. Depending on how the device will be used, starter motors can be classified as either hand-operated or electrically operated. The hand-operated device utilizes a lever that can be switched between on and off positions. Typically, only the smaller motors use the hand-operated version as it is not effective otherwise. One flaw of the hand-operated type is that if a power outage occurs while the lever is in the “on” position, upon the return of power, the motor will immediately restart, leading to a flow of intense current which will damage the motor.

Electrically operated starter motors use electromechanical relays to switch the conductors that transmit power. These relays are called contactors. While the lever on a hand-operated starter motor is switched manually, an electrically-based starter’s switch contacts are pulled by an electromagnetic field which is generated when the coil in the contactor is charged. This type of motor starter is also usually equipped with buttons. When pushed, the buttons will start either de-energizing or energizing the coil in order to operate the contacts. These starters will not restart after a power outage until the button is pushed, thus avoiding potential damage.

Relays & Starter Motors

Similar to relays, starter motors switch the power of the motor on and off. However, motor starters perform not only the function of relays, but also protect the motor from overload or faults at the same time. 

Types of Starter Motors

There are many types of starter motors. Generally, starter motors can be classified into one of two categories: manual and magnetic. Below, you will find a list of several types of starter motors, followed by an explanation of manual and magnetic categories. The types of starter motors include:

  1.      Star Delta Starter
  2.      Soft Starter
  3.      Direct Online Starter (DOL)
  4.      Variable Frequency Drive (VFD)
  5.      Stator Resistance Starter
  6.      Slip Ring Motor or Rotor Resistance Starter
  7.      Autotransformer Starter

Now, we will discuss the properties of a manual starter followed by those of a magnetic starter. Manual starters do not require any experience to use. They are manually operated and feature a push-button to turn the motor connected to it on and off. The push-button is connected to a mechanical device that features a switch which can cut the circuit, or make it stop or start the motor. Some manual starters include overload protection, but low voltage protection is not a feature of the manual variety. An example of a manual starter that has overload protection is the Direct On-Line (DOL) starter.

The most common type of starter is the magnetic starter motor which is most frequently found in high power motors for ACs. It is an electromagnetically functioning device that can be thought of as a relay which uses magnetism to make or break contacts. The magnetic starter motors protect against overload and low voltage. 


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