Before the advent of the starter motor, engines were started by various methods including wind-up springs, , and human-powered techniques such as a removable handle which engaged the front of the crankshaft, pulling on an airplane propeller, or pulling a cord that was wound around an open-face pulley.
Engines are feedback systems which once started, rely on the inertia from each cycle to initiate the next cycle. In a , the third stroke releases energy from the fuel, powering the fourth (exhaust) stroke and also the first two (intake, compression) strokes of the next cycle, as well as powering the engine's external load. To start the first cycle of engine's run session, the first two strokes must be powered in some other way. The starter motor is used for this purpose and is not required once the system starts running.
Although the electric starter motor was to come to dominate the car market, in 1912 there were several competing types of starter, with the Adams, and cars having direct air starters, and introducing an air starter motor with similar approach to that used for the Delco and Scott-Crossley electrical starter motors (i.e. engaging with a toothed ring on the flywheel). The and cars had spring motors (sometimes referred to as clockwork motors), which used the energy stored in a spring driving through a reduction gear. If the car failed to start the starter handle could be used to wind up the spring for a further attempt.
A starter (also self starter, self, or starter motor) is an , , , an in case of very large engines or other device used for rotating an internal-combustion engine so as to initiate the engine's operation under its own power.