Dan Ferrell writes about do-it-yourself car maintenance and repair. He has certifications in automation and control technology.
Use Your Ears and Your Headlights to Help Diagnose Your Starter System
Bad starter-system issues are more common than you may think.
Starting system troubles may be caused by poor maintenance, or just wear and tear. Even with decent maintenance, the different system components get a lot of wear during their service life and are bound to start having problems eventually. Problems may show up as a no-crank or slow-cranking condition, caused by a worn-out component, a bad electrical connection, or an undercharged or failed battery.
Unfortunately, a problem in the system can catch you unprepared and leave you stranded with a huge repair bill.
If you have a little experience with car repair, you may feel tempted to rush out and start buying and swapping components, trying to fix your car. This may lead to frustration and a waste of time and money.
But troubleshooting the starting system is actually relatively easy, compared to other electrical systems in your vehicle. This system can give you some clues about the type of problem you are facing. And, armed with your car repair manual, you may be able to make the necessary fixes to get your car going again.
So here are some of the most common symptoms you may notice when having troubles with the starting system in your car.
Diagnosing a Problem With a Starter: What Noise Does It Make?
- "I hear a whirring sound."
- "It's a buzzing sound."
- "I hear a loud click."
- "It's more like a grinding noise."
- "I don't hear anything!"
- "My headlights don't work."
- "Cranking the car makes my headlights dim or go out."
- "My headlights are fine, but my car still won't start."
All of these instances will be thoroughly described and diagnosed below. If your engine is cranking as usual and still refuses to start, you're likely dealing with an ignition or fuel system issue, not a starter issue.
What Do You Hear When You Try to Start Your Car?
As discussed in the video below, there's a difference between a "crank--no start" situation, and a "no-crank--no start" situation. If your engine is cranking as usual and still refuses to start, you're likely dealing with an ignition or fuel system issue, not a starter issue. Below, we discuss different situations where you turn the key and hear either nothing or something other than the engine turning over. Depending on the situation, the problem may be the starter itself, or something else.
Sounds May Indicate Electrical Problems in the Starter or Elsewhere
Funny sounds, or no sound, upon the turn of the key may indicate electrical problems in the starter or elsewhere in the starting system. Some of the most common electrical problems are corroded electrical connections, an undercharged or bad battery, or a malfunctioning component:
- bad neutral safety switch (automatic transmission)
- bad clutch safety switch (manual transmission)
- bad starter relay
- bad starter solenoid
- corroded electrical connections in the starting circuit
- worn-out part in the starter motor or some other system component
No Crank, No Start Diagnosis
Sounds and Their Possible Meanings
"I Just Hear A Whirring Sound."
Car starter motors use a small device called an overrunning clutch, or one-way clutch. When you turn the ignition key to the run position, the starter solenoid interlocks the starter's pinion gear with the flywheel on the engine to rotate the engine at "cranking speed". Once the engine starts and exceeds cranking speed, the overrunning clutch releases the pinion gear from the flywheel.
However, if the solenoid mechanism is too worn to engage the flywheel, all you'll hear is a swishing sound as the armature in the starter spins all by itself, unable to crank the engine to a start. So this sound may indicate that the solenoid in the starter is worn out.
"I Hear a Buzzing Sound."
Sometimes you just hear a buzzing sound. Electrical current is making it to the starter solenoid, but all it does is try unsuccessfully to activate the solenoid's plunger to engage the pinion gear and flywheel. This failure is usually caused by poor current flow due to low battery charge or poor electrical connections along the starting circuit, including corroded battery terminals.
"I Hear a Loud Click."
On the other hand, if you can hear a single, solid click, the starter circuit may be getting enough current, but you may have a bad starting motor, bad solenoid, or even an engine mechanical problem.
"It's More Like a Grinding Noise."
If you hear a harsh or grinding noise as you try to crank up the engine, you may have a loose starter motor (mounting bolts), or a flywheel or pinion gear with broken or worn-out teeth. If the gears on the flywheel and pinion aren't able to mesh properly, all you hear is the sound of metal teeth clashing loudly.
"I Don't Hear Anything."
When you try to start your car, you may hear no sound at all. This silence may be due to electrical issues, such as:
- a discharged or failed battery,
- a failed system component (for example, relay or safety switch),
- or corroded electrical connections (including battery terminals) that prevent electrical current from reaching the starter motor.
Starter Motor Components
- Main housing (yoke)
- Overrunning clutch
- Field coils
Using Your Headlights as a Diagnostic Tool
OK, so now you have an idea about what may be the cause of your starting system problem. But, is there a way you can confirm your suspicions?
Actually, there is. And you don't need special equipment either. Let's use your car's headlights to confirm your tentative diagnosis.
The test: Have a friend—or a willing assistant—turn on the headlights and try to start the engine, as you stand in front of but to one side of your car (just in case your car decides to start and lurch forward).
"My Headlights Don't Work."
If you hear no sound, and the headlights don't come on, you're on the right track. Either:
- Your battery is dead,
- There's an open circuit in the starter, or
- Corroded terminals (most commonly battery terminals) are preventing electrical current from reaching the starter motor and other systems.
"Cranking the Car Makes My Headlights Go Out."
What if the headlights turn on OK, but go out as soon as your car starts cranking? There are several possibilities:
- Your battery may be undercharged.
- If your battery is properly charged, you could have a short in the starting motor that is causing it to draw too much current.
- Another possibility is that you may not be dealing with a starting system problem at all, but an engine problem.
"My Headlights Are Fine, They Don't Change."
There's the possibility that your headlights remain bright while your engine cranks poorly. Then, it's likely you have an open circuit or too much resistance in the circuit.
Check for a failing component, or corrosion at one or more of the system circuit connections, including the battery terminals.
ACDelco Starter Motor
How to Bench-Test a Starter Motor
Starting-system problems are hard to diagnose sometimes, but paying attention to the symptoms will help you repair your car faster than you could otherwise. And not only that, it can help you save money in the process.
And if you are the DIY type or are mechanically inclined, having the repair manual for your particular car make and model can greatly help you zero in on the root cause of the problem and get it fixed, even if you don't have much car repair experience.
Take the Starter System Problems Poll
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: My lights are working and service engine light is on, but I hear a clicking sound when I turn the ignition. I put in a brand new battery. What is going on with my car?
Answer: Assuming your battery is properly charged, if you hear a rapid series of clicks, there might not enough current reaching the relay/solenoid. Check the cables and wires between the battery and starter.
If you hear a single solid click, have the starter or relay/solenoid check.
Question: When I try to start my car, I hear rapid clicks, what could that be?
Answer: Probably not enough voltage is reaching the solenoid, or the solenoid itself is bad. Check the battery voltage and how much voltage is reaching the solenoid.
Question: My 2001 Civic is cranking normally but not starting despite a new battery. Any ideas what could be wrong?
Answer: Check the spark and fuel pressure first.
Question: My car had a burning smell as I drove. I checked the oil and it was empty, I filled it up and it's still in there. The oil is black. My car has not started right up for me twice. We knocked on the starter, and it started. I've had it checked and changed the starter and it was not it. It stopped working. When I try to crank it, it doesn't start, it makes a weird, loud, rumbling noise afterwards when I stop trying to start it. It makes the same noise when I'm trying to start it. What could it be?
Answer: If the oil feels thick, it may be contaminated. If the oil is getting contaminated, that may have to do with the engine being hard to start or not starting. Also, the rumbling noise may come from a weak battery that can't deliver the amount of current the starter motor needs to run. Check the battery and cables for looseness and corrosion.
Question: My car won't start when it is hot after 4 to 5 minutes. But, when the engine is cool, it starts without any issues. What could be the problem?
Answer: Make sure the coolant level is correct, and have the battery tested and, if necessary, the coolant temperature sensor.
Question: A week ago my car wouldn’t start. A random person jumped my car, and it started. I went and had the starter, alternator, and battery checked. They were all good. During the week my car did it a few more times but turning the key a couple of times the car started. Each time I turn the key, there is one click. All the electrical is working the car just isn’t starting. It’s a 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew. What could be the problem?
Answer: It could be a loose wire or cable that is connecting and disconnecting. Wiggle the wires and battery cables and see if this makes a difference. And it'll be a good idea to check voltage drop in the starting circuit. This post may help you,
Question: Help please, my car won't start. I have a 2013 Nissan Sentra SV with a keyless ignition. I've already replaced the transmission, starter (twice), battery, and battery terminals. When I try to start my car it just clicks a few times. The lights turn on, the dash lights turn on, my radio turns on and horn honks but the car won't start. I've had the starter tested and it reads good. Any advice?
Answer: There could be a problem in the starting system circuit. This other post may help:
Also, check engine grounds:
Question: My starter performs perfectly when the engine is cold. However, when the engine is hot, it won't start up. Instead, it produces a click sound only. Otherwise, I have to wait for up to 45 minutes for it to cool down. Then, it will start up. What could be the problem (Nissan Cube)?
Answer: The starter or solenoid may be ‘heat soaking’. Basically, starters absorb heat from the engine or exhaust manifold when the engine is operating. Some models use a starter motor heat shield to prevent this. Heat acts as a resistance to the motor or solenoid. However, you want to make sure the starter motor, solenoid, and battery, cables are in good shape. No corrosion, good and clean connections. Some ways to solve a heat soak problem is to upgrade battery cables and/or battery to feed extra amperage to the motor. If you didn’t have this problem before or it showed up after installing a new starter or starter system component, see if you are using a non-OEM part or forgot to replace a heat shield, and components are working properly.
Question: My Toyota will not crank or make a sound. This happens intermittently; usually when it has been driven for a while. After it sets for a while, there is no problem. Could it be the starter contacts? When I turn the key on everything lights up, the battery is fully charged. There is just no crank or noise except for a click in the starter relay.
Answer: Check the cables for damaged, loose wires or corrosion in the starting circuit. Wiggle the wires and cables while trying to crank the engine when this happens. Also, check the starter relay, make sure voltage is coming out.
Question: Our Kia minivan has had an alternator/ battery/fuse panel/ignition switch replaced, and still won’t start on a daily basis (1-2 times a day). I can hold the key in the start position for 30-90 seconds & it will finally start. All lights, doors, windows, etc. work. It seems to happen more in summer (very little in winter). Are we dealing with a starter issue?
Answer: Check to see how much voltage the starter is receiving, and how much current is pulling. There could be a circuit issue. Make sure all engine grounds are properly connected, and there are not missing. This can give trouble to the starter.
Question: I put a new starter in, I charged the battery and a new ignition but when I turn the key I get nothing. Any ideas?
Answer: If you don't get even a click (voltage getting to the starter solenoid) or clicking sounds (poor voltage reaching the starter solenoid), then check the starter circuit. Something is preventing voltage from reaching the starter motor. The connection at the ignition might be the problem. Check the voltage drop in the circuit. This will give you an idea what's going on:
Question: Why is it that when my battery is fully charged, but in 18 to 20 hours my car won't start? They say that the alternator and other systems are fine.
Answer: If other systems are fine, do a hydrometer check on the battery - it may be failing. Or take it a shop for a diagnosis.
Question: My 98 Jeep Grand Cherokee wants to start, but there is no sound and no start at all. All lights work fine. I changed the battery, but nothing changed. So is it my starter?
Answer: Check the starter circuit including the ignition. You may need the diagram for your application to trace the voltage. Start at the solenoid and make sure voltage is getting there.
Question: My 2008 Toyota Yaris isn’t starting, but its headlights work. What could cause my Yaris' problem?
Answer: Check you have enough battery power and that enough voltage is reaching the starter solenoid. If there's power and voltage is getting to the solenoid, then have the starter motor checked.
Question: My 2009 BMW X5 won't start. I replaced the start 2 months ago. I went to the store, shut the car off, and when I tried to start it again, it tried but only cranks. I believe I noticed a new brake light on the dash. It should be yellow, but now stays on and is red. Could it be a sensor in the brake pedal? Why won't it start?
Answer: Basically the red light is a warning about the hydraulic brake system. It may be losing pressure, worn pads, or another related problem. This may or may not prevent your car from starting, depending on your model. Have the brake system checked first.
Question: Whenever I turn on the ignition switch, the interior lights go out, the headlights dim, and the starter does not come on. After a brief wait, I activate the key switch to start, and starter comes on without hesitation, and the engine turns over normally and starts. What is the possible problem?
Answer: Can you hear the fuel pump buzz sound when you turn the key? Something may be pulling too much current. Have the battery checked and make sure all starting system connections are clean and tight.
Question: Replaced the starter in my car a month ago. All lights, radio, etc work fine. But still won't start. What could be wrong? Alternator?
Answer: Sometimes, problems with sensors like the crankshaft position sensor or camshaft sensor will prevent the engine from starting. Check for trouble codes, if necessary. The most common faults are a bad spark and fuel pressure. So make sure you got a good battery and it's fully charged. If you got good spark and fuel pressure, then check the starting system and circuit. These other posts may help:
Question: I just put a new battery in my car, plus an alternator. Now it won’t start after getting a jump and turning it off. But when I did jump it, I noticed I wasn’t able to charge my phone. Any thoughts?
Answer: You may need to check the battery cables, connections and those for the charging circuit. Also, check for engine grounds. A little bit of corrosion or a loose wire can cause a lot of electrical trouble.
Question: Why my car stops after 3 km drive with out any fault sign? The dash board lights on. It usually starts with jump starting. But it doesnt work. When it ignites, it makes a cracking sound.
Answer: You might want to check the computer memory for pending or stored trouble codes. Check fuel system pressure.
Ignition modules and fuel pumps - are two (but not the only ones) that when going bad can quit after components warm up.
Question: Before I sent my car to the shop, the remote key starter used to work fine; now the remote doesn't start the car at all. What happened?
Answer: The most common reason is a dead battery. Also, you might want to check the internal contacts. They wear out over time.
Question: I'm dealing with a 1956 Packard. I left the key on overnight and the next day it wouldn't start, and only made a click noise. I charged the battery and tried to start but just heard the click. The sound seems to be coming from the starter. I tried to jump start it but only heard that click noise again. I tried a different battery, and the same thing happened. Could I have caused damage by leaving the key on overnight?
Answer: If the battery is good, check the starter solenoid using a voltmeter. You may have a remote type. Make sure there’s voltage on both sides when turning the key to start the engine. It this checks good, have the starter motor tested.
Question: I have a 1999 Oldsmobile and when I turn the key to crank it up I hear clicking sounds and it won't start but the lights in dashboard and inside come on. What do you think the problem could be?
Answer: Make sure the battery has a good charged. Also, too much resistance in the circuit can prevent the starter from working. Usually, a series of clicking sounds is a sign of low voltage reaching the starter motor. This other post may help you check the circuit, if necessary:
Question: My car lights come on inside and outside the car, as well as the check engine light, but it doesn't start. What is the problem?
Answer: First, download the trouble codes from the computer memory and take that as a guide. Also, if necessary, check the starting circuit and make sure the starter motor is working properly. This post might help you as well.
Question: I replaced my old starter (single solid click sound) with a new one. After using it for a while it has the same issue with a single solid click of my new starter. What is going on with my car? Thanks.
Answer: Make sure there’s not a problem with the circuit. Double check that enough current is reaching the starter motor. This other post may help you here.
If there’s enough current, there’s probably a mechanical problem. In this case, try turning the crankshaft using a breaker bar, using a socket on the front crankshaft pulley. Put the transmission in neutral and turn the crankshaft clockwise. If it doesn’t turn, there’s something preventing the engine from turning.
Question: When I turn over the engine in my car it does not make any sound. When someone goes under to hit the starter connection it just spins, all lights and everything still work in the car, though. What could be the problem?
Answer: The problem could be a faulty starter motor or solenoid. Make sure the wiring and connections are good. If voltage is reaching the starter with no problems, then suspect the motor. You may want to remove it and have it checked.
Question: Why does my Jeep start at every turn, then idles down and stalls out? Once it's warmed up, it starts every time.
Answer: There are several possibilities: there might be fuel system problems, the air filter might be clogged, there may be MAF sensor problems, or there might be carbon buildup around the throttle bore or valve. Check out this article for some diagnostics you can do at home:
Question: I have a 2007 Dodge Caravan. Sometimes it’s hard to start. I have to jiggle the key and keep trying to get it started, and sometimes I have to open the door and try starting it again. Then it starts. It usually starts right away. It just doesn’t start when I least expect it. What could be wrong?
Answer: The ignition key lock cylinder might be worn. Usually, it needs to be replaced to fix the problem.
Question: My 2009 Pontiac G5 won't start when it is warm but will start first thing in the morning, or if it has cooled down after I drive it. Why will it start when it is cold but not after I drive it?
Answer: Sometimes a sensor and starter motor may fail due to temperature related issues, preventing the engine from starting at operating temperature. Download trouble codes form the computer, even if the check engine light is not on. There could be pending codes that can guide you here. This other post may help you test the cps:
Question: At first, it's a no crank, no start issue. I can tap it with a hammer, and it will eventually start. But it sounds like it's dragging. What could the culprit be?
Answer: Probably the starter motor brushes are worn out. Have the starter checked. Probably you need a new one.
Question: I just put an engine in my car. Can a bad starter make my car run rough?
Answer: Not really unless the starter is draining the battery and the alternator has difficult recharging it, assuming the engine is working fine.
Question: I had changed my battery and my car wouldn't start. I did a complete tune up but I didn't change the starter. Do you think that could be the problem?
Answer: The starter motor could be the problem, but first, you need to make sure the wire and cables are properly connected, and the starter is getting battery power. Here’s a post that can help you check the starter’s circuit:
Question: When a car cranks, but wants to start, what is the problem?
Answer: There may not be enough fuel or it has a weak spark. Spray some starting fluid while cranking. If the engine responds better, the problem may be in the fuel system. Otherwise, check the ignition system.
Question: My car cranks but won’t start. I have changed the battery, spark plugs and leads, coil pack and cat converter and still won’t start. Any ideas of what I should do?
Answer: If the engine turns over, usually the problem is in the ignition or fuel system. Make sure you have good spark and fuel pressure. You can use a spark tester and a fuel pressure gauge. This other post may help:
Question: My 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee won't start. I have a good battery and replaced my alternator after testing my old one and it was bad. I have lights but there's no noise at all when trying to start it. What could be my issue?
Answer: You need to make sure there's voltage getting to the starter motor. If there's voltage, check the ground. If not, the problem might be on the ignition side of the circuit.
Question: My 2001 Hyundai Elantra wouldn't start. Jump started it and ran for a week, then it wouldn't start again. A jump start worked this time also. I stopped and started multiple times in a day and now doesn't start again. The battery is less than a year old. Had it tested at an auto parts store and confirmed good. When trying to start here a single click. Suggestions?
Answer: Seems like a problem with the starter motor or solenoid. You can do a system voltage drop to confirm this. Intermittent problems are hard to diagnose some times. This other post may help:
Question: Why is that when I start my truck the starter gets stuck? It sounds like it spins or gas doesn't pass, but after three times, it will start. I got a new battery for it, but still, the same thing happens.
Answer: Make sure the connections in the starting circuit are clean and tight. But it seems like it could be a leaking injector. After you spend the fuel, it leaked, and so the engine fires.
Question: I have a 2003 Buick Century and I just got it out of the shop after replacing a 10 amp fuse. It ran for a few days, then broke down again. All my dash lights work and my headlights work too, but no sound when I tried to start it. What may be my problem?
Answer: You may not be getting any power to the starter motor. This other post may help you check the circuit:
Also, check the control circuit between the starter and the ignition, if necessary. Check the fuses and a possible short circuit in the system.
Question: My 2002 Grand Marquis starts, but it struggles to start, battery and the alternator is good. What else could it be?
Answer: Check fuel pressure and for a healthy spark. Scan the ECM for possible pending codes, if necessary.
Question: 2017 Subaru WRX. Sometimes it cranks fine, other times it struggles and the dash lights dim as it struggles to crank. I’ve had the battery and alternator tested twice and has passed both times. No clicks or anything. It just seems like a weak crank, sluggish. Only 57k miles. Car doesn’t seem to mind if it’s been sitting for a while or not. I’ve had successfully cranked it/gotten slow cranks at either temperature and after the car has been sitting overnight. What could my problem be?
Answer: There could be a bad ground or starting system connection. These other post may help:
Question: Especially on cool mornings, I turn the key and hear one click, but no crank. Usually, on the third try the engine starts as normal. Is it likely my starter is bad?
Answer: Check the battery and connections. This post gives you some tips when dealing with a not star in cold weather:
Aslo, check the starter circuit to make sure the connections are clean and tight:
Question: My starter system comes in. That is the dashboard. I turned on the wipers and headlights, and they work. I hear a calm rumble sound on the passengers side. Could it be a starter? What do I do to get it started?
Answer: If you hear the sound when you try to start the engine, but the engine doesn't crank or turn over, most likely it's the starter. You need to check that you have enough battery power and make sure you got good connections between the starter and the battery. If all this checks out OK, then you may have a faulty starter motor. This other post may help you:
Question: Why does my car make a buzzing sound under the hood if the headlights work and I've installed a new battery but the inside lights don't work and the steering wheel is locked?
Answer: There may not be enough current going to the starter motor. The problem could be at the ignition switch if the interior lights are not working. You can check the voltage going in and out the switch using a test light. But you may need a wiring diagram. You can find one in the repair manual for your particular model. Some auto parts stores carry manuals that may help you here.
Question: If I just had my car battery replaced on 9-5-19, what would cause my starter to then go out 2 weeks later? My car was starting up great after I had the new battery installed, but last weekend it developed a "slow cranking" issue. The exact same day I planned to drive it to the shop & be checked, I got stranded & had to call AAA!
Answer: Probably the starter motor was at the end of its service life. But this can also be a problem with the starting circuit. When you install the new starter motor, check the circuit voltage drop and engine grounds to make sure that adequate voltage is getting to the starter. These other two posts may help:
Question: I replaced a starter on my moms car, it's still doing the same things. I move the wire for the ignition and it starts. I'm confused, Is it a bad solenoid or a bad starter, or a bad connection?
Answer: There could be an open in the wire or a bad connector. Check the wire for voltage while wiggling the wire. You can use a test light or voltmeter.
Question: I turn my key but no sound, and the lights are dim. But I just had the battery replaced, changed the oil and added new oil as well. The lights don't work either, even when the key is turned all the way or halfway to let the lights on. Nothing happens except for the interior lights, which are barely dimmed, will turn on. What would cause my car to never start and the lights to not turn on?
Answer: There could be a loose engine ground or starting system ground. These other two posts may help:
Question: My car wouldn't start. I took the starter in. It tested and passed. But it sounds like the solenoid is not catching. Could it still have passed? Put new power cable on and now sounds like it is the battery?
Answer: Test the battery. The problem could be in the circuit. Full voltage might not be getting to the starter. This other post may help:
Question: My car is a 2014 Kia Optima. Working nicely, but for the last month, sometimes it doesn’t start while turning the key with no sound. The battery is in good condition and providing enough power. What is the problem of this repeated, intermittent startup? ?
Answer: If you don't hear even a click coming from the starter solenoid when this happens, as you try to fire up the engine, there could be a loose or corroded connection or wire between the battery and ignition switch, or switch and starter solenoid. When this happens, put the ignition key in the Start position while checking for voltage at the solenoid. Disable the fuel system [pull the pump fuse] to prevent it from starting while testing. Use a test light or multimeter. If there's no voltage, trace the circuit back to the switch. You may need the vehicle repair manual for your particular model to identify wires. With intermittent faults, this is usually a loose connection or wire.
Question: My boyfriend's car got a used engine. We had to replace the starter but now it's trying to not turn over. He checked the starter, the spark plugs and even moved around the spark plugs. What could we do or check to avoid another expensive auto shop trip?
Answer: If the engine is not turning over, then the starter is either faulty or there's something wrong in the starter circuit. Since you guys replaced the starter motor, assuming it's good, try checking the circuit. This other post will help you:
You'll need a digital multimeter for the tests, but will help you determine the faulty wire, connection or component.
Question: What are the steps for removing starter and replacing new solenoid?
Answer: The steps to replacing the starter change, depending on your particular vehicle make and model. If you just want to replace the solenoid, it's better to have the repair manual for your particular model. You can buy a copy at your local auto parts store or Amazon.
Question: My starter went out today, so I went and had it replaced. Now my truck keeps cutting off. Why would my truck turn off after replacing the starter?
Answer: Try downloading trouble codes, even if the check engine light doesn't come on. Also, these other posts may help:
© 2014 Dan Ferrell
Dan Ferrell (author) on April 24, 2020:
If the engine seems to be running fine when it runs until it dies, you may want to check fuel pressure. Try connecting a pressure gauge, then start the engine and monitor pressure until it dies. If you see the gauge needle dropping just before it dies, the problem is in the fuel system. Also, try downloading trouble codes, even if the check engine light is not on. There could be a pending code that may help you here. Hope this helps.
Jason on April 24, 2020:
Hi there I have an opel corsa b utility it cranks but no start Also when it runs sometimes it just randomly dies but haven’t been able to start it in months last jump start it finally started but then dies within minutes any suggestions will be greatly appreciated thank ya
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 26, 2020:
There could be an issue with a sensor signal the computer is not getting or out of its programmed parameters. If the problem starter when you replaced the starter and battery, make sure everything is connected correctly -- no loose wires. On some models, the computer might need to be "reset" after disconnecting power. Download trouble codes and see if you get a pending code, even if you don't see the check engine light on. Hope this helps.
Liz on March 26, 2020:
I have a 2007 Mazda 6 and I put a new starter in and a new battery it will turn on but it shuts off again
firstname.lastname@example.org on September 03, 2019:
Thanks. It is very helpful. Can I get help for my 4stroke Rickshaw three wheeler. I replaced piston ring with proper direction and gap positions and replaced both valves and valve seal yet it does not start only a clicking sound is heard. Did I incorrectly install?
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 21, 2019:
Read the information that pops up where the mileage should be. It might give you a clue about what's going on. Hope it helps.
Amanda on August 20, 2019:
Got a 2001 dodge caravan.. . when i go 2 start my van i have to try several times. Theres these i guess they codes that pop up where mileage is.. Until it say done there i can't start van.. What could it be...auto parts people told me can't put on code reader because check engeine light not on....
Dan Ferrell (author) on June 10, 2019:
Check for fuel pressure and good spark. Faulty sensors may also have the same effect. Try downloading for possible pending codes that might help you here. Hope this helps.
Phiraman madini on June 10, 2019:
My car hars a long starting before it takes
Dan Ferrell (author) on April 21, 2019:
Check the spark plug wires and coil. There might be a leak somewhere. These other posts may help:
Nmsvic on April 20, 2019:
I hve car not cranking n not starting in hot weather or if the car used for an hour or so ? Ford Fusion. The battery is good. If it cold it cranking good n working.
Dan Ferrell (author) on December 24, 2018:
Check the battery cables and terminals. This post might help you:
Also check the wiring around the steering column. There's seems to be some wires (ground, possibly) loose.
V-twin on December 23, 2018:
Truck horn keeps randomly honking,steering wheel is loose,disconnected horn I believe i have a short in mt steering column,engine turns over battery and lights strong,blinkers dont work,sometimes radio and power windows dont work,truck sometimes starts it will crank weak then kick in strong then weak.The positive battery cable gets real hot to the point that the cable end melted on battery terminal.like solder.
Dan Ferrell (author) on November 19, 2018:
You might want to check the circuit first. This post will be helpful:
Beverly and Marshall Swensen on November 17, 2018:
my car does not start, Nothing clicks. Battery checks out fine. Should I check the starter motor. If so can I buy a rebuilt starter motor
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 23, 2018:
Make sure the battery is completely charged. You can take it to the auto parts store for this. And also, check the battery cables and the connections to the starter. The connections should be tight and clean.
Queenswafford29 on August 22, 2018:
I have a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible, It just didn't start one day so I took battery and starter in to get checked. Said my starter was bad so I replaced it. My lights and all come on but still won't start, why is this. What child it be?
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 16, 2018:
Check the battery charge. If necessary, charge the battery and have it checked at an auto parts store. It might be at the end of its life.
sara harrington on August 16, 2018:
when trying to start my 2013 Malibu all you hear is clicking and then nothing. once you hook it to a battery charger or cables on another car it starts right up, but then once it shuts off it needs a jump again. what is this?
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 20, 2018:
Do you have a backup remote - is that one working fine?
Other than the battery having failed, another possibility is that the internal contacts in the remote may have worn out. You may find a shop that will check the remote for you or replacing it might be a better way to go.
mary on March 20, 2018:
2007 corolla , care remote starter will lock and unlock car doors, but will not start car remotely?
Dan Ferrell (author) on February 27, 2018:
Have the ignition switch checked, it sounds like a worn or bad connection in the starting system.
carolyn banks on February 27, 2018:
People laugh when they are in my car because when I turn the key, nothing happens. I keep holding the key and the car will sort of growl. I keep holding and it sounds like a moving growl. Eventually the car starts. It takes a while holding the key, but it does always start. What do you think? My battery is new. My alternator was recently replaced. It's just slow. It is a 1981, I should add.
Dan Ferrell (author) on January 15, 2018:
If your battery is good, check for voltage at the different points from battery to the starter motor. There should be a connection or components that is stopping current from getting to the starter. If voltage is getting to the starter, possibly the starter motor is bad.
Don't forget the ignition and safety switches.
Drew on January 15, 2018:
My car will not start ran perfectly fine lights work everything else but no start battery is fully charged n still nothing we tried jumping it still nothing.
Dan Ferrell (author) on December 27, 2017:
Make sure there are no loose battery or starting system connections. Also, check the battery charge.
Another possibility is with the ignition system.
Helen on December 25, 2017:
Hi I've just had a new clutch fitted.2 days later my car died.headlights work .dashboard lights up when i turn the key but no sound at all.any ideas please?
Dan Ferrell (author) on October 26, 2017:
Do the lights stiill stay on? - There might be a short in the ignition- starting circuit. Have it checked. A good auto electrical shop should find the culprit in a matter of minutes.
CRYSTAL on October 26, 2017:
my car is not turning off properly the lights on the dashboard will stay on. I replaced my alternator and battery. now this morning it will not start and I don't get any type of sound when I try to crank the car up hat could this be?
Dan Ferrell (author) on October 16, 2017:
Check the battery if engine dosen't crank, if it cranks you may have a fuel or ignition system problem.
davean on October 16, 2017:
my car wont start
Tracy on September 18, 2017:
Swapped batteries car won't start no noise lights fine no dimming help
Dan Ferrell (author) on September 08, 2017:
Check the starting system - make sure the battery is fully charged and the starter motor is properly mounted. If the motor has a mechanical malfunction, it might clash with the flywheel instead of meshing correctly.
Dan Ferrell (author) on September 08, 2017:
Have you checked the starting system? Also, make sure your battery is charged and still good.
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 25, 2017:
Make sure your battery is fully charged.
Then check that your starter solenoid and motor are good.
Willie on August 25, 2017:
My car wont say nothing when u turn the key it make a funny noise
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 10, 2017:
Scan for trouble codes, you may have a failing sensor,
* check also that your battery is fully charge
* If it doesn't crank over at all - there might be a problem with the pinion gear or other component in the starter motor.
Waima on August 10, 2017:
Hey I have a 2002 bmw 320i when I start it up it sounds like it wants to start but just doesn't crank over what would it be
Dan Ferrell (author) on May 13, 2017:
Have you check how much charge you got? You can use a digital multimeter. Usually this is the most common cause for a no start, but not the only one. You might want to start here.
Can you hear a solid click when you try to crank the engine? There may be something wrong with the starter.
Do you hear a series of clicks? Your battery may not have enough charge or there might be a bad connection (possibly corrosion) in the circuit.
Have you checked the battery connections? Can you see gunk or corrosion around the terminals? If so, you need to disconnect and clean the terminals.
Deanna on May 13, 2017:
My car won't start but all ny lights comes on in the car could it be my stater
Dan Ferrell (author) on April 17, 2017:
It seems you may have a starting circuit or solenoid fault. Check all the connections. Make sure they're all tight and free of corrosion. Also you may want to check the solenoid. Voltage drop testing might be usefuel here. Take a look at this guide https://tinyurl.com/mzxaow5
frankie on April 16, 2017:
Started to stop at an intersection and my car died it wouldn't even try starting then I put in a newer battery still nothing. I started it with my buddys battery it started up after a few tries but then it started clicking and now it does nothing? I tapped on the starter and and it didn't help
Dan Ferrell (author) on February 10, 2017:
It seems you got a short on the starting circuit. If the truck starts right up, then you heared the grinding noise, that's when the shorted wire made contact and began cranking the engine while it was running. The starter pinion was meshing with the turning flywheel. The fact that you already went through more than one starter, seems like starting circuit has an electrical short. You need to check the circuit to see where it is before you replace the starter again. Check the wires going to the solenoid and trace them back.
anthony on February 10, 2017:
I install a new starter truck starts right up but after a few minutes it makes loud noise like grinding noises I shut truck off try to start it again but now it wont start I check starter and after one start the starter is bad is my wiring hooked up wrong does it sound like it is staying hot and frying my starters I went through 5 starters already now truck is just sitting
Gw on February 05, 2017:
Hi Eric, I own a Jeep Cherokee 2000 with "No cranck/no start" issue. I replaced the battery and the starter relay and nothing happaned. Then, it was the "Hummer-Time", well after tapping the starter several times, the engine started. So, I ordered a new Starter.
God Bless You and Thank You very much for your information !!!!!
Dan Ferrell (author) on January 30, 2017:
Yes, it comes from the battery.
Harns Divo on January 28, 2017:
My question is; Does the solenoid plug should have a power or not?
Dan Ferrell (author) on January 09, 2017:
Hi Patti B
Yes, it could be normal for your battery. Look at the battery case and find the CCA rating (cold cranking amperage). If it is higher than current temps, you'll have a hard time trying to start your car. Otherwise, your battery might be lacking in maintenance. If possible wait for temps to go up a little bit and than try to start or get a jump. Then, take the battery to the auto parts store for a check. They'll usually do a quick free check on it.
Chuck on January 02, 2017:
I just acquired an old Ford in preeetty rough shape. I'm pretty sure its the 2.8 straight 6 motor, 3 on the floors.
Well, it ran pretty good for awhile, but would intermittently not wanna start, in which case I'd jump the solenoid. Fast forward a couple months, it won't idle. I start it up and unload a can on carb cleaner anywhere I can. Next time I go to start it, dash lights up but I only get one click when turning the key, just like when I used to jump from the solenoid before, but now that won't get it goin' either.
Have to let it sit for about another month.
Today, I replaced the battery, solenoid, and starter. Same thing, turn the key and I get lights, but that's it. Can anyone here point me in the right direction to gettin' this thing driving again?
It's pretty chewed up and has wires going EVERYWHERE. There's a cable coming off the alternator that I believe is just an extra ground. Pretty ratty car, painted matte black and first gear is top right
That being said, tons of character and fun to work on. I am in Brooklyn though and we have street cleaning so I need to get it going before I start gettin' tickets.
Dan Ferrell (author) on December 05, 2016:
It seems you got an intermittent fault. Use a multimeter to check the starter circuit. Start with the battery connections. Then check the connections going to the starter on the power side and check your grounds --at the battery to baody and engine to body. If your are not jump-starting the engine probably you dont have an alternator problem.
ronald on December 05, 2016:
my 2004 hyundai accent doesn't start (new battery ,alternator and wiring) no sound (dead)- 3 days later it starts. Then 2 days later won't start _ 4 days later it starts. What's up?
Dan Ferrell (author) on November 10, 2016:
Seems like a bad ground or similar electrical fault. Have you retrieved any trouble codes yet, just in case a sensor is giving you trouble? Go to a local auto parts store for this, they may scan the computer free of charge. If necessary, get a diagnostic from a reputable shop, if necessary.
Stephen on November 10, 2016:
Hi my 06 Toyota avensis revs up when I turn off the head lights. It also revs up and down when I turn the heater on. I'd appreciate if you could help
Dan Ferrell (author) on October 22, 2016:
Have your battery tested. Your battery may store some juice in it, but not enough to energize the starter, which requuires a good push from the battery to work. Start there, then have the starting system checked, but it seems more like a battery issue.
Dan Ferrell (author) on October 22, 2016:
Check for maintenance issues first, a clogging fuel filter, worn out spark plugs, plug wires, a failing ignition coil, etc.
Dan Ferrell (author) on October 22, 2016:
Start with something simple as a maintenance issue. For example, When was the last time you replaced the fuel filter? If the engine starts and then stalls, doesn't point to a starting system issue (bad starter); check also the ignnition system. Your Honda may be due for new spark plugs, plug wires, etc.
Amy windous on October 20, 2016:
Ok last couple of days I have had to jump start my car. When I go to start it all electronical things work. Headlights are nice and bright then go to turn the key all I hear Is like a growl no cranking. Could a failing map senser be the culprit? Brought this car 6 months ago and it's now doing this.
Esther davila on October 19, 2016:
My 04 honda crv turned off when it started to shake ingave it gas a few times i had it running a few miles then it stoped i had to do the same thing i dnt know what is the problem first time this happens any suggestions
Glori on October 19, 2016:
My my 04 honda crv turns on but i give it gas and it turns off i have to give it gas for a bit so it can run then i will drive for a few miles and turn off it just happened today any suggestions
Dan Ferrell (author) on September 19, 2016:
Can you hear any clicks when trying to crank the engine, check the starter, battery and solenoid connections. If possible, check voltage drops.
Magnus on September 11, 2016:
The other day my manual Ford Fiesta died on the freeway, all of a sudden, and now it will light up the display but won't crank. Any ideas?
Best regards, Magnus
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 19, 2016:
You may have a charging system problem, usually the alternator, but it could also be a battery problem.
Good luck Mary.
Mary on August 13, 2016:
My 2002 PT Crusier: It wouldn't start. I heard a clicking noise. I took it for repairs and was told it was the starter. I picked it up and stop at a store on the way home. Car started but my battery light came on. I arrived at home and try to start the car after parking it and it would not start. Having it tow back to the repair shop. What could it be?
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 03, 2016:
Hi D, make sure you don't have a battery drain
or some problems with your alternator
Also, your battery may have reached the end of its service life. They usually last around 4-5 years.
Hope this helps.
D on August 03, 2016:
Have a 2005 pontiac grand prx lights work fine, no grinding, jumped once and started right up, ran great for 3 days and won't start again
Dan Ferrell (author) on June 23, 2016:
When out of time you'll here the engine rattling, similar to a diesel engine but more metallic.
On modern vehicles the computer controls the timing, but you can still check it using a timing light.
On older models you can set the timing yourself by adjusting the distributor.
Hope this helps.
It's easily to get confused about the component giving trouble sometimes, specially when it comes to the electrical, charging and starting systems.
Check the starter system if you haven't yet.
Demi on June 23, 2016:
It happens every so often get in the car turn the key won't start but everything has power,radio, lights,ac,but won't start,auto zone said it was the battery paid 190.00 for a new battery Crunk up an 3 weeks later it didn't
Kristen on June 22, 2016:
How does a car sound when it's out of time?
Dan Ferrell (author) on May 23, 2016:
Form what you describe it seems your battery is draining power. You might want to check for a battery parasitic drain,
or your battery has reached the end of its service life.
Katie on May 23, 2016:
I have a 1998 Sebring.it seems to be losing the power from the battery. If you jump it it will start right up then if you let it sit a couple of days it does nothing. I thought it was the alternator and replaced that and it is still doing the same thing. Would a starter solenoid have anything to do with this problem?
Dan Ferrell (author) on May 02, 2016:
it seems electric current is not flowing properly, the first thing to check are the connections at the battery. they should be clean and tight. This is the most common problem, If you have a way to check the wiring connections between the battery and starter (have good access) check that those are tight and clean as well.
then make sure the state of the battery, and the condition of the starter.
For the battery, make sure you have enough charge and then check the battery state with a hydrometer. This is a fairly cheap tool and you can do this at home. If the battery is OK, remove the starter and take it to your local auto parts store for a check before doing anything else in the ignition system.
Alec on April 29, 2016:
After around a day of the car getting harder and harder to turn over, it eventually just stopped trying. Everything looks good with the dashboard, my headlights stay on and bright when I turn the key. Does that point to a bad starter or something between the ignition and starter?
I know you mentioned this might mean an open circuit or resistance in the circuit. Is there somewhere I should look first? Given it was a gradual fading of the ability to start, does that help to identify a potential problem area?
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 29, 2016:
You should have the alternator checked, from what you describe it seems as a diode gone bad in your alternator, but you may also have a short somewhere that is pulling current form your battery.
You'll need to do some troubleshooting of the charging and starting system to locate the problem.
Petrolhead1 on March 26, 2016:
Drove my car 20miles got out for 5mins then completely dead when I tried to start it. I seem to remember a slight clicking sound. Called breakdown he attached a boaster starter and it started straight away. He then attached a brand knew battery to my car and followed me home, car drove fine. Breakdown put my original battery back on and I then recharged my battery.
Following day I started car, started as normal drove as normal I took it for granted I had just been a flat battery.
I drove for 3hrs...got out of for 5mins, when I returned to start car it started again. Five miles down the road battery light came on, I stopped in a Carpark when I tried to restart my car after 10 mins car dead just slight clicking sound again. I used jump leads to start it(started straight away)
I drove to kwik fit brought a new battery because needed to get home.
Driving home battery light came on after driving for 10 mins and stayed on the whole journey home which took 3hrs! Other then that car drove as normal.
Next morning car started. But battery light on. Been charging battery on and off ever since(about 4days)
Driven car 3 times on 15mins journeys just to pick someone up so I've not needed to stop and restart my car while away from home.
Last time I drove it my interior kept coming on and going off so did a dash light saying boot open. They were just coming on and off!
Haven't driven car since.(yesterday)
Now when I think of this I had the same thing happen with flashing dash light and interior light day or so before my battery died first time.
Car hasn't been dead since I've fitted new battery but battery light has been on all the time. Haven't had a dead battery or had a problem starting it but it has been on charge on and off to keep battery topped up. I haven't done any reading or anything I'm not mechanically minded. Radio works, interior lights, all electronic pack inside car works even when battery is dead, so do the headlight. HELP what could this be...
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 08, 2016:
identify the type of noise you are hearing and go over the symptoms in this guide to help you troubleshoot the problem.
sierra on March 05, 2016:
My car was runnjng then i pulked in and turned it off when i tried tstart it agan there was nothng no sound ... but wn the key is turned over there is a nosie
Mohammed Fkriy from Egypt on December 28, 2015:
Awesome. But you can add more images.
Ron on December 07, 2015:
I have a1987 ford truck . it has a 302 motor and a new battery .it startes good when it is cold but when it comes up to temp it just spikes.
Dan Ferrell (author) on December 05, 2015:
You might want to check the starting circuit for a loose or bad connection and then the starter motor itself.
Rochelle on December 04, 2015:
I have a 2009 Ford Edge. On occasion, when I try to start my car it won't start. I don't hear any sounds but all my dash lights come on. I then tap on the start and then the car will start. However, I'm being told by my "mechanic" friends that this does not necessarily mean the starter is bad....??? Any suggestions?
Jose on October 31, 2015:
I have a 2003 Nissan Altima with a 2.5 and some times the car does not turn and if I try again it turns on I wonder if it's the starter
James on September 26, 2015:
Note to all: please check parts bought from auto part store. Turns out my starter was not good for some odd reason. Took a week with the mechanic but he finally figured out the problem. So after $800 in parts and mechanic fees a lesson was learned. Hope this helps someone not to make same mistake as i did.
Brandon on September 24, 2015:
My s 10 would turn over slow then fire right up I was thinking low batt tonight it started to turn then just clicks the relay is sending power but not turning started would starter going bad cause it to turn slower ?
James on September 14, 2015:
I have a 2001 Nissan maxima and the other day it left me stranded at the grocery store. Was told it was the starter because nothing happened as we turned the key. Replacing the starter fired the car right up and was working great. Next day we took a trip about 60 miles and all of a sudden the car died and rolled to a stop on the highway. The car does a full crank when the key is turned but won't start as if its out of gas. Thinking this i checked all wiring going to the fuel pump and decided to change the fuel pump when all seemed hot and tested good. Well now $260 later the problem is still not fixed any tips would be deeply appreciated. I never heard any grinding noises or sounds as if something broke when it last died so im kinda dumbfounded. People say to change crankshaft sensor and camshaft sensor but i want more opinions. Thanks in advance :)
Dan Ferrell (author) on September 10, 2015:
Hi Mari, if you checked the starting system and everything turned out ok, check the ignition and fuel systems. Have someone scan the computer memory for any trouble codes too.
Mari on September 06, 2015:
My car won't start new battery Honda accord 96 any suggestions
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 31, 2015:
Hi Brandon. If you have no even headlights after you leave the car just sitting for a few hours, check for a loose connection on the battery terminals. A main cable or wire is preventing power flow.
Brandon Rubio on August 30, 2015:
after a day of not being used my car will be completely dead, no lights, no crank nothing but the battery has a good charge only way to start is to jump it
Dan Ferrell (author) on April 15, 2015:
I'd check the battery terminals and the starter circuit first. Make sure they're clean and tight. Then check the battery and and the starter motor--in that order. Good luck.
Trevor - Sorry for the typos on April 11, 2015:
My car has been having trouble turning over. But if I give it gas it will help it start. Sometimes i have to rev the motor till it holds idle. Within this scope I've also fired my car right up and have experienced a high idle. (These two scenarios have been going on for a couple days.) Note: Oil level is good. - Just tonight though I went to start my vehicle (it is a 99' civic SI. and nothing at all. I tried turning it multiple times and still nothing. But, out of frustration I turned the key and held it. When I did this it does nothing for about 2-3 seconds and then fires right up..? It's as if there is latency in the current. Right after the dashboard lights go off it fires up. What could cause the low idle, the high idle, and the latency to start? Three different scenarios... So I really don't know where to start.
Trevor on April 11, 2015:
My car had been having turning over. But if I gave it has it would help it start. Sometimes needing to keep Erving the motor till it would hold idle. Within this scope I've also fired my car right up and experienced a high idle. These two scenarios have been going on for a couple days. Note: Oil level is good. Just tonight though I went to start my vehicle (talk 99-00' civic SI.) and nothing at all. So I keep turning and nothing. Then turn one more time and it fires right up??
Dan Ferrell (author) on February 13, 2015:
Criag Baker - Very true. Something like that could happen early in the morning when we're late for work and we don't pay too much attention to what we're doing. Thanks for commenting.
Craig Baker on February 13, 2015:
@londonaccountants - if you have problems only when it is cold out, you may need a new battery or one with higher cold cranking amps
Craig Baker on February 13, 2015:
you forgot to mention that with an automatic transmission, the gear may be set to something other than Drive or Neutral for which most have a safety switch prohibiting the car from being started if not in one of these two gear positions. Just had a friend do this and was just about to tow the car into a mechanic lol.
Nicolas Ray from Stamford, CT on February 06, 2015:
Excellent article...was doing a bit of research because today started having start issues, of course it is now in the single digits temperature wise. Take care and thanks.
RANDY on January 16, 2015:
i have 82 bronco 351w 2bbl i turn the key my stater relay sound like a jankhammer and the battery good the stater new so as the stater relay and also my lights dim aka comes out when i turn the key i need to know what i need to do to get it back going
Jimmy Dolo on December 31, 2014:
I need very much your help friends. The battery is in good condition. When I turn the key the dashboard lights up but when I continue to start the lights disappears and I hear a little sound likely from the starter. Sometimes it cranks the engine and starts and sometimes it doesn't. I thought there is faulty wiring that causes everything because it sometimes blows the fuse but not at all times. Is it possible that there is a problem in the starter since I took it to the shop for armature soldering and fixing? (my email: email@example.com). Thank you very much.
wordsbyalma on November 30, 2014:
Very informative! Thanks!
Goringe Accountants from London, UK on September 21, 2014:
I had some starter problems in my car earlier in the year (15+ times trying to start) but since the weather has improved, so has the problem. Not looking forward to the coming winter!