Car Starting Problems

  • By Lea Naiz
  • 28 Jun, 2017

The purpose of this article is to help you better understand starting systems and why engines fail to start. The best way to begin is with a short discussion of the various conditions and symptoms that characterize “Starting Problems” – this should help you describe to us what your car is doing. Better information transferred to your mechanic equates to money saved. Your crew at Colchin Automotive stands ready to guide you through this and any diagnostic procedure.


It may seem a little over-done to explain to this level but our experience tells us that when diagnosing vehicle systems clear, accurate communication is key. (No pun intended since we are talking about starting a vehicle using a key)

Won’t Start:

This simple statement is commonly used but is far too vague and leads to miscommunication and time and money spent unnecessarily. There are numerous conditions that can cause your engine to fail to start. Use the following information to compare to what you are experiencing with your vehicle and then communicate that information to us. We will then look to prove-out through diagnostic processes the root cause(s) of “Won’t Start”.

Starting: The act of brining an engine to life.

Engine Running: A successful starting event.

Cranking The Engine (Cranking Mode): This is what is expected to happen when you give the command to start by turning the ignition key or push the start button. The electric starter motor uses stored energy from the battery to spin the crank shaft – this is “cranking mode”.

Cranking Speed: This refers to the crank shaft revolutions per minute (RPM) achieved by the starting system.

Slow Cranking: A condition when crank shaft RPM is slower than normal. Usually associated by a change in the sounds emitted by your vehicle.

No Crank: The condition when you command “Cranking mode” but the starting system fails to deliver.

Clicking Sound: Many times when an engine fails to enter cranking mode clicking or ratcheting sounds can be heard. These sounds can be used to help diagnose the root cause of the no crank condition.

Following are the most common conditions associated with starting problems.

  1. Cranks but won’t start: Starter motor is cranking the engine when the key is turned (or start button pushed). Engine will not fire – won’t come to life.
  2. Cranks slower than normal but won’t start: Starter motor is cranking the engine but too slowly for it to fire.
  3. Will not crank:
  4. Clicks but will not crank:
  5. Nothing happens – no sounds:
  6. Instrument panel lights come on but nothing happens when I turn the key:

(Construction Zone beyond this point)

  • A dead battery. This is one of most common problems when a car fails to start. In this case, the battery needs to be replaced.
  • Corroded battery – can be related to dead battery. Battery gathers dust and starts eroding with time. You would need to consult a mechanic.
  • Ignition switch may be spoiled. This can also occur due to wear and tear. The only solution to this problem is replacement of ignition switch.
  • When coil wire is affected. Ignition coil is a key component of the ignition system. You will face this problem when ignition coil is damaged or burned out. This issue needs to be repaired by a mechanic.
  • A problem with the fuel pump. If the fuel in your car is obstructed from movement, or if your car’s fuel filter is damaged, you will have car starter problems. In this case, your car would need to go through a fuel system pressure test.
  • Problem in a spark plug. This issue could be due to moisture or erosion in a spark plug. The spark plug provides heat to ignite fuel, and if it’s faulty it needs to be replaced.
  • Starter motor is weak and does not engage in order to turn the engine on.

Car starter problems can also be caused due to other problems, including:

  • Bad injectors
  • Loose starter
  • Faulty electrical components
  • Spoiled cold start valve
  • Chipped flywheel
  • Damaged distributor cap

Different degrees of these problems can cause different starter problems that will need different solutions. There are many components in an automobile and you need knowledge of these components to deal with problems arising in them. It would be beneficial to visit a mechanic to prevent serious car issues.

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