Car Clicks When Trying to Start? (5 Causes & How to Fix)

If the only thing you hear when you turn the key to start the engine is a click, it could be a big issue. Fortunately, it is often quite easy to fix, and this is how you do it

Car Clicks When Trying To Start

What could be more irritating than jumping into your car in the morning when you are in a hurry – turning the key and just hearing a clicking sound?

Luckily, this is a widespread problem and often pretty easy and cheap to fix. But to do so, you have to know the basics around this problem, and you have to know where you should start looking.

In this article, we will go through the most common reasons why your car is clicking when trying to start and give you a step-by-step guide on how to fix it. Let’s take a quick look at the most common causes first.

5 Causes of Car Clicking When Trying To Start

The most common reason why your car clicks when trying to start is a dead or drained car battery. It can also be caused by a faulty starter or wiring issues. In most cases, it’s enough to charge the car battery to fix the issue.

Here is a more detailed list of the most common reasons why your car engine clicks when trying to start it.

1. Low battery voltage

Low Battery Voltage

The most common problem when it comes to this problem is low voltage from the car battery. I would actually say that in 90% of cases, this is the problem when your car clicks when trying to start.

The problem may be due to some electrical component in your car drawing power when the vehicle is shut off or if you forgot to switch off the parking lights some hours before.

It could also be caused by a bad car battery, especially if you live in a cold country where the battery needs a lot of power to crank the engine in cold weather.

To fix this issue very fast, you can jump-start your car from another car’s car battery. This will most likely not fix the problem in the long run, though.

To diagnose your car battery, you can use a car battery tester to see its condition it. Replace the car battery if it is bad.

It is recommended to also look for any components drawing power while your car is shut off, though. A professional car technician should do this for you if you do not have the equipment or knowledge.

2. Bad/faulty starter motor

Car Starter Motor

The next most common problem is a faulty starter motor. The starter motor has got a solenoid inside of it, which gets pushed out simultaneously as you are turning the starter. If the solenoid gets stuck or doesn’t function properly, you can hear a click from your engine without the engine turning over.

It can also be caused by other damaged parts inside of the starter.

This can often be tested quite easily by adding external power to the starter solenoid to see if it reacts. You need some electrical car knowledge for this, and this is preferable done with the starter removed from your car.

You can find more information about diagnosis here: Car Starter not Engaging.

3. Loose or Corrosion on battery terminals

Corrosion Battery Terminal

Loose battery terminals on the car battery are another common problem when it comes to a car that clicks but won’t turn over.

Maybe someone forgot to tighten them during the last repair of your car, and the contact between the connectors and the terminals becomes worse with time.

When the car starter is turning over the engine, it requires a lot of power from the battery, and if the contact is bad, you can experience a clicking sound.

In this case, you will often see sparks around the terminal while cranking of this is the case. You can also feel carefully with your hand on the terminal after trying to crank the engine for a while. If it is warm – there is probably a bad connection there. Be careful, though, because they can be glowing hot also.

4. Ground Strap problem

Ground Strap

There is a big ground cable between your car engine and body to ground all components located on the engine.

If the ground cable between the body and the engine, or between the car battery and the body is bad, the power will be restricted, and it will not be able to crank the engine.

This is a pretty common problem and worth checking. You can apply an external jumper cable between the car engine and the negative battery terminal to see if it solves the problem.

5. Broken Power Cable

Broken Wire

If the large power cable to the starter has failed, not enough power will pass through the cable to the starter to cause the car engine to crank.

This problem is not as common as the other things mentioned here, but absolutely an idea to check for if you can’t find any other issues.

Also, check the connector at the starter and the car battery to make sure the cable connector bolts are tightened and have a good connection. Feel on them after you have been cranking for a while, and make sure they are not warm. If they are warm, there is a bad connection there which needs to be cleaned.

Magnus Sellén
Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of Mechanicbase. He has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.

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