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Car Clicks When Trying to Start – Causes, Diagnostics & Information

In Troubleshooting by Magnus Sellén4 Comments

One of the worst things is when you are in a hurry and you jump into your car and turn the ignition – and the car won’t start, and all you can hear is a clicking noise.

Luckily, this problem is widespread and in most cases, it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to fix it.

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, I will go through the most common causes and give you a step by step guide on how to fix the problem. Let’s go!

Causes Why Your Car Clicks When Trying to Start It

There are a few problems that are very common when it comes to clicking sounds from your engine when you are trying to start it. I work as a mechanic daily, and these are the most common problems that you should look into when you experience this problem. Further down in the article, you will find a step by step guide on how to solve this problem.

If you experience other problems concerning a situation where your car won’t start, you can check out our other article: Car Won’t Start Troubleshooting.

1. Low battery voltage

The most common problem when it comes to this problem is actually due to low voltage from the car battery. Low voltage could come from a problem in your car when it drains out the car battery while it’s turned off and stands for some time. 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.

2. Bad/faulty 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 at the same moment 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.

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3. Loose battery terminals

Loose battery terminals on the car battery are another common problem. Someone could cause it by forgetting to tighten these properly after a reparation, and the contact between the connectors and the terminals becomes bad. Whwn the car is turning over, it requires a lot of power from the battery, and if the contact is bad, you can experience a clicking sound.

4. Ground cable problem

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

If the large power cable to the starter has failed, not enough power will be able to 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.

How to Diagnose and Fix It in a Few Steps

starter motor

Now you probably want to know how to check these different parts to find out where the problem is located. This is a step-by-step process of what I do when I’m establishing these kinds of issues. 

1. Check the battery

As I discussed before, a bad car battery is the most common problem when it comes to these problems, so we should check this out first. You can do this in a few different ways, but the easiest is probably to use a jump starter on the car battery. You could also do this the old way with jumper cables, but it’s a bit more tricky, and you could damage your car severely by wiring these wrong, so I recommend using a jump starter with protective functions.

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If you do not have a jump starter, I recommend you get one. It’s worth the money when you are standing without power in your car battery, and these are small and can be stored in the car battery. If you want to look for one, I can recommend this one from Amazon which I’m using myself.

However, make sure that your jump starter is fully charged and connect it to the battery terminals and try to crank the car. If the vehicle turns over now, you have a problem with the car battery. It could either be caused by something in the car that is draining the battery or a bad car battery. Use a Car battery analyzer or a multimeter to check your car battery and replace it if necessary.

2. Use a jumper cable

Another common problem is lousy ground either between the body and the engine or between the car battery and the body. To eliminate this problem, take a jumper cable and attach it to a clean ground point on the engine and the negative battery terminal. If the car does start now, you have to check the ground wire between the motor and body first and clean the contact surfaces. If this looks good, you have to check the cable between the car battery and body and cleaning the surfaces.

If your car is still not starting, go to the next step.

3. Tap the starter

A common problem with the starter is that the solenoid will get stuck. If you can reach the starter solenoid easily, you can tap it easily with a hammer while a friend of yours is turning the ignition. Make sure to keep your hands away from rotating parts and do this with care. If your starter turns over when you are tapping the starter, you have a bad starter or a starter solenoid which has to get replaced. 

4. Measure the voltage on the starter

In case of bad power wire to the starter, you have to measure the voltage on the starter with a multimeter while you are trying to crank the engine. For this task, you need help from a friend to turn over the ignition while you measure it. Do this with care and keep hands or arms away from rotating parts. The voltage should not drop below 12 volts when you are cranking it, and if you get a much lower value than this, check the power cable and clean the surfaces. Check for any damage to it.

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5. Replace faulty parts

If every test was OK, but the engine is still just clicking when turning the ignition, it might stillbe a problem with the starter even if your test was OK. It could also be a problem between the ignition lock and the starter and to measure these things, you have to get a wiring diagram for your car and measure these things accurately. However, a broken wire between the ignition lock and the starter will in the most cases not cause a clicking noise. If the cable is broken, nothing will happen when you are turning the ignition lock.

Conclusion

The most common problem is a faulty car battery when it comes to cars that click when turning the ignition. Use a jump starter or jumper cables to jump start your car to see if this is the problem. The next most common problem is a bad starter or bad wiring which will need to be looked onto further.

If you have any other questions, you are welcome to leave a comment below, and I will answer your questions as fast as possible.

4 thoughts on “ Car Clicks When Trying to Start – Causes, Diagnostics & Information ”

Comments
  1. Just replaced camshaft sensor and crank shaft sensor. That’s what shown on the computer tester when I took it to auto zone still getting clicking sound battery has full charge. If I hold ignition down for a minute or so it will crank but runs rough.Help please

  2. 2005 Honda accord oxygen check engine light came on trying to take it off

  3. I’m driving down the road and my car engine just died! Not even a new battery worked to make it run. This has happened to my last three vehicles after a certain person had ridden in them!! Might this person have somehow sabbitaged my vehicles??

  4. my partners car will only start with jump leads once its been jumped its as good as gold once engine is turned off and tried to stsrt again it doesn’t start just clicks hes just had a new battery fitted but now when he uses the jump leads to start it as it still doesn’t start he gets nothing? Is this the starter motor?

  5. Due to very high demand and a high amount of comments, you might have trouble getting your comment answered by me. If you want to get fast answers from a certified automotive technician you should ask your questions here: Ask A Mechanic

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