Car Cranking But Won’t Start? Reasons & Fixes When Engine Won’t Turn Over

How to Fix and Start Your Car When It Won't Start

You hop in the driver’s seat, turn the key in the ignition, and instead of the sweet sound of your engine cranking to life, you’re met with an awful silence. All the electronics in the dashboard light up, so you know power is getting through. But even when you give it some gas, the engine just won’t turnover.

Sound familiar? Dealing with a no-start condition when the engine won’t crank over can be incredibly frustrating. But don’t stress too much my friend – this handy guide’s gonna walk you through all the possible causes and solutions to try when your ride just won’t start.

Why Won’t My Car Turn Over When I Try to Start It?

When you go to fire up your engine and it won’t even turnover or crank, there’s likely an issue with one of these key systems under the hood:

  • The Battery: This is the most common culprit for a no-start. Weak or dead batteries can’t provide enough power to the starter. Time for a replacement if it’s more than 5 years old.
  • The Starter Motor: If this baby is worn out or jammed up, it can’t spin the engine to get it started. You’ll hear clicking or grinding noises.
  • The Alternator: This guy keeps your battery charged up. If the alternator stops juicing up the battery as you drive, it’ll drain and cause a no-start situation.
  • Battery Terminals/Cables: Corroded or loose battery connections prevent power from reaching the starter motor.
  • Ignition Switch/Lock Cylinder: Damaged switches can stop power from flowing through to the starter.

Now let’s dive into some troubleshooting tips and fixes to get you back on the road!

Step-By-Step Diagnosis: Why Won’t My Car Crank When I Try to Start It?

Ain’t nothing more annoying than turning the key and getting zilch in response. But don’t sweat it – this methodical troubleshooting guide will help you pinpoint the culprit:

1. Check Battery Charge and Terminals

Let’s start at the power source. Pop the hood and turn on the headlights. Are they noticeably dim? Use a voltmeter to test the battery charge if you’ve got one. Should be 12.4-12.6 volts when fully juiced.

While you’re down there, inspect the battery terminals and cables closely for any corrosion or loose connections. If they need cleaning, disconnect the cables and scrub off any buildup with a wire brush or baking soda/water solution. Re-tighten everything down securely afterwards.

2. Attempt Jump Starting the Vehicle

If the battery is questionable, try jump starting the car with another vehicle or portable jump starter. Got access to another ride and some jumper cables? Hook ’em up properly between the good battery and yours.

Now attempt starting again while connected to the good battery. If the engine successfully turnover and starts, your battery is likely shot and needs replacing or recharging.

But if jump starting doesn’t work, focus your troubleshooting elsewhere like the starter motor or ignition system. The problem ain’t just a dead battery.

3. Test the Starter Motor

Pop the hood again and get a buddy to sit in the driver’s seat. Have ’em try to start the car while you listen closely to the starter motor. Hear any rapid clicking noises? That indicates low power is getting to the starter solenoid. Grinding or screeching sounds can mean the starter is jammed up and can’t spin.

Not hearing much of anything? Tap on the starter housing with a wrench or hammer a few times. Weird trick, but sometimes the vibration can free up a stuck brush and get the motor temporarily working again.

4. Check Electrical Connections to Starter

With the car in park/neutral, locate the main positive and negative cables running from the battery to the starter solenoid. Wiggle them to see if any are loose. Tighten down connections and remove any corrosion with a wire brush.

Examine the smaller control wires going to the starter. Make sure none are damaged or detached. If you spot any issues, repair or replace the faulty wires.

5. Inspect the Ignition Switch/Cylinder

Sit in the driver’s seat and try turning the key in the ignition to each position. On/off. Accessory. Start. Any positions not powering up accessories or engaging the starter motor?

Wiggle the gear shifter around while trying to start. If suddenly a position starts working, the ignition cylinder is likely damaged and not making good contact. New switch time.

6. Test Alternator Output

If your battery tests good, use a multimeter to check the alternator. Clip the positive lead to the output terminal, negative lead to ground. At idle you should get a reading around 13.5-15 volts. If not, the alternator needs replacing.

7. Check Additional Electrical Components

Make sure no fuses related to the starter circuit are blown. Inspect the starter relay and solenoid too. Examine all wires in the starting system for damage. Repair or replace anything sketchy.

8. Replace the Starter Motor

If your whip still won’t turnover the engine after all that troubleshooting blood, sweat and tears, the starter motor itself is likely shot. Starters fail over time from regular wear and tear. Thankfully they’re easy and inexpensive to replace yourself or have a shop swap in a new one. This will typically get you back up and running!

Key Takeaways – Car Won’t Start But Has Power

Alright y’all, let’s recap the key lessons from our journey fixing no-start problems:

  • Focus your diagnosis on the battery, starter, alternator, terminals and ignition when the engine won’t crank over.
  • Simple troubleshooting like jump starting and tapping the starter can quickly identify the culprit.
  • Regular battery charging, cleaning terminals and addressing minor electrical issues prevents problems.
  • If the starter is toast after testing, replacement will usually resolve a no-crank situation.

Hopefully this guide has equipped you to get your engine turning over when your ride won’t start. Let us know if you’re still having problems getting that baby cranking! Just describe the symptoms and we’ll try suggesting some remedies. Now get out there and fire up that engine!


Dealing with an engine that cranks but just won’t fire up can leave you stranded. But armed with some methodical troubleshooting techniques, you can get to cranking again. The battery, terminals, starter and alternator are key places to start digging for the no-start source.

With regular maintenance like charging batteries, cleaning connections and replacing worn parts, you can avoid getting left at the driveway. After reading this guide, you now have a detailed approach to diagnose and fix a no-crank situation.

Our technician team is always happy to help get your engine turning over if you have any other questions! Just reach out, and we’ll try offering some remedies to have you cruising again. Safe travels my friends!

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