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6 Reasons Why Cars Crank But Won’t Start & How To Fix It

6 Reasons Why Cars Crank But Won’t Start & How To Fix It

There are many dreaded sounds to hear from car buyers, car owners, and car enthusiasts alike. One of the most common sounds that may make most driver’s ears perk up and their wallets quiver is the “crank & sputter” of the vehicle but with no rev of the engine. In this investigation by Car Cash Buyers we will break down the nitty gritty of this sought after topic. We will answer questions like, “how do you fix a car that will crank but not start?”, “what does it mean when your car cranks but wont start?”, and so much more. After dissecting these more topical questions we will try and diagnose six specific explanations along with warnings so you know for the future how to avoid the dreaded cranking sound from your beloved vehicle. Read on and let’s get started! 

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My Car Cranks But Won’t Start: What Does This Mean?

Great question! We are very glad you asked. Now the complicated part. There are numerous reasons why this would be occurring, but let’s back up. Let’s first explore what is actually making that “cranking” sound and eliminate some possible outcomes from the equation. When you hear that cranking sound coming from your vehicle it should be alerting you to three different possible outcomes. One, your engine is having trouble producing a spark. Two, your engine is having difficulty obtaining fuel. Three, your engine is creating compression. What is so pivotal about these three components is that to successfully run and drive the vehicle the engine needs fuel, compression, and a spark all working simultaneously. Without these three components working in tandem you will start to experience problems with your engine, specifically the “crank no start” phenomenon. Now that we have demystified the basic premise of what these sound alerts are telling us about your vehicle let’s explore the six most common reasons in detail why your car will crank but not start.


Six Reasons Why Your Vehicle Cranks But Won’t Start

As detailed below, here are some explanations as to why your vehicle is cranking but not starting. These are listed in no particular order. Once we have listed out our top six reasons read on further to discover some timely solutions to this all too common car conundrum.


1. Old or Dead Ignition Switch

This is one of the first symptoms to be aware of if you try and start your engine but only hear the click or crank sound. What this might be telling you is your ignition switch could be old or even dead. An ignition switch is a switch in the control system of a motor vehicle that activates the main electrical systems for the vehicle including the radio, lights, etc. Think about it as a domino affect. Once the ignition switch goes bad and is not working properly, this will start to affect all of the other pieces of the control system which makes up the body of your vehicle. One simple and quick way to test if the ignition switch is the culprit is to just insert the key and try to start the car. Depending on the outcome of that test you can move forward with the diagnosis you discover.


2. Your Car Is Out Of Gas

We know, we know. This might seem like a silly reason why your vehicle will crank but not start but trust us. This is a way more common reason than most car enthusiasts would like to believe. As we described earlier in the article to properly run your vehicle’s engine it needs fuel, a spark, and compression. Without fuel, meaning gas in your fuel tank your vehicle will crank and sputter but it will certainly not start. For a quick troubleshoot, check the fuel gauge on the dashboard of your vehicle. Once determined if the amount is too low all you need to do is get some more fuel in the car and you should be good to go!


3. Weak or Corroded Fuel Pump

This is a big one. Aptly named, the fuel pump pumps fuel into the engine for the vehicle to start. If the fuel pump is melted, corroded, or just weak it may have difficulty bringing the fuel to the vehicle’s engine in a timely manner. And as we have learned throughout this journey, where there is no fuel there is no starting car. For the engine to work properly and your vehicle to start it requires fuel, a spark, and compression. Bear in mind when diagnosing this particular issue, if you experience any of the following three symptoms it may just be that you will need to replace your car’s fuel pump sooner rather than later. One, you can hear a whining noise from the fuel tank. Two, your vehicle will have difficulty starting. Lastly, the engine will be sputtering and the vehicle will ultimately not start.


4. Your Vehicle’s Spark Plugs Are Dead Or Old

The spark plugs may seem like an innocuous issue due to the fact they only need to be replaced every 100,000 miles or so but be warned. If your spark plugs are not working properly or even dead, that will have a detrimental effect of your vehicle’s ability to start. Without that initial spark from the spark plugs in your vehicle’s engine the engine can’t receive the fuel or the compression to jumpstart the engine. Without these three elements working in tandem you will be hearing the dreaded crank but not the rev of the starting engine.


5. Frozen Or Faulty Fuel Line 

Similar to the weak fuel pump it is bad news if your fuel line is frozen. Depending on where your car resides this problem may be all too common when the cold winds blow. Once the fuel line is frozen it will be nearly impossible for fuel to travel from the fuel line into the fuel pump to start the engine. Without these fuel lines being thawed out you will very likely turn the key, hear the crank, and your engine will unfortunately not start. One quick solution to help solve this problem in the future is to not leave your vehicle idle for long periods of time especially during the coldest months of the season. This will help keep the fuel line agile and remove the likelihood of freezing.


6. Your Vehicle’s Technology Is Working Against You

Ahh, technology. We all love it for the convenience and connectedness it can bring. However, it can also complicate things. One such example is when your car’s technology starts to work against you. Within a vehicle there is a computer and depending on the year it was made this computer can send out codes alerting you something may be wrong within your car. Each make and model will have different codes corresponding to different problems but we are focused on keeping in mind these codes will only flash when the engine is running, but there are ways to hack the computer as described below. If your temperature sensor is out of whack, that may lead the vehicle to send out cold air to the engine, not the hot air it needs to start. If this seems to be the care, try pressing halfway on the accelerator try starting the engine. Using this technique, it should tell the computer inside your car to add more fuel and hot air jumpstarting the engine.


Six Cranking Problems: Discover Two Timely Solutions To Start Your Vehicle

At Car Cash Buyers, we know the list above may seem troublesome. Look at all these negative possibilities as to why my vehicle will crank but not start!? However, do not despair. With every problem comes a solution especially when dealing with cars. Through scouring the internet and Youtube we have discovered a few solutions for you to watch, review, and maybe even try out yourself!


Two YouTube Video Solutions For Troubleshooting Your Cranking Vehicle

1. How To Fix a FREE Car that cranks but Won’t Start by: ChrisFix

ChrisFix offers a comprehensive sixteen minute video showing viewers how to fix a sputtering vehicle that cranks but won’t start. One important piece of this video is Chris tells viewers about the three components needed to get the engine revving as a precursor to starting the nitty gritty pieces of the video. As the video progresses, Chris walks through each problem and then counters that problem with a timely solution. Though this video is longer than most it is worth the watch mainly due to the camer angle. Chris allows the viewer to see every move he is making up close and personal allowing you to feel like you are right next to Chris walking you through each step of the process. This is a video perfect for beginners or those with limited experience on fixing vehicles. 


2. How To Fix a Car That Cranks But Doesn’t Start by: Scotty Kilmer

Scotty Kilmer, aka “savage scotty” offers a short three minute video rapidly describing problems and solutions with your car when it will crank but not start. This is a perfect video for a more intermediate car enthusiast, one who can keep up with lingo and doesn’t need hand holding. Within this tutorial Scotty focuses on adding fueling and diagnosing problems with the spark plugs within the vehicle as the two main focal points. As compared with Chris’s video Scott skimps some of the details but both videos allow the viewer to have an up and close look at the steps and procedures needed to start and finish the job. All in all, Scotty produces an informative video which is fast, fun, and full of flair. 


Car Will Crank But Not Start: Investigation Closed

Finally, the investigation at Car Cash Buyers has come to a close. Let’s recap. First, we diagnosed what it means for your engine when your vehicle would be making that awful cranking sound but not start. Second, we detailed six direct reasons why your vehicle would be cranking but not starting. Third, with the help of ChrisFixIt and Scott Kilmer, we offered two timely solutions to the predicament ranging from adding gasoline to replacing spark plugs. As always, we hope this article has made you feel more informed and empowered about how to handle your next vehicle quandary. Till next time!