One of the main reasons your car struggles to start but runs fine can be due to your vehicle’s main ‘energy’ components – the battery and the alternator. So, the real question is – what is the function of each one of these crucial internal components in your car?
By determining each of these parts’ real function, you can prevent your car from struggling to start in the future. Noticing the key signs and symptoms of a faulty alternator and a damaged battery can help you prevent either one of these issues from getting any worse over time. Let’s check out the purpose of the battery, the alternator, and how a problem with either one of these parts can cause the “car struggles to start, but runs fine” condition in your vehicle.
Car battery function
When it comes to your car’s functioning, the car battery is one of the most important components to keep your car running at a safe and high-performance level. The last thing any driver wants is to be left stranded on the side of the road with a dead battery. The battery is the power of your vehicle - without it, you wouldn’t be able to drive anywhere. Preventing the “new battery car won’t start just clicks” condition can help your car have a longer lifespan.
The car battery provides each electrical component with enough power to run while your car is on, like the lights, radio, power windows, and other electrical-assisted devices.
The chemical reaction occurs in the battery system, transforming the chemical energy into electrical
energy to deliver voltage to the starter. In addition, the battery stabilizes the voltage to keep your
engine running consistently and constantly. Without the battery, the car would not have the energy
required to start and maintain the power to run your vehicle.
Charging Your Car Battery
When figuring out why your car struggles to start but runs fine, you need to know the charging process and the charging timing. There is a pretty easy equation that can show you how long it takes to charge your car battery: (battery capacity) / (charger current) = hours. This equation can give you a base estimate for how long it will take to charge your battery to the correct level.
Replacing a Battery
You can accidentally overcharge your car battery beyond what is desirable and what it is able to withstand, causing the battery to drop to abnormal levels or misread the amount. Many lead batteries do not respond well to being over-discharge or overcharged, but some can recover without needing replacements. Replacing your battery before it becomes overcharged can prevent the “car struggles to start but runs fine” situation.
Car Battery Composition
A car battery is a wet cell battery with six cells. Each battery cell contains plates that alternate between lead alloy and sponge lead, filled with a sulfuric acid solution to provide the necessary electricity. Straps connect the battery cells from one battery cell’s positive plates to the neighboring cell’s negative. Ensuring your car’s battery has the proper composition means that your car will not struggle to start.
Faulty Battery Issues
Knowing the main reason why your car battery is so important in your vehicle can help you understand why your car struggles to start but runs fine.
If your battery is dead, then you will be experiencing a rapid-fire while turning the ignition to start your car. The rapid-fire ignition could be due to a malfunctioning or faulty alternator or a low battery charge. Check your battery output voltage with a simple tool, the voltmeter. If your battery reads less than 12, or 12.45 voltage, then you need to get your damaged battery checked by a technician.
Low Electrolyte Levels
Your battery could not be transmitting power due to electrolyte levels as a second reason – the solution for this issue is to recharge your electrolytes. You need to decide if you want to repair or replace the battery in your current situation to ensure you fix the “car struggles to start but runs fine” condition.
Battery Power Drain
If your car doesn’t stop clicking, but you have determined that your battery is running smoothly and properly, the problem could be the parasitic drain. A parasitic battery drain is when there is an abnormal discharge of power after shutting off the engine. The parasitic drain can be caused by a short circuit or a malfunctioning electrical device that remains working even when it should be in the ‘off’ position.
If the battery is working well, the real problem could be terminals’ corrosion. The clicking sound could happen when the starter motor isn’t receiving enough power due to corroded battery terminals. Check the battery under the hood and ensure that the terminals don’t have a green or blue deposit buildup on them that can cause your “car struggles to start but runs fine” situation.
Loose Battery Cables
The clicking sound could also be due to a frayed wire or loose battery cable ends. Loose battery ends can interfere with the connection, preventing the vehicle from starting. If the corroded or loose battery terminals prevent the car from starting, creating a slow cranking, and causing the “car struggles to start, but runs fine” condition.
Slow to Start
If your car struggles to start but runs fine, this is a sign of a battery issue that can enhance the car’s performance issues. As you know by now, the battery is responsible for producing the power to start the car. If the power is not in the battery, then the car battery will show 3.12 volts, and the car will not start.
If you notice a smell coming from under your car’s hood, this could be due to the battery leaking fluid. This problem requires a new battery and can affect other engine components due to the leaking liquid, like acid corroding the metal engine parts. These damaged engine parts can cause the “car struggles to start, but runs fine” situation in your vehicle.
Swollen Battery Case
If you live in very cold or very warm conditions that can harm your battery or internal engine components, this can cause the battery case to swell while sitting idle. The result of this swelling is that the battery inside of the case will die and show a reduced voltage.
Car Alternator Function
When trying to troubleshoot why your car struggles to start but runs fine, the alternator will often be the culprit if you are positive the battery is in working condition.
The alternator generates electrical power and plays a huge part in the vehicle’s charging system. When the engine is running, the alternator must maintain the correct level of charge in the battery and supply electric power to the vehicle’s systems. The alternator is connected to the engine and controlled by a drive belt, directly connecting to the engine’s functions.
An alternator can last for as long as a decade without any repairs or maintenance in some cars. However, if the alternator does fail, the car can still run for a limited time on just battery power. Unfortunately, once the alternator stops charging, you will find that your car struggles to start but runs fine.
Replacing Your Alternator
Since the alternator is such an important component of your car’s charging system, diagnosing the issue, testing the system, figuring out the most common problems, and determining a plan to fix the alternator is crucial in maintaining a healthy car charging system. The average alternator replacement cost ranges from about $500-$1,000, rebuilding an alternator being a lower-priced option.
Signs of Bad Alternator
Noticing these important and telltale signs and symptoms of the faulty alternator can mean what your car struggles to start but runs fine. Let’s check out the most common signs that you will notice as a driver in your car.
In other cars, you might hear a noisy alternator bearing and loud noises during use. If your alternator makes a lot of noise, then the belt or pulley is usually the problem. The belt could also be misaligned with the pulley, which means they are not running smoothly and working together. If the noise continues after replacing the belt, then you need to replace the alternator while your car struggles to start but runs fine.
Slow Engine Cranking
When the alternator is damaged and not working correctly, the car’s engine will crank very slowly. In order to figure out if this is the problem, you need to check out the ignition system before making a decision, and the alternator is at fault. The inability to crank might also be partnered with loud noises coming from under the hood of your vehicle, which is due to a worn-out drive belt that means your car struggles to start but runs fine.
Alternator Voltage Leak
The alternator plays a vital role in converting currents from the alternator into a direct current. Over time, the electricity within the alternator can run out, causing dimming lights. We recommend using a voltmeter to ensure there are no leakages and prevent having a “car struggles to start but runs fine” situation.
The most common sign and noticeable symptom that there is a problem with your car clicking and not starting is a battery-shaped dashboard light. Typically, this warning light comes on when you turn the ignition and turns off when the engine starts and you are driving your vehicle. If it remains illuminated, there is an issue with your alternator that can cause the “car struggles to start but runs fine” situation.
Headlights Flickering On and Off
The final sign that your alternator is not charging is that the dash lights and headlights will get lower when your car is idling but become brighter when you rev your engine. When the headlights dim over time, it means that you could have a weak alternator or a poor connection at the battery terminals. You could also have a loose drive belt, which is what supplies power to the alternator itself. If the drive belt is loose or not working properly, the alternator will not charge.
Accessories Will Not Turn On
In addition, another sign of a failed ignition switch is problems with turning on the accessories in your car. When you insert the key and turn it into the on position, the accessories might not power on. If this is the case, your car struggles to start but runs fine.
Another reason your car struggles to start but runs fine is due to damaged fuses or ignition switches. If the battery and the alternator are working, the next step you need to do is to check for a damaged fuse or a faulty ignition switch.
Ignition Switch is Stuck
If you determine that the fuse is working correctly and is not damaged, the real issue here is the ignition switch causing the “car struggles to start but runs fine” situation. The ignition switch is the part inside of the electrical switch that turns the car and engine over.
Noticing the most common symptoms of this situation in your car, such as a broken alternator, malfunctioning battery, empty fuel tank, damaged starter, terminal corrosion, faulty ignition timing, parasitic power drain, broken engine control unit, and damaged fuel system can help your car’s lifespan.
Realizing the signs can prevent the “car struggles to start but runs fine” condition from getting worse over time and leading to other internal issues with the engine, transmission, and fuel system. When looking at why you have a “car struggles to start, but runs fine” condition, you need to know the main cause of this issue so you can prevent it from getting any worse and leading to expensive repairs and replacements in your vehicle!