Uh-oh. Your car isn’t able to start, and you hear a clicking noise while trying to turn the ignition. This is a common cause, that requires some troubleshooting and diagnosing on your end. There are a certain number of probable causes as to why your car won’t start, and they depend on what you hear when you turn the ignition. The clicking noise can vary from rapid-clicking to a single click, to nothing happening when you turn the ignition. Here are the most common causes of your car not starting due to a clicking noise in your vehicle.
Causes Of Your Car Not Starting Due To A Clicking Noise
A clicking noise occurring in your car is a warning sign that something is wrong internally. When a car won’t start due to the clicking noise, this could be due to several reasons. You need to figure out why. The engine might need a thrust from the flywheel, which requires it to be fully cranked. The source of providing power to the flywheel is the starter motor.
The battery is the source of power for all of the aforementioned components – so when the car won’t start after clicking, this could be due to the flywheel, engine, starter motor, or battery. Let’s discuss the common causes of why the car won’t start due to clicking.
The Probable Causes Of Your Car Not Starting
The main reasons that your car won’t start due to the clicking noise are typically due to a battery or a starter problem. This is when the engine cannot respond to the components which are supposed to be giving it power. The engine cracking up includes a series of events that must be performed in the same order to properly fuel the engine. Issues with one of these devices or a damaged part can throw off the correct sequence of events. Here are some symptoms of a car not being able to start and the reasons why.
- Fast Clicking When Trying To Start A Car
If there is a really fast clicking noise when you begin turning the ignition key, then low voltage or a high resistance is the issue. These issues have to deal with the electrical system, indicating an issue with the car battery.
A fully charged battery should read at least 12.65 volts. A reading of 12.45 volts is about 75% charge, and will be good to last your car a while longer. Anything less than 12.45 volts means that your battery is low – aka, low voltage. High resistance causes the battery to heat up and the voltage to drop under the load, which negatively affects the battery.
This Could Mean – The Battery Is Dead
If your battery is dead, then you will be experiencing a rapid-fire while turning the ignition to start your car. This 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. 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 and depending on the type of car you have.
What does it mean if you still hear the clicking while turning the ignition key? Well, unfortunately, this could mean a damaged alternator. The car won’t be able to start if the alternator can’t provide enough voltage output necessary. The only solution to this is to fix or replace the alternator.
The average price to replace an alternator with a remanufactured part is approximately $400. A remanufactured alternator on a domestic car ranges from $300-$500, including the parts and labor/time required to install it. The price of a new alternator can be a lot pricier, ranging from about $500-$1,000, including the labor to install.
If your car doesn’t stop clicking, but you have determined that your battery is running smoothly and properly, the problem could actually be the parasitic drain. A parasitic battery drain is when there is an abnormal discharge of power after shutting off the engine. This can be caused by a short circuit, or a malfunctioning electrical device that remains working even when it should be in the ‘off’ position. You should try to jumpstart your vehicle to bring it to a garage, where a knowledgeable technician can diagnose the problem and figure out a solution for the clicking noise.
This Could Mean – Corrosion Of Terminals
If your car is still doing a rapid clicking noise while you turn the ignition and the battery is working well, the real problem could be the corrosion of terminals. 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. Also, check for any rust buildup on the battery terminals. If there is any type of buildup, you will need to clean your terminals to restore the power supply, bring the engine back to working order, and prevent the clicking sounds from your car. There are certain corrosion and rust inhibitors you can buy to prevent against the development in your car.
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 are preventing the car from starting, creating a slow cranking, or making a rapid clicking, you need to fix this issue so you can start your car.
This Could Mean – Starter Problems
Within a car, there are various issues with the starter that could lead to a high resistance – and therefore, the car not being able to start and making a clicking noise. The first thing to check for is a dead starter motor, which is the result of a damaged or faulty triggering mechanism.
The triggering mechanism is composed within the vehicle’s engine management system. Most ignition triggers operate as a magnetic sensor. When the mechanism is triggered, it sends a signal to the ignition module to properly time the ignition. An incorrect trigger signal to the computer will throw off the entire engine system.
The triggering mechanism is also responsible for the car not starting. Some engine systems use the ignition trigger to start the entire engine system, which will be disabled if there is no base signal for the computer. If the car’s triggering mechanism is faulty, it won’t be able to trigger the starter motor.
If the trigger mechanism isn’t the issue, a loose starter connection could be the cause to starter problems. Fixing the motor will require you to seek the help of a technician, but you can also repair the loose connection with some D-I-Y methods. Find the faulty wiring circuit and check it with a voltmeter before getting started.
- Single Click When Starting The Car
If your car is just providing a single click when trying to start the car instead of a rapid-fire clicking, this could be due to the high-current contacts inside the starter portion of your vehicle. A faulty or improperly-working solenoid can lead to the same symptom of clicking, by interfering with the ignition circuit.
The starter solenoid is an electromagnet that is responsible for engaging the starter motor of an internal combustion engine. The function is to actuate the contactor, which is the relay designed for a large electric current. Most modern cars use the starter solenoid to also move the starter pinion into a position of engagement with the ring gear of the engine. If the starter solenoid is not working correctly, your car won’t start after hearing the single clicking noise.
When the contacts develop a high resistance, this means they are damaged or corroded. If you turn the ignition and try to start the car, the high resistance absorbs the voltage that is meant to head towards the starter. By eating up the voltage, the starter loses its power supply. Without any power supply, the starter isn’t able to crank up the engine, thereby, not being able to start your car.
The only bright side to this happening with your car is that a new set of contacts won’t set you back more than $10. However, you will have trouble finding them in any garage or auto parts store. You may have to replace the starter assembly to find the solution to this problem.
Replacing the starter assembly will cost you an average of around $344-$562. The labor costs an average of $128-$163, while the parts will cost you $216-$399. The total for a new car starter is around $180, and $130 for labor costs.
- Car Won’t Start And Just Clicks
Another reason that your car won’t start and there is a clicking noise is due to a locked up or damaged engine. An engine can seize if the internal components of your car get locked up, and the crankshaft isn’t able to turn on the bearings. If the pistons, rod bearings, or piston rings overheat and become fused together, the crankshaft won’t be able to turn on the bearings. The most common cause of a seized engine is an insufficient amount of oil.
An insufficient amount of oil might happen if there is a problem stopping the oil from circulating, or if you run out of oil in your engine. The lack of oil will cause engine components to rub and cause friction. This creates heat, and in extreme cases, the heat can cause parts to weld together in inappropriate areas in your car.
An engine can also lock up due to a lack of use. If you haven’t used your car in a long time, rust can build up from disuse, causing the piston rings to become stuck. This is common in older cars that you might have been considering restoring.
Sometimes your engine can become locked due to hydrolocking – in this case, water is the main problem. If water enters the combustion chamber, the water doesn’t compress in the same way air does, making it virtually impossible for the piston to get to the top, and thereby, stopping the engine.
Lastly, an engine can lock due to being vapor locked. With a vapor locked engine, the engine won’t start at all. This is less common than the other options since it mainly occurs in low-pressure fuel systems in older models of cars.
This problem mainly occurs when the gas within the fuel lines heats up and becomes a gas instead of a liquid. This prevents the engine from receiving fuel. Vapor-locked engines can occur due to extreme heat, due to the car being left outside in the sun for a long period of time or the fuel temperature rising too quickly. Unfortunately, the cost to replace a fuel pump is $1,500.
You can try to solve this problem by starting the engine manually with a breaker bar and a wrench. If your engine is frozen, try switching the car on and giving the engine sufficient time to warm up gradually without pushing it too hard.
The way to avoid a seized engine is to refill the coolant before cold weather arrives, and by not parking the car outside in freezing temperatures. This will prevent a frozen engine. Preventing a seized engine requires you to keep your car’s oil levels at a required level. Sometimes, a quick engine oil top-up will solve the clicking or tapping sounds from the engine.
What If My Car Won’t Start And Requires An Expensive Repair?
If your car can’t start and you have an expensive repair ahead of you, it might not be in your best interest to repair the damage. Sometimes repairing the required parts can cost thousands of dollars, like replacing a faulty engine. The best option you have is to sell the car as-is. This gives you the chance to get the most money in exchange for your vehicle.
Bring your car to a reputable location, like CashCarsBuyer, where the business can give you a fair amount of money for your broken-down car. Sell the non-metal parts before bringing in your vehicle if you choose for some extra cash, and sell your junk car to put aside some money for a brand new and safe vehicle.