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Engine Cranks, But My Car Won’t Start – What You Should Know!

Engine Cranks, But My Car Won’t Start – What You Should Know!

Engine cranking refers to your engine turning over and over. Unfortunately, this turning does not result in starting your car, but results in an endless cycle of “trying” to start your vehicle. The “crank” term comes from the important part of the “crankshaft,” which is the vehicle’s component that moves the pistons in your car. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


The crankshaft works together with the piston to provide the vehicle’s power, turning the engine through the motion and sending the required spark to the cylinder to power up the internal combustion and send power to the engine. 


When you first have car issues with the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” situation, you need to determine what part, or multiple parts, are at fault for this substantial and severe problem. If the starter won't crank the engine and power the car, then the problem most likely lies within the electrical system. A jumpstart would solve this problem of a bad battery, but there are also reasons as to why your “engine cranks but my car won’t start” situation. 

Why Engine Cranks But My Car Won’t Start


There are many reasons why you have an “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” scenario. There are multiple functions, mechanisms, and sensors in newer cars that have to work together for your vehicle to run as it should. Some parts are more susceptible to damage and wear and tear than others and can be part of the reason for the unfortunate “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” situation. 


  • Damaged Crankshaft Position Sensor


This is possibly the most common cause when it comes to your engine cranking, but your car won’t start. If the crankshaft position sensor isn’t working properly, it can cause the car’s internal computer – the engine control unit – not to function correctly. The engine’s computer is in charge of the crankshaft position sensor, so if it detects a problem, the check engine light will come on.


  • Malfunctioning Battery


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 to prevent the unwanted “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” condition. 


  • Broken Alternator


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. If you do not fix the alternator, this can lead to an “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” occurrence. 

Signs of Damaged Alternator

The most common sign 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 is started, and you are driving your vehicle. If you experience the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” situation, the dashboard light can remain illuminated and show an issue with your alternator.


Second, if you have a “my engine cranks, but the car won’t start” condition, this can be due to an alternator voltage leak. 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 your car from starting consistently.


Lastly, if your alternator is working, the belt or pulley is the culprit if you hear loud noises. The belt could be maligned with the engine pulley, causing excessive friction, too much grinding, and overheating due to the metal components. 

Alternator Replacement Price

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. A new alternator’s price can be a lot pricier, ranging from about $500-$1,000, including the labor to install.


  • Faulty Fuel System


The fuel pump supplies the engine with the correct amount of fuel for it to run properly. If the fuel pump is not working correctly, the engine won’t run, and it will shut off. If the fuel pump, fuel injector, or fuel filter are damaged, this can cause the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” issue. 


Unfortunately for car owners, there is no way around a broken or faulty fuel pump – you need to repair or replace the fuel pump. You also should check the fuel filter, as that could be the main problem. The fuel filter’s job is to clean the fuel going into the engine. If the filter is clogged, the fuel in the engine is impeded. 


  • Empty Fuel Tank


This is a common occurrence that most people have experienced – you get distracted and forget to keep an eye on your fuel gauge. If you run out of fuel while driving, you might experience the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” condition in your vehicle. 


  • Malfunctioning Engine Control Unit


The ECU is your car’s computer in charge of the various systems and functions, ensuring your vehicle runs smoothly. This engine control module controls actuators on the internal combustion engine to ensure the engine is running at an optimal level.


If you decide not to take your car to a mechanic once the light goes on, your car can accumulate more problems that only worsen over time, like your “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” problem. Plus, you can’t fix an ECU yourself to save some money. Your only option is to take it to a professional mechanic to avoid your car shutting off while driving. 


  • Power Drain


If your car doesn’t stop clicking and your vehicle will not start, 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. This can result in the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” situation in your vehicle. 


  • Terminal Corrosion


If you have an “engine cranks, but my car won’t start ”, the real problem could be the 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. 


  • Faulty Ignition Timing


The car’s ignition system supplies power to the engine for it to run efficiently. If your ignition system is faulty, your engine will abruptly shut off. The first thing you should do to remedy the problem is to put your car keys in the ignition again and try turning them – if this doesn’t start the engine, then you have ignition failure. If you experience ignition failure, you will also experience the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” issue that has plagued so many drivers.


  • Starter Problems 


Within a car, there are various issues with the starter that could lead to a high resistance – and the “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” occurrence. The first thing to check for is a dead starter motor, which is the result of a damaged triggering mechanism. If your engine cranks but your car won’t start, you need to immediately look into the starter system. 


The triggering mechanism is composed of 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. 



When looking at why you have an “engine cranks, but my car won’t start” 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! 


Noticing the most common symptoms 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 prevent the  “engine cranks but my car won’t start” condition from getting worse over time and leading to other internal issues with the engine, transmission, and fuel system.