It’s very frustrating to start your morning saying: “what’s going on? My truck won’t start?”
Many reasons are causing your truck not to start, including issues with the battery, the starter, the ignition system, or the fuel system.
It’s important to understand your truck’s starting process to pinpoint the culprit.
Whatever the cause for your truck not to start, you need to get the problem repaired to get your vehicle going and complete your daily trips. It doesn’t make sense to jump-start your vehicle every morning and not to resolve the root problem.
In this article, we provide you with an overview of the truck starting process. Then, we review the different causes for your truck, not starting, and what to do about each cause. Finally, we provide a cost estimate for each expected repair related to trucks not starting.
Truck starting system
Your truck follows a certain process using specific components to get started each time you insert and rotate your key in the ignition switch. Any issue affecting this process can prevent your truck from starting.
Your truck’s battery is responsible for sending the initial electrical current to the electrical system's different components, including your truck’s starter.
Before the electrical current makes its way to the truck’s starter, the ignition switch doesn’t allow it to flow before you request it to do so. When you insert the key and turn it in the ignition switch, you allow the electrical current to reach the truck’s starter.
Once the electrical current is allowed to flow, the starter relay takes this current and enlarges it and makes it big enough to start the engine. Without the starter relay, your truck will need much larger wires to withstand the huge current.
After the electrical current gets enlarged, your truck’s starter fires the engine, and your vehicle starts.
Any problem with one of the mentioned components can easily prevent your vehicle from starting.
Your truck won’t start; why?
Once you’ve envisioned how your truck starts, you can think of potential culprits for the truck not started, including the battery, the battery cables, the ignition switch, the starter, and probably the fuel system.
A dead battery can prevent your truck from starting
The most common cause for your truck not starting is a dead battery. Dealing with a dead battery is not surprising or rare, and if that’s the case, you are not alone.
The battery’s primary role is to keep a specific amount of electrical current stored only to start your vehicle. Many people think that the battery also supplies all electrical components as you drive your vehicle, but this is not the case.
Your truck’s battery dies for various reasons, including it passed the lifespan, was exposed to extreme temperatures, and is connected to lose or rusted wires.
Therefore, when your truck doesn’t start, the first thing you need to do is to check and listen for symptoms of a bad battery. Some of these symptoms include:
- Of course, the truck won’t start
- The truck’s engine will make a clicking noise
- Your truck’s headlights will not be very bright
- A check engine light might illuminate
- The battery case is rusted
There is a simple trick to confirm whether it’s the battery causing the truck not to start or not. If you jump start your car and it did start, the problem is definitely with the battery. However, if the car did not start after using the jump start, the problem could be either another component or a combination of the battery and another component.
If it’s your truck’s battery causing the problem, unfortunately, you need to replace it as soon as possible to avoid dealing with more complicated problems requiring higher repair costs.
Replacing a truck’s battery requires between $50 and $120 without including the labor cost. Labor cost increases the total bill significantly if you have the work done at a dealership versus a small repair shop or doing it yourself.
Corroded or rusted battery cables
If the battery doesn’t have a problem, it does not guarantee the electrical current will reach all electrical system components. The battery is connected with cables and wires to transport the electrical current.
These wires and cables can get rusted or broken over time of use. With damaged cables, the engine might not start.
To replace broken or damaged cables, expect to pay between $260 and $290 depending on the number of cables and the severity of the damage. It is important to note that this price covers parts only without including labor costs.
A faulty ignition switch
Once confirming your truck’s battery is in good condition, you can move on and check the ignition switch.
As we mentioned earlier, the ignition switch allows the electrical current to flow and reach all electrical systems once you insert the key and turn it.
Like other truck components, the ignition switch can also go bad, making it impossible for your truck to start. Watch for any of the following symptoms of a bad ignition switch:
- Of course, the truck won’t start
- You cannot turn the key
- Your truck’s engine might stall
- The truck’s dashboard lights will flicker
- The engine will not make any noise indicating it started.
Replacing the ignition switch requires between $125 and $275 on parts only. Again, repair costs can also raise the bill total.
A broken or malfunction truck starter
If the battery and the ignition switch work just fine, then look for a faulty starter in your truck. There are also symptoms for a truck’s faulty starter including:
- The truck won’t start
- The truck’s headlight works, but the engine is not
- The truck produces smoke
- When looking at the starter, it's soaked with oil
If you experienced any of the mentioned symptoms, it's very likely the starter needs replacement. To replace the truck’s starter, expect to pay between $344 and $562.
A clogged fuel filter
For the engine to start, it requires a certain amount of fuel and air. Suppose the engine did not receive the required amount of fuel. There are different reasons for the fuel not to get to the cylinders, including a clogged fuel filter.
The fuel filter is responsible for keeping any dirt or contamination from making its way to the chambers to ensure optimum ignition.
Over time of use, the filter can get clogged and prevent the fuel from reaching the chambers. It is important to note that a partially clogged filter doesn’t prevent the engine from starting. Thus, if you perform regular maintenance to your truck, it is rare for a fuel filter to cause the engine not to start.
A completely clogged fuel filter is usually associated with the following symptoms:
- Truck’s power flocculation
- Check engine illuminating
- Engine stalling
- Truck won’t start
- Fuel pump damaging
- Exhaust system smelling
- Fuel economy reduction
Replacing the fuel filter requires between $14 and $60 on parts only.
An empty fuel tank
Even if this might sound obvious, checking your fuel tank might be one of the things you forgot to do. When the fuel tank doesn’t have fuel, the engine will not start.
While some symptoms might be common between different components, some unusual symptoms can help you confirm the actual culprit. Once you identify the problem, perform a quick evaluation of whether you can do the repairs by yourself, or need a professional mechanic.
While repairing things on your saves a lot of labor cost, you need to have the required mechanical skills. If this is your first DIY practice, you must keep in mind that most DIYs do not work for the first time.
When I try to turn on my car, it just clicks
Another common issue with car starting problems is hearing the clicking sound only. When this happens, check for rusted or corroded terminals and wires. These corroded terminals prevent the electrical signal from getting to the ignition switch and starting your car.
Besides the rusted terminals, loose connections between the battery cables and the other electrical system components can cause the clicking sound. These lose cables don’t allow the electrical circuit to complete, thus, flowing the electrical current from the battery to the electrical system.
Watching the clicking sound pattern helps you pinpoint the actual culprit. A faulty car battery causes fast clicking sound only when turning the key in the ignition switch.
A faulty solenoid makes continuous clicking noise just when you try to start your vehicle. On the other hand, a completely damaged engine causes the car to click and not start.
Is it worth repairing my truck if it won’t start?
Deciding whether to fix your truck is not related to the starting problem. You need to look at the overall situation of your truck.
For instance, if the truck is at high mileage and expects many of the components close to passing their lifespan, it might not be worth spending the time and money repairing it.
Similarly, if the truck already has significant problems with the engine, the transmission, or any other major component, you need to think twice before spending the time and money.
Lastly, if the repair cost collectively approaches the value of the truck, if not more, it is not worth spending the money repairing starter issues.
If you found it's not worth repairing your truck’s starting problem, you can always sell it as junk to a Cash Cars Buyer. At Cash Cars Buyer, we buy all trucks from all models, years, and makes despite their condition as every truck has its value.
If you are interested, give us a call and provide basic information about your truck, receive our instant free offer, schedule a pickup time and location, get your vehicle removed within one to three days, and receive your cash payment right on the spot.
You don’t have to worry about cancelling an important appointment or meeting at our company because we offer the same day, weekends, and evening pickups.
Why won’t my truck start but has power?
If your engine has power and still cannot start, the problem could be one of the followings:
- A faulty starter
- Broken battery wires
- Or burnt fuse
How do you tell if it's your starter or your battery?
Problems with both the starter and the batter cause your truck not to start, which sometimes makes it tricky to pinpoint the true culprit.
Luckily, you can always jump-start your vehicle and try to turn on the headlights. If the headlights worked, the problem is with your vehicle’s starter. If they did not turn on, the problem might be either the battery or both the battery and the starter.
It is not very rare if you’re truck won’t start. Once you understand how the starter system works, you can shorten the list of potential culprits.
Your truck is not starting because of an issue with either the battery, the battery cables, the ignition switch, the starter, a clogged fuel filter, or an empty fuel tank.
When there is a problem with any of the mentioned potential components, certain symptoms are usually associated with it. However, some of the symptoms can occur when you have a problem with them, like the engine not starting.
Whatever the cause of your truck is not starting, once you identify the root of the problem, you must get it repaired to avoid dealing with complicated problems that require high repair costs.
In general, repairing starting problems is usually not expensive; however, you need to make sure that your vehicle has no other complicated problems before spending the time and money repairing starting issues.