Engine cranking refers to your engine turning over and over without being able to power the car. The “crank” terminology comes from the “crankshaft,” which is the vehicle’s component that moves the pistons in your car. The crankshaft works together with the piston to power the vehicle, turning the engine through its cycle and sending the necessary spark to the cylinder to start the engine’s internal combustion and power.
If you realize that you are experiencing a no crank/no start condition in your vehicle, this can be directly related to a crankshaft or battery fault. The first step in diagnosing the no crank and no start condition involves figuring out which part, or parts, is at fault for this severe problem.
If the starter is not doing its job of cranking the engine, then the problem is most likely within your vehicle’s electrical system. A jump start of your battery would most often fix this faulty battery problem, but there are also other reasons why you may have a no crank/no start condition.
Let’s see how you can diagnose the no crank/no start condition, the no-start condition’s signs and symptoms, and how you can prevent this issue in your vehicle. Staying on top of this problem in your car can prevent the no crank/no start condition from harming other components in the vehicle.
Diagnosing the no crank/ no start condition
When realizing you have this no crank/no start condition in your vehicle, there are certain tools you can use to diagnose and pinpoint the root cause of the issue in your car. Usually, when you notice this situation, the first thing you should check is the battery. The battery or the battery system problems are the most common cause of this unfortunate no-start condition.
A fast way to diagnose and figure out the battery issue is to turn your headlights on. Suppose the headlights come on and are at the proper brightness level, without flickering on and off or becoming dull over time. In that case, the battery function is at the correct level, and the battery connections are secure.
Use a Load Tester
The best way and the most efficient method to test a battery is with a load tester. There are two types of load tester, which can diagnose the no crank/no start condition – carbon pile and inductance tester. Although both of these load esters do the same function, one is electronically controlled, and one is analog-controlled.
With a carbon pile tester, you have to hook the tester to the battery. Once you analyze and verify the voltage reading, you turn on the carbon pile tester. The surface of a proper-functioning battery should be higher than 12.6 volts. If you are testing your battery to determine the no crank/no start condition, ensure your battery level does not drop below 9 volts.
If, when testing for the no crank/no start condition, you realize that the battery voltage has dropped below 9 volts, this is a clear sign your battery is bad and needs replacing. Keep in mind that you get the most accurate readings on a fully charged battery.
By using an inductance tester to determine the no crank/no start condition cause, things will be a bit easier and quicker than using a carbon pile tester. All you have to do with this diagnostic tool is to hook it up to the battery and enter information on the battery sticker. After you press the button, the reading will come up in just a few seconds that can let you know if the no crank/no start condition is originating from your battery.
Analyze Battery Connections
The second step in testing for a no crank/no start condition and diagnosing the root cause of the issue is to check the battery connections. Once you have established the battery is working well and is not the main culprit, analyzing the battery connections can answer whether or not they are harming the electrical system performance.
Analyzing your battery’s connections can help you figure out if contaminated parts, debris, dirt, or excess build-up has caused the no crank/no start condition in your vehicle. Fortunately, checking battery connections is pretty easy and simple. By making sure your battery cables are clean and sturdy, you can ensure that the no crank/no start condition is not the result of debris.
Causes of No Crank/No Start Condition
There are many reasons why you have a no crank/no start situation in your vehicle. There are various functions, mechanisms, and sensors in newer cars that have to work together for your vehicle to run smoothly. Some parts are more susceptible to damage and wear and tear than others and can be part of the reason your car has a no crank/no start issue.
If you have a modern car, the check engine light might also come on. This can help you troubleshoot the reason why your engine doesn't crank and does not start. In older cars, you need to figure it out on your own, since there is no way to read your vehicle’s memory.
Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor
This is possibly the most common cause when it comes to the no crank/no start condition. 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.
Signs of Damaged Crankshaft Position Sensor
A sign that the crankshaft position sensor is faulty is a damaged tachometer. The computer needs information about the engine speed from the sensor to relay information to the tachometer then. If the sensor isn’t working, the tachometer might signal that you have a faulty crankshaft position sensor.
Third, your fuel economy will not be as good as it normally is, and your fuel efficiency will plummet. Your gas mileage will be much lower than normal, signaling that you have a faulty crankshaft position sensor, which can cause the no crank/no start condition.
Fourth, if you notice no crank/no start condition in your car, this can be due to an issue with the ignition sparks. The computer won’t be able to give the engine any spark, making the engine crank, but not start.
Lastly, the engine could run very rough or stall during driving. A faulty sensor can cause an engine misfire, the engine to stall completely, or the no crank/no start condition. The engine stalling is a very dangerous problem that can cause an unsafe driving situation on the road – for you and other cars around you.
Damaged 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 be able to run, and it will shut off. If the fuel pump, fuel injector, or fuel filter is damaged, this can cause the no crank/no start condition.
Unfortunately for this fuel issue, 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 going into the engine will be impeded.
The last thing that could be faulty with the fuel system is the fuel supply line. This is how gas gets to the engine from the fuel tank supply. If the supply lines are broken or clogged, then there is no way for the gas to get to the engine. If the gas cannot get to the engine, the no crank/no start condition will occur.
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, your engine can crank, but your car will not start.
However, it might not be completely your fault. Another reason your car could run out of gas is if your fuel gauge isn’t working properly. Regardless of why you ran out of gas, you should still get your car checked by a mechanic to diagnose the correct problem and figure out why you are experiencing a no crank/no start condition in your vehicle.
The alternator supplies your vehicle with a constant stream of electricity. Suppose your car shuts off while driving, it is likely that your alternator has gone bad. A broken alternator will cut the power to your car, signaling this information to you by a flashing dashboard light or the engine suddenly shut off.
If you pay attention to your car, you can notice an alternator going bad over time. Your car will begin receiving an intermittent amount of power, leading to the no crank/no start condition in your vehicle.
Broken 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 there is an issue with your car’s ECU, you can lose power in your car. Typically, you will notice the check engine light on your dash. After this light goes on, you should go to a mechanic immediately.
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, leading to the no crank/no start condition. 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.
Ignition Timing Is Off
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.
There is a possible reason that does not involve an entire ignition system repair. The ignition relay could be bad, meaning the mechanism that controls the amount of electricity has stopped working. If this isn't the problem, you need to take it to a mechanic to fix the ignition system and the no crank/no start condition.
How to Prevent No Crank/No Start Condition
In order to decrease the possibility of the no crank/no start condition in your vehicle, you need to provide regular maintenance to your car. Be sure to check essential components like the engine consistently, ensuring you obey any warning symbols on your dashboard.
Have a conversation with your technician about steps that need to be taken, the parts which need regular maintenance, and a schedule for you to adhere to. By keeping with regular maintenance, you reduce the risk of your car shutting off while driving, creating other expensive repairs and replacements for you and your vehicle.
There are many reasons why you may experience the no crank/no start condition in your vehicle. By learning how to diagnose this situation in your car, whether by using a carbon pile tester, inductance tester, and then check the battery connections, you can quickly and effectively determine the root cause of this issue. In addition, knowing the signs and symptoms of a faulty no start condition, as well as learning how to prevent this issue, can keep your car running at a high-performance level for a long period of time.