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Starter clicking – What Are The Causes and The Symptoms?

Starter clicking

One of the worst things that can happen when you are in your car when you need to get somewhere on time is that your car won't start. You put your key in the ignition and it might to turn. Or, you put your key in the ignition and it can turn, but then the engine will rev but not turn on. All your heart is the starter clicking – what now? 

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Luckily for most drivers, this problem is widespread and is pretty easy to diagnose, easy to fix, and relatively inexpensive for the complete solution. Since this problem is quite common and many drivers have issues with the starter clicking, this can mean that the problem and solution is easier to find. 


I order to figure out and diagnose the issue, however, you have to know the basics and the foundation of the problem, and you have to know where you need to start looking to fix the issue. Here, we will go through the most common causes and show you how to fix the issue. 

Causes of why your car clicks 


There are a few problems that are quite common when it comes to the starter clicking and making sounds from your engine when you are trying to turn the key in the ignition and start your vehicle. If you are experiencing problems concerning your car not starting, then check out these main causes. 

Low battery voltage


The most common problem when it comes to the starter clicking is due to low voltage form the car battery. The car battery voltage lowers when there is not enough of a current inside of the battery cell system. If the car battery voltage gets to a certain point and is too low, then there could be discharge that can appear the battery to be dead. 


There are many reasons for a low battery voltage as the cause of the starter clicking. One cause of the low battery voltage can be too many applications, too little downtime and not enough voltage. Many people forget that a battery can be affected by things being on all the time, like the radio, the music devices, and the other electrical components. 


In addition, the low battery voltage and starter clicking can occur due to the alternator being out of commission and the battery following. Since most car batteries do not have dual purpose, where they have a starting power transfer to the alternator and the smaller devices, they might rely on the alternator only, but this can be prone to overheating and draining of the battery, causing the starter clicking noise. 


The last reason that the battery voltage can be drained is that the charger could not be working correctly. Depending on the type of battery and the vehicle, the chargers are responsible for delivering enough amperes to charge the car. If the charger is not working correctly, this can cause further damage to the battery and cause the beginning of the starter clicking. 

Faulty Starter Motor


The next most common problem is a faulty starter motor that can cause the starter clicking. The starter motor contains a solenoid inside of the mechanism that is supposed to be pushed out at the exact same moment that you are turning the starter to turn on the car. If the solenoid does not function correctly or get stuck during use, you can hear the starter clicking from your engine without the engine being able to turn over. 


The faulty starter motor that can cause the starter clicking can be caused by a poor wiring connection, your trigger wire might have come loose or there could be a poor earth connection, meaning what if the solenoid can operate, but the starter absorbs all of the current flow, this can shut off the solenoid. In addition, there can be a defective solenoid that can cause the starter clicking. If the solenoids get overheated, then this could mean that your starter motor is unfortunately broken beyond repair. 


Furthermore, a defective starter motor can cause overheating in the starter and cause the starter clicking. This can be that the electromagnet inside of the starter motor is broken and the issue could be beyond repair. Lastly, a defective ignition switch can cause the starter motor failure, the ignition switch failure, and the starter clicking. 

Loose battery terminals 


Loose battery terminals on the car battery are another common problem that cause the starter motor to become damaged and cause the starter clicking. Someone could cause the loose battery terminals by forgetting to tighten the terminals after a repair, causing the connectors and terminals to corrode or rust after use. When the car is turning over and trying to start, it can require a lot of power from the battery. If the contact is poor and bad, it can cause the starter clicking sound. 


Some symptoms of loose battery terminals that can cause the starter clicking in valve problems starting the vehicle. If any corrosion happens along with the battery terminals, this can interfere with the connection and the vehicle might have trouble starting, followed by the starter clicking sound when the key is turned. 


The following sign of loose battery terminals is the visible corrosion, since the terminals are in direct contact with the battery and exposed to acid fumes. Corrosion can interfere with the battery terminals function to conduct power and can even block the flow. 


In addition, a loss of electrical power can be a symptom of a loose battery terminal, which usually happens when the terminal is severely corroded or has broken, and causes the starter clicking. A severely corroded terminal does not make a good electrical connection and can cause a loss of power. 

Ground Cable Problem


Another cause of the starter clicking can be the ground cable problem. If the ground cable between the body and the engine, or between the battery in the car and the body of the car is bad, then the power flow will be cut off and restricted. This means that the engine power will not be able to crank the engine. This is a common problem that is worth checking and can be known by local mechanics and auto body shops. 


Signs of a ground cable problem in your engine include dim lights, flickering lights, electrical devices turning on and off, a faulty fuel pump, slipping or burned out the clutch in the AC compressor, intermittent sensor failure, damaged throttle or damaged cables, hard starting, loss of ability to start, and a dead battery, all of which can cause the starter clicking. Causes of bad engine grounds and the starter clicking can be attributed to loose, rusted, or damaged ground terminals or wires, a loose or damaged ground battery terminal, or a poor component installation or repairs. 


When checking the ground connections in your vehicle, make sure the terminals attach to a non-painted surface that is safe and usable for your vehicle. Paint, corrosion, greasy surfaces, frayed or damaged wires, and loose connections are huge because of bad automotive grounds and the starter clicking. Some vehicles might use a separate ground wire beside the main one, that can be distributed for power to other electronic equipment and cause the starter clicking. 

Broken Power Cable


If the large power cable to the starter has failed or has become damaged over time, then not enough power will be able to go through the cable to the starter, which can cause the starter clicking. If not enough power is able to pass to the starter, then the engine will not be able to crank and power the car. This problem is not as common as other issues and cause of the starter clicking, but can still be fixed by expert mechanics. 


Some symptoms of a broken or failing battery cable can help you determine the real cause as to why the starter clicking is happening in your car. Problems with starting the vehicle can be a caller symptom of the failing battery cable, since the battery cables are in charge of transferring the power from the battery to the vehicle’s entire electrical system, which means that if the cables have any issue, this can interfere with the ability to conduct power.


Starting a vehicle takes a huge amount of cranking power, so the problems with the cables can hinder the ability to conduct power and start the engine, causing clicking sounds during cranking. 


In addition to problems with starting the vehicle, there can be corrosion on battery terminals that can cause the brake power cable. This can cause the starter clicking, since corrosion can develop due to the acidic vapor produced by the battery when it becomes too hot for exposure as a result of being exposed to the engine overheating. Over time, the vapor can corrode the terminal and cause a corrosion buildup, causing increased resistance along the contact surface of the terminal and blocking the electrical flow. 


The third symptom that there can be a broken power cable in your car is that the vehicle cannot get any power. Another symptom is that no power to a vehicle can happen when the cables become split or the cables become corroded where they can make a clean connection with the battery, causing the starter clicking noise. You may notice that turning the key does not activate the power to the accessories, the cranking engine, or the interior lights. 

How To Diagnose the Starter Clicking


Now that you know the cause of what can cause the starter clicking and the symptoms of this issue, you might want to know how to check these different parts to figure out where the problem is located and diagnose the issue. 

First, make sure you check the battery. A dead car battery is usually the most common problem when it comes to these issues with the starter clicking, so this should be the first thing you check. You can do this in a variety of ways, but the easiest way is to use a jump starter of the car battery by using jumper cables, or using a jump starter with protective functions. 


If you do not have a jump starter, then this can let you determine the power in your car battery. Make sure the jump starters are fully charged and connect it to the battery terminals and try to crank the car. If the vehicle turns over, then you have a problem with the car battery and the starter clicking. 


Another way you can diagnose the start clicking is to use a jumper cable. This can be a useful tool when determining a problem between the body and the engine, or between the car battery and the car body. To eliminate this issue, take a jumper cable and attach it to a clean ground point on the engine and negative battery terminal. If the car does start, you have to check the ground wire and the contact surfaces to determine the cause of the starter clicking. 


Another way to determine the cause of the starter clicking is by seeing if the solenoid gets stuck. If you can reach the starter solenoid easily on your own, you can try to easily tap it with a hammer while someone else is turning the ignition. If the starter turns over when you are tapping the star, you have a bad starter or a starter solenoid, which causes the starter to click. 


The last way you can diagnose the starter clicking is to replace the faulty parts inside of your vehicle. If every test came back all clear, and the engine is just clicking when you turn the key in the ignition, then it might still be a problem with the starter. This could also show a problem with the ignition lock and the starter to measure these instances, meaning you have to determine if the broken wire between the ignition lock and the starter is the culprit of the starter clicking noise. 

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