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What does it mean when your car won’t turn over but lights come on?

What does it mean when your car won't turn over but lights come on

We know you must be thinking that there is something seriously wrong with your car if your car won’t turn over but your lights come on. Just because the electrical components seem to be at least partially working in your vehicle, doesn’t mean that you have everything figured out. Since there are various systems within the car, the transmission, engine, and other issues could be completely separate from any lighting components. Let’s check out the top reasons of what it means when your car won’t turn over but lights come on. 

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If your car won’t start buthe the lights work fine and the radio is turning on, then it could be one of a few different problems. One of these issues is the potential of a dead battery. The reason why the radio, the dashboard lights and warning lights, the headlights, and other electrical components can obtain power while the engine cannot, has to do with the current amount of power each device requires and something that is interrupting the path of flow – in this case, directly to the engine, preventing the car from turning over.

Check the Battery – Reason 1


One of the main reasons why the engine might not be starting is a dead or dying battery. Just because some of hte electrical parts are working, which is not usually commong of a dead battery, they can sometimes run off of a very low charge – a charge that is so low that your car won’t turn over but your lights will come on. 


Some parts of your car, like the headlights, radios, and other electronics might only require a very little amount of power, or amperage, which means that it can run off of a very low, or almost dead, battery. Since these parts require no more than usually 20-30 amps, they can run on a nearly dead battery. 


However, engine starters, which can make your car turn over, can require nearly 300 amps at once to get the engine started. This is usually too much for a battery with just a low charge that is almost dead. This can cause the car to not turn over but the lights to continue working. 


If the battery tests low when you use a hydrometer to test the charge, or if it does not pass a load test, then this means the battery needs to be charged to run the engine correctly. If it can gain a charge from another battery and the vehicle can start after getting a jump, then the problem is no longer and you have fixed the issue. This means that the issue of your car not being able to turn over but your lights coming on will cease to exist. However, if it doesn’t start, a blown fuse might be the problem, a broken ignition switch, or a bad starter.


Luckily for this, you can generally tell when your car has blown the fuse. Detecting a blown fuse is one of the first steps in figuring out the fault in your car’s system that prevents the engine from starting. A blown fuse will not last very long and will possibly blow after a certain period. 


The signs of a blown fuse is that your accessories will lose power, the blown fuse will appear broken or disconnected, or circuits start to overload. This can cause your engine to not turn over but your lights to come on. 


For some, if the battery is dead and not working properly, you will need to get a replacement or repair the battery. Sometimes, you need to decide if it is better to repair or replace the battery depending on the value of your car and how much you're willing to spend, along with the root cause of the problem. 


For some cars and some owners, battery replacement may not be worth the cost. Many people wont’ buy a car with a dead battery. However, we will be at Cash Cars Buyer. Find out if your Prius battery replacement is worth the cost, or if you are better off selling your junk car to us for cash! 


Check the Fuses, Fusible Links, and Ignition Switch


If the battery is in decent shape and the power is not dead, then you might want to check for a blown fuse or a fusible link. Make sure you check your car’s manual to find the location of the fuse box, and then see if the fuse or metal wire is damaged. If the metal wire in the plastic is damaged or disconnected completely, then a blown fuse might prevent power from getting to the starter relay. 


If you do this check and you determine if the fuse is in good shape, then the real problem is the car’s ignition switch and it not working correctly. Contrary to popular belief, the ignition isn't’ actually the mechanical hardware that you put your key into when you are trying to start your car. It is actually the electrical switch inside that your key touches when the mechanical part is inserted into the ignition. In some situations, the ignition switch can actually only give power to the electrical components within the car and avoid the engine starter. 


There are key signs to a failing ignition switch or bad ignition. One sign is that the car can stall while driving, meaning that the ignition might cut off power to the fuel systems, meaning the engine would stall. The second sign of a failing ignition switch is that the ignition switch might constantly be in the “on” position, which can consistently give power to the fuel pump and the ignition system when in the cranking position, which can overload the sensor. In addition, if it fails in the “on” position, it can cut off power. 


In addition, another sign of a failed ignition switch is when you notice problems with turning on the accessories in your car. When you insert the key and turn it into the on position, the accessories might not power on. If this is the case, then you will have ignition problems, fuse issues, and wiring issues. 


Now that you know the signs of a broken ignition switch, you can see how this problem would cause you to wonder what it means when your car won’t turn over but your lights turn on. Diagnosing and remedying a broken ignition switch is unfortunately a bit more complicated than checking for a broken fuse. However, the good way to check is that if the instrument panel and dashboard lights do not turn on when the key ignition is moved, then the problem is most likely with the ignition switch. 


If you have a car with manual transmission, a faulty or damaged clutch pedal sensor can prevent the engine from turning over, while still allowing the lights to turn on. 

Check the Starter


Another reason that your car won’t turn over but your lights come on is that the starter is not working correctly. The starter in your car is the electric motor tha cranks your engine in order to turn on your car. The entire system of the starter consists of the motor, the solenoid, which takes the battery power and delivers it to the motor, and the flywheel. 


In order to start your car, you need a high current. This enables your engine to have enough power to start the car properly. Whenever your car will not start and the battery is charged, the starter motor is usually the culprit of the issues. 


There are a few signs that show the common starting problems, which are all related to the starter, what it means when your car won’t turn over, and why your lights will turn on. 

First, the starter can crank but the car will not start. This is usually due to battery failure, which is due to something being left on and causing the battery to drain. It could also be due to poor connections, damaged battery terminals, or a bad or dead battery. Sometimes, this could even be due to the starter, with the control terminal becoming corroded. 


Another sign that there are starter problems and a reason for why your car won't turn over but your lights will turn on is that you have to jiggle the key to start the car. This shows you have a bad ignition switch and the solenoid is not being activated. In addition, the car might start when it is in neutral, but not when it is in park. The neutral safety switch in your car usually prevents the car from operating when it is in neutral or park, but if this occurs, you have a damaged neutral safety switch.


Lastly, another sign of an issue with the starter in your car is that the lights go dim when the car is first started. If you test your battery, check to see if the issue is with the car starter control circuit. This could be due to the starter relay, ignition switch, or neutral safety switch. Any of these reasons could cause damage to the starter and prevent your car from turning over, but letting your lights turn on. 


If you find that your car starter is the issue as to why your car wont’ turn over but your lights come on, then you might need to replace the starter in your vehicle. This can be done by a mechanic if you are not certain about what to do, but if you have the tools and knowledge, then you can save some money by doing this replacement yourself.


First, turn the ignition and remove the negative battery cable from being attached to the battery. Then, remove the positive cable, which is the large one that runs to the battery. After you have removed the cable, disconnected the bolts that hold the starter to the block. Once the starter is removed, remove any other supporting brackets that are keeping the starter in the right place. Then, disconnect the bolts holding the starter, using a lubricant to help grease and remove the tight bolts.


Now, remove the starter from the car. Install the new starter on the block and reattach it with the bolts, reconnecting the battery cable to the starter. After this, tighten the bolts to the starter and reconnect the negative cable. 

If the Engine Can Crank, But The Car Will Not Start….


If an engine is cranking but it will not turn over to start, but your lights come on, then you have an idea that your electrical system is working correctly but the transmission and fuel system is not. For the car to start running correctly and turn over, you will need a few different ingredients and components within your vehicle – spark, air, fuel, and compression. These parts are key to turning the car over and getting it to start. 


Fuel – if you think that the issue might be in relation to the fuel in your vehicle, which is preventing it to turn over, but let your lights turn on, then there are a couple of reasons and solutions to this issue. If the weather is very cold and you frequently drive in sub-freezing temperatures, then your fuel line might have frozen and you need to wait for it to thaw or bring it somewhere warmer. Some of these common solutions to this fuel line issue are:


Gas Tank is Empty – even if your gas tank isn’t indicating on the gauge that the tank is empty and without fuel ,this could actually still be the reason. A fuel gauge can sometimes not read correctly and be not calibrated in the right way. This can mean you run out of gas, which prevents the engine turn over, and the lights from coming on.


Fuel Filter Needs Replacing – Make sure you ask your mechanic or check the fuel filter to see when your fuel filter needs to be replaced, and how often you have changed it in the past. A clogged fuel filter can prevent the gas from reaching the engine. If you frequently drive your car to almost empty or near empty, then your fuel filter might remain clogged and be filled with debris. 


No Spark – if your car will crank, but not turn over, but your lights come on, then you might not be getting a spark to the engine even though your electrical components are working. A spark needs to be used to ignite the fuel, letting the car start. Although you can potentially do this yourself, this is usually too complicated for most drivers and owners, and should be left to a mechanic or a professional. 

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