My Car Will Not Start! Is it Starter or Battery?

When you turn the key in the ignition, and your car does not start, it can be a frustrating experience. Many different things can cause this problem, but it’s essential to know what signs to look for to diagnose the issue. In this article, we’ll discuss some common symptoms that could indicate problems with starter or battery.

Signs of a Bad Battery

Slow Cranking

When you turn the key in the ignition, and the engine cranks slowly or not at all, it could mean that your battery is weak or dead. If you hear a clicking sound when you turn the key, it could be the result of low voltage from your battery.

Dimming Lights

If your headlights or dashboard lights are dim and flickering, it could be a sign that your battery is low on power. Your electrical system requires a certain level of voltage to operate correctly, and when the battery is low, lights may appear dimmer than usual.

Swollen Battery Case

If you notice that the battery case is swollen or bloated, it means that the battery is overcharged and overheating. This can cause damage to the battery and can be dangerous as it may leak battery acid.

Signs of a Bad Starter

Clicking Noise

If you hear a clicking sound when you turn the key, it could be a sign that the starter motor is not engaging the flywheel. This can be a sign of a faulty starter motor or a weak battery.

Grinding Noise

If you hear a grinding noise when you attempt to start the car, it could be the result of a worn or damaged starter gear. The gear is responsible for engaging the flywheel, and this noise indicates that the gear is not correctly engaging.

Failed Solenoid

If you turn the key, and nothing happens, it could mean that the solenoid has failed. The solenoid is responsible for sending power to the starter motor, but if it’s faulty, it won’t engage the starter, and your car won’t start.

Steps for Testing the Battery

Use a Digital Multimeter

The most reliable way to test the battery is by using a digital multimeter. A multimeter is an electrical testing tool used to measure voltage, current, and resistance. Connect the multimeter to the battery terminals to determine the voltage. A healthy battery should have a voltage reading of at least 12.6 volts. A reading of 11.8 volts or less indicates a dead battery that needs replacing.

Check the Charging System

If the battery is not dead, then the problem could be with the car’s charging system. Check the voltage readings across the battery terminals when the engine is running. The readings should be between 13.7 to 14.7 volts. If the readings are low, then the problem could be with the alternator or the voltage regulator.

Inspect for Corrosion

Corrosion on battery terminals can limit the power transfer to the battery. This results in a weak or no crank. Check the battery terminals for any signs of corrosion or rust. If corroded, remove and clean the terminals using a wire brush. Reconnect the terminals and test the battery again.

Steps for Testing the Starter

Check for a Ground Connection

One of the most common problems with the starter is a poor ground connection. The starter motor needs to be grounded to the car’s chassis to function properly. If the ground connection is weak or broken, the starter will fail to work. Inspect the ground wire connecting the starter to the chassis for any signs of damage or disconnection.

Inspect the Electrical Connections

Electrical connections to the starter must be intact and free from corrosion. Inspect the connections leading from the battery to the starter and ensure that they are tight and secure. Check the wiring for any signs of damage, wear, or frayed wires.

Check the Starter’s Motor

Sometimes, the starter motor may be at fault. An experienced mechanic can diagnose and repair the starter motor. However, it’s essential to check the motor’s brushes, housing, and commutator for any signs of wear or damage. A damaged starter motor will require replacement.

Starter or Battery

How to Replace a Battery

Safety Precautions

When dealing with car batteries, you need to follow the necessary precautions to avoid accidents and injuries.

  1. Before proceeding to replace the battery, take your time to read the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety recommendations.
  2. Always wear gloves and goggles to protect yourself from battery acid.
  3. Also, make sure you wear clothes with long sleeves to prevent skin contact with the battery.

Removing the Old Battery

Removing the old battery is a relatively easy process.

  1. Begin by turning off the engine and ensuring that all electrical systems are off.
  2. Locate the battery under the hood, and depending on your car’s make and model, you may need to remove the battery tray or brackets that hold the battery in place.
  3. Carefully disconnect the negative and positive cables using a wrench, starting with the negative cable.
  4. Then, remove the battery and place it aside safely.

Installing the New Battery

  1. Insert the new battery into the same position as the old one, ensuring that it’s in the right orientation.
  2. Next, connect the positive cable, then the negative one, tightening the connections with a wrench.
  3. If the battery is not held in place by brackets, you can use a battery hold-down bar.
  4. Finally, turn on the engine and test the new battery to see if it holds a charge.

How to Replace a Starter

Safety Precautions

  1. Replacing a starter also requires following the necessary safety precautions.
  2. Ensure that you park your car on a flat surface, and turn off the engine and all electrical systems.
  3. Put on a pair of gloves, goggles, and long sleeves to protect yourself from any accidents or sharp components.

Removing the Old Starter

  1. Locate the starter by referring to your car manual or tutorial references, and identify the bolts that hold it in place.
  2. Use a wrench to remove the electrical connections that connect the starter to the battery and the engine.
  3. Then, locate the bolts that hold the starter in place, and use a socket wrench to remove them.
  4. Carefully remove the starter and place it aside safely.

Installing the New Starter

  1. Insert the new starter in place of the old one, aligning it with the engine and connecting the bolts.
  2. Then, connect the electrical connections as they were in the old starter.
  3. Finally, test the starter by turning on the engine, and ensure that it engages and disengages smoothly.

What if It Is Not the Starter or Battery?

If your car will not start even after replacing the battery or starter, you may need to contact a professional mechanic to inspect other components such as the alternator and ignition system. Some of the symptoms of ignition system malfunction include flickering dashboard lights, a slow cranking engine, and a faulty spark plug.

An alternator malfunction may cause warning lights to appear on the dashboard, flickering headlights, and a dead battery. Always consult with a trained and certified mechanic if you suspect a complex problem with your car.



In conclusion, if your car won’t start, it’s essential to know what signs to look for to diagnose the issue. If it’s the battery, you may notice slow cranking, dimming lights, and a swollen battery case. If it’s the starter, you may hear a clicking or grinding sound, or nothing at all. By knowing these symptoms, you can diagnose the issue and take the necessary steps to get your car running again.