Locating a fault on your car starting system can drive you crazy and consume whatever free time you might have. And yet, there are only a few starting system related problems that show up time and again which may involve the starter motor, starter solenoid, starter relay, battery, starting circuit and even the ignition switch. This guide will help you pinpoint the area or component most likely to be at fault using a quick and easy method many professional mechanics use.
1. Dead Headlights
Turn on the headlights and ask a friend to turn the ignition key to start. Watch the headlights and listen for any sounds coming from the engine compartment. If the headlights do not come on and you cannot hear any sounds, you might have either a dead battery or a bad connection in the starting circuit system.
Check the connections at the battery terminals, starter solenoid and starter motor. Other possible causes: a starter relay may have failed; a short circuit may have caused a fusible link or main fuse to open; and, although less common, a main wire from the starting system connecting to the fuse box may be loose or disconnected.
2. Headlights Go Out
If the headlights go out as your friend tries to start the engine, your battery may be undercharged and unable to provide the necessary current to the starter motor; the starter motor may have developed a short and is drawing more current than the battery can handle.
Make sure the battery is fully charged and in good condition and the starter motor is working properly. Many national auto parts stores will check the battery and starter motor free of charge for you.
3. Headlights Stay Bright
If the headlights remain bright while the engine cranks slowly, one of the starting circuit components is failing or there is an open or bad connection in the starting system.
Check the starter solenoid, battery and starter connections, starter relay or ignition switch.
4. Weird Noises
If you can hear a click, buzzing, humming or grinding noise coming from the engine compartment as you try to start the engine, there might be a bad solenoid, starter motor, weak battery or bad connection in the starting system.
Just remember that if your car engine cranks up as it should but fails to start, your problem might not be in the starting system. Depending on your experience and the results of your tests, you may want to go ahead and try to fix the problem yourself or call an auto technician. Nevertheless, this guide will help you make a better informed decision, save you time and money, and take whatever measures necessary to maintain the starting system in your car in good shape for a longer period of time.