Diagnose Why Your Car Not Cranking and Not Starting

Car Not Cranking

Car starting problems are very common. It is a big concern for car owners, especially in an emergency. It is important to know certain technical knowledge for diagnosing and fixing the starting problems.

This wondrous and powerful article focuses on starting system problems and quick diagnosis.

On this page, you are going to learn a logical approach to a car starting problem, especially a car not cranking, some basic secrets, and quick and easy tricks to diagnose when the car won’t turn over or start.

The Basic Concept About Car Starting – Must Read!

In this section, you are going to learn the basic concept of the difference between car starting and car cranking. Learning the difference will make it a lot easier for you to diagnose the exact problem. The whole page is divided into two sections No-Crank No-Start Condition and a Crank No-Start Condition and their diagnosis. So, Let’s start.

You should understand for complete combustion in the engine to start, there should be four essential requirements to start the car, a starting system, an ignition system, a fuel system, and proper compression of the cylinder. If any of these systems fail, the car will not start. Let me further break this down for you.

First, you should understand that engine cranking (turning over) and engine starting are two different things. Knowing the difference will help you find out the exact cause and diagnosis. When you turn the key and do not hear starter motor engagement, this is called a No-Crank Condition.

But, if you turn the key and hear a starter engagement, but the engine fails to stand on its power (car not starting) after starter motor disengagement, this is called a Crank No-Start Condition.

Here, you need to know the basic concept of starting the car. You should keep in mind if the car does not crank or crank slowly, then remember, this is a problem related to the starting system (starter circuit) because the starting system is responsible for cranking the engine.

But, if the engine cranks and refuses to start, then this is probably, the problem with the ignition or fuel system, or the engine has a weak compression, or the engine valve timing is out. Because the fuel and ignition systems serve in starting the car, not in cranking the car, and these systems start their roles just after the engine is started cranking.

Stay with me now, we will discuss and diagnose No-Crank No-Start Condition and a Crank No-Start Condition separately. It is a step-by-step procedure for diagnosing the car start problem. don’t skip the article, otherwise, you will miss the important information. I highly recommend, reading the article from start to end.

This is an Info
Engine cranking (turning over) and engine starting are two different things. When you turn the key and do not hear the starter motor engagement, this is called a No-Crank Condition. But if the engine cranks (Turns Over) and refuses to start, then this is called Crank No-Start Condition.

Car Not cranking

(No-Crank No-Start Condition)

People often ask me why my car makes no sound when we are trying to start the car. It is a very common problem when someone is trying to start the car, and the engine does not turn over.

When you turn the key and nothing happens, it is called a No-Crank, No-Start Condition. Here I want to give you a little background about the starting system.

You need to know that engine cranking is the duty of starting system (Starter Circuit). The Ignition and fuel systems play roles in starting the car, but not in cranking the car. Ignition and fuel systems start their role after the engine has started cranking.

So, when the car does not crank, it means the starting system does not work; the problem is in the starter circuit. Whenever you turn the key and nothing happens, you should 100 percent be satisfied that the culprit is the starting system (starter circuit and its component).

Here, I want to remind you that the starter circuit consists of a battery, ignition switch, fuse, park/neutral switch (in an automatic transmission), or clutch pedal switch (in a manual transmission), relay, and starter motor.

Related Post: Car Starting System, Diagram, Working, Components, Function

This is an Info
The Ignition and fuel systems play roles in starting the car, but not in cranking the car. Ignition and fuel systems start their role after the engine has started cranking.

Car Starter Motor Control Circuit Diagram
Car Starter Motor Control Circuit Diagram

So, come to the problem No-Crank, No-Start condition. When you are attempting to start the car, and nothing happens, then for sure, there is a problem in the starter circuit.

To troubleshoot the starter circuit, you should inspect the starter circuit. Check the battery voltage, battery terminal corrosion, starter motor, starter solenoid terminals, fuse, relay, ignition switch, park/neutral switch, cuts in the wirings, and connectors. These components, if become faulty, will not let the starter circuit work.

Now, I want to narrow down the no-crank, no-start problem by specifying the situation. You should analyze the situation by asking the questions client.

Does the engine crank after sitting the car in the parking overnight, or the engine was running smoothly and suddenly stopped? Remember, all these problems are related to the starting system (starter circuit). We will analyze the entire situation one by one.

Problem 1. Car Not Cranking After Sitting Overnight.

Problem 2. The Car Makes a Clicking Sound Or Repeated Clicking Sound But Won’t Turn Over.

Click Sound
Click Sound

Scenario:

Yesterday, the car was fine, and in the morning, the car is not cranking or making a clicking sound or cra0nks very slowly after sitting overnight.

Answer:

The possible causes of both questions are the same. That’s why I am covering both questions in one answer. Analyze the scenario the car does not crank or make a clicking sound. It is the symptom that the starter motor does not receive a current or enough amount of current to crank the car.

You should not go anywhere else; remember the problem is in the line of starting circuit (starting system). Now, in the starting circuit, there are many components, which are responsible for cranking the car. The only component, which is possible and very common to completely lose its job overnight without any obvious reason, is the battery.

Dead Battery
Dead Battery

There is a maximum chance that the battery is discharged overnight especially, in winter, it is common, for the battery discharges overnight. It is probably possible the battery was weak, and in the morning it is not able to crank the engine or crank the engine very slowly.

Because in a cold climate, the battery’s chemical reactions slow down and are unable to produce maximum current. Moreover, if the radio, dome light, or other accessories are left turned on overnight, the battery can discharge, and sometimes an old battery can completely die if it is weak.

Step-By-Step Diagnosis Of The Car Not Cranking After Sitting Overnight OR Makes A Clicking Sound

Weak Battery
Weak Battery

If a car cranks slowly or makes a clicking sound, or does not crank at all, the first thing you should observe, is the battery.

Check the battery voltage; look for loose or corroded battery terminals, and ground straps. For checking the battery condition, turn on the headlights and try to crank the engine if the lights become dim, which means the battery is weak. Check the battery warranty card in case the battery is expired, and replace it.

If the battery is new and still it is weak, there might be a shortage in one of the cells in the battery. Or another possible cause of the brand-new weak battery is a faulty alternator. You should check the alternator; the alternator might not provide a charge to the battery. There might be a wiring issue, or the alternator itself is faulty.

If the battery is ok and still the car does not crank, then check the starter motor, its connectors, ground straps, ignition switch, starter safety switch, starter fuse, relay, wiring connectors, and breaks in the circuit. Remember, you should not go anywhere else, no cranking is the fault of starting system, and you should watch out around the starting system, not in the ignition or fuel system.

Problem 3. The Car Immediately Stops and Does Not Crank

Car Not Cranking After Sudden Stop
Car Not Cranking After Sudden Stop

Scenario:

The car has been running for some while and suddenly stopped while driving, or you turned it off, and by turning the key to the start position, the car does not crank.

Answer:

This is a No-Crank No-Start condition where the engine does not make any sound when you turn the key to the start position. You should use your logic that the car was ok and suddenly stopped and now not cranking.

It means something suddenly stopped working in the starting circuit, there are many possible reasons, it might be due to the immobilizer stopping working, or ignition switch, fuse, or relay stops working, or the starter circuit wiring has been broken. You should analyze and narrow down the situation by checking one after the other possible causes related to starting circuit.

Step-By-Step Procedure For Diagnosing The Car When It Immediately Stops And Does Not Crank

Now here I am exploring the reasons for a no-crank condition when a car suddenly stops working in detail.

1. A Blown Fuse Or Corroded Relay

The first thing when a car suddenly stops and does not crank is a blown fuse. You should check the starter fuse because it is easy for a fuse to blow when a short circuit happens.

If the fuse is ok then you should check the starter relay, sometimes a corroded relay cannot make a connection, and all of a sudden, it loses its work. The starter relay usually comes in the engine compartment’s fuse box.

Open the fuse box cover, usually; the relay diagram is printed on the inside or sometimes outside of the fuse box cover. The easiest and fastest way to check the suspected relay is to replace it with a good relay of the same size and pin arrangement. Then activate the circuit if it clicks, then the suspected relay is faulty.

Related • What Is A Car Fuse, How it Works & Construction Explained

2. A Bad Starter

The second thing to check after the fuse and relay is the starter solenoid and motor. Inspect the starter connectors, battery terminals that come to the starter, and mounting bolts, make sure they all are tight and corrosion-free.

When you turn the key, and nothing happens, then you should tap the starter motor with an object. lightly tapping with a hammer can sometimes activate the starter motor. If still, the car does not crank, then come to the next point.

Related • 9 Signs Of a Bad Starter Motor in a Car: Know The Causes

3. A Faulty Starter Safety Switch And Gear Shift Lever

An open or misadjusted starter safety switch can prevent the starting system from working. Make sure the safety switch is adjusted properly, and the connectors are tight and clean. Use a jumper wire to bypass the safety switch and look if the car is cranking.

Sometimes, a gear shift lever does not make a connection in the park or neutral position, try to move the shift lever backward and bring it back to the park or neutral position, in this way, the gear shift lever can probably make the connection again.

4. Faulty Ignition Switch

A faulty ignition switch will not let crank the engine. If you have any doubt about the ignition switch, replace it with a good one. If still it does not crank then come to the next point.

5. A Bad Anti-Theft Immobilizer System

A bad or crashed immobilizer system will not let crank the engine. Check the small battery fitted inside the key fob, and check for physical damage, if everything is ok then your car should start.

Final Note:

The above causes are related to the starting circuit. These are the problems that mostly occur when the engine suddenly stops. Perhaps there is a lot of reason for the car not cranking, such as a loose, corroded connector, or a break in the wiring due to old age.

But, mostly when a car stops suddenly, most of the time, the above components are the culprit. In only one case, the battery is the culprit when the car suddenly stops and does not crank, if you are 100 percent sure that the battery was weak. Otherwise, the other component might have lost their duties in the starter circuit.

Car Not Starting

(Car Crank No-Start Condition)

Car Not Starting
Car Not Starting

It is also a very common problem why is a car cranking but not starting. When you turn the key to the start position and hear a starter motor engagement, but the car does not start after the starter motor disengagement, this is called a Crank No-Start Condition.

First of all, you should remember that car starting does not rely only on starting system. It relies on starting system as well as an ignition and fuel system plus good engine cylinder compression.

The car ignition and fuel system contribute equally to starting a car as starting system does. So, when the car cranks but does not start, understand the problem is in another system, other than in starting system.

Here, I want to remind you. An ignition system consists of ECU, ignition coil, spark plug, battery, ECU fuse, and relay. A fuel system consists of a fuel pump, fuel filter, inertia safety switch, and the fuel pump fuse and relay. Now come to the question,

Problem 4: Why Is My Car Turning Over But Not Starting?

Car Starting System Circuit
Car Starting System Circuit

According to the above question, why the car is cranking but not starting? It is because the car starting system works; it means the starting system parts such as the ignition switch, starter safety switch, relay, battery, and starter motor are working faultlessly, which is cranking the engine.

But the problem is, still the car does not run on its power (which means the car does not start). Did you get my point? I am trying to tell you, the starting system is working perfectly, which means you should inspect other systems other than starting system.

Now you should check the fuel and ignition system and also engine cylinder compression one after another. Inspect the ignition system wiring circuit and parts, the current in the wiring circuit, and check the ignition coil and its connector.

Similarly, inspect the fuel system including, fuel level, fuel pump, fuel filter, inertia safety switch, fuel pump fuse, and relay. Also, check the crank or camshaft position sensor, it’s wiring, and connectors, and check if the pulse coming to the sensor from the ECU. Now we are diagnosing all of the causes of a car not starting one by one in detail.

What To Do When Your Car Won’t Start

It is important to know why the car is cranking but not starting. Here remember I always say that whenever you face a problem in the car, the first thing you should check is the easy thing, the thing which is easily accessible and simple to check, and does not require tens of things to disassemble for checking.

From my experience, when a component loses its job, mostly, the simple things lose their work such as the wire is broken, or the connector loosens, the wire having a break, all these things are the first thing to lose their job.

Step-By-Step Procedure For Diagnosing A Car Starting Problem

1. Check The Fuse:

If a car does not start, the first thing you should check is the fuse, especially the starter or ignition fuse.

2. Check The Ignition And Fuel Relay:

If you have checked the starter fuse is ok then you should check the ignition and fuel relay. Try swapping the good relay with the suspected relay and hear the relay. Does it make a clicking noise while the engine is cranking? If yes, the relay is good. Swapping the relay is a quick fix.

Related • What Is A Car Relay & How A 12V Relay Works

3. Check The Fuel:

If you have checked all the components and still the car does not start, then you should check the fuel flow to the engine. Mostly when a car suddenly stops working is due to a lack of fuel that does not reach the engine cylinders.

Make sure you have enough amount of fuel in the fuel tank. The easiest way to check the fuel level in the tank is by looking at the fuel gauge on the dashboard. If you are not satisfied with the fuel gauge, then use another method to check the fuel.

Fuel Injector Rail
Fuel Injector Rail

The second most straightforward method is checking the fuel flow. Checking the fuel flow to the engine is to remove the fuel pipe running from the fuel tank to the injector rail. And have a person crank the engine if the fuel is not coming or comes slowly, then make sure there is a problem in the fuel system. You should check for the fuel pump and fuel filter also.

The fuel filter might have clogged, which restricts the flow of fuel to the engine cylinder. Some cars’ fuel pump produces a buzzing sound when the engine is starting, listen to the buzz sound; it is a quick way to diagnose a bad fuel pump.

Related • Car Won’t Start But Cranks: (17 Reasons Why)

4. Check Cam Or Crankshaft Position Sensor

The crank or camshaft sensors tell the Engine Control Unit (ECU) about the position of the crank or camshaft. The ECU first takes the signals from the crank or camshaft to ensure whether the crank or camshaft is turning or not.

If the ECU does not receive signals from the crank or camshaft, then the ECU will not send a pulse signal to the injector, as a result, the engine cylinder will not receive the fuel, and the car will not start.

Sometimes the sensors are ok but the wiring circuit breaks. I have experienced many times that the wiring of the crank or camshaft sensors gets broken near the connector. So, make sure you have a clean and tight connector and also break-free wiring.

5. Inspect Timing Chain

The engine valves are operated by a timing chain. A lousy timing belt or broken timing chain will not let the car start. You should have a proper adjustment of the timing chain. If the car does not start, you should check the timing chain in the second last.

6. Replace ECU

The Engine Control Unit (ECU) takes care of all the operations of the engine. If a car does not start and you have checked all the possible solutions and did not work, then, at last, you should check the ECU.

Sometimes, an I.C chip or other electronic components inside the ECU gets shorted or burn out, resulting in intermittent issues or completely does not let the car start. That is why you should check the ECU at last after trying every possible solution. Replace the ECU of the same make and model and the same part number.

7. Observe The Damaged Connectors:

Inspecting The Connector
Inspecting The Connector

Now, if you have checked all the above components. It’s good to observe the connectors. Sometimes all the systems and circuits in a car are working correctly, but a loose or rusted connection or a cut in the cable prevents the circuit from working properly.

It is good to check the different component connectors such as the ignition coil, injector, camshaft, or crankshaft sensors. Remember, one more important thing, sometimes the connectors are good, tight, and clean, and all the components are fine, but the circuit does not work. The reason is the wire has a cut inside the insulator.

From the outside, you will see the wire is fine, but inside the insulator, there will be no connectivity. The best way to check the cut inside the wire is to pull the wire on a suspected spot with a finger. If it has a break inside the insulator, then the wire will lengthen, and sometimes will break. But, if the wire does not have a break inside the insulator, then it will not lengthen.

Final Note:

These all are the possible solution to a car not starting. One thing you should remember, whenever a car does not start after replacing the component, it is a maximum chance the problem is in that replaced component. So, refit that component again or refit that same component purchased from the auto store.

I hope you have understood, I tried my best to deliver the information practically.

In the last, I will be very happy if you subscribe to my newsletter and also share this article.


Sign Up

    About The Author

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Scroll to Top