If you are an owner of a vehicle, there is a high chance that you will experience any issue with it. One of the common problems that you may face is that your car refuses to start while the lights are on. It’s difficult to figure out what is wrong with it when you don’t have a reliable guide. Therefore, look at this article, “10 reasons a car won’t start but lights come on.” It will give you all the necessary information to resolve an issue effectively.
You turn the key, and nothing happens, but the lights work.
When you see that all electronic devices work just fine, but the car does not start, don’t keep turning the key for long periods. If you do it for more than 15 minutes, it will damage an engine. You can wait instead and try turning the key again after some time. If that does not produce the desired result, proceed to the next points to make the correct diagnosis.
- The battery is dead
The obvious fate of any battery is to fail at some point in its life. It often seems that nothing will work when this valuable part of your vehicle can no longer provide its service. However, it is a common misconception. Batteries in vehicles are designed to give power to equipment that does not demand more than 20 to 30 amps.
The engine, on the other hand, needs 300 amps to function. That is why a dead battery has no resources to make a vehicle work. However, it can still manage low-demand electronic devices such as headlights, radio, etc. If you notice this kind of behavior in your car, do not relax unless you’ve done some testing and given a correct diagnosis.
First, you should clean the battery from corrosion or any other possible filth. Then recharge it using jumper cables. If this procedure is successful, the alternator will do the recharging. If it’s not, you should do the load test that will show the battery’s condition. Then you will know whether it needs a replacement or is only charging.
- A faulty engine starter
An engine starter is a part of a car that redirects energy from the battery to a solenoid. To find out whether it is faulty or not, you should locate it under the hood of your vehicle. Then start the ignition and listen closely to the noises the starter engine produces. A clicking sound means that it is faulty, for sure. The absence of any sounds does not necessarily mean that there is no damage within this part of your vehicle.
Engine starters sometimes fail silently, but you can still find out whether the problem is within them by looking for other signs. For example, smoke from an engine, oil soak on the starter surface, and a broken solenoid are all symptoms of a faulty starter.
Sometimes you might hear a clicking, which can signal that not enough power reaches the engine. In that case, you can use a voltmeter to get more information or go directly to mechanic services.
- Damaged ignition
One of the reasons why a car does not start is a damaged ignition switch. The key you put inside a socket controls it. In case of a problem, you won’t be able to move it. Dashboard lights that do not turn on are the most common indication of a faulty ignition. When you see that, the best option is to take your car to a professional mechanic for further examination or replacement.
- Frozen fuel
Bad weather conditions can cause your vehicle harm if you keep it outside. Frosty weather is one of them. If your car rests in the frost for a long time, the gasoline can eventually get frozen. You can check your fuel tank to see if that is the case.
There is also a possibility that your fuel gauge shows incorrect indications. When you see that you have fuel to last for miles, in reality, you might not. You are lucky if it turns out that the only problem with your car is an insufficient amount of fuel.
- Faulty spark plug
The other problem with the ignition that can result in problems with starting your car is a damaged spark plug. If you see that your vehicle is cranking but not starting, it means that the spark plug fails to ignite the fuel. You probably belong to the average driver category and know little about how to repair spark plugs. If you are, you have nothing left to do but go to a professional mechanic.
- Clogged fuel filter
Fuel filtering should be changed once in a while. If you’ve never done it, problems starting your car may indicate that now is the time. When the filter is clogged, gas will not be able to reach the engine. Moreover, if you often drive your car to empty, prepare to have more damaged fuel filters. Luckily, those are not serious issues that can be easily resolved.
- Problems with battery connections
When the voltage moves through different cables and entities in the system, any issues along the way can prevent it from reaching its destination. Loose, dirty, or faulty battery connections prevent the power from moving towards the engine. You can clean the connections with baking soda, water, sandpaper, and a special battery post cleaner.
- A key warning light is on
No matter if you have a BMW or a simple Honda, it should have a security chip. It is read by an ignition switch code reader. If the chip is not read, the engine will not turn on. When it happens, you should be able to see a warning light on the dashboard. The issues within a security system can only be resolved through the main dealer, who will program the system properly.
- The fuse is blown
To check if the fuse is blown, you should find a fuse box under the hood of your car. There should be a note for all consumers in that box. You can use that manual to find the right fuse, around 35 amps. You can test it by checking the power on both sides. If it is blown, you should replace it.
- Human issues
It may seem silly, but sometimes the simple lack of knowledge about the specifics of your vehicle can cause you additional trouble. For example, some new models have a security function that prevents a car from starting if the driver hasn’t fastened the seatbelt. If you have a manual model, the reason it won’t start can be a clutch that is not pressed enough. In that case, you should only adjust it and enjoy the ride.
The car won’t start, but the battery is good. It has power, lights come on & the radio works.
Apart from a faulty battery, there are many other reasons why the car won’t start. The starter solenoid that plays a great part in ignition might be rusty, damaged, or loose. All of these issues will stop the electrical current from reaching the motor. It is advised to seek professional assistance with this one and request a complete replacement. It will be cheaper and faster than going through the entire cleaning process.
A starter motor can also be damaged due to electrical overload, filth, or any mechanical influence. You will hear a clicking noise if there is an issue with this part. You can use a multimeter to check the state of a motor. If it is bad, you will need to replace it.
What to do when your car won’t turn over & start
Several serious issues within your vehicle might prevent it from turning over and starting. Those issues require a professional’s diagnosis and repair. But you might need to take your vehicle off the road and tuck it into a repair shop. Here are a few tricks to help you achieve this goal and temporarily motivate your steel horse.
Try cycling the key. At first, you should turn on the dome light and pay attention to it when you’re doing the trick. Turn the key ten times in a row and then wait five minutes. After that, try to start the engine. If the dome light is bright when you do all those steps, you can proceed to another trick.
If you have an expensive Jeep or Mercedes and value your vehicle a lot, you might not be in favor of hitting some of its parts a couple of times. However, that may be what is needed for it to start. You can slightly hit the battery terminals with your shoe to provide better contact. Try to tap a starter motor. That will free any frozen electrical contacts.
The best alternative method is to move the shifter. Turn it into the park position before starting the engine. If it doesn’t work, try the same movements again. Those manipulations often renew the electrical contact within a system, which is important for starting your vehicle. If those tricks fail to sway your steel horse, your only option is to call roadside assistance.
Signs of a failing starter relay
A starter relay is a middle link between the battery and the starter motor. It augments the current of a battery, and its right amount reaches the destination. When a relay fails, the vehicle won’t start. Sometimes it can start intermittently, which is also a sign of a failing starter relay. The high temperatures, dirt, and corrosion prevent the current from flowing relentlessly. Due to these factors, you can experience an intermittent start during ignition.
One of the dangerous situations related to the starter relay operating process is when it keeps going even with a non-functioning ignition switch. The starting solenoid and motor should cease working when you turn off the ignition switch. The drive flywheel, starter, and circuit will eventually get damaged if they don’t. Do not postpone the visit to a professional mechanic when those symptoms catch your attention.
My car starts sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t
There are a few reasons why your car might start one time and fail to do so another time. It will behave like that when the crankshaft positioning sensor does not work properly. You can check if it is the case by using an OBD2 scanner.
If a car battery operates with poor voltage, it won’t be able to start properly. Use a voltmeter to see what the voltage level of your battery is. The perfect amount is between 12.4 and 12.6. Everything below the first number means that you should recharge the battery.
If you hear grinding noises while accelerating, check the starter motor. It can have loose bolts that prevent the flywheel from moving and cranking the motor. To determine if the starter motor is responsible for inadequate car behavior, spin the pinion gear and see if it moves accurately.
How to know if the alternator is bad
An alternator is essential to your car’s system as it charges the battery. Due to this indispensable device, you can turn on your vehicle and use all the electrical devices it is equipped with. If you experience difficulty getting your automobile into operating mode, it’s a clear sign of a possible bad alternator. Before that, you may also notice other symptoms.
A faulty alternator, for example, causes inconsistent lighting in your electronic devices. As it cannot provide a stable power supply, you may notice that the lights in the dashboard have become too bright or too weak. They may as well flicker.
The other sign of an alternator getting out of order is related to a dead battery. If you notice that it runs out of charge faster than usual, it’s time to consider buying a new one. A simple test can determine what is causing you so much trouble. Jumpstart your vehicle. If it keeps running, the battery needs to be replaced. The issue is within the alternator if it dies after a short period.
An apparent symptom of bad alternators is poor accessory operation. Some manufacturers establish a priority system within the vehicle. When some accessories run out of power, others may turn off to keep something else running. For example, a non-working radio can signal a bad alternator.
The smell is often a signifier of various issues, and an alternator is no exception. It is equipped with different wires that are situated near the engine. When they wear out, you can smell burning rubber.
In the same way that an unpleasant odor points out a problem, an unnatural sound is also something you can notice as a sign of damage. If a growling or whining noise comes out of the hood, there is a great chance that the alternator is bad. If you hear those sounds, visit a mechanic as soon as possible.
If you have a brand new battery but notice that the alternator goes bad, it is better for you to replace it as well. An alternator is directly connected to the battery because it charges it. It can overcharge the battery, intermit the charge, or give a ripple voltage. All of that is harmful and will decrease the lifespan of your new battery.
Driving with a bad alternator is not ideal, but it is possible. Your vehicle can operate for about 25 miles or 30 minutes with a faulty alternator. The car will not even travel that distance if the battery is low. If you realize that a bad alternator is giving you trouble, do not hesitate to replace it. You can drive with that issue only if your destination is a repair shop.
The battery gives power to a vehicle’s electrical system. Therefore, there is no chance that the lights will work if the battery is dead.
What is the buzzing sound when turning the key in the ignition?
The buzzing noise during ignition occurs when the voltage moving through the cables is too weak to accelerate. You can check the circuit’s battery cables or other parts for corrosion when this happens.