Rapid clicking when trying to start a car but won’t, lights & radio work

It often feels like our car breaks down whenever we need it the most. Maybe you are running late for work one morning. Your car doesn’t start up, even though it’s clicking. Whether an amateur or a skilled mechanic, it is important to know some basic things about your car.

1999 Chevrolet malibu Sedan 4D

This problem often appears and is quite common. Because of that, it is also easy and cheap to fix. To conduct the repairs yourself, you need to know the basics and have a little experience under your belt. Then you will know where to look and how to repair your car.

We are going to help you with this problem and present the causes and solutions for rapid car clicking when you are trying to start it. A common reason why this happens is that your car’s battery is drained. However, faulty starters or wiring issues are also something to consider.

If you are unsure about your vehicle’s problem, you can consult a specialized mechanic and tell them the issue you are facing. 

The car won’t start, but the lights come on, and there’s a clicking noise.

2005 Lincoln town car

When you start the engine, and a rapid clicking noise can be heard, it means there is something wrong with your vehicle’s electrical system. Most likely, the battery is dead. 

It could also be a sign of the alternator being broken. This piece is responsible for charging the battery, which depends on the alternator. 

If you notice the electrical problem, the starter doesn’t have enough fuel to stay powered. The starter is a small motor that gets the engine running when the battery energizes it. When you try to start your engine, this motor quickly turns on and off and generates a clicking noise.

In such cases, the misfiring starter is just a result of the issue, not the cause itself. Most likely, the electrical system is at fault. It is why jump-starting your car might move it temporarily. 

Once your vehicle is running, you should seek the help of a specialized technician. Have them look at your car’s electrical system. In some cases, you might need to replace the alternator or the battery in itself. It can be quite costly, and you must find the best battery suitable for your car.

If the battery is working well, the solution could be simpler. Removing corrosion from the battery terminals will strengthen its connection and resolve the clicking noise problem. Battery failure is one of the top 3 reasons drivers call roadside assistance. If your battery is at fault, you are not alone. 

The car won’t start just clicks, but the battery is good.

2008 Nissan altima 2.5 S Sedan 4D

If the battery is fully functional, then the clicking noise might be generated from other sources. For example, all electrical components are composed of different wires. These wires can go bad, negatively impacting the rest of the system.

You should always be careful and ensure that the clamps are perfectly connected to your car’s battery. Corrosion is also a possible reason for the clicking noise. The current cannot pass through the cables when the terminals suffer from corrosion. 

Disconnect the battery and remove the corrosion with a special battery cleaning solution. Do not forget the preventive measures when working with your car’s battery or electrical components. 

A faulty starter motor can also be why your car won’t start. In most cases, this starter will not produce a continuous clicking sound. Instead, a single and loud click will be heard. This click is followed by a grinding or whirling sound, making it easier to identify the problem.

My car starts sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t

2010 Nissan altima 2.5 S Sedan 4D

An intermittent car start is one of car owners’ most common issues. It means the vehicle struggles to start again, even if it worked properly before shutting down the engine. There are many causes for this problem. Most likely, there is an issue with the battery, the sensor, or even the fuel itself. 

If you know each component of your car, you can easily identify the source. But if you don’t, you might have to check them and identify the problem manually. 

In some cases, the crankshaft positioning sensor will not function properly. Because of this issue, you will not be able to start your vehicle. However, it causes the car to start again after prolonged cranking. There is a special scanner tool used for diagnosing this problem.

An insufficient battery voltage is also a possible reason your car doesn’t start. You can use a voltmeter to measure your battery’s exact voltage and ensure there is enough power to turn on the engine

For most engines, the ideal voltage to start them is between 12.4 and 12.6 volts. If your battery has less than 12.4 volts, you should recharge it before turning your engine on again. 

Car making clicking noise without key

2013 Honda accord EX-L Sedan 4D

When you hear a clicking noise in your car, there are various possible causes. In some cases, the electrical system might malfunction. In other cases, it is simply the contraction of the metallic parts exposed to different temperatures. It is not an issue, as these sounds are common.

After a long and intensive drive, the hood might make a ticking sound after you park the car. It is because the metals from the engine are heated up, and they are now cooling down after you turn the engine off. Depending on the metal, these components expand at various rates and contract when they cool down. As a result, the ticking sound can be heard. 

You might also experience this sound coming from the exhaust system. This sound is less intense but still noticeable. The different metals also cause it in the exhaust that expands and contracts based on the temperature they are exposed to. 

Another sound can be generated from a switch activating and deactivating under the hood. It could be a sign of a malfunctioning sensor in the car or the bearings worn out from the blower. The terminals of the car fuse might be corroded as well. 

If your vehicle’s fan has been running, it will continue spinning for a while after the engine is switched off. It will make the sound of broken bearings louder. Lastly, the battery might have low voltage. In this case, the relays will click repeatedly and try to hold the relay contacts in the close or open position. 

No crank, no start, no click

2016 Chevrolet malibu LTZ Sedan 4D

When you want to turn on the car engine, sometimes the car won’t crank over and start. The solution to this problem can be found only after fully diagnosing the issue. If your car manages to start on the second try, you should take it to a repair shop as soon as possible. A skilled technician will look at it and use the right equipment to diagnose and repair the issue.

Next time your car cranks and doesn’t start, turn on the headlights and analyze them. If they are white and bright, it means the battery has at least 12 volts. However, it doesn’t tell us whether it can provide this power to the starter. 

When the headlights are dim or not functioning, you should touch each battery cable connection of your battery. A bad connection will result in these cables being warm. You can push and pull these cables back and forth and check if the headlights turn on

If they start functioning well, it means you have found the right position. Ask someone else to help you start the car. The engine should run just fine. It is recommended to try this headlight method first, regardless of the problem. In case this method doesn’t work, you can always try and jump-start the battery. 

Why is my car not starting? Other reasons

2017 Chevrolet cruze LS Sedan 4D

There can be many more reasons why your car is not starting. Let’s take a look below at some of them in detail.

Dead battery

It is an important component of your vehicle. It stores all the necessary power to run the car, and the engine won’t start if the battery is not working properly. If you suspect that your battery is dead, here are some signs to look for:

  • The dome light doesn’t turn on.
  • The battery symbol is displayed on the dashboard.
  • When you crank the engine, you don’t hear the turnover sound.
  • You are having difficulty starting your car on a cold morning. 

You should always keep a jumper cable stored in your car for emergencies like this. The owner manual will help you with the jump-starting procedure. If you are still confused about this operation, call a mechanic and ask for their professional help. 

Bad battery connection

While we are still talking about the battery, let’s take a look at its connections. If they are ripped or loose, your car won’t start. These connections can also be corroded due to battery corrosion, contributing to the problem. 

Turn off the engine and twist the connections of your battery. If they move, it means the terminals of your battery are loose. You need to fix them in place. If you notice them being dirty, you can clean them as well before reattachment. 

Because you have to work with metals around the battery, you must either equip yourself and take all the necessary protective measures. Otherwise, have a professional mechanic look at your battery instead. 

Bad alternator

The alternator is another electrical component responsible for generating and distributing electricity in your car. This alternator is also necessary for recharging the battery. If you have a bad alternator, your car won’t start.

There are several signs to look out for when you suspect the alternator has a problem. Some of them are:

  • The stereo system is not working properly
  • A burning smell can be sensed
  • Interior lights might dim themselves over time

If your alternator is damaged, you should ask the help of an expert because you will need to replace this piece entirely. If you don’t take the necessary action as soon as possible, a bad alternator might damage your battery over time. 

Your car is in gear.

If your car isn’t in park or neutral, it won’t start. You have to move the gear to neutral and then start the engine. Pushing the brake pedal is optional but recommended. Do not forget to push down the clutch pedal if your vehicle has a manual transmission. 

Faulty fuse

These components protect the electrical wiring in your vehicle. If they are damaged, the car won’t start. Damaged fuses can prevent power from reaching the starter relay. It is necessary to provide the spark for ignition. 

You can check the owner’s manual for guidance on locating the fuse box. Examine the blown fuse and look for possible wire damage as well. If you notice something wrong, tow the vehicle to a nearby repair shop and ask the mechanics to change the fuse. 

FAQ

What does it mean when your car won’t start?

If your car doesn’t want to start, it has something wrong. The issue can be caused by a battery that is either dead or dying. At the same time, loose or corroded connection cables will make it impossible for the engine to power up. 

A bad alternator and an issue with the starter are also worth considering. When determining the problem, it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause without further investigation. 

Is my car battery dead if the radio works?

Your battery might still be dead or undercharged even if the lights and the radio turn on in your car. Usually, these accessories require less power than the starter. That is why the electrical components in the interior will always function well unless the battery is completely dead. 

That is why the battery might have just enough power in some cases to turn the radio and the lights on. But it won’t be sufficiently charged to turn on the starter as well. 

How do you tell if it’s your starter or battery?

The difference between the starter and the battery can be determined easily. When you try to start the vehicle, a good sign of a dead battery is the clicking sound generated. If the engine doesn’t start, your battery is at fault.

If your vehicle won’t crank at all, but the headlights are still working, the starter might cause your problems. This way, you will know where to investigate further. 

What is the clicking noise when trying to start a car?

The clicking noise heard when you start your car means something is wrong with the vehicle and alerts you to take the necessary action as soon as possible. When this clicking noise is rapid and repeated, it means the battery has enough power stored necessary for starting the engine. However, it cannot crank the engine. 

Each time the starter motor tries to get the engine spinning, it turns on and off. This is the cause of multiple clicks that you can hear from your car. If you only hear a single loud click when you start the engine, this is caused by a faulty starter motor. In some cases, another electrical problem can cause this issue. You should investigate further.

If your engine has locked up, the loud noise can also be generated by the starter that will smash into the flywheel. The sound can be heard whenever it tries to crank the engine.