8 Causes Why a Car Won't Start and Clicks When Turning Ignition

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Edgar Moulton.

03/17/2022

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

Table of contents

When your car won't start but clicks or all you hear is a quick clicking noise, you may suspect an issue with the battery. In most circumstances, you would be correct. The clicking noise is often caused by a weak or defective battery. You can just get another car to jumpstart the battery, push it until the engine cranks and starts, or you can just tighten the battery terminals. If these don’t work, there could be deeper technical and mechanical problems if your car clicks but won't turn over.

What Kind of Clicking Does the Car Make?

Does your car begin to make a strange noise, and you have no idea why? It can be worrisome. But we are here to help identify what's producing the noise and what repair can be done. Here’s a list of various clicking noises that a car can make.

The first two clicking noises can be heard when the car is not starting, and the last three can be heard while a car is running.

Rapid clicking sound when starting the car

When you start your automobile and hear fast clicking noises, this typically indicates that you have a faulty battery. It might have enough charge to activate the starter motor but not enough juice to start or crank the engine. So it’s either the battery is defective, or the alternator is not charging the battery; thus, it’s always drained.

For a quick fix, you can jump-start it, and the car should work if the battery is fine. If the alternator is faulty, then your car will run a bit, then the battery will drain out quickly. But, in many cases, a battery replacement will fix this issue.

Single click when starting the car

Is your car clicking and not starting? This is a tell-tale sign of a bad starter. The starter is this little motor that’s connected to the battery. It takes electric power from the battery and uses it to start the engine. Car starters are sturdy and made to last, but if your car has been running for more than 50,000 miles, then it might need a replacement. 

If the starter is bad, you will need to replace it because the car will not start even if the battery is fine. If you hear a clicking noise when trying to start your car, the starter is the first thing you should check. On the other hand, a starter can expire without any warning at all, or it can give you a heads-up by creating whirring and grinding noises.

Clicking noise when turning a corner

If you hear clicking noises when turning your automobile, you most likely have an axle problem. The constant velocity axle connects the wheels to the car's transmission. Together with the bearings, the axle allows the wheel to have a range of motion.

The clicking sound is most likely caused by a ripped shaft boot on one of the constant velocity axles. Faulty shaft boots leak oil, and when there is no lubricant left, the inside of the shaft boot becomes dry. Every movement will now cause friction, which can cause clicking sounds when driving. If you do the repairs ASAP, you can save yourself a lot of money by saving the entire axle from damage.  

Clicking noise when slowing down

Clicking sounds while driving slowly, slowing down, or braking to stop could indicate a faulty brake pad. When you apply the brakes, and one of your brake pads is not correctly fastened to the caliper, it will not be as responsive. The pad will be loose and move around slower than the wheel. This unusual movement produces a clicking sound. The solution would be to replace the brake pad, as the old one had most likely suffered from premature wear and tear.

Mechanical noise in the engine and clicking noise

While the car is running, a lack of engine oil can also generate some clicking noise. Check your engine oil level and, if it's low, look around beneath the hood to see if you can find a leak.

It's simple to refill your engine oil, but it'll be tough to keep the proper level if there's a leak. In this scenario, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic to be repaired. If your oil is unclean or coagulated, it will not provide adequate lubrication, which might have the same consequences as a low oil level.

What Causes a Car To Make Rapid Clicking Noises 

Let’s focus on clicking noises you can hear when your car is not starting. When attempting to start your car, a quick clicking noise could indicate that something is amiss with the electrical system. Maybe your battery is dead, or maybe your alternator, which charges the battery, isn't working properly. Below are 5 of the usual culprits when your car makes rapid clicking noises.

1. Issues with the battery’s electrical wiring 

  • How to fix: Loose terminals can cause the electrical and ignition system to act funny. The battery terminals and the wiring connections of the entire electric system should be checked for cut or damaged wires. If you smell burning plastic while driving, there could be a shorted wire. Loose wires near the fuse box can cause the fuse to explode. These electrical issues can be resolved by simply rewiring and replacing spark plugs or fuses.
  • Corrosion and rust along the wires, cables, and electrical connections. Examine the clamps on the cords that are attached to the battery. They may have become loose due to road vibrations and are no longer making proper electrical contact; thus, they must be tightened. If corrosion has accumulated on the terminals, removing the wires and clearing away the muck may reestablish proper connections.

2. Defective starter

  • How to fix: The starter is a little motor powered by the battery that starts the engine. If it lacks the electrical charge, it will rapidly turn on and off. The starter clicks then causes the clicking sound when starting a car. Auto electric shops can repair a starter, and the usual tasks are armature replacements, changing field windings and bad brushes, rewiring, and swapping out a bad solenoid.
  • A new starter can cost between $50 and $350, while labor charges from a trained mechanic can range between $150 and $1,000, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. The cost of replacing a damaged starting motor could range from $200 to $1350.

3. Car battery issues

  • How to fix: Battery problems are typically caused by damage, insufficient battery life, or leakage from the battery. When you notice that your automobile lights come on but are so dull that they can barely provide illumination, or if the dash lights work but flicker a bit, these are indications that your battery needs to be changed or at least it is not charging properly.
  • Bring the battery to a shop and have it checked. If still healthy, you can have it recharged. The engine will begin to spin when you push your car to gain momentum and engage the transmission. If your vehicle has a manual gearbox and the battery is dead, you can use any of these methods to start it.

4. Defective alternator

  • How to fix: When you start the automobile, the alternator delivers current back to the battery to recharge it while you drive. It powers your car's electronics, and while driving, it charges the battery to ensure that it is full. If your vehicle's check-engine or battery indicator light is activated, it could mean that the battery has not been recharged and the alternator is failing.
  • The cost to repair or replace the alternator will depend on your car’s make and model. It can be as cheap as $180 in some models and as high as $1,000 in premium automobiles. 

5. Wiring issues

  • How to fix: Car electrical systems are made up of a network of wires, connectors, and terminals that work together to power the vehicle's components. Wiring components might deteriorate over time. Submerged and flood-damaged vehicles typically require a complete wiring overhaul to ensure that all corroded wires are replaced. Cars that have been idle for years may have had their wires damaged by rodents and other critters.
  • Individual fuse replacement costs approximately $90. For major issues, wire repairs cost might range from $50 to $400. You should expect to pay around $1,000 to $1,300 to replace your car's whole wiring and wire harness if it is older or has experienced water damage.

What Causes a Car To Make One Click Then Not Start

When a car won't start and there is a clicking sound, there can be a few quick checks you can do. A single loud click is frequently produced by a malfunctioning starter motor or a completely dead battery. The usual issues connected with repeated clicking noises might also be the cause of cars failing to start after a single click. Below are the 3 common problems that you or your mechanic can look at when your car clicks once and fails to start.

1. Car battery is defective

  • How to fix: If a car with a new battery won't start and just clicks, the fault is most likely with your battery. 
  • If you've tested the starter and if your car still won’t start after a jump-start or after substantial recharging of the battery, then it’s probably time to replace it. 
  • Sometimes a battery still has enough juice to run the lights, radio, and door locks. But it takes the entire 12.6V of a battery to ignite a car’s starter properly. If the battery has even a tiny defect and can’t charge to full capacity, then it won’t be able to start your car. Check for the battery’s estimated service life and have a replacement ready before it reaches that date.

2. Car starter is defective

  • How to fix: If the starter just clicks when you turn the key or press the start button, it’s a sign of a defective starter. Lightly tapping it might loosen it up and make it run again, but there's no guarantee that tapping the starter will always work. It’s always best to have it checked by a mechanic or have it replaced. 
  • If you hear a clicking sound, but the car is not starting, then the starter’s motor is not turning on. This happens when the solenoid is triggered but is not receiving enough power. If there is no sound, the starter solenoid is most likely faulty.
  • You will pay between $150 and $1,100 to repair or rebuild your car’s starter.

3. Seized engine

  • How to fix: Another reason your automobile won't start and makes a clicking noise is a clogged or broken engine. If your engine locks up due to flooding or was damaged in a crash, the crankshaft won’t be able to turn, and the engine will be seized. The crankshaft can’t if the pistons and rod bearings overheat and get stuck together. 
  • An engine rebuild may be needed to repair this issue, or if the engine is blown, your mechanic may recommend replacing the entire engine. 
  • Expect to pay a minimum of $3,500 for major engine repair and twice as much if you choose to replace the engine.

If Your Car Is Totaled, We Can Buy it Fast and Easy 

If you start hearing clicking noises while driving or, worse, hearing clicking noises when trying to start your car, it may be time to visit a mechanic.

Unfortunately, as detailed in this article, some of these repairs can be costly if they involve major damage. If you’re going to pay $1,000 or more for repairs—it might not be worth it. You could be better off selling your broken car to a trusted junk car buyer like JunkCarsUs.

We pay top cash for junk cars, and we accept any vehicle make or model. Call us at (855) 547-1550, and our friendly staff members will answer all your questions. We can give a quick, same-day deal where we help with paperwork, tow away your car for free, and give you cash after pick-up.

FAQ

Is it serious if the car clicks and won’t start?

When your car clicks but won’t turn over, issues could range from simple to serious fixes. Sometimes, a few taps on the battery terminals will clear up rust on the contacts, or a fuse replacement can fix the issue. Changing the battery or the starter are also common fixes. But if there are electrical issues or the car engine is blown, hefty repairs might be needed.

What to do when a car with a new battery won't start and just clicks?

If you replaced the battery and your car clicks but won’t turn over, then you can try checking the starter. Try tapping the starter to loosen any corrosion or have it replaced. You can also have the electrical wiring checked and have any loose connections fixed. Checking and replacing blown fuses is also a simple but often missed option.

How can I troubleshoot a car clicking and not starting?

If your car won’t start but clicks, you can try to jumpstart the battery. You require two jumper cables and another car with a healthy battery. Connect the battery of the non-starting vehicle with the other one. Start the car with the working battery and allow it to recharge the other car’s battery. After a few minutes, the vehicle should be able to start.

Edgar Moulton.

03/17/2022

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

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