This page is dedicated to helping you figure out why your engine won’t crank. You’ll find a short video outlining some common causes of an engine that won’t crank, you’ll find some mechanic tips for diagnosing without tools, and some links to tools that will help you troubleshoot like a pro.
No Crank Causes
Here’s a list of some common causes, the diagnostic process, and repairs of a no-crank condition.
|Battery terminals||Check clean & tight||Clean and tighten|
|Battery flat||Test voltage||Charge or boost start engine|
|Battery faulty||Load test||Replace battery|
|Key immobilizer fault||Check dash indicator & codes||Replace reader or transponder key|
|Main fuse blown||Refer drivers manual check fuse||Replace fuse|
|Faulty starter relay||Test relay||Replace relay|
|Faulty ignition switch||Scan for fault codes||Replace switch|
|Starter fault||Check wiring and hot wire to test||Fix wiring or replace starter|
|Seized engine||Rotate the engine manually||If seized replace the engine|
This is not a complete list but it covers most of the major players.
Mechanics Tips for Diagnosis Without Tools
Power – Verify battery power by turning the ignition to position two, and turning on lights and wipers.
Listen – Attempt to start the motor and listen carefully for the telltale click. There are however, a few different type clicks:
- A loud repeated clicking indicates a flat, faulty battery or loose or dirty battery terminals.
- A single loud click indicates a starter motor solenoid fault.
- A subtle single click from either the car interior fuse box or the underhood fuse box indicates the ignition circuit is in good order.
Visual checks – Check all the easy-to-do items first, they are: immobilizer dash warning, battery terminals, starter wiring in place, main fuse ok.
Boost – Try boost starting from another vehicle. This will eliminate or confirm a flat faulty battery issue.
Add jumpers in sequences 1,2,3 and 4. Start flat vehicle and while running remove jumpers in reverse order 4,3,2 and 1. Check out the jumpstarting video here.
The Topdon is an inexpensive reliable battery tester, it also runs alternator and battery crank test. Pic links out to Amazon.com.
The NOCO jump starter pack is a serious tool, don’t let its size fool you. This little guy fights way above its weight. Capable of starting a diesel truck engine and yet small enough to fit in your glove box. Pic links out to Amazon.com.
The NOCO genius battery charger is what’s known as a smart charger also known as a battery maintainer or trickle charger. They are smart because they detect the battery state of charge and automatically turn it off and on as needed. Pic links out to Amazon.com.
Schumacher OBD-L Memory Saver or KAM tool. Important to fit the memory tool before disconnecting the battery. Modern cars don’t like being without power. The Schumacher is easy to use with its 3 steps guided procedure. Pic links out to Amazon.com.
This is a the Topdon code reader like it’s sister the battery it’s a inexpensive and reliable code reader. It’s perfect for reading and clearing codes but it also allows for live data monitoring. I wrote a complete review of the Topdon, check it out here Topdon vs. Autel. Pic links out to Amazon.com.
A Power probe is an excellent tool to have around. Great for testing circuits, relays, fuses, checking battery voltage, checking alternator output, checking the ground, volt drop testing. I’ve had a power probe forever and it’s still going strong. Pic links out to Amazon.com.
Fast, simple, and inexpensive relay tester. Tests four and five-pin relays display green light for good and red for fail.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.