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Question DetailsAsked on 11/8/2014

car won't start just makes a click when you turn on the ignition what is probably wrong? ran fine yesterday.

Car would not start this morning,only clicked when I turned the ignition key.have tried later several times today.worked fine yesterday.

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NOTE - In reading the below, bear in mind that a battery explosion or severe arcing can occur if you make connection between the two battery posts or between the red (+) post and anything else metal, that the battery contain acid, that any white corrosion product around the posts andany liquid on the battery should be assumed to be acid, and wear safety glasses when working around or handling a battery. IF in any doubt about how to work aroundthe batteary, get a professional or read a reputable instruction on how to remove/install cables or a battery.


Following applies to normal car, NOT hybrids which I would recommend have an expert look at it.


Probably about a 90% plus chance it is a low battery or bad battery connection - the click is almost certainly the starter solenoid/starter motor gear clicking into engagement mode with the flywheel, but you don't have the power for the starter motor to actually turn the engine.

Cause commonly is an old battery that can no longer hold a full charge (typically 4-7 years in areas with true winters (especially if parked outside) or very hot summers, 6-8 years in milder areas - depending also on quality of the battery, of course.

Other causes include a damaged battery (froze and cracked, overheated due to prolonged cranking, a battery plate came loose due to vibration or severe road shock), corrosion at the battery terminals on the battery (white powder visible if significant), or a corroded connection at the starter motor - or rarely a defective/worn out starter motor or starter solenoid. Any sign of splitting of the battery case, leaking acid, or bulged battery case means do NOT use it - replace it.

Another set of causes are the battery failing to charge either due to failed alternator (or bad connections in charging circuit) so it is not recharging, or because the water level is low (for batteries with filler holes), or there could be an electrical drain in the system that drained the battery down enough overnight that it no longer had the power to start the car - electronic or electrical device plugged into a convenience port overnight, light left on, car alarm sounding for extended period of time, failure of headlight switch to automatically turn headlights off, etc.

This can be a tough one to track down, and of course if you get it jump-started and it is a drain somewhere that is not corrected, a failed battery, or an alternator failure or bad connection in charging system then it will run for a bit but then either die while driving or fail to restart the next time because the battery is not recharging after starting and running. Commonly, if the battery is near its life (say 4+ years old with cheap battery, 6+ years with a premium or original one), if you don't have the test equipment to check if it is the battery, it is commonly cheapest to get a ride with a friend/neighbor to go get a replacement battery (assuming you know how to do this changeout) and swap out the battery for a new pre-charged one - typically in $100 range for normal ones, to $150-200 range for high-end premium. This commonly solves the problem, avoiding a tow and diagnosis bill or $200-300+ (plus battery from a shop or dealer costs a lot more), plus if it does not work then in all likelihood you just moved the replacement date up a year or two so maybe $20-40 lost use in the old battery by replacing it prematurely - but if does work you saved a significant repair/tow cost. Then if it fails to start with a new battery and cleaned up connections, you know it is an electrical connection elsewhere, alternator, or possibly starter motor issue, not the battery.

First test - if battery connections appear clean and are not loose (you cannot wiggle them from side to side) and the wires leading into the battery connectors do not appear to be damaged or broken much of the way through, check if headlights come on bright and strongly and do not dim noticeably after a full minute of being on - if so, then battery may be OK and it is a bad connection - at the battery or at the starter motor. Course, could also be battery is just barely low enough it willnot crank engine but will show good headlight strentgh - this test only tells you if the battery is way too low on charge. Of course, if electrically inclined and you have a volt-ohmmeter, check the cell water level and the voltage. Normal 12V battery (6 cell battery) charges at about 14-15 volts (14.7 is considered normal with many brands of cars), drops back to about 13.5-14.5 volts (when fully charged) after a few minutes after shutting off the engine (and should stay there), and will fail to start the car at about 12-12.5 volts or below depending on the car.Normally, in my experiencde, about 12.2-12.4 volts is the least that will start a car, and in cold conditions can run as high as 12.8 or so. 6 volt batteries half the above numbers.

Simple second test, if you are at all car/electrical inclined, is to check for loose or corroded connections of the two battery cables at the battery. If loose, just wiggling them around and tightening them down snugly might solve the issue till you can get the terminals and clamps cleaned up, though significant corrosion there means your battery is leaking at the posts so you should put corrosion protection felt rings on under the clamps to protect against that at the earliest opportunity. Heavy grease/vaseline can serve that purpose as well, though not as effective in my opinion. If at all electrical inclined, if you loosen the bolts on the clamps and remove the cables - black one first and being careful not to touch positive (red) terminal with black cable or any tool - then you can clean up the cable ends and battery posts with a wet baking soda solution and old toothbrush to remove the acid buildup (the white powder). Keep the solution getting it under the battery fluid filler caps (dam around caps with toilet paper) because if it gets into the battery it will neutralize the battery acid. Then use a battery connector cleaning tool (about $5), a wire brush or medium sandpaper to remove the dull gray lead-oxide corrosion product from the posts and from the inner surface of the clamps - the metal should be a moderately shiny appearance when the corrosion products are removed. Then put the clamps back on (black one last) and tighten snugly but do not reef on it - will deform the ends of the clamps where the bolts go through and can break them off.

IF you are not up to these checks yourself (or do not have a friend/neighbor who is knowledgeable who can help) then about your only choice is to call a tow truck (repair shop can do so for you and will sometimes tow for free to their shop), or of course AAA if a member, or warranty tow service if under warranty contract, and have it taken to a dealer or repair shop for diagnosis and repair. Normal tow charge (within say 10 miles) in the near to or slightly over $100 range, battery test and replacement (if that is the need) typically about $200-300 range depending on if you choose economy or premium battery, other problem sources can run from around $100-150 range for a battery/charging system test and cleaning up a corroded connection to a few hundred if a defective alternator or starter motor, to as much as a tousand $ or more if a computer failure that is telling the system to charge to the wrong voltage or amperage and requires main computer replacement (this is rare).

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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