Car Won’t Start? How to Determine Whether Your Starter, Battery, or Alternator Is the Problem

When your car won’t start, it’s common to begin thinking of all the potentially complicated (read: expensive) issues that could be plaguing your vehicle. However, in the case of a non-start issue, there are three likely culprits: your battery, your alternator, or your starter.

Your Battery

Many non-start issues are caused by a low or failing battery. Batteries last about three to five years, and as the most accessible, least expensive component of your car’s starting system, are usually the best place to begin your investigation. Look for these signs your battery is causing your non-start issue:

  • Your engine begins to crank, but won’t start
  • Your battery light is on
  • Your car has experienced numerous non-starts in the recent past
  • You’ve jumpstarted your car more than once in the past few weeks

If you’re experiencing the above symptoms and your battery is more than three years old, you likely need a new battery. Have a reliable mechanic replace it, and you should be good to go. If this is not the case, or if you’ve replaced the battery and continue to experience issues, move on to the alternator.

Your Alternator

Your alternator charges the battery while your engine is running and provides power to your electrical systems. Most alternators last longer than a typical battery (up to 12 years) and need to be replaced much less often. Look for these signs your alternator needs replaced:

  • Your battery warning light is on
  • Your dashboard and cabin lights are dim or flickering
  • You notice a burning smell, indicative that your alternator’s belts are malfunctioning
  • Your car emits a grinding or whining noise
  • Your car dies immediately after a jumpstart

If you notice the above signs of alternator failure, it’s important to schedule an inspection and potential replacement with a trusted mechanic. However, if the alternator doesn’t seem to be the problem, it’s time to move on to the starter.

Your Starter

The starter draws energy from the battery and is responsible for starting your engine. If neither the battery nor the alternator is faulty, look for these signs your starter is malfunctioning:

  • You hear a clicking noise upon turning the ignition
  • Your lights come on, but the engine doesn’t turn over

Any of the above symptoms are an indicator of issues with your starter. Take your car to a reliable mechanic to determine whether your starter, your alternator, or your battery is at fault for your no-start issue. In Ashland, contact Siskiyou Imports to schedule an appointment and get back on the road as soon as possible.

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