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A Car Not Starting vs. Not Turning Over

What’s the difference between a car not starting as opposed to a car not turning over?

To determine whether your car is not starting versus not turning over, resolving the cause comes down to determining whether the vehicle cranks or not. Knowing the difference will help guide you in the possible causes and how to resolve them.

Either one means you’ll likely have to take a trip to a repair shop but there is a difference. Your car needs four basic things to start: acceptable voltage, adequate cranking momentum, compression, and fuel. If your car struggles to start up, one of these functions may be to blame. How do you determine which one is the cause? The answer can be found in what happens during your attempt to start the car.

Car won’t start, with no crank

car not startingWhen you turn the key or push the start button, if you don’t hear the starter engage, this is considered a no-crank and the vehicle will fail to start. Often this issue is a result of one or more components that assist the engine in powering up.

The starter, battery, and alternator are the first components that are utilized in getting your car started. If your car, truck, or SUV isn’t starting and doesn’t make a sound, be sure to explain the symptoms your vehicle is exhibiting to your mechanic. This helpful bit of information will provide insight on which of these components is responsible for the no start.

  • Starter – an electric gear mounted to the side of the engine that engages or disengages the flywheel of the engine when powered or when the engine fires.
  • Battery – provides a quick and powerful jolt of energy to the starter. The battery is designed to partially drain a number of amps or volts to do its job, but the alternator is what’s responsible for keeping the battery charged.
  • Alternator – generates all the electricity needed for all other electrical components including the ignition, computer, and more. Although the alternator is not directly responsible for the vehicle failing to start, it could be the cause of a faulty battery.

Car won’t start, but will crank

When you attempt to engage the ignition to start, you can hear the clicking sound of the starter trying to crank the engine, but it fails to fire up completely. This is considered a crank, but no start.

In order for your car to start up, in addition to the use of the components creating electricity, the engine needs fuel, spark, and compression. If any of these elements fail, the engine will not be able to engage, thus the vehicle will not start.

  • Fuel – Fuel is needed in order to create an explosion with the spark. If there’s not enough fuel provided, the vehicle will fail to start. Check to make sure there is plenty of fuel in the gas tank and that the correct fuel has been used. Ensure the fuel has not been contaminated with water or is more than six months old. If everything seems to be in order with the fuel, there may be an issue with the fuel pressure, a defective fuel pump, blown fuel pump fuse, bad fuel pressure regulator, a clogged filter, or a faulty sensor.
  • Spark – As part of the ignition, no matter how much fuel is present, without a spark, there won’t be any explosion to create the downward force of the piston, which is needed to turn the crankshaft. The lack of spark is often a result of faulty spark plugs or wires, bad coil, cracked distributor cap or rotor, or a bad sensor.
  • Compression – Compression is needed in order for the explosion to provide enough pressure, which causes the crankshaft to turn sending power to the wheels. If there is a lack of compression, it’s often due to bad piston rings, damaged or faulty camshaft or lifters, or the timing belt. Check the timing belt to ensure it’s not broken, loose, or off the track, and the camshaft to make sure it has not snapped.

A car that won’t start is an all too familiar experience for any vehicle owner. Of course, starting issues never come at a convenient time and that’s why Sun Devil Auto is committed to providing fast, efficient, and quality service that you can trust. We understand that your busy life demands a reliable and functioning car.

We offer towing when your vehicle is immobile, a courtesy shuttle to get you where you need to go, and same day service. If your car, truck, or SUV has trouble starting, we can help determine the cause and get you back on the road as quickly as possible. Our many valley locations are here to serve you from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday and 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays. There’s no need to stress about the inconvenience of car repairs when you choose Sun Devil Auto.