This is Why Your Car is Clicking and Won’t Start
Is your ride a one-click pony?
- Auto Repair and Maintenance
- Guides & Gear
An automobile is like an intertwined nation of unique voices. Listen closely, and you’ll notice every mechanical part has two tones, normal and upset. Sometimes the cry for help is a squeak, occasionally it’s a knock, and other times it’s a clicking noise.
Although a clicking sound can come from other sources such as the suspension, the most frequent and familiar clicking comes after turning the key or pressing the ignition button. There might be a sluggish single click or there might be a jarring spray of clicking, and both are symptoms of parts asking for assistance.
We’re here to provide that support. The Drive’s exhaustive info team has put together a guide to diagnosing the clicking and resolving its root cause. Let’s get started.
Why is Your Car Making a Clicking Noise?
When your car won’t crank, won’t turn over, won’t start, and talks back with a single click or rapid-fire click, click, click, click, click, it’s likely the result of an issue with the electrical charging system and/or the starter. These symptoms could spell problems with the wire connections, battery, battery terminals, or alternator.
If you hear a chatter or a quickly repeating clicking, you’re most likely dealing with a battery or alternator issue. Because the starter is not getting enough electricity to stay powered and crank the engine, the system’s repeated attempts make a clicking sound. Follow these steps toward a resolution:
- Try jump-starting the car. If it starts, then dies, you might have an issue with the alternator. If it starts and runs, drive around to charge the battery, then place it on a trickle charger when parked. If it starts up fine next time, awesome, you might have dodged a bullet. If not, proceed to the next steps.
- Inspect the wiring and battery cables. Verify all wires are in good functioning condition and in their correct positions.
- Check the battery cable connections.
- If corroded, use The Drive’s garage guide for How To Clean Battery Terminals.
- If loose, tighten the connections.
- If the noise persists, use a multimeter to test the battery for the correct voltage. A fully charged battery should register 12.6 volts when the vehicle is not running. When the vehicle is running (not possible in this case), it should register approximately 13.7-14.7 volts. If the battery is low on voltage, it needs to be recharged and/or replaced. Visit The Drive’s guide for How To Change a Car Battery for additional information.
- If you recharge or replace your battery, and the problem continues, it’s likely the result of a faulty alternator that is not properly recharging the battery. Most major auto parts stores such as Advance Auto Parts will test batteries, starters, and alternators for free, but that requires getting the vehicle to the store.
If you hear a single click, similar to a light knock, it is likely the sound of a failing starter or failing starter relay. Other symptoms of a failing starter include a grinding or rumbling sound and an inability to turn the crank. If you are able to pinpoint the issue to the starter, follow the steps below for replacement.
The Drive’s Garage Guide To Replacing Your Starter
You’re fully capable of doing this job yourself. Gather your tools, follow the steps below, and you’ll be cranking your new starter in no time.
Replacing Your Starter Basics
Estimated Time Needed: 1-2 hours
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: Starter
Working on your car can be dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don’t die, get maimed, or lose a finger.
- Non-conductive mechanic gloves
- Safety glasses
- Closed-toe shoes
- Slim-fitting clothes without hard surfaces, conductive materials, or loose material
Everything You’ll Need To Replace Your Starter
We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.
Organizing your tools and gear to change your starter so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You still won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.
How to Replace Your Starter
Let’s do this!
- Lift the car if necessary. You can read The Drive’s How To Lift a Car.
- Pop the hood and disconnect the battery terminals.
- Locate the engine’s starter motor using your dusty manual or a quick Google search.
- Remove any parts necessary to access the starter motor.
- Disconnect any connections running to the starter motor.
- Remove the starter.
- Replace the old starter with the new unit.
- Reconnect any connections to the new starter you removed from the old starter.
- Replace any parts you had to remove to access the starter.
- Lower the vehicle.
- Reconnect the battery terminals.
- Crank the engine.
- It may not fire right away, so give it a few tries.
Get Help With Your Car’s Clicking Noise From a Mechanic On JustAnswer
The Drive recognizes that while our How-To guides are detailed and easily followed, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or oil leaking everywhere can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswer, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs.
So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you.
FAQs About Your Car’s Clicking Noise
You’ve got questions, The Drive has the answers!
How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Battery?
A car battery costs between $50-$200, depending on its application.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Starter?
The part itself ranges between $200-$1,000, though that depends on your vehicle. Professional labor will cost you more.
What Causes a Bad Starter?
A bad starter could be caused by oil, dirt, and debris getting into the starter, along with loose connections, battery corrosion, and damaged parts. Age can also play a factor.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace an Alternator?
A brand-new alternator will set you back approximately $250-$1,000, though you can purchase a remanufactured unit for between $150-$500. However, if you get it professionally installed by a mechanic, you’ll also have to pay for labor.
Can Disconnecting the Battery Fix the Clicking?
Not likely. The old IT adage of “turning it off and on again” isn’t the right way to fix this particular issue.
Featured Diagnostic Products
Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org
- RELATEDHow To Clean Battery TerminalsCalcification isn’t just what happens to dinosaur bones.READ NOW
- RELATEDHow to Change a Car BatteryThe basic steps to swap out a dead battery for a new oneREAD NOW
- RELATEDHow to Jump Start a Car Without CablesThis is one instance you don’t want to channel Angus “Mac” MacGyver.READ NOW
- RELATEDHere's How to Lift a CarThe car goes up and down, up and down, up and down.READ NOW
- RELATEDBest Car Battery Chargers: Keep Your Car Batteries Around LongerA good car battery charger can save you time and money on expensive replacementsREAD NOW