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The car won’t start but has power is undoubtedly one of the most distressing scenarios for any vehicle owner. Imagine getting into your vehicle on a beautiful day, only to discover that it won’t start, even though there’s power. This situation can be exasperating and disheartening, but with the correct guidance, diagnosing the problem becomes much simpler. This article explains the reasons why your car won’t turn over but has power.
If your car fails to start but still has power, it isn’t fulfilling its primary purpose—transporting you from one location to another.
A dead car battery is a common issue we’ve all likely encountered at some point, preventing the engine from starting. But if your car has power but won’t turn over, it’s clear that the issue isn’t with the alternator or the battery. In this scenario, it’s essential to investigate other potential issues. This article mainly explains why a car won’t start but has power.
Reasons Why My Car Won’t Start but Has Power
If your car won’t turn over but has power, there may be one or more of the below-given causes:
- Faulty Fuse
- Dead Battery
- Faulty Alternator
- Faulty Starter
- Bad Fuel Pump
- Insufficient Fuel Pressure
- Bad Fuel Injector
- Clogged Fuel Filter
- Faulty Engine Sensor
- Faulty Distributor or Ignition Coil
- Bad Spark Plug
- Dead Key Fob Battery
- Damaged Timing Belt
1) Blown Fuse
First of all, you should check the battery wiring and fuse before replacing the battery, starter motor, or alternator. If your ignition fuses have blown, a straightforward fuse replacement could be all you need to get the vehicle started again. However, it’s important to investigate and understand the reason for a blown fuse initially.
The wiring harness could also be a potential source if the car won’t start but has power. If there’s a rodent issue in your locality, these pests might be the cause your car isn’t starting. Rodents can quickly chew through a car’s wires, disrupting critical connections.
Even with a perfectly functional battery and starter motor, the loose connections may render these components ineffective. A damaged wire may lead to electrical shorts that might blow a fuse or, more seriously, pose a fire risk. Therefore, it’s crucial to inspect your car’s wiring and ensure no damage has occurred.
2) Dead Battery
If your car won’t turn over but has power, the immediate assumption is not a faulty battery. Although this seems contradictory at first glance, let me clarify. If your vehicle refuses to start, but all the electrical systems are operating, it’s highly unlikely that a dead battery is the cause.
In the case of a dead battery, none of the electrical components will function in the most severe scenarios. If your battery doesn’t have sufficient or low power, you will notice a clear reduction in the performance of the electrical components, such as the lights may be noticeably dim; the vehicle radio won’t turn on, and soon.
In such conditions, it’s important to take into account the age of your battery. A new battery is less likely to fail so soon, but if your battery is over four years old, it might be nearing the end of its life.
If you haven’t used your car for a long time, you should try jump-starting and driving your vehicle for some time. This should charge up the battery, and if it’s still in good shape, restarting the car should be straightforward. If this isn’t the case, you should check the health of your battery by using a multimeter.
Use a multimeter to check the battery voltage—it should be above 12 volts. If it reads lower than 12V, it’s time to replace your battery, and you should be back on the road in no time.
3) Faulty Alternator
If your car won’t start but has power, a faulty alternator may be the reason.
The alternator of your vehicle is one of the crucial components of the car’s electrical system. Its function is to draw power from the engine to recharge the battery while your car is running.
A malfunctioning alternator can prevent the vehicle from starting because if it fails to charge the battery, the battery can deplete its stored energy and eventually die.
If your vehicle’s alternator doesn’t recharge the battery, the electrical components will start to draw power directly from the battery. This process can ultimately drain the battery completely, leaving it unable to supply the starter motor with the large amount of electricity required to start the engine. As a result, the car won’t start even though it has power.
Examining the alternator is a relatively straightforward process. Begin by jump-starting the vehicle, then take a multimeter to check the voltage at the battery terminals. If the voltage on the battery terminals is lower than 12V, your battery might be dead.
However, the key sign to look for is an improvement in voltage as you start your vehicle engine. A functioning alternator should supply a surge of electricity to the battery while the engine is operating. If there’s no change or only a slight increase in voltage, this indicates that your alternator has failed to perform its duty.
Possible alternator problems could include a problem with its coil, which turns the mechanical power of the engine into AC voltage. However, there may be a problem with the Rectifier or Stator, which transforms this AC voltage into DC voltage.
It’s important to remember that diagnosing these issues should be performed by a professional mechanic.
Read More: How to replace and Alternator
4) Faulty Starter
The starter motor of your vehicle is attached to the engine’s crankshaft. It’s the component responsible for turning the crankshaft to initiate the engine’s cycles when you turn the ignition key. If the starter motor fails, this could be the reason your car won’t turn over but has power.
Finding a problem with the starter motor is fairly straightforward. When you turn the ignition switch, the engine should start immediately. Your vehicle starter motor is responsible for engine cranking. If this motor goes bad, turning the key won’t make a difference. There will be no cranking and no efforts to get the cylinders firing.
To verify that the issue lies with the starter motor, you should first rule out a faulty alternator or dead battery. If these components are functioning correctly and the engine still doesn’t start at all, it’s highly likely the starter motor is the cause of the problem.
If your vehicle has a manual transmission, you can theoretically push-start the car. However, this is not recommended due to safety concerns—it’s also quite a strenuous task. Instead, we suggest towing the vehicle to the local workshop and replace your defective starter motor.
Read More: Starter Motor Working and Parts
5) Bad Fuel Pump
A malfunctioning fuel pump is not typically an issue with most new vehicle models. If you drive your vehicle regularly and properly fill your fuel tank with clean gasoline or diesel, you shouldn’t encounter this problem unless the car was originally equipped with a defective fuel pump.
However, if the vehicle is rather old, or if the quality of the fuel in your zone is not good, dealing with a bad fuel pump could be a troubling reality.
Identifying this issue is relatively straightforward. When you turn your ignition key to the ignition position—before starting the engine—you may notice a humming sound originating from the rear of your car. This noise indicates that your fuel pump is working, ensuring the flow of fuel and preparing it for injection before the car starts.
However, with a bad fuel pump, this process may not occur. In such a situation, your engine won’t receive the fuel according to its requirement, and your car won’t start despite having power. So, if you turn the ignition key and do not hear the characteristic humming sound from the rear of the car, it could be indicative of a faulty fuel pump.
Read More: Bad Fuel Pump Symptoms and Causes
6) Insufficient Fuel Pressure
While your fuel pump may be operational, what happens if the fuel pressure is still too low?
Blocked fuel lines or fuel rails are the most common causes of low fuel pressure, or there might be a problem with the fuel pump resulting in reduced fuel pressure.
If you find that the fuel pressure is low, it’s best to hand the car over to a mechanic for a more detailed diagnosis. However, bear in mind that these problems are most likely to arise in old vehicle models.
Read More: Function of Fuel Rail
7) Bad Fuel Injector
A bad fuel injector is also one of the possible reasons due to why your car won’t start but has power. For a car with a four-cylinder engine to fail to start, all 4 fuel injectors would need to be dysfunctional. While unlikely, it’s still a possibility.
You may inspect the fuel injector yourself by pressing a screwdriver against each one and listening for a click as the engine cracking. If you hear a click, that particular fuel injector is likely working correctly.
If all your fuel injectors are not working, your next step should be to check the throttle position sensor. Try removing the sensor and turning on the engine. If your engine starts, it means that your throttle position sensor is faulty, and you need to replace it.
Normally, it’s recommended to regularly clean your fuel system as part of your vehicle’s maintenance routine.
Read More: Bad Fuel Injector Symptoms and Causes
8) Clogged Fuel Filter
In some cases, a blocked fuel filter or air filter may prevent your engine from starting. It’s crucial to properly inspect if your fuel filter or air filter is clogged and replace it if necessary.
Additionally, inspect the air tube leading to the engine for any signs of contaminants. If the pathway appears clear, then it should be fine.
9) Faulty Engine Sensor
Your vehicle contains multiple sensors that help the engine to work efficiently. The MAF sensor and MAP sensor are the major engine sensors. These sensors play a vital role in measuring the pressure and volume of the air entering the engine cylinder.
The vehicle computer utilizes the data of these sensors to control the fuel injection rate and ignition timing.
When an engine sensor goes bad, your vehicle computer may receive incorrect readings, leading to car starting issues. To diagnose this, try disconnecting each sensor and starting the engine. If it starts successfully, then it’s recommended to replace the bad sensor.
10) Faulty Distributor or Ignition Coil
The distributor and ignition coil are essential components of your vehicle’s ignition system. If any of these parts fail, your engine will be unable to get the necessary sparks at the right time, resulting in the car won’t turn over but has power.
You can use a multimeter to test the ignition coil and distributor but it’s generally advised to seek the assistance of a trained professional for accurate diagnosis and resolution of the problem.
11) Bad Spark Plug
The spark plug of the vehicle plays a crucial role in igniting the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. Over time, the spark plug may wear out, resulting in a lack of spark to ignite the fuel, causing your car won’t turn start but has power.
Inspecting the spark plugs is a simple process. By removing them, you can examine them for blockages or cracks. If your spark plug’s ceramic area is damaged, it means that its insulation is bad, indicating a broken spark plug. If the tip of your spark plug is blocked with contaminants, it should be replaced.
Read More: Bad Spark Plug Symptoms and Causes
12) Dead Key Fob Battery
In cars with a push-start system, if your engine doesn’t crank as you press the Start button, there are chances that your key fob is experiencing problems or its battery is dead.
A dead key fob battery prevents the Start button from receiving a signal, resulting in the car won’t start despite having power.
To resolve this issue, replace the dead battery in your key fob. You may also utilize a small screwdriver or a coin to open the battery cover, revealing a silver coin or button-shaped battery.
13) Damaged Timing Belt
The timing belt of your vehicle is responsible for synchronizing the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft. If your timing belt is damaged, the engine will not work efficiently, leading to starting issues.
In case of a bad timing belt, you can notice the starter motor engage but not turn over, or you might even hear a ticking noise from under the hood. While less commonly known, a broken timing belt can occur when the engine is operating and may cause damage to the engine.
It’s important to address any timing belt issues promptly and seek professional assistance, as it involves internal engine components.
Read More: Bad Timing Belt Symptoms and Causes
How to start a car that won’t turn over but has power?
To start a car that won’t turn over, you need to repair or replace one or more of the below-given parts:
- Replace the dead battery
- Replace the faulty alternator
- Replace the blown fuse
- Repair the damaged wiring or loose electrical connections
- Replace the faulty engine sensors
- Replace the bad starter motor
- Replace the bad fuel pump
- Replace the bad spark plug
- Repair or replace the faulty ignition coils
- Replace the faulty ignition switch
- Replace the faulty fuel injector
- Replace or repair the damaged timing belt
How to start a vehicle with a bad starter?
If you are experiencing difficulties starting your car due to a faulty starter, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take. Start by ensuring that all the wires connected to your starter are in good condition and securely attached. Check the connectors to make sure they are tight and properly fastened. In some cases, gently tapping the starter with a hammer might help if the internal armature is not making proper contact with the starter motor’s brushes. A light tap can potentially realign the components and restore functionality. However, it is important to exercise caution and use gentle taps to avoid causing further damage.
What sensors can cause a car not to start?
- Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP)
- Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP)
- Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)
- Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)
- Coolant Temperature Sensor (CTS)
- Oxygen Sensor (O2)
- MAP Sensor
- Fuel Pressure Sensor (FPS)
- Bad IAT Sensor
What causes a car not to turn over if the battery is good?
- Insufficient fuel pressure
- Faulty fuse
- Dead battery
- Faulty alternator
- Bad fuel pump
- Bad fuel injector
- Faulty starter
- Clogged fuel filter
- Faulty engine sensor
- Faulty distributor or ignition coil
- Dead key fob battery
- Bad spark plug
- Damaged timing belt
What are the most common engine starting problems?
- Poor fuel quality
- Dead battery
- Faulty alternator
- Faulty ignition switch
- Faulty fuel pressure sensor or faulty fuel pump
- Faulty ignition switch or spark plug
- Bad solenoid failure
Can a fuse cause a car not to start?
No, a blown fuse alone typically cannot cause a car not to start. Fuses are designed to protect electrical components and circuits from damage due to excessive current. While a blown fuse can result in specific electrical systems or components not functioning properly, it is unlikely to be the sole cause of a no-start condition in a car.
Why won't my car start and how do you fix it? ›
- If the Car Clicks When Trying to Start. Try Cycling the Key. Try Tapping on the Battery Terminals. Try Tapping the Starter.
- If There's No Click When You Turn the Key. Try Shifting the Shifter.
- If the Engine Cranks But Won't Fire Up. Try Swapping Relays. Try Smacking the Fuel Tank.
If your vehicle won't start, it's usually caused by a dying or dead battery, loose or corroded connection cables, a bad alternator or an issue with the starter. It can be hard to determine if you're dealing with a battery or an alternator problem.What to do when your car won t start? ›
Check the battery if there is a slow crank and a clicking sound, and the car engine won't start. However, if the check engine light illuminates, the issue could be the engine or fuel pump. If your vehicle doesn't start, call AAA, roadside service, or another towing company to take your car to get it repaired.What's wrong with my car if I try to start it and it doesn't turn on the first few times? ›
Defective ignition switch
If you know your battery is working properly, but your car doesn't turn over on the first few tries, you might have a problem with the ignition switch. You can try to narrow down the cause of your issue by turning on your headlights.
Faulty sensors can keep your engine from starting, but this is often engineered in as a safety measure. For instance, the crank angle sensor or crankshaft position sensor may be located near the transmission belt housing and come in contact with water, which would prevent it from working.What fuse will keep a car from starting? ›
Depending on make & year, most later models have a high amperage fuse in the main fuse box in the engine compartment. Usually this fuse is labeled ignition. Or you can pull the fuel pump fuse.Why won't my car start but has power? ›
Bad Spark Plugs
If the engine holds compression well, and the fuel system is working correctly, but it still won't start, that tells us that your car's spark plugs may not be working. The spark plugs ignite the air/fuel mixture inside the engine's cylinders. It's the resulting explosion that actually powers your car.
When it comes to the vehicle not starting, and not having electrical power, always start by checking the battery. In your situation you can go remove the battery from the vehicle, and take it to have it tested. If it is bad, simply replace it and drive the care home.Why won't my car start without power? ›
Sometimes this can just be a temporary failure and the vehicle will all of a sudden begin to work again. Possible causes of a power failure could be either bad battery connections, a bad ignition switch, or a bad alternator. What you need to do is check your vehicle's power sources.How much does it cost to fix a car that won't start? ›
How Much a Starter Replacement Costs. The cost of rebuild parts for a starter can range from as little as $50 to as much as $350. A brand-new starter can range from $80 to over $350. For a qualified mechanic to replace or rebuild your starter, you can expect to pay between $150 and over $1,100.
Why does it take 3 times to start my car? ›
Typically when your electrical accessories are working well, but it takes a few cranks for the engine to start, the issue is with the fuel or ignition system. In most cases, clogged or dirty fuel injectors, throttle body or mass air flow sensor will be the root source of this problem.Why wont my car start but the battery is fine? ›
Why your car struggles to start but runs fine. There are a number of reasons why your car might be slow to start but runs as-normal once it gets going. Causes can vary from weather conditions to battery health, wiring issues, starter motor concerns and fuel-pump health.How do I know if my car sensor is broken? ›
- Check Engine Light Comes On.
- Noticeable Loss of Fuel Efficiency.
- Sulfur or 'Rotten Egg' smell from Exhaust.
- Black smoke from exhaust.
- Emission levels reach high levels.
- Your engine hesitates, skips, begins bucking or has power surges.
Sensors that are installed or attached to the engine/transmission, or to other external areas of the vehicle like tires, are more susceptible to damage due to the number of elements they can encounter on a daily basis. Exposure to extreme heat and cold, as well as rain and debris are enemies to many parts of a car.How do you know if your starter fuse is blown? ›
One of the best ways to determine if a car fuse has blown is by using a test light. It should illuminate both ends of the fuse, and, if it doesn't, it needs to be replaced. Sometimes, a blown fuse is caused by a damaged wire, motor, or other part.What blows an ignition fuse? ›
If not in the wiring, there could be an issue with the fuse box. This is unlikely if you are not having issues with other circuits. The starter can also cause this to blow. If the starter is failing, especially the starter solenoid, a power surge may be being sent to the fuse and blowing it.How do I know if its the starter or the ignition switch? ›
Starter motors should make noise when you turn your ignition key fully to activate your car. If you turn the key and do not hear anything, there's a chance that there's something wrong with the vehicle's ignition switch.Can you jump start a car with a bad starter? ›
While the battery does power the starter through a relay, and a jump start can help give the starter the extra juice it needs to get your engine going, it is not guaranteed that a jump start will help if the issue is with the starter. You're better off seeing a mechanic to get the issue properly diagnosed and sorted.Why is my car completely dead? ›
A dead car battery can come about because of a lot of different reasons, such as: An electrical component (like the headlights) stayed on when the engine was off. The car hasn't been used driven for a long time (a fully charged battery will slowly self-discharge) The vehicle's alternator isn't charging the battery.How do you test a car starter? ›
With the ignition turned off and the transmission in "park" -- and with all due care -- connect one end of the red/positive jumper cable to the positive terminal of the battery. Touch the other end of the red cable to the positive terminal on the starter motor. The starter should spin/crank the engine.
How do I know if my starter is bad or battery? ›
When you attempt to start the vehicle, is there a clicking sound, but it won't turn over? That may be a good sign. If a jump gets the car running, but won't turn over again once it's shut off, a dead battery is likely the cause.Will a bad starter drain a battery? ›
So can a bad starter drain your battery? The short answer is: Yes, it can. It could also drain the battery even faster if you repeatedly try to start your car with a faulty starter. A faulty starter is also one of the leading causes of battery overcharging.How long will a bad car starter last? ›
A starter motor's lifespan varies between automobiles, but you can expect to get about 100,000 miles out of the factory starter. Stringer Auto Repair advises that your starter may start to go bad once the odometer has reached this coveted mileage milestone.How much does it cost to replace a starter? ›
A brand new starter could cost you around $50 – $350, while labor costs from a qualified mechanic could range between $150 – $1,100. In total, replacing a bad starter motor could amount to between $200 – $1450. However, these figures could be lower if you're able to identify car starter issues early.What does bad starter smell like? ›
My Sourdough Starter Smells Like Alcohol/Beer/Vinegar/Nail Polish Remover. If your sourdough starter stinks like alcohol, vinegar, or nail polish remover, it means that it's really hungry and has produced lots of acetic acid. The good bacteria have eaten up all the nutrients in the flour and are desperate to be fed.What are signs of a bad fuel filter? ›
- You have a hard time starting car. If the problem is the fuel filter, and it isn't changed soon, you may find that your vehicle won't start at all.
- Misfire or rough idle. ...
- Vehicle stalling. ...
- Fuel system component failure. ...
- Loud noises from the fuel pump.
A dead battery is the most common reason why engines fail to start up. A common reason for batteries to fail is drain. Your car's battery typically expends a small portion of its storage to start your car up, and then recharges from your alternator as you move.What causes a car not to start if the battery is good? ›
If your car won't start, but your battery is fine, chances are you have a bad alternator. This is another charging system issue, like a dead battery, that won't let you start your car.
Connected to the battery is the alternator, which works to generate power for your vehicle's electrical components. When you have a brand-new battery but still can't start the car, the alternator might be the issue. Cold and damp climates may increase wear on an alternator, causing it to fail.What does it mean if your car has power but wont start? ›
Broken or Damaged Ignition
If your headlights can turn on, but your car won't crank, that means that your battery is charged, but either the starter or ignition is the problem. If the starter or ignition is the problem, a starter engine can be jumped by using a charged battery.
How do I know if my car wont start because of battery or alternator? ›
If the engine starts but dies immediately, your alternator probably isn't keeping your battery charged. If a jump starts and keeps your car running, but the car can't start again off of its own power, a dead battery is probably your answer.Can you jump a car with a bad starter? ›
While the battery does power the starter through a relay, and a jump start can help give the starter the extra juice it needs to get your engine going, it is not guaranteed that a jump start will help if the issue is with the starter. You're better off seeing a mechanic to get the issue properly diagnosed and sorted.Is a starter easy to fix? ›
Luckily, replacing a starter is not a difficult task. In most cases, it's a fairly simple process that anyone with basic car knowledge can do. Here's everything you need to know about replacing a starter, step by step.How long should a starter last? ›
Average car starter lifespan
A car starter can give you around 80,000 starts before you should expect it to struggle, regardless of the mileage you drive. This is around 150,000 miles for some cars, while some starters can last the vehicle's life.
One of the symptoms of a bad starter is a clicking noise when you turn the key or push the start button. However, a starter can die without making any sound at all, or it may announce its impending death with whirring and grinding noise—so listen up!What usually fails on a starter? ›
Electrical connections faulty. Solenoid switch (engaging relay) stiff or faulty. Electric motor damaged electrically. Single-pinion gear, starter pinion or freewheel damaged.