Battery Maintenance

Car Battery or Starter? Diagnosing the Problem


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Car battery starter problems will detain you from getting where you need to. If you have come outside, got into your car and turned the key, only to find that nothing happens you will need to figure out the cause. Assessing car starting issues can be a case of hit and miss in some instances. What might be a dead battery could just as easily be a starter problem, because the symptoms are quite similar. Let’s take a look at some symptoms and see how to diagnose them.

1 - Starting Problems

When your car won't start, turn the ignition on and you will note that your dashboard light illuminates. Leave this on for a second and have a look at your gauges. It might seem daft, but it's amazing how often people run out of gas without realizing. Check your gas gauge first. If it is operational and you have fuel in there, you can eliminate this as a possible cause. The next thing to do is turn the engine on. Listen for the sound you get. Is the engine trying to turn over? Are you getting it sparking but it won’t catch? If this is happening when you try to start your car, it could be a spark plug issue.

2 - Battery Problems

If you attempt to start your vehicle and all you hear is a low whining, it could be a low battery. If your alternator is faulty it will not have charged your vehicle during your last journey, and the car will have been running only on battery power. When this occurs, the battery cannot charge and will, therefore, run down. If this is what is happening, you can use jumper cables and another vehicle to get you started, but you will need to have your alternator tested or replaced. The battery will continue to not receive a correct charge, so it will die down again very quickly. If the alternator is not the problem, it could be that your battery is old. The cells inside the battery can dry up and rust. When they get dry they lose charge and die very quickly. Some newer batteries are sealed units and you can no longer check inside them to maintain their health. If you are able to look inside your battery, make sure all the cells are covered with clear fluid. This clear fluid is usually distilled water and you can top up the cells with the same.

3 - Starter Issues

If you turn the key to start your engine and all you hear is a ‘click’, there is every chance your starter is malfunctioning. It is a very similar sound to a completely dead battery, so check the battery first. Your starter has what’s called a solenoid, which can have a weak spot inside. This weak spot prevents the starter from creating the correct current to start your car. If you have ever had a faulty start you will probably have tried the old trick of bashing it with a hammer to loosen the solenoid and get the motor started. This trick will still work to get you on your way, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. You should look into getting your start motor replaced at the earliest convenience.

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