How to Fix a Car That Cranks But Doesn’t Start

When you turn the key in the ignition to start your car, the engine makes a chirping sound for a second or two. This is the starter, which turns the engine over so it can start running on its own. That sound is called “cranking,” and you would like to hear it because it means your car’s starter performs its job.

But what if you hear the engine crank but won’t start and run on its own? That means there’s something wrong with the engine itself that keeps it from starting. We’ll tell you what it could be and what needs to be done to fix it.

car that cranks but won’t start

What Causes a Car That Cranks But Won’t Start?

When a car cranks but won’t start, the engine is turning over but not firing up. This can be caused by a variety of issues, some of which include:

Dead Battery:

If the battery is dead or has a weak charge, it may not have enough power to turn the starter motor, which is responsible for turning the engine over. A faulty battery, a loose or corroded connection, or a problem with the charging system can cause this.

Starter Motor: 

The starter motor may be malfunctioning and unable to turn the engine over. A problem with the solenoid, a worn or damaged starter motor, or a problem with the starter circuit can cause this.

Ignition System: 

A problem with the ignition system can prevent the engine from firing. A faulty spark plug, a bad ignition coil, or a problem with the ignition control module can cause this.

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Fuel System: 

A clogged fuel filter, a malfunctioning fuel pump, or a problem with the fuel pressure can prevent fuel from reaching the engine, causing it not to start.

Engine Compression: 

Low compression in the engine can prevent it from starting. Worn or damaged pistons, worn or damaged valves, or a problem with the cylinder head or block can cause this.

Sensors and Computer Components: 

A malfunctioning sensor, such as the crankshaft position sensor or camshaft position sensor, can prevent the engine from starting. Similarly, a problem with the engine control module can also prevent the engine from starting.

Fix a Car That Cranks But Won’t Start

How to Fix a Car That Cranks But Won’t Start?

Here are some steps to fix a car that cranks but won’t start:

Check the Battery

The first step in fixing a car that cranks but won’t start is to check the battery. Make sure the battery terminals are clean and tightened properly. If the battery appears fine, check the starter motor and the alternator. The starter motor is responsible for turning the engine over, while the alternator is responsible for charging the battery. These parts must be checked and possibly replaced if they are defective.

Check the Fuel System

Next, check the fuel system. If your car is not getting fuel, it will not start. Make sure the fuel pump is working properly and that there is no clogging in the fuel filter. If the fuel filter becomes clogged, it must be replaced. You can also check the fuel pressure using a fuel pressure gauge to see if the pressure is within the manufacturer’s specifications.

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Check the Ignition System

If the fuel system is fine, the ignition system is the next thing to check. Ensure the spark plugs and the wires that connect them are in good shape. If the spark plugs are worn or dirty, they might not be able to make a spark, making it impossible to start the engine. Also, check the distributor cap and rotor. If worn or corroded, they may not be able to send the spark to the cylinders.

Check the Camshaft/Crankshaft Position Sensor

Another common cause for a car that cranks but won’t start is a faulty camshaft position sensor or crankshaft position sensor. These sensors tell the engine when to fire the spark plugs. If they are not working right, the engine won’t start.


By following these basic troubleshooting steps, you should be able to diagnose and fix a car that cranks but won’t start. Always consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions and precautions.

Keep in mind that if, after performing all the above steps and the car still won’t start, it is best to take it to a professional mechanic for further diagnosis and repair.

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