Starter Works But Engine Won’t Turn Over: Troubleshooting the Silent Engine.

If your starter works but the engine won’t turn over, it could be due to a problem with the battery, the ignition switch, or the starter motor itself. In such cases, it is important to troubleshoot the issue to identify the root cause and take appropriate action to fix the problem.

This article provides an overview of the possible reasons for this problem and offers some tips for troubleshooting. By following the suggestions outlined here, you can increase the chances of getting your engine up and running smoothly again in no time.

So, let’s dive in and explore the potential solutions to this frustrating issue.

Common Causes Of Starter Working But Engine Not Starting

The starter working but the engine not starting is a common issue caused by a faulty ignition switch, broken starter motor, low battery, fuel system problems, or a failed crankshaft position sensor. It is important to diagnose and address these issues to get the engine to turn over and run smoothly.

Below are some common causes to consider if you find yourself in this situation:

Battery Failure:

  • A dead or weak battery can prevent the engine from starting, even if the starter seems to be working fine.
  • Corroded or loose battery terminals may also cause a weak connection, resulting in insufficient power to start the engine.
  • Faulty battery cables can prevent the necessary electrical current from reaching the starter motor.

Ignition Switch Issues:

  • A faulty ignition switch can prevent the engine from starting, even if the starter is functioning correctly.
  • Worn-out or damaged ignition switch contacts may fail to engage properly, interrupting the flow of electrical current.

Fuel Delivery Problems:

  • Insufficient fuel pressure caused by a clogged fuel filter can prevent the engine from starting, despite the starter working correctly.
  • A malfunctioning fuel pump might not provide enough fuel to the engine, resulting in a no-start condition.
  • Contaminated or bad quality fuel can also hinder proper combustion, preventing the engine from starting.

Remember, diagnosing the exact cause of a starter working but the engine not starting can be complex. It may require the expertise of a professional mechanic to identify and resolve the issue.

Checking The Battery

To troubleshoot an engine that won’t turn over despite the starter working, it’s essential to check the battery. Ensure the battery terminals are clean and secure, and test the battery’s voltage using a multimeter to identify any potential issues.

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting ready to hit the road, only to find that your engine won’t turn over, even though your starter is working. One of the most common causes for this issue is a problem with the battery.

In this section, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about checking the battery when your engine won’t turn over.

Testing The Battery Voltage:

  • Use a multimeter to measure the voltage of your car battery.
  • A fully charged battery should read around 12.6 volts or higher.
  • If the reading is significantly lower, it may indicate a weak or discharged battery.
  • Proceed to the next steps to further inspect the battery terminals and connections.

Inspecting Battery Terminals For Corrosion:

  • Check the battery terminals for any signs of corrosion or buildup.
  • Corrosion can prevent a proper connection and affect the performance of your battery.
  • Look for a white, powdery substance around the terminal posts.
  • If corrosion is present, proceed to clean the terminals before retesting the battery.

Cleaning And Tightening Battery Connections:

  • Start by disconnecting the battery cables, starting with the negative terminal (marked with a minus sign).
  • Use a wire brush and a mixture of baking soda and water to clean the terminals and remove any corrosion.
  • Rinse the terminals with water and dry them thoroughly.
  • Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or dielectric grease to the terminals to prevent future corrosion.
  • Reconnect the battery cables, starting with the positive terminal (marked with a plus sign) first.
  • Ensure the connections are tight and secure.

Now that you’ve tested the battery voltage, inspected for corrosion, and cleaned and tightened the connections, it’s time to give your engine another try. If the issue persists, it may be necessary to consult a professional mechanic for further diagnosis.

Diagnosing Ignition Switch Problems

If your starter is working but the engine won’t turn over, it could indicate an ignition switch problem. A professional diagnosis is essential to identify the issue and ensure a proper solution.

To diagnose ignition switch problems, you can follow these steps:

Checking For Loose Or Damaged Wiring Connections

  • Inspect the wiring connections leading to the ignition switch for any signs of damage or wear.
  • Ensure that all connections are securely fastened and not loose.
  • Look out for any frayed or broken wires, as they can cause a malfunction in the ignition switch.
  • Pay attention to any visible signs of corrosion, as it can also disrupt the connection.

Testing The Ignition Switch With A Multimeter

  • Start by disconnecting the battery to avoid any electrical shock.
  • Locate the ignition switch and remove it from the vehicle.
  • Set your multimeter to the continuity test mode.
  • Connect one lead of the multimeter to the ignition switch terminal labeled “B+” or “Bat.”
  • Connect the other lead to the ignition switch terminal labeled “ST” or “Start.”
  • Flip the ignition switch to the “ON” position and check for continuity. There should be continuity between the “B+” or “Bat” and “ST” or “Start” terminals.
  • If there is no continuity, the ignition switch is likely faulty and needs to be replaced.

Replacing A Faulty Ignition Switch

  • Start by disconnecting the battery to ensure safety.
  • Locate the ignition switch in your vehicle, usually near the steering column.
  • Remove any necessary panels or covers to access the ignition switch.
  • Disconnect the wiring harness and any other connectors attached to the ignition switch.
  • Remove the ignition switch from its mounting location.
  • Install the new ignition switch, making sure it is securely attached.
  • Reconnect the wiring harness and any other connectors.
  • Replace any panels or covers that were removed.
  • Reconnect the battery and test the ignition switch to ensure the engine turns over properly.

Diagnosing ignition switch problems can be done with the help of these steps. Remember to exercise caution and consult a professional if needed.

Troubleshooting Fuel Delivery Issues

Experiencing trouble with fuel delivery? If your starter is working but the engine won’t turn over, it’s likely a fuel-related issue. Troubleshooting the fuel delivery system can help resolve the problem and get your engine running smoothly again.

By following a few simple steps, you can identify and fix the issue, getting your engine back up and running smoothly.

In this section, we will explore three key steps to troubleshooting fuel delivery issues: checking the fuel pump operation, inspecting and replacing fuel filters, and testing fuel pressure with a pressure gauge.

Checking The Fuel Pump Operation:

  • Start by listening for a humming sound coming from the fuel tank when you turn the ignition key to the “on” position. The humming noise indicates that the fuel pump is functioning properly. If you don’t hear any sound, the fuel pump may be faulty.
  • Check the fuel pump fuse and relay. A blown fuse or a faulty relay can prevent the fuel pump from operating. Replace any damaged components as necessary.
  • Examine the fuel pump wiring connections. Loose or corroded connections can disrupt the flow of electricity to the fuel pump. Ensure that the connections are tight and free from corrosion.
  • Test the fuel pump power supply using a multimeter. You should measure voltage at the fuel pump connector. If there is no voltage, there may be an issue with the fuel pump wiring or the power supply from the battery.

Inspecting And Replacing Fuel Filters:

  • Locate the fuel filter, which is usually along the fuel line, either underneath the vehicle or in the engine compartment. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the exact location.
  • Inspect the fuel filter for any signs of clogs, debris, or damage. A clogged fuel filter can restrict fuel flow and lead to engine starting problems.
  • If the fuel filter appears dirty or damaged, it’s time for a replacement. Unscrew the old fuel filter and replace it with a new one. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the correct filter for your vehicle.

Testing Fuel Pressure With A Pressure Gauge:

  • Connect a fuel pressure gauge to the Schrader valve on the fuel rail. The Schrader valve resembles a tire valve and is usually located on the fuel rail.
  • Turn the ignition key to the “on” position without starting the engine. The fuel pressure gauge should display the recommended pressure for your vehicle. If the pressure is too high or too low, there may be an issue with the fuel pressure regulator or other components.
  • If the pressure is within the recommended range, turn the key off and wait for a few minutes. If the pressure drops significantly over time, it may indicate a leaking fuel injector or fuel line.
  • If you suspect a fuel pressure issue, consult a professional mechanic to accurately diagnose and address the problem.

By following these troubleshooting steps, you can quickly identify and resolve common fuel delivery issues that prevent your engine from turning over. Remember to exercise caution and seek professional assistance if needed.

Testing The Starter Motor

If your engine won’t turn over despite the starter working, it may indicate a problem with the starter motor. To diagnose this issue, you can test the starter motor using a multimeter to check for continuity and proper voltage. Further troubleshooting may be required to pinpoint the exact cause.

In this section, we’ll walk you through the process of testing the starter motor to identify any possible issues. Follow the steps below to get started:

Examining The Starter Solenoid For Defects:

  • Inspect the solenoid for any signs of physical damage, such as cracks, corrosion, or loose connections.
  • Ensure that the solenoid is securely mounted and properly aligned.
  • Check the wiring connections for any loose or damaged wires.
  • If any defects are detected, consider replacing the solenoid to prevent further complications.

Checking The Starter Motor For Faulty Wiring:

  • Start by inspecting the wiring connections leading to the starter motor. Look for loose or disconnected wires.
  • Ensure that the wires are clean, free from corrosion, and tightly connected.
  • Test the voltage across the wiring using a multimeter. A reading below the recommended range may indicate faulty wiring that needs to be repaired or replaced.

Testing The Starter Motor With A Bench Test:

  • Disconnect the starter motor from the car’s electrical system.
  • Set up a bench test by connecting the starter motor to a power source and a starter test machine.
  • Activate the starter motor using the test machine and observe its behavior.
  • Pay attention to any unusual noises, excessive heat, or sluggish movement, as these may indicate a faulty starter motor.
  • If the starter motor fails the bench test, it’s likely that it needs to be replaced.

Addressing Common Starter Motor Problems

If your starter works but the engine won’t turn over, there may be a few common issues to address. Check the battery, the wiring connections, and the starter solenoid for any problems that could be causing this frustrating issue. Don’t overlook these simple fixes before seeking professional help.

Here are some common starter motor problems and how you can address them:

Replacing A Worn-Out Starter Motor

  • Excessive wear and tear can cause a starter motor to malfunction.
  • If you notice a clicking sound when you turn the key, it could indicate that the starter motor brushes are worn.
  • Other signs of a worn-out starter motor include slow cranking, intermittent starting, or complete failure to start.
  • To resolve this issue, you will need to replace the worn-out starter motor with a new one.
  • Consult your vehicle’s manual or seek professional assistance to ensure you select the correct replacement starter motor.

Resolving Issues With The Starter Gear Or Flywheel

  • Problems with the starter gear or flywheel can also prevent the engine from turning over.
  • The starter gear may become worn, damaged, or stuck, preventing it from properly engaging with the flywheel.
  • This can result in a grinding noise or a high-pitched whining sound when you attempt to start your vehicle.
  • Inspect the starter gear and flywheel for any signs of damage or misalignment.
  • If you notice any issues, you may need to replace the faulty components to ensure proper engagement between the starter gear and flywheel.

Checking And Replacing The Starter Relay

  • The starter relay serves as a bridge between the battery and the starter motor.
  • A faulty starter relay can cause your engine to fail to start or produce a clicking sound.
  • Locate the starter relay, typically found in the engine compartment fuse box or near the battery.
  • Use a multimeter to test the relay’s continuity and ensure it is functioning properly.
  • If the starter relay is defective, you will need to replace it with a new one.
  • Consult your vehicle’s manual or seek professional assistance to locate and install the correct replacement starter relay.

By addressing these common starter motor problems, you can ensure your car starts reliably and efficiently. Remember to consult your vehicle’s manual or seek professional guidance if you are unsure about any troubleshooting or replacement procedures.

Additional Considerations

Additional considerations when your starter works but the engine won’t turn over include checking the battery, starter connections, and ignition switch. These issues could be causing the problem and should be inspected by a professional mechanic for proper diagnosis and repair.

Verifying The Functioning Of The Immobilizer System:

  • Check the indicator on the dashboard to see if the immobilizer system is active.
  • Ensure that the key used is the correct one for the vehicle.
  • Try using a spare key to see if the engine starts.
  • If the key is not the issue, it is advisable to contact a professional technician to diagnose and repair any problems with the immobilizer system.

Inspecting Spark Plugs For Wear And Replacing If Necessary:

  • Remove the spark plugs and visually inspect them for signs of wear or damage.
  • Look for excessive carbon buildup or oil deposits on the spark plugs.
  • If the spark plugs appear worn, corroded, or damaged, it is essential to replace them with new ones.
  • Use the correct spark plugs recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

Checking The Timing Belt For Proper Alignment:

  • Consult your vehicle’s service manual to locate the timing belt and related components.
  • Inspect the timing belt for any visible signs of wear, cracking, or damage.
  • Ensure that the timing belt is properly aligned with the pulleys and camshaft.
  • If the timing belt shows severe signs of wear or misalignment, it is crucial to have it replaced by a qualified mechanic to prevent any further damage to the engine.

Remember, the immobilizer system can sometimes be the culprit if the engine fails to turn over. Inspecting the spark plugs for wear and replacing them if necessary is another crucial step to consider. Lastly, checking the timing belt for proper alignment is vital to ensure the engine operates smoothly.

If you encounter any issues or doubts, always consult a professional mechanic for accurate diagnosis and repair.


To summarize, if your starter works but the engine won’t turn over, it could be caused by a variety of issues. Starting problems can be frustrating, but by following a systematic troubleshooting process, you can identify and fix the underlying problem.

First, check the battery for any signs of corrosion or a weak charge and ensure it is properly connected. Next, inspect the ignition switch and starter relay to ensure they are functioning correctly. Additionally, check the fuel system for any blockages or fuel pump issues.

Finally, if all else fails, it may be necessary to consult a professional mechanic who can provide a more thorough diagnosis and repair. Remember to regularly maintain your vehicle to prevent future starting problems and keep your engine running smoothly.

Don’t ignore the warning signs and address the issue promptly to avoid any further complications.

You may also check:

Leave a Comment