My Car Clicks But Won’t Start, What’s Wrong?

When you get in your car in the morning for your drive to work you expect it to start. When it doesn’t start, not only are you stranded, but you have to deal with the anxiety that comes with unknown car problems. However, in many cases, a no-start issue is not a catastrophe. If you turn the key to crank the engine and get nothing but a clicking noise, several potential issues could be to blame. Here are the top three most common causes of a car clicking but not starting.

Before reading on, take note of the type of click you hear when trying to start your car. A single click and a repeating, rapid click can indicate different issues.

The Battery is Dead

A dead battery is one of the most common causes of a no start. A low or dead battery doesn’t have enough power to turn the starter motor and will result in a rapid, repeated clicking noise when you turn the key.

Leaving your lights on overnight can quickly kill your battery. If this is the case, you can jump-start your car with a jump pack or off another car with a good battery. The good news is as long as your battery is not too old, once you jump the car and get the battery charged, it won’t need to be replaced.

Positive and negative jumper cables

Poor Battery Connection 

A bad connection can result in a no-start condition that mimics that of a dead battery. If your car won’t start, check the terminals and wires for these potential problems.

worn battery post

Loose Terminal

They may have come loose after thousands of miles of driving. Simply tightening the terminal to the battery post can restore the connection needed to start your car.


Corroded battery posts and terminals can cause poor battery connections and make your vehicle unable to start. You can easily spot built-up corrosion on the battery. It will often appear as a white, blue, brown, or green substance depending on the type of metal your battery posts and terminals are made of. Corrosion is the result of hydrogen gas releasing from the sulfuric acid inside the battery reacting with gases in the air.

Removing corrosion can restore the connection and allow the car to start.

Check the Battery Cables

Another common cause of a poor battery connection is damaged battery cables. Keep an eye out for exposed insulation or wires in the cables that might be stopping a good connection.

battery terminal wires

Bad Battery

If your car is not starting and you have confirmed that the connection is good and it’s been placed on the charger, the battery may be bad. An auto parts store or repair shop will be able to test your battery and confirm whether or not you need a new one.

Bad Alternator

The alternator is responsible for keeping the battery charged while your car is running. The starter motor uses a lot of power from the battery, and the alternator ensures it has enough charge to start again after you park. While a bad alternator is not the direct cause of a no start and click, it can cause a dead battery. A technician can test the alternator to make sure it’s functioning as it should.

Bad starter

The other issues we’ve covered present with multiple rapid clicks when you turn the key. If you have confirmed the issue is not battery-related and you hear one solid click when you try to start your car, you likely have a bad starter. The solenoid that engages the motor or the starter motor itself can go bad. In this situation, it’s best to have a technician look at your car to confirm the problem.

car starter solenoid

Bring your car to Lake City Auto Care!

If you are getting nothing but a clicking noise when you turn the key, call, or schedule an appointment at Lake City Auto Care! Our team of ASE-certified technicians have the skills and experience needed to get your car back on the road.

North Idaho's Best Warranty

We stand behind our work 100%. That's why we offer a five-year, 50,000-mile warranty on all services and repairs. You can rest assured that when you bring your vehicle to us, we've got you covered no matter what happens down the road.

Appointments (208)-856-8336