CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Car engine won't start but battery works

My car is a Nissan Altima 2002. Yesterday we had a snowstorm, the car was working all day, we parked it overnight and it won’t start today. All the accessories (lights, dashboard, radio) work but the engine doesn’t want to start, it doesn’t even make a noise. What could be the problem

Try this.

Turn the ignition switch on so the dash lights come on.

Step on the brake pedal.

Shift the transmission into neutral and then try starting the engine.

If the engine starts, the transmission range switch is most likely the problem.

Tester

A very weak battery could cause that…how old is it?

It’s a new battery, probably 4 months old

Take a voltmeter and test it. A good battery is around 12.5 V. Anything below 12 Volts won’t be enough to start an engine.Do you have a portable battery charger?How cold is it where you live?Do you drive this car often?Are the battery posts and terminals clean and are they well secured to the battery?

Okay I can try that. Right now it’s 14 degrees but it’s going to go down to 0 degrees, the car was making noise like it wanted to start but now everything turned off

When you get the chain of events you describe then my first solution is that there’s corrosion or looseness at one of the battery terminals. The job of removing, cleaning and replacing the terminals on the battery is pretty easy if you have a wrench to unscrew the clamp bolts. Take off the negative (black) one first, clean the post and the inside of the clamp with fine sandpaper or a wire brush, leave it off, remove and clean the positive (red, with a +), put back the positive, then put back the negative.