Car won't start, headlights, power windows and doors work, no noise from engine

My 2002 Sebring won’t start. Here’s what happens:

Turn the key in the ignition. Engine makes no noise at all. It’s sorta like when the battery died 2 months ago, except this time the power windows and doors work, the headlights and interior lights work, though oddly, the radio doesn’t. The radio, FYI, is not the one that came with the car. I bought it back in 2010 after the cassette deck on the original broke and I needed something with an Auxilary connector to connect my Ipod to. I had it professionally installed.

So the car doesn’t start. The engine doesn’t make any noise. The headlights do come on. The dashboard lights that normally come on when you try to start it up (the check engine light, the airbag light etc., also do not come on at any point. I don’t recall any particular clicking sounds when I turn the ignition. I do remember hearing these clicking noises (sort of a quick one time click for each key turn) when the car wouldn’t start due to battery/alternator issues two months ago.

So I did a bit of research, and I think it’s either the starter solenoid or the ignition switch. Am I far off base? What do you guys think? And what would you expect to be a cost? I’m no good at repairs myself, so I’d have to find a professional. My mother graciously offered to pay for this, because I’ve had a lot of car troubles in the past year and I had a bit of a panic attack when I told her about this one.

The starter needs much more power than headlights, so this could be a simple as a discharged battery. If you have a battery charger, hook it up and charge the battery. What about your driving habits? Is the car used daily? Is the main use short trips?

Since you had battery issues a few months ago that old weak battery might have overtaxed your alternator to the point where it is failing now. Your new battery might not be getting a good charge due to a weak alternator, or just too little driving to keep it fully charged.

try putting the shifter in “N” or the “D” and try again , I think Uncle Turbo is on to something. incase my idea dosn’t work check the fuses and the releys that can also be bad

I’m with Big Marc on this one. You need to eliminate the possibility of a bad neutral safety switch first. Just shift to “N” and try and start the car. Shifting to “D” Big Marc will not allow the vehicle to start so I don’t understand that part of the comment. You may have meant “P”. In any regard Thrifty…try to start the vehicle in “N” first.

Read the OP’s previous post back on Sept 4 about the lights dimming after getting a new battery and a new alternator. He says he drives about 250 miles a month.

The OP needs to find out if there is a parasitic load drawing power from the battery when the car is parked and “off”. He mentioned an aftermarket radio was installed.

A chronically undercharged battery will make an alternator work harder and that will make the headlights dim more when things like the cooling fans cycle on and off. There could be a short somewhere or another fault in the wiriing that is drawing off power from the battery.

The '02 Sebring is one of those cars that gets expensive due to a lot of repairs as they age. The OP might want to look at replacing this one before it becomes a money pit for him.

No it didn’t start when I tried to put it in neutral either.

And I can’t replace this car. Even a used car would cost easily $5000 or more and I couldn’t trust that it wouldn’t itself be a money pit. A new car is out of the question.

And I think the headlight dimming might have just been because the connection on the passenger’s side headlight was loose.

I might have to take this back to the garage that did the alternator repair and have them look at it. You think they could have done some faulty wiring that is causing this new problem?

I took a voltmeter to my battery. It says it’s got 12 volts. Isn’t that a good, healthy charge?

12.6 volts is fully charged. each cell makes 2.1 volts times 6. has the battery been tested? if good you will need a wiring diagram of the starter cercuit start checking to see if your getting voltage at the starter then work your way towards the dash.

Battery charge is best checked by a load test. Many auto parts stores provide this service for free. That’s the first place to start. I’m assuming the engine isn’t turning over. For the engine to turn over two things have to be verified by measurement:

  • Battery must provide at least 9.6 v to the starter battery terminal when the key is in “start”.

  • The starter selenoid must receive the “start” signal of specified voltage for the starter, usually at least 10 volts.

That’s usually where a mechanic will start, looking at the voltages at the two starter motor terminals. If the problem is due to a low voltage on the battery terminal at the starter motor when the key is in “start”, that is usually caused by a bad battery or bad battery connections. If the problem is due to not receiving the “start” signal at the SM selenoid, that is usually caused by a bad ignition switch, clutch switch (if manual), neutral saftey switch (if automatic), and/or starter relay.

Is there a fuse involved in the starting function, like out under the hood??

If the engine light and all the warning lights do not come on then your system is not getting primary power to the computer. Start with the system relays or the ignition switch. It is not the battery or the alternator. The power is not being routed to all the normal switch on circuits.

I hate to repeat myself, but is there a fuse in the starting system??

Euryale you think the car’s computer could be busted?

Hey all.

This is resolved. In the end, it turned out that the root cause was one burnt out fuse under the hood. Total repair cost:

$4.29 parts (for a set of fuses I bought at the Pep Boys)
$0.00 labor (because I didn’t panic and take it to a repair shop and managed to do this myself).

Car starts right up, dashboard warning lights come on like they’re supposed to, radio works. I’ll have to reprogram my radio’s presets and set the time again, but that’s why I keep the manual for the thing in the glove compartment. Setting the original radio’s clock and presets was easy; the new one not quite so intuitive.

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Oh and thank you all for your input. It helped steer me down the correct path to the root of the problem.

Great to hear. Congrats.

I would think that the malfunctioning dash lights and radio would point to a malfunctioning ignition switch. The other answers don;t account for these.

Uh oh. The car wouldn’t start again. I checked the same fuse, and it blew. I replaced it and tried again; it instantly blew again.

What fuse blew? This may be an obvious question but you did replace it with one of the same rating, I take it?