Car won't start

I was wondering if anyone can help me I have a 98 Nissan Sentra every now and then when I get in it to start it I get nothing but if I hold it or turn it to the off position a few times it will start if anyone knows what this could be please let me know

Could be a worn ignition cylinder (key hole).
Have you had your battery tested lately? Have the cable connections been checked for lack of corrosion and proper tightness? How old is the battery?

Could also be the starter assembly. If the solenoid is intermittently not working, nothing else in the starter assembly will work either. But I’d suggest getting the battery and its connections checked out first. If that’s all fine, and if the mechanic can get the malfunction to occur, he’ll be able to check if the starter assembly is bad.

Agreed with mountainbike. You might turn the headlights on and note how much they dim while starting the car.
That’s not a very scientific test but could provide an indication of battery strength without getting into diagnostics and money.

The lights should dim a little but not substantially with a good battery; assuming the starter motor itself is not worn and dragging.

After I hit the key a few times it starts right up and the battery seems strong but I will get it tested I was thinking it was the starter because I don’t get anything not even a click but then when I hold it or try it a few times it starts right up once the starter is doing its part

The ignition switch goes to a relay, that goes to a solenoid, that goes to the starter. If one component fails you have no spinning of the starter. On a '98 car any one of these parts could have a fault. I’d check the relay first, then the ignition switch, then the solenoid, all before replacing the starter itself.

It is also possible to simply have a bad connection to the battery and ground. Clean the battery terminals. And check the ground wire where it connects to the motor. On such an old car the battery and ground cables can be rusted internally (under the plastic insulation) and might not be able to carry all the juice needed for the starter to work. These problems can be intermittent. When you turn the switch a few times some current is passing through the cables. This can heat them up just enough so the faulty cable can make enough internal contact to flow sufficient current to run the starter. The problem will get worse and more frequent until eventually you have no more starting at all.

I Agree With Uncle Turbo. Remove And Clean Battery Cables And Terminals.

I assisted a car owner with this same situation just 2 days ago. Cleaning battery/cable terminals solved the starting issue. If it’s unusually cold where you are then it makes more sense. The cold seems to exacerbate this problem (and most others, too!).

The other suggestions could also prove to be right on, but start with the battery connections. Be sure and follow safety precautions. If unsure what you’re doing, get help.


There’s a number of possibilities. It’s a common problem. Pro mechanics have a fairly simple voltage test they measure it at the starter terminals they could do to narrow it down for you. I’ve had this problem w/my Corolla a few times, and in one case the symptom was very similar to what you say. It turned out the starter motor solenoid contacts were worn out. Every time you start the car they burn a little of the metal away. The way it works, there’s an upside-down mushroom shaped thing that is pulled down with the key in “start” to bridge too two copper contacts. If that connection is solid, the starter motor will spin. But if it isn’t, it won’t. The reason why it works one time and not the next is b/c each time you turn the key to “start” that mushroom things spins a little. So if it has bad spots and good spots, there’s a chance on the next try you’ll hit the good spots. Sort of like a slot machine. Except in this case each time you win, you wear out the good spots a little more. So in short order it won’t start no matter what you do. Until you replace the starter motor or at least the solenoid contacts.

The contacts also arc a little every time they open and close. The arc creates carbon, which can build up to create resistance on the contacts and the arc also vaporizes the contact material, slowly eating the contacts away.

Whoa. Mr. Cheap Thrifty Here, Since Wayne Describes The Problem Frequency As “every now and then,” And He’s Asking For Advice, I Still Recommend Easiest, Cheapest Possible Solutions, First.

Since Wayne is asking for advice here, I’m guessing he’s a non-pro, as am I. Also, we’re talking about a car 17 model-years old!

Before spending money on it, why not try inexpensive free fixes first and try removing battery terminals and cleaning them and the battery posts, eh?


Ya I think I found the problem the battery terminal was a little loose I don’t know much about the car I just picked it up for 700 so I hope this was the problem i don’t want to put too much money in the car it’s only a beater with a heater I’m only driving it back and forth to work to save a little money on gas

Congrats on getting it back on the road and starting reliably. CSA’s advice was spot on.

A tip of the hat to both Wayne and to CSA.