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

Engine won't turn over

I drive a 2002 Saturn SL1. I drove it today to work and church, got home around 9. At 10, my husband and I decided we needed to run to Wal Mart to pick up a few things, but my car wouldn’t start. I thought maybe it was a gas issue, so we went to WM in his car, stopping at the gas station on the way home and filling up the 2 gal. gas can. We got home and emptied it in my car which put my gauge around 1/4 of a tank. We started it – still nothing. I don’t THINK it’s the battery because my radio and lights all come on.



When I put the key in the ignition, my engine clicks, which I’ve been told is a common sound of a battery problem, but I don’t want to just assume. We live in an apartment complex and my steering wheel won’t turn w/o the engine being on (it locks itself a lot) so we can’t get my car or his in a position to try and jump it.



So, to sum up:

car won’t turn over

not due to low gas amount

clicks (once) when key is turned

battery SEEMS to be fine as all lights and radio come on inside the car



Any suggestions??

This could be nothing more than corroded battery terminals. Remove the terminals from the battery, make sure they’re real clean on both ends, tighten them down snug, and try again.

After that, if the battery is still weak, get a second set of jumper cables and attach them together to reach. You have two people so why not two sets of cables? Better than that but more expensive are 16’ cables. As always, wear eye protection. Batteries don’t explode often but when they do, the eyes suffer the worst damage.

If you have the type of battery with the posts sticking up on top, or on the side, disconnect the battery cables, use a file (or knife) to scrape the corrosion from the inside of the battery loops. Smear the battery posts with petroleum jelly (to prevent future corrosion), and reconnect the battery cables.
If the battery is 4 years old (or more), replace it. Look at the batteries cables. They may need replacing, also. WM has those, also.

I forgot to mention that the battery is only 9 months old. Not that it necessarily matters, just wanted to throw it out there. Thanks for the responses so far! I will try these tomorrow (or, rather, later today)

Being new does not rule out the battery.  You also could have a problem with the alternator, which may not be keeping the battery charged.

I figured, I just wanted to toss that info out there. My neighbors have yet to pull out so that I can use my husband’s car to jump mine… I’ll post as soon as I know.

If the battery starts after I jump it, how would I be able to tell it’s an alternator instead of a battery problem?

Dont be suprised if a jump doesn’t do it. When car batterys get very deeply discharged (really dead)they often don’t respond to a jump.

How about you remove the battery and take it for a load test and a charge? Then you don’t have to deal with the dangers presented when jumping a car.

The first indicator that the alternator is OK is that when you have the key turned to ON you DO have a Battery light illuminated (it is nor good not to have a batt. light with key on engine off) then it is good that the light goes out when the engine is started. These are just the very first basic things that must happen.

Then the alternator must be checked for output under load,there are various clever ways to check a alternator when you don’t have the right equipment but I want you to get your complete starting/charging system checked complete with parasitic draw test and battery load test.

Lets hope this is a electrical system issue and not a engine mechanical issue,I have my fingers crossed.

Don#t worry be happy try this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STDSDeV6N3k&feature=channel_page

It was, in fact, the starter. I figureds it was, but I didn’t want to give up hope that it was something cheaper.

I agree with budd on this one . . . start simple, take the terminals off and clean everything until it shines . . . cables, terminals, posts . . . even the ground. You’ll eliminate one possibility and I’ll bet it starts right after the jump-start. If you’re still weak . . . like slow starter, then you can move on to testing the abttery, alternator and so forth. Baking soda and water, made into a paste, will dissolve (safely) the build-up of corrosion, then you should use sand paper or emery (SP?) cloth to clean everything up. Good luck! Rockeman