Problems starting car

Hey guys I was wondering if anyone can help me out figuring out what’s wrong with my car.

Recently my car has been giving me lots of problems starting. At first I thought it was a battery issue. All the lights on my dashboard would turn on but once I turn my key nothing happens . After trying to turn my car on all I would hear is one click . I spent 200$ on a new battery and the problem happened again . Thing is , it only happens sometimes and at the most inconvenient times at that.

I then thought it was a alternator problem but I ran the test to check that like taking off the the negative cable and even both after I started my car and the car stood running smoothly.
Had someone else check the alternator and they said it was fine.

Today I had to turn the ignition switch about 5 times before the car even started . When it finally started , it sound like it was struggling to turn on.

I have a 2001 eclipse gt.

Does anybody have an idea of what it can be?? Sometimes I’m scared to turn my car off . Someone told me it could be the cold weather , but I find it so hard to believe that it’s just that . Especially when it happens at the most random times . When it wants to basically .

Do not ever remove a battery cable with the car running. You stand a really good chance of frying your electronics. There are very easy and safe ways to check alternators, and many auto parts stores will do it for free.

That said, you either need a new starter or are having troubles with the battery cables. The one “click” is probably the starter solenoid energizing, but then the starter either doesn’t get enough power to go or its brushes are worn. I would first pull the main battery cables at both ends, inspect for corrosion, clean the connections, and retighten. That often does solve problems, but if not then you probably need the starter. For now, you can try keeping a block of wood handy and when this happens give the starter a good whack with the block of wood. This can sometimes get a worn starter moving.

Does the car have a manual transmission or an automatic transmission?

I am curious why you spent $200 on a battery you might not have needed, but you didn’t bother having a professional mechanic diagnose the problem when you finally got it started. If I had that hard of a time starting my car, the only place I would drive it to is a shop, and I’m not far from the poverty line in terms of income.

I recommend you stop throwing parts at the problem and take it straight to the shop the next time you get it started.

The reason I ask about the transmission is that it could be something as simple as a neutral safety switch or a clutch safety switch, which could be easily replaced or bypassed, but if you don’t know how to test these components, you need professional help. It could also be that you just need a new ignition switch, but based on your post, I don’t think you are qualified to tackle that job yourself either.

Pay a competent mechanic for a competent diagnosis. Any other path is likely to waste more money than you think you will save by not taking it to a mechanic.

I don’t understand why anyone would go out and buy a new battery as a diagnostic measure. Many auto parts stores will test your battery for free.

Whitey, it’s a automatic transmission. Only reason I haven’t taken it to a mechanic is because I really haven’t had time being I work 2 jobs . I really appreciate your comment . I just hope it’s nothing serious.

I already cleaned the battery connections and re tightened them . There’s a mechanic in my building that mentioned it could be the started . He seemed sure of it but I was told when the starter is failing it will make multiple clicking sounds and not start apposed to just making that one click it makes when I try to start it

A failing starter might click once or it might click a bunch of times. In either case, it indicates that it is underpowered or failing. You probably need a new starter. Did you only do the connections at the battery side? They have a whole other end. The positive cable goes straight to the starter. The negative cable goes and grounds out at various places. The starter itself grounds to the engine block though its mounting bolts, and the main part of the negative cable probably connects there.

Since it gives a click, that pretty much points you away from the neutral safety switch. If that was the problem, the starter relay would never send a signal to the starter and you’d not get a click.

No I actually did all the connections the other day. It definitely sounds like it’s the starter then. One more question, even though this problem happens at the most random times even a week or two apart ,does it still point towards the starter ?

Yes. The brushes get worn and then can be only intermittently effective. This is why whacking it with a block of wood can sometimes get it going.

But the real issue can be diagnosed/verified as well - all I’ve got is general description by internet so remember that. If it is giving you a click when you turn the key then I’m assuming the start circuit is fine (ignition switch through neutral safety switch through starter relay through S wire to the solenoid). Thus I am assuming that 12V is showing up at the S wire - this is a signal to the solenoid to energize the starter. Once the 12V shows up you only get the click either because a) the solenoid is bad or b) the starter is bad or c) the starter is not getting a full dose of power. The 12V on S wire can be checked with a volt meter.

I am also assuming that you do eventually get the car running without a jump start because you never mentioned having to jump start it. If that’s true then it’s unlikely that the problem lies in something like a parasitic battery drain that is leaving the battery too low. But that can also be checked with a voltmeter.

I am also assuming that the engine is not locked up for some reason - or you would be sitting with a straight no-start rather than intermittent.

So what is left is the cables that power the starter and the starter itself. On the cables, it is possible for corrosion to hide underneath the insulation. So you might want to peel some off and look underneath. You should only find shiny copper. But you can also check them - again with a voltmeter - for “voltage drop” on the cables:

If you know you get 12V on the s-wire (my assumption) and you know that the battery is sufficiently charged (also my assumption - 12.7V is full / 12.4V and less is getting TOO low), and you know that there is no significant voltage drop (I can assume nothing about that), and you know the engine is not locked up, then the starter/solenoid is pretty much all that’s left.


I turn wrenches for a living

In my experience, a lot of bad starters either make one loud click . . . or don’t make any sound at all

For what it’s worth, that mechanic living in your building could probably have diagnosed the bad starter with a multimeter in about 5 - 10 minutes

Would have saved you the cost of the battery . . .

Come to think of it, if you think this guy is capable, you could buy a starter and pay him far less to install it versus taking it to a shop . . .

My neighbors come to me for relatively simple repairs from time to time, because it’s more convenient and cheaper than dropping it off at a shop

Please keep us updated

Please do yourself a favor and confirm via troubleshooting that it is the starter before you replace it. I’ve seen armchair diagnosis of a bad starter be incorrect many times. I agree it’s probably the starter, but you should confirm it.

Exactly . . . that’s why somebody needs to crawl under there with a multimeter and a flashlight

Concur with others above, the first thing is to determine if it is starter or not. During cranking, there should be at least 10.5 volts on both starter terminals. If there is sufficient voltage at both terminals during attempted cranking, and it doesn’t crank, it is almost certainly a starter problem. Not a big problem, starters are a wearing item and designed to be replaceable.