Whether you’re trying to leave for work or you’re out running errands, discovering your car won’t start is one of the most worrisome and inconvenient issues to deal with. Although there are several reasons why a car won’t start, the two most common culprits are a faulty alternator or a dead or dying battery. Here are a few tips on how to tell which of these components is causing the problem.
Is It the Battery or the Alternator?
The battery and alternator work together seamlessly to keep your car running. The battery provides the power to start the engine and runs all the electrical components, such as the lights, radio, and dashboard warning lights. The alternator generates the electricity to recharge your battery as you drive. When both are working properly, they essentially create a self-sustaining circuit of energy.
If the battery is dying, you may notice the following signs:
- An illuminated battery warning light
- The engine won’t crank or is slow to crank
- A clicking noise when you try to start your engine
- The interior lights don’t turn on
- Weak or flickering headlights
- Signs of fluid leaks, like dried fluid on the battery or its tray
- A swollen battery box
If the battery seems to be the problem, try jumpstarting your vehicle. If your car starts after receiving a jump, you should have your battery tested as soon as possible. This will help determine whether the battery can still hold a charge or needs to be replaced. If you have an old battery (three to five years old), it may be worth replacing it to avoid further frustration—or getting stranded.
If the jumpstart doesn’t fix the issue, and you’ve noticed any of the signs below, you may have a faulty alternator:
- Dim, flickering, or overly bright lights
- Slow or malfunctioning electronic accessories, such as power windows that won’t roll up or down
- Frequent stalling
- The alternator warning light is on
- Whining noises coming from under the hood
- Burning smells
- A dead battery
- Difficulty starting your vehicle
Keep in mind that if the battery warning light is on, it doesn’t necessarily mean the battery is causing the problem. It often indicates there’s a problem with the charging or electrical system. If the alternator’s voltage is too low, it can trigger the battery warning light to come on.
Battery and alternator issues have similar symptoms, which can make it a bit tricky to determine which is preventing your car from starting. If the alternator isn’t working properly, it can cause premature battery failure; conversely, if your battery doesn’t have enough of a charge to start your car, the alternator has no way of charging it.
Although the battery and alternator are the most common reasons a car won’t start, they aren’t the only ones! Here are some other potential causes:
- Bad battery connection
- A faulty fuse
- Bad fuel pump relay
- Issues with the ignition switch
- A dead key fob battery
- Failed starter motor
- The timing belt has failed
- Faulty fuel pump
- Not enough gas in the fuel tank
- A clogged fuel filter
- Ground cable wiring problem
Whether your car won’t start because of a dead battery, a faulty alternator, or any of the issues above, most of the signs you’ll see are very similar; in some cases, there may be a more significant issue going on that can only be determined by professional diagnostics.
If you’re having trouble figuring out why your car isn’t starting, visit Accurate Automotive Attention! We’ll perform a thorough inspection to get to the root of the issue. As the only AAA-Approved auto repair shop in Yuma, you can rely on us to quickly diagnose and repair your vehicle. We have two convenient locations to serve you. Call us today at (928) 783-8808 for our Central Yuma location or (928) 342-1912 for the Foothills location on South Frontage Road.