Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

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Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

Reason why car struggles to start but runs fine

(1) Corroded battery terminal.
(2) Weak battery.
(3) Bad starter.
(4) Partially frozen battery electrolytes.


Car troubleshooting

There is a simple test that can be done to determine if this car has a battery-related problem. Begin by turning on the headlights. Then, turn the ignition key so the engine starts to crank and take note of the change in the brightness of the headlights. If this test is done during the daytime, you'll need a friend to stand in front of the car and watch the headlights as the engine is cranking.

If the headlight goes out while the engine is cranking Now, open the hood of the car. Locate the battery and look at it. Pay particular attention to the battery terminals. If there is a cruddy like substance on the terminals. As indicated that the car struggles to start but it does eventually start. If the headlights went out as the engine was cranking, we suspected a problem with the battery. Further, if the battery terminals have a cruddy substance on them - this means they are corroded. The problem is that the corrosion is interfering with the battery's ability to "send" current to the starter. This causes the starter to take longer to start the engine.

Corroded Battery Terminal

What to do?
You need to remove the corrosion from the battery terminals. A wire brush is a good tool for removing the corrosion. You may also want to apply some baking soda and water to help dissolve it. Avoid getting the dissolved corrosion on your hands since it is an acid. Finally, after the battery terminals are clean, you may want to coat them with petroleum jelly to help prevent these deposits from forming in the future.

If there is no cruddy-like substance on the battery, it means the battery is weak. it was indicated that the car struggles to start before it eventually starts. Since the headlights went out as the engine was cranking, we suspected a problem with the battery.

If you didn't notice a cruddy (i.e. corrosion) substance on the battery terminals. Therefore, any power the battery may have should be transmitted to the starter (i.e. it isn't being interfered with by corrosion on the battery terminals). Knowing this, it is very reasonable to suspect that the battery must simply be weak. A weak battery cannot provide enough current to start the car quickly which is why it struggles before it starts.

What to do?
If your battery is not sealed, check the liquid level in each of the compartments. The level should cover the tops of the plates inside the battery. If the level is low, add distilled water. This may be all your battery needs. If the starting problem indicated happened in very cold weather and the battery is fairly new, it may have an inadequate "Cold Cranking Rating". You may want to replace it with a battery specifically for cold weather. If neither of the above, replace the battery or have it recharged. Recharging will, of course, be cheaper.

If the headlight will not go out while the engine is cranking the problem is not the battery, could be the starter.

Shut the engine off if it's running and then try to start it again. Listen for any unusual sounds coming from under the hood as the engine is cranking. If there is a grinding or growling sound as the engine is cranking, then the problem is a bad starter. If none the starter is not a problem.

If you noticed a grinding or growling sound as the engine was turning over. This usually means the starter is bad. A bad starter will not turn over an engine adequately.

Bad Starter

What to do?
The starter needs to be replaced. Refer to a repair manual covering the car for the necessary instructions. You may want to buy a rebuilt starter since it is cheaper than a new one. If you want a garage to do the work, shop around for the best price. We recommend AAA approved garages.

If the starting problem happens on very cold temperature, then the problem is a partially frozen battery electrolyte. When temperatures are very low, the electrolyte within the battery may freeze or at least freeze partially. This causes a battery to lose much of its power and in turn not crank the engine quick enough to start it immediately.

What to do?
You may want to replace your battery with a battery that has a very good "Cold Cranking Rating". Such batteries are very effective in cold weather. Visit your local auto parts store and ask the salesman to explain the differences between the various batteries the store stocks.

Car Not Starting
On this page of the truth about cars, you will find the car not starting and starting troubleshooting and diagnosis. The troubleshooting guide indicated on this page is just the basic guide.
Learn more: Car Not Starting



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