How to Diagnose Car Battery and Starter Problems

Use these tips to diagnose your car's battery and starter problems.


Up next in How to Make Simple Car Repairs (13 videos)

Taking your car to the shop is expensive. Save a bundle by learning how to make some automobile fixes yourself with these tutorials..

You Will Need

  • Careful listening
  • Dead battery symptoms
  • Faulty alternator symptoms
  • Mechanic
  • Faulty starter symptoms


  1. Step 1

    Turn on your ignition

    Turn on your ignition if your car engine won't turn over. Listen carefully to any sound produced.

  2. Step 2

    Consider a dead battery

    Consider the possibility of a dead battery. If trying to start the engine only produces a "click" sound, this may be the case. If you left your car lights on the night before, the battery could have gone dead, and you'll need to have the battery jump-started. If the battery is very old you may have to get a new one.

  3. Car batteries typically only last 3 to 5 years.

  4. Step 3

    Consider a possible alternator problem

    Consider a possible alternator problem if turning on the ignition produces a whining sound, but you have a newer battery. If the alternator is bad, it will not charge the battery when you drive the car. You can use jumper cables and another battery to start the car, but the same problem will occur again. Have the alternator checked and replaced if necessary.

  5. Step 4

    Consider a possible starter problem

    Consider a possible starter problem. If you hear a click when you turn on the ignition and the problem is not due to your battery, the starter's solenoid may have a weak spot inside. If so, the starter will not be able to produce enough current to start your engine, and you will have to have it replaced.

  6. Step 5

    Visit a mechanic

    Visit a mechanic if you're having trouble determining the sound your car is making. It's always better to be safe than sorry!

  7. The Oxford Electric Bell, a battery-powered bell at the University of Oxford in England, has been ringing almost continuously since 1840.