How to Diagnose Car Battery and Starter Problems

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

You will need

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

Step 1 Turn on your ignition Turn on your ignition if your car engine won’t turn over. Listen carefully to any sound produced.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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