People usually search “My car’s radio works, but car won’t start” when they are confused by what their car is doing. There can be a problem with the battery, cranking motor, fuel lines, or circuitry.
It is perceived that since the lights and radio are working, the battery must be fine, but this is not always true. This article will help you detect the exact reason why your car won’t start and guide you to fix it.
- 1 Why Does the Car Not Start but the Radio and Lights Work?
- 1.1 – Radio and Lights May Still Work With a Dying Battery
- 1.2 – Car Won’t Start Due to a Defective Starter Motor
- 1.3 – Unavailability or Low Levels of Fuel
- 1.4 – Non-functional Fuel Pump or Injector
- 1.5 – Engine Starting Issues Due To Faulty Circuitry
- 1.6 – Non-functioning Spark Plug or Ignition Coil
- 1.7 – Immobilizer Preventing Engine From Starting
- 1.8 – Dirt Stuck in Starter Cable
- 1.9 – Driver’s Mistakes That Stop Engine From Starting
- 2 How To Fix a Car That Does Not Start but the Radio Works?
- 3 Conclusion
Why Does the Car Not Start but the Radio and Lights Work?
The car does not start, but the radio and lights work because the battery is running down and only producing enough charge to run the radio or lights. Other reasons include problems with the cranking motor or faulty spark plugs. Some car immobilizers can also cause a similar situation.
– Radio and Lights May Still Work With a Dying Battery
If your car’s radio and lights are still working, you should not exclude the possibility of a dead battery. Most people believe that if their car battery is dying, it will not be able to power the lights or the radio. It is not true in most cases because a bad battery might be able to produce a little current.
Radio and lights do not need as much electric current or charge as cars need to start. A defective battery might still be able to produce some charge. Although not enough to start the car, it can keep the lights and radio operating.
You can observe the battery to detect this issue. Look for any leakage or corrosion on the terminals. Regarding corroded terminals, you will need sandpaper to rub the rust off the battery. For other issues, the only solution is to replace the battery, but before that, you must confirm the battery damage.
Use a multimeter and follow the steps mentioned below to inspect a failing battery:
- Select DC voltage settings on the multimeter and set the range to 20V.
- Turn off all electrical equipment and the car.
- Connect the red multimeter pin to the positive terminal and the black pin to the negative terminal.
- Note the reading on the multimeter. A well-functioning battery would show a reading of a little more than 12V. If you get a reading below 12V, the battery is dying.
– Car Won’t Start Due to a Defective Starter Motor
Check the starter motor if the car’s battery is in good condition. The battery sends power to the motor, and the engine cranks. The motor provides a rotational force that runs the combustion engine. A damaged motor can be a reason why you turn key and nothing happens but lights work.
The cranking motor comes in contact with the flywheel of the engine. Once the combustion engine starts, the motor stops working. Due to damage, the pinion inside the motor or other parts might stop working. As a result, the motor disengages from the flywheel. Since it does not come in contact with the engine, the car will not start. You might hear grinding or whining noises when the motor fails.
The motor may lose function due to damaged starter solenoids, bearings, brushes, or other components. Contamination can also be a reason for failing motors that leads to overheating.
Although it might seem funny, if the car won’t start but battery is good and starter is good, you might be out of fuel. Some car owners panic before running basic checks for their cars. An empty fuel tank, a faulty fuel gauge, or frozen fuel are common reasons that seem stupid but are easy to fix.
First, you need to check the fuel level in the tank. In this situation, the radio and lights may or may not work, so if the car won’t start radio won’t turn on, check the fuel. Most modern-day cars have a fuel gauge to show fuel levels, but older cars need a dipstick to check the levels. Check the tank levels and if they are low, fill the tank and try starting the engine.
Moreover, in some cases, the gauge works fine, and the fuel levels are also fine, but the fuel is not available to the engine. When cars are parked outside in cold weather, the fuel might freeze, so the engine will be unable to use it.
– Non-functional Fuel Pump or Injector
Even when the gas tank is full, the fuel might not reach the engine because of a malfunctioning pump or injector. The pump pushes the fuel into the injector, which injects it into the engine for combustion.
Lack of power supply, overheating, or contamination can damage the pump faster than usual. The injector can fail due to corrosion, contamination of fuel, or lack of maintenance.
You can notice the noise because a bad fuel pump produces a loud whining noise. You can also conduct a fuel pressure test or use a multimeter to check the electrical supply. The fuel pressure can also help detect a problem with the injector. There might be a defect in the injector if the reading lies below 40 to 45 psi.
– Engine Starting Issues Due To Faulty Circuitry
If your car won’t start just clicks but battery is good, there might be a problem with the fuse box, bad ignition switch, or wiring. A default in these circuit parts can cut the electrical connections from the engine.
A fuse may break to prevent the engine parts from damaging due to high voltage or irregular current. There are many fuses in the car, so if the car starts but no lights or radio, it can also be because of a bad fuse.
The spot of the fuse box inside the car varies with each model, but you can use the car manual to locate it. Once you find the box, notice any signs of wear or corrosion.
You should also look for the underlying cause. For example, the reason behind a blown fuse can be loose wiring connections. Or there might be faulty electrical components disturbing the voltage.
If the fuse is not blown, you can check the ignition switch. This switch activates when you turn the key on your car to start the engine. Aging, the use of extreme force, or accidents can damage the switch and break the circuit.
Locating the ignition switch is a bit tricky as compared to the fuse. You will have to look for it near the steering column or on the dashboard, depending on the model and make of your car. It is better to get instructions from the manual or a mechanic.
– Non-functioning Spark Plug or Ignition Coil
The spark coil and plug are part of the same system. Both these components work to ignite the fuel but have different roles. A problem with any of them can cause a situation where the car won’t start but lights come on clicking noise.
The spark coil converts the low voltage from the battery into high voltage. The spark plug needs to function properly. The plug utilizes the voltage to ignite the fuel in cylinders. There are one or more coils for each plug and many plugs inside the engine.
A problem with one plug or coil will not stop the engine from starting because there are many with the same purpose. Also, you can easily detect it because the engine would misfire, but if many plugs or coils fail, the engine will not start.
The car will display low fuel efficiency and stalling or rough idling. If the check engine light is on, you should check the plugs and coils. You can detect these issues by using a multimeter or a spark test.
– Immobilizer Preventing Engine From Starting
If the car won’t start but has power, your car might have an immobilizer protecting it from theft. These are usually present in modern cars, but if the immobilizer develops a defect, it will not recognize the driver’s signal. In such a case, you will feel that the car has power but won’t start no clicking sound appears.
The immobilizers are of different types and prevent the car from starting unless you provide a specific signal or code. For example, electronic immobilizers need a signal from the engine control module. Other types include mechanical (seat belts, key fobs, wheel locks, etc.) and fuel immobilizers (installed in the fuel pump).
– Dirt Stuck in Starter Cable
The starter cable provides an electrical connection between the battery and the starter. If there is no other problem, a dirty starter cable can be why the car engine does not start.
The dirt or debris creates more resistance for the current, so the starter does not receive proper voltage. You can detach the cable from both ends and use a cable brush to clean it along the battery.
– Driver’s Mistakes That Stop Engine From Starting
If you have considered all the reasons mentioned above, and the problem still exists, you should check for driving mistakes. For example, you might not press the brake pedal or clutch properly. If one of these issues exists, you should be happy because it does not need expensive repair.
Depressing the brake pedal to the maximum before starting the engine is vital in cars with an automatic transmission. Conversely, in cars with a manual transmission, there is a need to fully depress the clutch before starting the engine.
How To Fix a Car That Does Not Start but the Radio Works?
You can fix a car that does not start, but the radio works, by replacing the failing battery. You can also replace a bad starter motor if you have experience repairing a car. Replacement of bad spark plugs or fuel injectors can also fix the car.
– Replace a Failing Battery To Start the Engine
Start by cleaning the corroded battery, or jump-start if the problem persists. If the multimeter shows a reading of less than 12V, you should change the battery. A car battery costs around $50 to $200, depending on the battery power or brand. You can replace the battery by following these steps:
- Remove the key, turn off the engine, and let it stand in park mode.
- Find the battery under the hood and pinpoint the battery terminals.
- Disconnect the cable from the negative terminal with the help of a wrench, and then do the same for the cable on the positive terminal.
- Disconnect the clamps holding the battery in place and pull the battery out of the car.
- Use a wire brush to clean the tray and terminals and place the new battery in the tray.
- Put the clamps back on the battery and reconnect the battery cables on both terminals. This time start with the positive terminal.
- Start the engine to see whether the battery replacement is successful.
– Replace the Worn Starter Motor
Replacing a faulty starter motor is not as straightforward as a battery and costs more. You can buy the motor considering your car for around $100 to $500 but the total cost is even higher if you need to hire an auto repair mechanic.
You can save labor costs by replacing the motor yourself. The following steps will help you through the process:
- Engage the brakes and remove the key. Make sure the engine is cool before you start.
- Locate the motor with the help of the manual as it varies from car to car.
- Remove the positive and then the negative terminal cable from the battery. Disconnect the wiring connections from the motor.
- Remove the screws holding the motor in place and pull the motor out of the car.
- Place the new motor in the same position, screw it, connect the wiring, and put the cables back on the battery.
– Fix Faults in the Fuel Line
If you have detected a problem in the fuel line, for example, a damaged fuel injector or pump, you should replace it. These are not easy to replace, so it is better to hire a mechanic, but that will increase the total cost of repair.
Depending on the car model and make, you can get a fuel pump for $50 to $400. Some high-end pumps cost even more, so you may have to spend up to $1000. Hiring a mechanic can cost an extra $50 or $250.
Fuel injectors are available in the market for $50 to $300. You can choose the one that suits your car and budget. Most of the time, all injectors need replacement, so the total cost can be higher.
– Regular Tune-up of Car
Some issues that may not let your car start, can be fixed during a regular tune-up. For example, professionals can inspect and replace worn spark coils, plugs, timing belts, and fuel filters. Regular car maintenance can prevent more significant damage and fix the problem at the initial stage.
Now you know all there is about, “My car won’t start, but the radio and lights work causes fixes.” Before you try to fix your car or call your mechanic,
let us analyze the key points:
- A failing battery, worn cranking motor, and electronic circuit problems are common causes.
- Reasons that are easy to fix include low fuel levels, driving mistakes, and immobilizers.
- You can replace the battery, cranking motor, spark coils, and plugs to fix the car.
After knowing all the possible answers, you can get rid of this annoying problem and start your car like before.
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