How many clicks do you hear?

When your vehicle makes a rapid clicking noise on startup this means that there is an issue with your battery not being able to start up. The rapid clicking noise that you hear is the solenoid and starter motor gears attempting to get the car running but continually failing and trying again. It is important to note that this does not always mean that there is a fault with the battery, for example, it could be an issue with your alternator. A single click means an electrical fault.

The car won’t start and makes a rapid clicking noise?

If you are hearing a rapid clicking sound while starting your engine it might be a battery or alternator issue.

How do I know if my alternator is faulty?

The alternator is a device that charges your car battery. There are several signs that your alternator is at fault.

Faulty Headlights

One sign would be a dim or very bright headlight. When an alternator is about to fail it begin to give incorrect voltages to other components in your vehicle, one of which would be your headlights. Another lighting defect that is caused by a faulty alternator is a flickering of your lights i.e going from very dim to very bright.

Dead Battery

Another symptom of a non-functioning alternator is a dead battery. If your battery is dead, then the first and most likely cause is that you have drained the battery without the engine running. The Alternator in your car will only recharge the battery when the engine is running, so if you left the headlights on overnight and the next day the battery was dead then this not the fault of the alternator. That being said, if you jump start your car and it starts up again only die very shortly after then it is most likely a cause of the alternator.

Whining Sound

Car’s make a lot of strange noises most of which are normal but if you are hearing a growling or howling noise coming from your bonnet your alternator may be broken. This noise occurs when the belt that moves the alternator is broken or displaced. If this is the case you will need to consult with a professional to have it repaired.

Burning Odor

An alternator operates with the use of a belt, this belt being close to the engine is at risk of overheating or being damaged by the constant friction and pressure that it is under. If you smell burning then this might require a new belt for your alternator.

Battery Light

The most common assumption a driver makes when they see a battery light on in their dashboard is that it must be a direct cause of the battery. The battery light being on indicates an electrical fault which in some way is linked to the battery. This means that this light can be caused by the alternator or other electrical components and it does not always mean that the battery in your car needs replacing.

Battery Symptoms:

It can be quite hard to diagnose why exactly your car won’t start because when you search online it is quite likely that a lot of the symptoms can overlap between the alternator and the battery. Similar to the alternator, a bad battery will cause issues with the Lights, your car might not start or will cut out. What can really help is owning a battery monitor & charger, which you can buy here.

So what is the best way to tell if the best and most effective way to determine whether or not the battery is the direct cause of your car not starting?


A great way to tell if the battery is the problem and not the alternator is by looking under the hood and taking a look. If your battery is covered by a blue or clear corrosive substance either near the positive terminal or the entire top this a sign that your battery is leaking acidity or fumes. This unwanted substance reduces the efficiency of the battery and is most likely the reason your car won’t start.

Battery Age:

Batteries don’t last forever, if your battery is more than just a few years old and you are having trouble stating up along with a clicking sound then suspect your battery. If you are unsure how old your battery is, take a look there should be a round sticker on the top of the battery that has a date on it.

What to do if your battery or alternator is broken:

If you have determined whether it is the battery or alternator that is making your car fail you are probably wondering what you should do next. If you are not a professional mechanic, then we would recommend getting a mechanic to repair and letting them know what you believe to be the issue. It is always very useful to be able to diagnose your vehicle before bringing it as this lowers your chances of being overcharged or getting unnecessary work done. If you are at the side of the road, you should try jump-starting the car to get it running. If you can successfully get your car started again you should drive it straight to the garage to have your car inspected. This will save you from the risk of another breakdown and might even prolong your vehicle’s life.

How To Jumpstart Your Car

So your car won’t start and you are hearing a rapid clicking noise which means that your car doesn’t have the energy to start running. If you are not a mechanic then you know that you cannot fix the problem yourself and you will need to bring your car into a garage. A jump start can be a great temporary fix to get your car into a garage without the need for an expensive tow.
What you need
If you have a set of jump leads already in your car then all you will need is a second vehicle. If you don’t have a jump lead and you have broken down on the side of the road, try using your hazard lights to indicate that you’re having mechanical issues. Make sure that you stand clear of the roadway to avoid ongoing traffic and someone might stop to help you out. If your car isn’t starting in your driveway you can buy a jump lead if you don’t already have one.
Connecting The Jump leads
Once you have a jump lead and a second vehicle, you can start by making sure both vehicle’s engines are turned off. In the broken-down vehicle, double-check that your headlights, your radio, and any other battery-draining source are turned off.

Here is an example of two cars connected with jumper leads.

Photograph by Longhair, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Before connecting the leads you should consult your owner’s manual to make sure you follow all of the correct safety procedures. First, connect the red jump lead to the positive side of the flat battery. You will be able to know which terminal of the battery is positive by the indicated plus (+) on the positive terminal and negative (-) symbol on the negative. Then connect the other side of the positive lead to the other positive terminal on the second vehicle. 


Here is a car battery, the blue terminal is the negative and red the positive

Santeri Viinamäki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With the second vehicle (The one with a battery that isn’t flat but is turned off currently) attache the black ground wire to the negative terminal. Then attach the other side of the ground cable to an earth i.e a source that is connected to the ground. A good spot to ground a cable is a solid metal part of your engine.

Now start the engine in the second vehicle, be sure not to touch the jump leads, and stay clear of the batteries whilst the engine is running. While the second engine is running try to start your car. If it doesn’t work the first time try a few more times and hopefully your car will start again.

What to do when your car won’t jump start?
If your car won’t start with jump leads, it may just be a simple case of a poor connection. Trying to clean the terminals with some rubbing alcohol and cleaning the connection. Wait until the connection area is totally dry before attempting another jump start. If that doesn’t work, ask yourself could the jump leads be faulty? If you have had the jump leads for a long time or have been using them regularly, they may be broken. Try a new set of leads to see if that does the trick. If you are certain that the cable works fine, then there is most likely a problem with your battery. Your battery could be so drained that it cannot start without being recharged in a garage. In this case, you might, unfortunately, need a tow unless you have a means of recharging your car battery yourself.

The car won’t start and makes a single clicking noise?

If your car won’t start and you only hear a single clicking noise then the most likely cause is an issue with ignition or started. The starter works when you turn the key in your car or more modern cars at the press of a button. When you attempt to start your engine the starter becomes energized and an electromagnetic current triggers the movement of a piston that comes in contact with the gears. The gears turn the flywheel which then turns the starter. Simultaneously, the sparker plug ignites the fuel in the combustion chamber and the car is running.

This is what your starter looks like when removed from your vehicle.

Willdre 00:20, 8 February 2007 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Signs Of A Faulty Starter:

A grinding noise

If you hear a grinding noise whilst trying to start your car then the most likely culprit is that your starter is having issues with moving your flying wheel. Even if you are able to get your car started again without a mechanic you should go to a mechanic. Ignoring this problem could result in permanent damage to your flywheel which is quite complicated and expensive to have repaired.

Smoke Beneath Engine

If you see or smell smoke when starting your car it may be caused by your starter motor overheating or a busted fuse. In either case, you will need your vehicle to be looked at by a certified mechanic to get this fixed.

If you find that your battery is dying very often then you should defiantly consider what else could be possibly causing it. Could it be that your car radio is draining your battery?

Still unsure about your car not starting?

What you should do:

If you still cannot diagnose your car then you should just bring it to a qualified mechanic. If you are still determined to work out the issue yourself we have tried our best to answer any further questions below.

FAQ’s For When Your Car Won’t Start and you hear a clicking noise
Why will my car only start when I jingle the keys in the ignition first?

If your car will only start when you jingle your keys in your ignition there is an issue with your ignition switch.

How much does it cost to replace the starter in my car?

A new starter will cost between 50 USD and 350 USD depending on your car model. This does not include the cost of the installation by a certified mechanic that will set you back a minimum of 150 dollars and could cost up to 1000 dollars.

How much does a battery cost to replace?

The average cost of a car battery in newer models is between 80-200 dollars depending on the model. This price does not include installation, you will need to get a quote from your mechanic to know the total cost of repair in your area.

How much does an alternator cost to repair or replace?

Expect to pay around 500 dollars or more for a full alternator replacement. If the alternator only needs to be repaired, for example, if you need to replace the belt you can expect to pay a lot less.

How long can you leave a battery without starting the car?

If you are wondering how long it is to leave your car without starting it, the answer depends on how old your car. If your car is quite modern then it should be fine to leave your car for a couple of weeks. If you don’t start your car for two weeks your battery should run without needing to be charged. For older vehicles, the time can be significantly less.

How long can I drive my car after the alternator stops working?

Technically as long as your car battery still has power remaining it your car will start and run. Although you should bring your car to a mechanic as soon as you realize there is an issue with the alternator, this will save you the hassle of a roadside breakdown or further damage to the mechanics of your car.

Can an alternator go bad quickly?

An alternator can go bad suddenly or it can show signs first, the most common issue being with the headlights flickering or being dim.

Is there any other reasons my car won’t start?
Yes, there are other causes to why your car won’t start other than a bad alternator, starter, or battery. Other causes include engine failure, lack of fuel, overheating, bad fuses, and much much more. You can check out some of our other repair guides if you need more help in diagnosing or repairing your vehicle?
Should I replace a car battery myself to save some money?

Unless you are a certified mechanic or technician you should not attempt to do a car battery repair yourself. Although it might be tempting to carry out a battery replacement, if you are unqualified you would be putting yourself at serious risk of electrocution or even death.

My key is stuck in the ignition, what should I do?

The first thing you should do if your key is stuck in the ignition is to check the steering wheel. Wiggle the steering wheel back and forth, because sometimes the key will stick in one position as your steering wheel is locked into place. Do not try and force the key out as you are at risk of breaking the key inside. Another reason that your key might get stuck is if your battery has died, this is true for most modern cars as your vehicle is unable to read the chip on the car.

What should I do if my car key breaks inside my ignition?

If your car key breaks inside your ignition, get pliers and place the tip inside the ignition. Then gently open the pliers to try a displace the broken key piece. You should be very careful while doing this as you could cause damage to your ignition, this only should be done in an emergency and when you cannot remove the key with your hands.

If you are not in an emergency then you could simply call a mechanic to remove it. This is quite a simple procedure to do and you should expect to pay too much. Don’t forget to get a new key cut as well, if you do not have a spare. A new mechanical key should cost around 25 dollars, with a fob key ranging in price from 75 USD to 350 USD and even more.

We have done our best to answer any questions we think you could have when your car won’t start and you are hearing a clicking noise! If we missed something, we would love to hear from you, feel free to reach out to us in the comments.