Car Trouble: Is It the Starter or Battery or Something Else?

Is your car giving out the dreaded sputtering noise and failing to turn over? A car that won’t start is a major problem and can be troublesome to fix. However, before you set about sorting the problem you must diagnose if it is the battery, starter, or something else entirely.

If you do not know the difference, have no fear. Below, we present our must-know guide to starter or battery problems, with fixes and a few other problems that you may encounter. 

The Battery

When your car won’t start, the battery is usually the best place to begin. Most batteries are quite reliable and can last on average from three to five years depending upon the quality. However, there are a few instances when the battery can suddenly drain, leaving your automobile powerless. 

Luckily, batteries are the cheapest of the car parts to replace. In fact, you can even give them a little push with the use of a jumpstart to breathe life back into them temporarily. 

The purpose of the battery is to turn over the starter. The acid in the battery converts its chemical energy into electrical energy that the car needs to power itself. It is drained of its amps temporarily and is then refilled by the alternator.

If you have a newer car, the battery is even more important. It will run the car’s computer and act as a surge protector to prevent damage in a sudden push in power.

Battery Problems

There are a number of signs that your car battery is dead. Firstly, listen out for odd noises. Low pitched whining noises and the noise of a cranking engine without it starting are both signs of a dead battery. 

No noises at all are also a sign of a flat battery. Check for any visible signs as well, such as the battery warning light illuminating. The latter could also be a sign of an alternator problem. 

If you are having recurring problems starting your car, or if you have had to jump-start your car repeatedly over a period of a few weeks, replace the battery. These are signs that it is past its best and ready to be replaced. 

The Starter

The starter is the next link in the chain, after the battery. When you turn the key, the battery converts its chemical energy to electrical energy through the starter. This then turns over the engine and the vehicle starts. 

If the battery does not function, the starter has no power. If the starter is not working, then the battery will feed it, but it will not convert the energy necessary to fire up the engine. 

Starter Problems

The most common sign of a failed starter is a clicking noise. If you turn the key but get this, it is definitely your starter that has the problem. Lights on the dashboard that illuminate without a start show that the car has power, so it is likely to be a starter and not a battery problem. 

Finally, if you jumpstart a car but it still does not turn over, it is most likely the starter. It could be an extremely flat battery that is causing this, but it is unlikely when jumpstarting. 

The Alternator

The alternator is a key component in the electrical running system in your vehicle. It charges the battery and powers the electrics. Without it, the battery will not stay charged while the car is running and you will lose all electricity in the vehicle. 

On average, an alternator lasts around ten years. It does not have to be replaced as much as the other parts.

The first sign is a warning light on the dashboard shaped like a car battery. This tells you there is a power problem, though this could also be to do with your battery.

Dim dashboard lights can also signify alternator problems, but could also be the starter. Headlights may also be weaker, flicker, or just shine dimly. 

Grinding and whirring noises may also be an alternator problem. The part spins to provide power. Worn out parts are usually audible in this manner.

It also uses a series of belts along with this, which may result in burning smells and friction if the alternator is faulty. Finally, if the car starts up after a jumpstart then dies out suddenly, the alternator is the culprit. This shows that power is being provided by the battery, but it is not getting the power to keep it going. 

What if It Is Not the Starter or Battery?

If it is neither of these problems, then start by checking your fuel. You would be surprised how often this happens. A fuel gauge may have become defective and not shown the correct amount in the tank, or you may have just not noticed. 

Fuel filters can also become clogged, meaning gas does not reach the engine. Filters should be cleaned every 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres to prevent this from happening. If you leave it, the car will not be able to burn the fuel it needs to get moving. 

How Do I Proceed?

While it may be fairly easy to replace a battery or get a jump start if you have roadside assistance you should consider calling them. Not only does it save you the hassle of waiting for someone to jumpstart your car, but you also run the risk of overpowering your car and causing a surge.

As soon as your car starts struggling to begin, you should check the battery at the next available opportunity. Leaving it until it totally gives out is simply asking for a disaster.

Finding Reliable Batteries

Prevention is the best way to tackle starter or battery problems, and while you may not be able to do much about starters, you can equip your vehicle with better and more reliable batteries. They may cost slightly more but will run for longer and keep your vehicle in the best condition. 

RB Battery is a worldwide, leading supplier of automotive and deep cycle batteries. We provide a complete energy solution for changing global power needs. Click here to see our range of battery products, and purchase a car battery renowned for reliability today. 

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