Man looking under the car hood trying to figure out if its the car battery or the starter

How to Tell if its Your Starter or Your Battery

How to Tell if its Your Starter or Your Battery

We’ve been there. You’ve hopped in the car, put keys in the ignition, turned them over and…. nothing. Or faint clicking. Or a whining sound. Take the keys out and try again, because the second time’s the charm, right? And… still nothing. The vehicle simply will not start.

Don’t panic. Chances are it’s one of three basic components: the starter, the battery or the alternator. These three parts work closely together so they can be difficult to diagnose, but we’ll go over how to tell which is most likely at fault for your interrupted day.

Man looking under the car hood trying to figure out if its the car battery or the starter

Signs the Car Battery is Dead

This is the cheapest and easiest to replace, so let’s diagnose this issue first. When you attempt to start the vehicle, is there a clicking sound, but it won’t turn over? That may be a good sign. If a jump gets the car running, but won’t turn over again once it’s shut off, a dead battery is likely the cause.

Why did my car battery die?

We’re sure you’ve already done this as soon as the trouble started but take a look to see if you may have left the interior or exterior lights of the vehicle on or if a door didn’t shut completely. If lights didn’t cause the issue, pop the hood and check the battery terminals. If you see corrosion (white powder type substance) on the terminals, you may just need a quick scrub with a toothbrush and some baking soda solution to help connection. Still not the problem? Let’s consider the battery’s age. A car battery lifespan is around 4-5 years. If your battery is younger than 4 and has no other issues, have your issue diagnosed as soon as possible. If it is the battery, you may have a valid warranty and could have a replacement option. If the diagnosis comes back stating your battery is fine, then it may be a bad alternator.

An alternator keeps the charge of your battery, so if nothing seems wrong with your battery but it won’t keep a charge, the next step is to check the alternator.

Signs of a Bad Alternator

  • A growling or whining sound before dying.
  • A smell of burning rubber, which can indicate an overheating alternator burning wires.
  • Headlights and interior lights that are dim or flicker, or fade between dim and extra bright.
  • Gauges behaving strangely.
  • Jumping the vehicle enables a start, but the engine dies almost immediately.
  • A ‘GEN” or battery light on your dashboard is lit.
  • A dead battery with no likely cause.
Check Engine Light Services at Global Automotive in Bealeton, VA

If your vehicle shows these symptoms, a bad alternator is the most likely cause. If these don’t line up with your vehicle’s issues, you may have a bad starter.

Signs of a Bad Starter

  • A clicking sound can be heard when you turn the key.
  • Turning the keys in the ignition won’t start the vehicle, but the dash lights come on.
  • When jump starting your vehicle, it does not turn over at all.
  • The vehicle cranks slowly or may even turn over weakly.

We hope this guide will be helpful the next time you experience starter, battery or alternator issues. The helpful mechanics at Global Automotive will be available when and if you need us. Call to discuss your auto repair issues and schedule a diagnosis or inspection today to keep your days uninterrupted and your car running smooth. (540) 439-9090

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