If your car will not start but you know what to listen for, you may be able to figure the issue out from an audible signal. If, for example, you hear a repetitive clicking sound when you crank the key, then you can be fairly sure that the starter motor is not doing its job as intended. What is the cause of this clicking sound, and most importantly, what can you do next?
Starter Motor Process
The job of the starter motor is to engage and turn the engine flywheel until the vehicle sparks into life. The flywheel will automatically move the pistons up and down, and this will inject the fuel-to-air mixture. In the blink of an eye, the vehicle will fire, and the starter motor gear will automatically retract.
In order to kick this sequence off, a simple device known as a solenoid is attached to the side of the starter motor. This is a small switch that is supposed to push a gear forward so that it meshes with the larger gear. The solenoid is independent of the starter motor and might be trying to perform its task to no avail. As it does so, it will switch on and off in rapid succession, and this action will generate that tell-tale clicking sound.
Sometimes, the starter motor gear will jam in place and will fail to release. No amount of motivation from the solenoid will work, and the starter motor will need to be returned to its resting state. You can check to see if this is the case by engaging a low gear and then rocking the car gently back and forth. This effort may be enough to turn the engine slightly and free up the starter motor gear, but bear in mind that this test can only work on a manually operated car.
Repair or Replace
Over time, a starter motor can naturally fail, and don't be surprised if this is the outcome here. You will need to take the vehicle in to see a mechanic so that they can either repair or replace the starter motor because the job does require special tools and, typically, the motor itself is quite hard to access.
On Your Way
It is often possible to start a vehicle without an active starter motor if you can find someone who will help you with a push start. This is only a temporary fix, of course, as you will be stranded once again as soon as you stop the engine.
To learn more, contact a car repair shop.