Wont Crank Over

Step by step guide on how to repair an automotive engine that will not crank over (starter will not work.) This article pertains to all vehicles except electric.

Difficulty Scale: 4 of 10

Tools and Supplies Needed

  • Wrench set
  • Socket set
  • Flashlight
  • Voltmeter or test light
  • Battery terminal cleaner
  • Protective eyewear and gloves

Begin with the vehicle on level ground, in park with the emergency brake set.

Step 1 - Terminal or cable corrosion can hinder electrical flow not allowing the starter to pull a sufficient amount of amperage/voltage. Check for terminal/cable corrosion or loose cables.

Clean Battery Cable Ends

Step 2 - A starter motor must operate on a sufficient flow of electrical power. The battery must be in good working order to supply this voltage. Check the battery for proper voltage. Low voltage will also cause the starter solenoid to engage and disengage rapidly which creates a machine gun sound.

Automotive Battery

Step 3 - Once the battery has been checked, use a test light to inspect PDC (power distribution center) starter system fuses.

Test Fuses

Step 4 - After the battery and fuses have been inspected, use a test light attached to ground, have a helper turn the key to the start position while testing the small trigger wire on the starter solenoid, it should light up. Next, test the large power terminal which should also have power (light up). If both terminals have power the starter has failed and replacement is required. (Note: Use caution when testing as to not connect the test light probe to ground while checking for power.)

Start Motor


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2014-10-26)