Some journeys begin with a single step. Others with a vehicle’s starter. And if that vehicle’s starter won’t start, the journey’s not happening. Having your car’s starter and alternator checked regularly — say, when you have your oil changed — can make sure your journey isn’t stopped before it even gets started.
The starter uses energy from the battery to start your car when you turn the key (or push the start button in newer vehicles), while the alternator converts mechanical energy from your actively running car into electricity to keep the other systems in your car running, like your air conditioning, headlights and more. The alternator also recharges your battery as you drive.
When your car won't start, one of the first concerns is often whether there's an issue with the starter, or the battery. Here are a few helpful tips to diagnose the issue:
Single click vs. rapid click – When you try starting and hear a single click, there’s a good chance it’s your starter. A rapid clicking sound, however, is more likely to be a dead battery.
Lights on but no go – If your car’s lights come on but your car won’t start, your starter could be the problem.
Jump doesn’t work – If jump-starting your car doesn’t work, it’s more than likely a starter issue.
Engine won't start – Being unable to start your car is a top warning sign you may an alternator problem.
Battery continues to die – Your alternator charges your battery when you drive. That said, if your battery keeps dying after you’ve initially been able to get your car running, your alternator could be at fault.
Lights flickering – Again, the alternator provides electricity to your car’s lights and other systems. So, if they are acting up, it could be your alternator.
Grinding or whining – Remember, starters and batteries click while fading alternators whine or grind.
Smell of rubber burning – Unless you're intentionally burning rubber, this is unlikely to be a good sign. So, if you smell burning rubber during normal driving, let's get your alternator checked!
As with all components on your car, a variety of factors impact how long they will last. The average lifespan of a starter and alternator, however, is around 6-10 years or anywhere between 80,000-150,000 miles.
Being unable to start your car — or not having lights or air conditioning — can cause a slew of problems and stress. Having your car’s battery, starter and alternator regularly inspected can help prevent future issues and alleviate a lot of stress. Schedule an appointment at any of our locations and we can help get you safely back on the road again.