Why Will My Car Only Start Sometimes? (Explained)

Does your car start sometimes and won’t start at other times?

This is a common problem most drivers face at least a few times during the service life of their car.

Sometimes the causes are minor and only require a quick fix, other times they’re more severe and wallet-draining.

Let’s explore all the reasons your car wouldn’t come on sometimes.

Here’s why your car starts sometimes and not other times:

The reasons your car doesn’t start sometimes can be because of a weak battery, extreme weather, an empty tank, and a faulty coolant temperature sensor. Your car may also not start because you have a bad starter motor, age and other issues.

How Come My Car Only Starts Sometimes?

Let’s paint two scenarios, with one being more serious than the other. If your car starts as it should every time and rarely stalls, it’s probably a minor situation. This may occur because of a temporary situation like cold weather or a discharged battery.

In the second scenario, your car does not start most of the time and only comes on sometimes. As expected, this causes great inconvenience in terms of reliability. It also signifies that there’s a problem with a major part which must be checked as soon as possible.

In the following headings, we’d explain more about the common reasons for an immobilized vehicle. There are so many factors that come into play that it’s hard to keep track of them.

The summarized answer is that every car undergoes wear and tear. You can almost always classify the reasons for a car that won’t start under inevitable wear.

And even when we discuss car maintenance, it turns out maintenance is only needed because car components wear out, eventually.

So, if your car only starts sometimes, it’s likely because some parts have gotten old. Let’s discuss what parts they are and how to prolong their service as much as possible.

Why Does My Car Hesitate to Start Sometimes?

Let’s start with the most obvious reason your car would stall. An almost empty fuel tank can cause your car to stall before it starts. This occurs because the pressure gets low when your fuel level goes down.

It may not even stop at stalling, so sometimes your engine may not start entirely. This problem may also cause damage to your car’s fuel pump. As fuel diminishes, the debris at the bottom of your tank gets caught up in your fuel pump.

A more serious case involves the battery. Your car may hesitate to start when you have a weak battery. Cold weather can also affect the way your battery responds.

Car batteries have to work extra hard in the cold to power up the car. However, if your battery is strong, the weather would only slow it down a little (often negligible). With a weak battery, you’d probably witness severe engine stalling before it comes on (if it comes on).

Your car may also hesitate before coming on in cold weather because of the engine oil you use. You’d usually have to use suitable winter oil with less viscosity. If you don’t, it’ll take a while for it to get warmed up to lubricate your engine.

Again, the effects are mostly felt in older cars than in modern ones. You should also ensure that you have a good fuel pump, working engine coolant temperature sensor, and fuel in your tank.

Is It Normal for Cars to Not Start Every Time?

Under ideal conditions, you shouldn’t have a problem with starting your car anytime you want to. However, conditions aren’t always ideal no matter how much you keep up with maintenance.

There’s a high probability that all drivers would encounter a car that doesn’t start, at least once. This doesn’t mean something dangerously serious must be wrong with the car. If you’re up to date with maintenance and best practices, it’ll not be a threatening problem.

That’s why it’s a great idea to know the various reasons that can be responsible for your car not starting. It might sometimes refuse to start even when everything seems in order. When all seems great, it’s usually something minor.

So, although no one can guarantee a car that’ll never have hiccups, you can minimize the hiccups you encounter.

Should Cars Be Looked at When Not Starting Consistently?

No matter how well your car performs, you must have it checked if it rarely starts as required. When you take your car to have it checked, your mechanic would check things like the starter motor and battery.

Even if you find a shortcut to fix the problems causing your vehicle to stall, examine it. From our experience, we know that most shortcuts do more harm than good to cars.

There’s also a common trend with automobiles in which faulty parts affect healthy parts over time. Usually, key components affect other parts that depend on them for operations. A common example is how a damaged alternator can ruin a healthy battery.

Other than the probable chain damages, there are other key reasons you should never let a problem stay unresolved. An obvious reason is to ensure safety. An unpredictable car is a safety hazard to everyone around it.

No one should have to drive a car that can choose not to power on whenever it feels like it.

Related: 6 Reasons A Car Won’t Start (Though Battery Is Good)

How Do I Know If My Battery Is Bad?

A quick solution is to check the color indicator on your battery. If the color is green, you have a well-charged battery, and another factor is responsible for your car not starting.

There would usually be a color key on the battery that explains what each color means.

However, to be sure that your battery is bad, you can’t always rely on the color indicator. Although there’s a sure and final way to check, there are symptoms you could look out for.

A revealing symptom is a loss of power to the headlights, radio, or any component that relies on the battery. Even if your headlights work, they may be very dim. Other times, your lights may work, but your car won’t start.

You may find that your battery is leaking, and an offensive smell usually accompanies this. Sometimes, the leak is very obvious, and it ruins your battery’s aesthetics. It’s also not uncommon for the battery to swell.

While a dead battery can also cause a loss of power, these may be signs of a bad one.

Under ideal conditions, your alternator should be able to charge your battery. Still, if it can’t, it doesn’t mean the battery is bad since the alternator can have faults of its own.

If these symptoms persist, an auto repair workshop can run tests to determine if the battery is bad or dead. If it’s only discharged, they’ll recharge it and it should be up and running in no time.

Related: 6 Reasons A Car Won’t Start After Driving A While (Solved)

Why Will My Car Not Start When the Battery Is Good?

Your car might not start because of the battery terminals. They get rusted and prevent the flow of electricity. Sometimes, you might have to remove the terminal connectors in the car battery.

If you find that they’re rusted, remove them gently to avoid damage. When you get the terminal connectors off, scrape off the rust and clean up with a neat, dry rag.

Other times, tapping or moving your battery a bit might get you on the road. As basic as this sounds, it works a lot of times and helps (temporarily) to get the battery running. However, it shouldn’t be a permanent fix.

If your battery still doesn’t work but you’re confident it should, it may be a problem with your alternator. When your alternator is bad, it cannot charge your car battery, so it hinders its performance. As expected, this may cause your car to remain immobilized.

If it’s an alternator problem, you’d see a warning light on your dashboard if everything else is in order.

Other components that may prevent your vehicle from starting are the starter and spark plugs. This is usually the case when you can’t find any other obvious problem with your car.

When the engine, battery terminals, battery, and fuel system all seem in great shape, examine your starter and plugs. This is even likely because spark plugs are a neglected component in vehicles. It’s not great because they are prone to lose their igniting ability over time.

Related: Car Won’t Start Though The Starter Works (8 Reasons)

Final Thoughts

So, there are several reasons your car may not start when you want or need it to.

That’s why best practices include taking care of all components of your car as much as you can. This way, when a problem prevents you from starting your vehicle, you can easily detect it.

On the contrary, if your entire car system is not well maintained, the problem can come from anywhere.


Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Battery | YourMechanic

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