Engine Cranks But Car Won’t Start Causes 

When your car doesn’t start, it can be more than a little frustrating. Whether you’re on your way to work, or just trying to go to the store, if your car doesn't work you know you’re in for trouble! But what are the main reasons why your engine cranks but the car won’t start?

The primary reasons that the engine cranks but your car won’t start are issues with compression, lack of spark, as well as low fuel flow and power problems. There can also be issues with newer cars and their electronics. Including bad sensors and security system flaws. Fuel and ignition issues are going to be the most common reasons why your engine cranks but the car won’t start.

When an engine begins to break down, it can be a lot of trouble. Not to mention a lot of money before it can be fixed.

Let’s take a closer look at the top reasons why your car isn’t starting. As well as how to trouble shoot the issues! After all, if your engine cranks but the car won’t start, there is still time to fix the problem before you have to completely replace the engine!

Spark Plug and Ignition Issues

One of the most common issues when your engine begins to turn over, but still won’t start is the lack of spark. No spark can happen when there is damage to the spark plug, there is a faulty crank position sensor. As well as if the engine is flooded or a problem with the ignition circuit. However, it could be a number of things within the ignition system. 

The spark plug, as well as the ignition switch, can often be the most problematic parts of the ignition process. First, you will need to check the spark plug to see if it is still functioning properly.

Checking Your Spark Plug

Here are the steps to checking your spark plug:

  • Step 1: Disconnect the spark plug lead. 
  • Step 2: Clean around the spark plug. This helps keep debris from getting into the combustion chamber when you take the plug out. 
  • Step 3: Use a spark plug socket to remove the spark plug. 
  • Step 4: Visually inspect the plug for cracks, erosion, as well as electrodes being burned off and other damages. 
  • Step 5: If there are no visual indicators, disconnect the spark plug wire from the spark plug. 
  • Step 6: Hold the spark plug wire close to a metal service. If it is a good plug, you will see a spark, or hear a cracking noise. 

Once you have tested the spark plug, as well as cleaned it and allowed it to dry, you can return it to your vehicle. If you have replaced it and your engine cranks and starts, even for a second, then you know that it isn’t the spark plug! No need to sell your car for cash right out the gates. 

However, you'll need to keep looking for the problem of why your engine cranks but the car won’t start. 

engine cranks but car won't start

via https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-in-black-shirt-and-gray-pants-standing-beside-black-car-4489765/


In most engines, every cylinder requires a certain amount of compression in order to function properly. The very fine line between too much or too little can make all the difference. Therefore, if your engine does not have an accurate compression ratio, your engine will not work! 

Your compression ratio is a comparison between the maximum cylinder volume to the minimum cylinder volume for each stroke of a piston in your engine. Overall, if one cylinder has a leak it's an issue. Not to mention if there isn’t enough compression, then you can cause damage to your engine! 

First, you will need to test your compression by using a compression gauge, or a tester. This allows you to see if you have low compression issues. A test can be done by a professional mechanic. Not to mention at home if you have the proper tools. If there is low compression, then you can have a mechanic perform a lead down test to see where the leak is occurring. 

Loose timing belts, as well as chains and even snapped overhead camshafts can all cause compression issues. All in all, it can be a very simple fix. That is if it is caught early and there isn’t damage done to other parts of the engine. After all, head gasket repair and broken piston rings aren’t cheap. 

Lack of Power So Engine Cranks But Car Won't Start

Another reason why your engine cranks but the car won’t start could be the power supply. A weak, or corroded battery can make it so there isn’t enough juice to turn the engine completely. Meaning the whole of the ignition system won’t work!

Checking your battery is one of the easiest ways to figure our why your engine cranks but the car won’t start. You can easily check to see if the battery is connected properly. As well as test the amount of voltage coming out of it! If you have a multimeter at home, then you can see if your batter is showing over ten volts. If not, it may be time to replace your car battery!

Replacing a car battery isn’t the cheapest, but it is one of the easiest ways to get your car up and running again. This type of engine repair is quick, and can be done at home with minimal instructions. Be certain to check your owner’s manual to see what type of battery is needed. Not only that, but also research how to carefully replace the battery in your car. 

Fuel Flow Problems

Issues with the fuel flow may also be another reason why your car engine won’t turn over. This can stem from any number of issues along the fuel line. Including a damaged fuel pump, contamination in the fuel tank, a clogged fuel filter, as well as a faulty injector. Not to mention, you could simply have a bad fuel gauge and your car is running on empty! 

First things first, make sure your car has gas in it! If there is fuel, and there is no fuel pressure, then you can simply listen for a buzz.

That’s right, turn your key in the ignition and listen for the fuel pump. If there isn’t a buzz shortly after you try to start, then it could be a problem with the fuel pump, as well as fuel pressure in your engine. Newer vehicles won’t have an active “buzz” for the fuel pump, so keep that in mind if you’ve got a new car. 

You can have a professional check to see if the fuel injectors are firing as well. This can be an easy task, but will determine if your fuel flow is somehow damaged. 

checking engine

via https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-black-jacket-and-black-knit-cap-inspecting-car-engine-3807277/

Sensors and Computers

The newest and best cars in 2020 and beyond have more and more advanced technology. However, if those tech components are not communicating properly, then your car may not start! If your car has fuel, the spark plug works, the battery has voltage, as well as the compression running at proper ratios, it may be your tech

Because in car computers control and monitor sensors and actuators throughout the vehicle, it can sometimes be as easy as a simple system reboot to get your car running again.

Have your car’s computer scanned for issues with codes or pending codes with sensors. For instance, there may be a lack of input from the crankshaft position sensor and it is causing the engine to not start! 

Not only that, but your security system could also be the problem. If a modern vehicle’s security system initiates the immobilizing, anti-theft system, then that could be why your car isn’t starting. It is simply a case of the chip in your key failing, or there is and error and it activated the security system in your car!

Take your car into a mechanic in order to have them check your system for any of these computer issues. It could be an incomplete code, or a sensor not working properly that is causing your engine to crank but the car won’t start!

Finding Out Why Your Engine Cranks but Car Won’t Start is Easy!

Sure, it’s pretty frustrating in the moment to have your car not start. A large variety of issues and prices ranges race through your mind. However, finding out why your engine cranks but car won’t start can be super easy! 

The primary causes for your car not turning over are going to be your power supply, compression, as well as ignition and fuel systems. Other issues can be with modern technology messing up your sensors or security. However, it's easy to troubleshoot these common issues and soon find a way to fix your car!

Whatever the issue may be, you’ve now got the tools to not only help yourself find the issue, but also troubleshoot some of them as well! All things considered, you can always take your car in to a professional if you’re not comfortable cleaning a spark plug, or checking a fuel injector yourself! This articles tells you how to find some of the most common reasons why your engine cranks but your car won’t start. Now all you have to do is fix it! 

As an Amazon Influencer, we earn from qualifying purchases you might make if you click any of the links on this page.

Rate this post
Hanna Embry

As a freelance writer, I have been creating content and writing blogs for over a decade. Not only do I love writing about cars, but I also have experience in many other fields. I have been a guest writer on many popular blogs, as well as ghostwritten novels. When I’m not writing, you can find me with my family, reading a book, or working on an art project.