5 Reasons Your Car Engine Won’t Turn Over

(Updated on December 15, 2022)

There is no worse feeling than trying to start your car and finding out that it won’t turn over. When a car does not “turn over,” it means that the starter motor is not able to crank in order for the engine to turn over. As a result, you will turn the key in the ignition and nothing will happen.

Do not confuse an engine turn over problem with an engine that won’t start. It is possible to turn over an engine and still have it not start. For example, if you have a problem with your spark plugs or fuel injectors, then your engine won’t start even if the starter is successful at turning it over.

On the other hand, if the starter doesn’t have the power or ability to crank the engine, then you can’t even begin the process of starting the engine.

Top 5 Causes a Car Won’t Turn Over

You may not be a car expert and that’s okay. But it is important that you are able to tell the difference between a car that won’t turn over and an engine that does not start but turns over.

Below are the five most common reasons a car won’t turn over. If nothing happens when you turn the key in the ignition, investigate these causes below and see if they are present in your vehicle.

1) Dead or Bad Battery

old battery

The starter motor needs electricity from the battery in order to provide the crank for the engine so that it can turn over. If you have a defective battery or one that no longer has enough of a charge, then your starter motor won’t be able to function.

If the starter motor can’t function, then the engine won’t turn over. Therefore, use a battery tester to see how much power your car battery has left. If it is low, then replace the battery and try again.

See Also: 5 Causes of a Car Battery Drain

2) Bad Starter Motor

bad starter symptoms

Since the starter motor is needed for the engine to turn over, you obviously need a functional starter motor. However, starter motors tend to gradually get worse as time goes on and eventual seize up or fail. You will begin to notice when they’re going bad because it will be harder for your engine to start.

Also, the noise that the starter makes when you turn the key in the ignition will be very slow. Eventually, the motor will get so bad that nothing will happen at all when you turn the key. Don’t let it get to this point. If you notice the early warning signs of a bad starter motor, get it repaired or replaced immediately.

Read Also: What Does a Faulty Starter Sound Like?

3) Poor Battery Contact

corrosion on battery terminal

If you have corrosion present on your battery posts or terminals, this can be just as bad as having a dead battery since electricity doesn’t transfer through the connection.

Fortunately, the solution for this is rather simple to perform. You just need to disconnect the cables from the battery and then use a wire brush to clean away the corrosion from the battery posts and terminals.

4) Faulty Ignition Switch

bad ignition switch symptoms

If you have a good battery but still nothing happens when you turn the key in the ignition to start, then it might be due to the ignition switch being bad. To test this, turn the key to “on” rather than “start”.

If you have a good ignition switch, then all the dashboard lights should be illuminating. If it is a bad switch, then the dashboard lights won’t come on.

Related: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Ignition Coil

5) Poor Starter Connection

bad starter motor

The connection from the battery to the starter motor needs to be secure. If there is any dirt or corrosion on the starter cable, then you will need to clean that with a wire brush just like you did with the battery posts.

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