The most common reason for that rapid clicking noise when your car fails to start is a dead battery. However, a single click could mean a malfunctioning starter motor, or something even more ominous. Here are the most frequent reasons why a starter clicks when you’re trying to start your car.
Car Starting Basics
Turning the ignition key or pushing the “Start” button sends battery power flowing through the ignition switch to the starter relay or starter solenoid and computer (ECM). The relay/solenoid is the switch that engages the starter motor. That sends full battery power to the starter motor, engaging a pinion gear (also referred to as a Bendix Drive) that meshes with and spins the flywheel ring gear. The flywheel turns the crankshaft which gets the pistons moving up and down in the cylinders.
The ECM meters air and fuel into the cylinders and signals the ignition system when to fire the spark plugs, igniting the air/fuel mixture compressed by the pistons. And then your engine starts!
So What’s That Clicking Noise?
Clicking when starting usually means the starter motor pinion gear is crashing into the flywheel due to a depleted battery that doesn’t have enough “juice” to spin the engine.
Multiple clicks (rapid clicking)
Rapid clicking usually indicates there is enough power in the battery to bring the starter motor to life but not enough to crank the engine. When it can’t get your engine spinning, the starter motor turns off and on. Each time it turns on, the teeth of the pinion gear clatter against the teeth of the flywheel. That’s the clicking that you hear.
A single loud click when starting (even after trying to jump-start your battery) is usually caused by a faulty starter motor, starter relay/solenoid or other electrical problem. However, if your engine has locked up (seized) the starter pinion will smash into the flywheel, making a loud clunking noise as it tries to crank the engine.
If you have any more questions, feel free to reach out to us and we’d be happy to assist you.