Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine [Causes & How To Fix]

Your car not starting can be a frustrating and even stressful experience, especially if you need to be somewhere important.

There are many reasons why a car might refuse to start, but many of these issues are relatively simple to resolve.

In this article, we will go over some of the most common reasons for car refusal to start and provide possible solutions to help you get back on the road as soon as possible.

car struggles to start

Reasons Why Your Car Has Trouble Starting After Sitting

1. Dirty or Corroded Battery Terminals

Another common reason your car struggles to start is dirty or corroded battery terminals.

Dirt and corrosion can prevent the battery from delivering power to the starter motor, causing the car to struggle or not start. Cleaning the battery terminals and ensuring a tight connection can help resolve the issue.

2. Bad Alternator

The alternator is responsible for charging the battery and providing power to the car’s electrical system. If the alternator fails, it can result in a battery that struggles to hold a charge and a car that struggles to start after sitting. In this case, the alternator will need to be replaced.

3. Bad Fuel Pump

A bad fuel pump can also cause your car to have trouble starting after sitting. The fuel pump is responsible for delivering fuel from the gas tank to the engine; if it’s not working properly, the engine struggles to start. A professional mechanic can diagnose and fix the issue with the fuel pump.

5. Clogged Fuel System

A clogged fuel system can cause your car trouble starting after sitting. Dirt, debris, and other contaminants can build up in the fuel system over time, restricting fuel flow and causing the engine not to start. A professional mechanic can clean the fuel system and resolve the issue.

6. Bad Ignition Switch

A bad ignition switch can also cause your car to struggle to start. This switch controls the power sent to your car’s engine and other electrical components. If the switch is bad, your car is struggling to start. You’ll need to have the ignition switch replaced to resolve this issue.

How Do You Troubleshoot a Hard Start?

1. Check Battery Connections

The next step is to inspect the battery connections to see if they are loose or corroded. Loose or corroded connections can prevent the battery from providing enough power to start the engine.

Clean the connections and tighten them if necessary. Before jumping to more complex solutions, it is always wise to check the battery first. Here are some steps you can follow:

Make sure the battery terminals are clean and tightened properly. Loose or dirty battery terminals can prevent the car from starting.

2. Use a Multimeter to Test the Alternator Voltage

Use a multimeter to measure the alternator voltage while the engine is running. A healthy alternator should produce a voltage between 13.5 and 14.5 volts.

If the alternator voltage is lower than this range, it may indicate a problem with the alternator.

3. Check the Alternator Belt

The next step is to inspect the alternator belt to see if it is loose or damaged. A loose or damaged alternator belt can prevent the alternator from charging the battery, causing the car to struggle to start.

4. Check for Starter Motor Engagement

When you turn the key, listen for a clicking sound, which indicates the starter motor is engaging. If you don’t hear a clicking sound, the starter motor may be worn out or have an issue with the starter solenoid.

5. Check Starter Connections

Inspect the starter connections to see if they are dirty or corroded. Dirty or corroded connections can prevent the starter from receiving power from the battery, causing the car to struggle to start. Clean the connections and tighten them if necessary.

6. Check Fuel Pressure

Use a fuel pressure gauge to measure the fuel pressure. If the fuel pressure is low, it can indicate a problem with the fuel pump or a clogged fuel filter.

7. Inspect Fuel Lines for Leaks

The next step is to inspect the fuel lines for leaks. Leaks can reduce the fuel reaching the engine, causing the car to struggle to start.

8. Inspect the Starter Motor

The starter motor can cause a hard start if it’s not turning the engine fast enough. To test the starter motor, jump start the car or have a mechanic perform a starter motor test.

9. Inspect the Ignition System

The ignition system provides the spark that starts the engine. A failing spark plug, ignition coil, or distributor cap can cause a hard start. Perform a spark plug or ignition system test to diagnose ignition system issues.

10. Check the Engine Management System

The engine management system controls various functions in the engine. A failing sensor or control module can cause a hard start. To diagnose engine management system issues, perform a diagnostic test using an OBD2 scanner.

If you cannot diagnose the problem or make repairs, it’s best to consult a professional mechanic for further assistance.

What are the Signs of a Failing Starter?

There are several signs that indicate a failing starter:

  • Grinding or whirring noise when attempting to start the engine
  • Clicking sound when turning the key, but the engine does not crank
  • The engine cranks but won’t start
  • Slow cranking or weak engine turnover
  • The smell of burning wires or a burning odor coming from the starter motor
  • The engine starts and stops immediately after starting
  • Electrical issues, such as dimming lights, loss of power to the dashboard, and difficulty with turning the key

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic to determine if the starter is the issue and to prevent further damage to your engine.


Can a Faulty Fuel Pump Cause Hard Starting?

Yes, a faulty fuel pump can cause hard starting. If the pump is not delivering enough fuel to the engine, it can result in difficulties starting the engine or cause the engine to not start at all.

Other symptoms of a failing fuel pump can include engine stalling, loss of power, and decreased fuel efficiency. However, there can be many other factors that can cause a hard start, so it’s important to have a proper diagnosis by a mechanic.


If your car is struggling to start but runs fine once it’s running, several potential causes exist. These include battery issues, starter motor issues, fuel system issues, ignition system issues, and engine management system issues.

You may need to perform tests and replace parts to diagnose and fix the problem. If you’re uncomfortable performing these tasks yourself, it’s best to consult a professional mechanic.