My Car Starts Sometimes and Sometimes It Doesn’t

Starting your car and finding that it won’t start can be a frustrating experience, especially when it happens intermittently. One day, your car may start just fine, while on another day, it may refuse to start altogether. 

This kind of inconsistency can be not only inconvenient but also a sign of a deeper issue with your vehicle. 

This article will explore the potential causes of a car that starts sometimes and sometimes doesn’t, and what steps you can take to diagnose and resolve the problem.

a car that doesn't start

Possible Causes of Intermittent Starting Issues

One of the most common causes of intermittent starting issues is battery-related problems. The battery is responsible for providing the electrical power required to start the engine, and if it is weak or faulty, it can cause problems with starting the car.

One possible battery-related issue is a weak or dead battery. Over time, a car battery can lose its charge and become unable to supply the power needed to start the engine. If the battery is weak or dead, you may notice that the engine turns over slowly or not at all.

Another possible issue is a loose or corroded battery connection. Corrosion on the battery terminals can interfere with the electrical connection and cause problems with starting the car. Additionally, a loose connection can cause intermittent starting issues, as the electrical connection is not consistent.

Lastly, it could be an issue with the alternator. The alternator is responsible for charging the battery and supplying power to the electrical system while the engine is running. If the alternator is faulty, it can cause the battery to lose its charge, resulting in starting issues.

2. Ignition System Issues

Another possible cause of intermittent starting issues could be related to problems with the ignition system. This system is responsible for generating the electrical spark that ignites the fuel in the engine’s cylinders. 

If there is a problem with any of the components of the ignition system, such as the spark plugs, ignition coils, or distributor, it can cause issues with starting the car.

For example, if the spark plugs are worn out or fouled, they may not be able to create a strong enough spark to ignite the fuel. Similarly, if the ignition coils malfunction, they may not be able to generate enough voltage to produce a spark. 

Sometimes, the distributor may also be at fault, as it distributes the electrical current to the spark plugs and can become damaged or dirty over time.

If you suspect that the ignition system is the cause of your intermittent starting issues, it’s best to take your car to a trusted mechanic to have it properly diagnosed and repaired. Ignition system issues can be tricky to diagnose and fix, and attempting to do so without proper knowledge and tools can be dangerous and expensive.

3. Fuel System Issues

Another possible cause of intermittent starting issues is a problem with the fuel system. The fuel system is responsible for delivering the proper amount of fuel to the engine for combustion. A problem with the fuel system can cause the engine to struggle to start or not start at all.

Over time, the fuel filter can become clogged with dirt, debris, and other contaminants, preventing fuel from reaching the engine. Another potential issue is a faulty fuel pump, which may not deliver enough fuel to the engine or fail to work intermittently.

At times, the fuel injectors may also be the culprit. The injectors are responsible for spraying fuel into the engine, and if they become clogged or malfunction, it can affect the engine’s ability to start.

How Do I Know What is Wrong With My Car?

To diagnose the problem with your car’s intermittent starting issue, you can follow these steps:

1. Check the Battery

First, check the battery and make sure it has enough charge. Use a voltmeter to check the voltage, and if it’s low, try charging the battery or jumpstarting the car.

2. Inspect the Starter

The starter is responsible for cranking the engine, so inspecting it for any signs of damage or wear is important. Check the wiring and connections to make sure everything is tight and secure.

3. Check the Ignition System

The ignition system includes the spark plugs, ignition coil, and other components that work together to ignite the fuel in the engine. Make sure everything is clean and in good condition.

4. Look for Fuel System Issues

The fuel system delivers fuel to the engine, so if there’s an issue here, it can prevent your car from starting. Check the fuel pump, filter, and injectors to make sure they’re working properly.

5. Check for Other Electrical Issues

Many other electrical components in your car could be causing the intermittent starting problem. Check the alternator, fuses, and relays to make sure they’re all functioning correctly.

How to Fix the Problem

1. Battery

If the issue is related to the battery, it may need to be replaced. You can check the battery connections to make sure they are secure, clean, and free of corrosion. You can also have the battery tested to determine if it is holding a charge or not. If it’s not holding a charge, it’s time to replace it.

2. Ignition System

If the issue is related to the ignition system, there are a few things you can check. Make sure the spark plugs are clean and in good condition. Check the ignition coils to make sure they are functioning properly. If the issue is related to the ignition switch, it may need to be replaced.

3. Fuel System

If the issue is related to the fuel system, you can start by checking the fuel pump and fuel filter. Make sure the fuel pump is delivering fuel to the engine and that the fuel filter is clean and not clogged. You can also check the fuel injectors to make sure they are functioning properly.

4. Starter Motor

If the issue is related to the starter motor, it may need to be replaced. You can also check the starter solenoid to make sure it’s working properly.

5. Electrical Issues

Intermittent starting issues can also be caused by electrical problems, such as a faulty starter relay or a bad ground connection. These issues may require a professional to diagnose and fix.

Preventive Measures for Your Car’s Intermittent Starting Issues

It’s always best to prevent starting issues from happening in the first place. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

1. Regular Maintenance

Get your car regularly serviced by a qualified mechanic. This can help prevent many issues that could cause starting problems.

2. Keep the Battery Clean

Dirt and grime can accumulate on the battery terminals and lead to starting problems. Use a wire brush or a battery-cleaning tool to keep them clean.

3. Check the Battery Charge

A weak battery may cause starting issues. Use a battery tester to check the charge and replace it if needed.

4. Keep the Fuel Tank Full

Running on a low tank can cause the fuel pump to work harder and wear out faster, leading to starting issues. Keep the tank at least half full to reduce strain on the fuel pump.

5. Use High-Quality Fuel

Cheap, low-quality fuel can cause build-up in the fuel system and clog the fuel filter, leading to starting problems. Use high-quality fuel from a reputable gas station.

6. Check the Spark Plugs

Worn or dirty spark plugs can cause starting issues. Get them checked and replaced if necessary.

What Does it Mean When Your Car Starts and then Stops?

If your car starts and then stops, it could indicate a variety of problems. One possibility is that there is a problem with the fuel system, such as a clogged fuel filter or a malfunctioning fuel pump. 

Read: Oil Pressure Drops When Idle [Causes & Fixes]


Intermittent starting issues can be frustrating and leave you stranded at the most inconvenient times. However, by understanding the potential causes of this problem, you can take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place or address it quickly when it does occur. 

Regular maintenance, timely repairs, and using high-quality parts are all essential in keeping your car in good working condition. Remember, if you’re unsure of the cause of the problem, it’s always best to take your car to a trusted mechanic for diagnosis and repair.