Top 4 Causes of a Car Engine That Cranks But Won’t Start

If you own a car, you might have come across the problem of your car not starting. You can feel so frustrated, especially when you repeatedly turn the car key in the ignition and your car simply does not power on itself. However, as desperate as you may feel, it is advisable that you don’t give up. When your engine cranks but won’t start, you should consider diagnosing the problem using a logical method to comprehend the reasons why your car just crank but won’t start normally.

Common Causes of Car Engine Crank But Won’t Start

When you get in your car and try turning on the engine, the problem must point towards the lack of fuel, spark, or compression. For the engine to start normally, it requires sufficient fuel pressure, an appropriately timed spark and normal compression. If by some means you succeed at starting your vehicle, you should immediately understand why it started and why it failed at other times. And below are some common causes and some tips to identify the root problems of a car engine crank but won’t start:

Lack of Sparks

Lack of spark might be because of a damaged ignition module, a faulty crank position sensor, or a problem in the ignition circuit, such as the wiring, antitheft system, or a malfunctioning ignition switch.

Lack of fuel

The lack of fuel might be due to a damaged fuse of the fuel pump, an empty fuel tank, and contaminated fuel in the tank or the wrong type of fuel in the tank.

For your car engine to start or run, the appropriate fuel pressure is important, especially for fuel-injected engines. To know that your engine will start, you must hear the fuel pump buzz for a few seconds as you turn on the ignition. Without the buzz, you should know that the pump is dead and fuel is not reaching the engine at all.

Low compression

A broken or loose timing belt or chain or a snapped overhead camshaft can cause no compression. And overheated engine can also prevent your car from starting, which is not a good sign. Therefore, it is advisable to take your car to a professional mechanic to have its cylinders examined for compression or for a leak down test to ascertain the cause.

Starter Motor Weak

Another causes of engine crank but won’t start is weak starter motor that induces lots of amps without much juice left to switch on the fuel injectors and ignition system. Furthermore, weak or corroded battery cables can contribute to the problem as well.

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Step to identify the root causes

The first thing to do when your engine cranks but won’t start is removing the air inlet tube attached to the throttle body. Then you should spray a small quantity of aerosol fluid into the engine after gently pushing the throttle open. With that done, try cranking the engine once again. Two things might happen. If the engine starts but dies after a few seconds, this means that it has no fuel but the spark and compression are okay. However, if the engine does not start completely, it almost certainly lacks spark.



  1. Can I still drive my Isuzu rodeo 2004 when the immobilizer light comes on? Sometimes it won’t start I take the key out and put the key back in several times and it does start. But is it dangerous to drive it after that?

    • It’s not dangerous per say while driving, but you run the risk of not being able to start it when you are away from home. Definitely something you should get taken care of so you don’t have to stress every time you try starting it.

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