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HomeTips & GuidesCar Starts Sometimes But Not All the Time: Why Does My Car Starter Only Work Sometimes?

Car Starts Sometimes But Not All the Time: Why Does My Car Starter Only Work Sometimes?

My car starts sometimes but not all the time. What could be the problem? 

One of the worst nightmares is having your car fail to ignite when you want to rush somewhere. 

It’s inconvenient and may make you berserk because you’ll be late if the vehicle can’t start. 

Nonetheless, this is a common problem; you can fix it if you know how to check it out. 

So, what are the major causes of this problem? We’ll look at them in detail below and explain how you can solve each. Take a look. 

Table of Contents

How Come My Car Only Starts Sometimes?

There are many reasons why your car starts only sometimes when you turn the ignition switch. But we can primarily summarize the causes into two main factors.

  • First, there’s the typical case whereby your car barely has starting problems but fails to start once in a blue moon. It is not a serious situation, meaning temporary factors like cold weather or a dead battery could be at play. 
  • The alternative scenario is when a car barely starts most of the time but will start once after multiple attempts of trying. Such a vehicle is unreliable and has an underlying issue causing the start infrequencies. 

Numerous reasons can lead to the second case above. But you may find an immobilized vehicle because of tear and wear. 

Hence, it’s essential to carry out regular maintenance practices to help keep the parts prone to regular tear and wear in check. 

Why Does My Car Start Sometimes and Sometimes It Doesn’t?

Man distressed the car cannot start due to faulty electrical systems

Man distressed the car cannot start due to faulty electrical systems

The most common reason your car can’t start is electrical problems because the ignition is controlled electronically.

 Numerous car electrical issues exist, so you have to dig deep to find which ails your car. 

Other common issues are fuel-related, although engine issues could still ail your car. 

Crankshaft Positioning Sensor Issue

Crankshaft setting.

Crankshaft setting.

A problem with the sensor’s positioning means your car will crank continuously but without starting.

 It may happen until the car battery dies. Another typical scenario is when the car ultimately starts but after extensive cranking. 

In the second case, replacing the sensor will solve half the problem. 

If the cranking is extensive without the car starting, the battery will also die out fast. 

So you’ll have to replace it too. So how do you tell you have this problem? 

Primarily, you will require an OBD2 scanner tool.  But still, by studying the car’s behavior, you can predict if it’s a sensor positioning problem.

 If it cranks extensively, then once in a while starts, it’s probably the sensor problem. 

Bad Engine Ignition Coils

Replacing a car ignition coil. 

Replacing a car ignition coil. 

Most modern vehicles feature a single ignition coil per cylinder for powering the spark plugs

Their role in most internal combustion engines is immensely important.  Hence, the car won’t start if the ignition coil fails. 

Once again, you can tell if the ignition coils are the problem by scanning with the OBD2 scanner tools.

 It will provide you with the codes of what’s probably causing the car to start. 

If the issue is the coils/bad starter, simply replace them and try restarting the car. 

Bad Spark Plugs

A mechanic with a spark plug. 

A mechanic with a spark plug. 

The role of the spark plug is so huge that if they’re in bad shape, your car won’t start.

 They’re responsible for providing the spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture, causing the vehicle to start. 

One of their main issues is that dirt/soot may accumulate on their head, thus interrupting the sparking process. 

So check out their state. When they’re out of shape, they produce a foul smell and have oil on them. 

Replace a faulty plug and see your car start when you switch it on. 

Bad Battery/Insufficient Battery Voltage

Fixing a healthy battery. 

Fixing a healthy battery. 

A car battery is the main electrical power source. So, if the battery power is low or dead, you simply cannot start your auto. 

The minimum voltage required to start a car is 12V. Hence, anything below this means the battery is low. 

Hence, regularly check the car battery’s condition by testing its voltage with a voltmeter. 

If the battery cannot charge/is dead, replace it. Also, check out if you have a faulty alternator, which could be why the battery can’t charge. 

Starter Motor Issues

When the car’s starter motor fails, the car will not start on the first instance of the trial.

 You’ll have to try cranking it multiple times until it ultimately gives way. Fix the problem by replacing the faulty starter motor with a new one. 

Clogged Fuel Filter

A clean and clogged fuel filter. 

A clean and clogged fuel filter. 

Sufficient fuel supply from the fuel tank to the engine’s combustion chambers is necessary to start a car. 

The fuel passes via the filter to remove the impurities that could lead to combustion issues. 

Thus, the fuel supply will be insufficient if the filter is clogged. 

You may have to wait till the fuel pump creates sufficient fuel pressure to push the fuel via the clogged filter. 

It pushes the pump to the limit, and it will ultimately break down. 

Avoid the bad fuel pump problem by cleaning the fuel filter or replacing it to protect the fuel lines. 

You must also replace the fuel/air filter after your car has reached the maximum mile threshold. 

Bad Injectors

A fuel injector nozzle. 

A fuel injector nozzle. 

Tied to the clogged fuel filter problem is the issue of the car’s injectors. 

If there is an apparent issue with the fuel injection, then insufficient fuel will enter the engine combustion chambers. 

Among the common problems is low injection pressure.

The problem is more profound for direct injection engines than the others. 

Luckily, with an OBD2 scanner, you can tell if the injector is the problem and have it replaced before your car grinds to a shutdown. 

Low Engine Compression

Compression is a prerequisite for proper fuel burning to produce the engine power necessary to run the car. 

So when there’s a low compression problem, part of the engine’s power is going to waste, and the car won’t start sometimes. 

A compression issue is so profound and needs urgent attention. 

So start by investing in a good compression tester and confirm that your car’s levels are at least between 90 and 100.

 Anything below this range means you have a problem and should engage a professional mechanic. 

Is It Normal for Cars to Not Start Every Time?

The car doesn't start. 

The car doesn’t start. 

Ideally, your car should always start whenever you want to use it. 

However, achieving the ideal conditions is nearly impossible, even if you regularly take your vehicle for routine checks. 

So, you’ll probably encounter the problem of your car not starting, although it should be infrequent with proper maintenance. 

A rare failure to start means that something minor could be why your car can’t start. Probably, it’s a cold morning, and the car is yet to warm up. 

That is why we advocate for regular maintenance practices. It helps minimize the major reasons for the cars not starting. 

The bottom line is that car starting hiccups are common, although they should be rare if your car is properly maintained. 

Can I Continue Driving With This Problem?

You can keep up with minor issues, such as rare start failures, which means something minor is the cause. 

But you must take caution when the problem becomes regular lest your car fails you on an occasion when you need it most. 

How To Fix The Problem and Cost To Fix This Starting Problem

A disappointed young woman with the car not starting. 

A disappointed young woman with the car not starting. 

Fixing the car start issue starts with identifying the actual cause of the problem. 

As we have covered in this guide, there are numerous causes, so you need to rule out each of them one by one. 

Replace or recharge the battery if the voltage is low. Usually, most of the car start failures result from a dead car battery.

 Hence, recharging the battery helps solve the problem for most. But if it persists, continue with other diagnostic measures. 

Replace/ wash the dirty filter and replace the spark plug if it’s out of shape. 

Also, it would help if you perform a compression test to identify what’s causing the engine’s power loss. 

Use an OBD2 scanner to diagnose the other issues affecting normal starting. 

Usually, fixing this issue will take approximately $200 to $500, especially if you’re dealing with minor problems. 

These include replacing the spark plugs and battery. But the costs can soar up to $5,000 for the major issues such as engine problems. 


Steer clear of the inconvenience that comes with irregular car starts by taking the measures we have prescribed above into account. 

Perform a proper diagnostic test to evaluate the actual cause of the problem so that you can find a solution. 

If the start failures are rare, your car is in good shape. But you must perform regular maintenance to ensure the failures remain a rarity.

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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