It won't start, but the radio and lights work

Anyone can deal with a dead battery in a car that prevents it from starting. However, what do you do when the car won’t start, but the radio and lights work? This indicates that the battery isn’t dead after all, leading to a whole new list of issues to contend with.

Bad starters, bad fuse and failed ignition switches could all cause your car not to start. Bad spark plugs, a bad fuel pump or other causes can cause the car to not start. However, you shouldn’t overlook the possibility that the car is out of gas or the battery is dying. 

This guide will help you understand the reasons your car may not start, but that the electronics are still working. You will learn the most effective ways to start your car again. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. Car Won’t Start But Lights Work Causes
    1. 1. Dying battery
    2. 2. Bad Starter
    3. 3. Blown Fuse
    4. 4. Failure of the ignition switch
    5. 5. Bad Spark Plugs
    6. 6. Defective Fuel Pump
    7. 7. Out of Gas
  2. How to Fix Car That Won’t Start
    1. 1. Replace/Test Battery
    2. 2. Replace Starter
    3. 3. Good fuse
    4. 4. Change the Ignition Switch
    5. 5. Perform a Tune-up
    6. 6. Replacing the Fuel Pump
    7. 7. Fuel

Car Won’t Start But Lights Work Causes

1. Dying battery

A dead car battery won’t have the power to turn on the lights and radio, but what about if it is dying? It could still have power enough to run the engines, but not enough power for accessories.

A lot of accessories need only small amounts of amps, like 20-30amps. The starter requires 300 amps to operate. 

You can charge your car's battery using a car charger, or you could try starting it using a jump start. Your car will not start if it does not respond to these instructions.

RELATED: 8 Steps to check your car's battery health at home (8 steps)

2. Bad Starter

Your vehicle's starter motor controls the start of your car when you press the key. Whether the motor has gone bad or it’s the solenoid, you will notice the same issues.

For the starter to be able to charge from the battery it requires an electric current. A full battery will produce a click sound, but nothing if the starter is damaged. It’s also possible for the starter to make a strange screech noise if it isn’t clicking.

You might get an alert that your starter has failed in some instances. You might pay more attention if it becomes harder to start your car. If the starter has been overheated, you might also notice smoke. If you notice that the starter is beginning to fail, it’s best to replace it before it quits completely. 

3. Blown Fuse

Modern vehicles all have several fuses that run the various electrical components. In the majority of vehicles, the fuse box is found on the driver’s side, down near the floor. However, you can find the exact location and see a diagram of the fuses by checking your owner’s manual.

If a fuse has blown for the starter, it won’t be able to use the power it receives from the battery. The symptoms would resemble that of a bad starter, except there probably won’t be any clicking noise. 

4. Failure of the ignition switch

This component is responsible for powering the fuel system as well as activating all the other accessories within the cabin. The switch activates when you insert your key or push the button. When there’s a problem with the ignition switch, power might transmit to the exterior lights and interior accessories, but you may not be able to start the vehicle.

The lights and other accessories will work normally if the ignition switch is in its first position. If the switch is in its second position, it turns on both the ignition system and the fuel system. It’s when you try and activate the next position that it could fail to start the engine. 

5. Bad Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are also an essential part of your car’s ignition system. Spark plugs ignite your engine's mixture of air and fuel. They can wear down and get contaminated over time. 

If the accessories and lights work, but you can’t get the engine cranked over, the spark plugs could be to blame. Bad spark plugs can lead to an engine that won't start or crank in many cases. 

6. Defective Fuel Pump

You will need to have gasoline or electric power in order for the engine to start. These primary parts get your vehicle moving and running. 

The fuel system should be your next concern if the electrical system has failed. If the fuel pump is defective, it won’t be able to deliver the gasoline to the engine. You might start hearing whining as the fuel pump fails, which could cause the engine to perform less well.

RELATED: 8 Symptoms of a Bad Fuel Pump (& Replacement Cost)

7. Out of Gas

You would love to think that you wouldn’t ever forget to put gas in the tank, but it happens. Whether you got distracted or there is an issue with the gas gauge, it’s possible that your vehicle is simply out of fuel. 

The engine might start to run out of fuel if you drive it. The car's electricity will provide power so you can still use the lights and radio. 

How to Fix Car That Won’t Start

An OBD2 scanner is the best way to determine why your car isn't starting. It is important to make sure your battery is in good shape before you replace any components.

1. Replace/Test Battery

You should rule out the battery if you can’t find any other faults. The battery should be reading 12.6 volts with your multimeter. If it reaches below 12.3 volts, it’s getting low. To get exact results, you may require a battery load test.

To check whether the engine starts, jump start it. The problem is most likely with the battery. For $50-200, you can buy a brand new car battery. 

2. Replace Starter

You have no other choice than to replace the starter motor if it fails. For parts and labor, expect to pay between $400-$700. 

It is possible to repair it yourself, and you could save on labor. YouTube has many videos that will help you replace your vehicle. 

3. Good fuse

Although replacing the fuse may be the cheapest way to fix a vehicle that won't start, it is not recommended if the fuse has blown. Find the fuse that needs to be replaced and purchase a new one that’s compatible.

Car fuses typically cost less than $10. Plus, this is a simple repair, so there’s no need to pay someone for labor. 

4. Change the Ignition Switch

An ignition switch can be replaced without much effort. Most cars only require a few simple tools to repair an ignition switch. You may need to re-programme your ignition switch in some cars. Please consult your manual.

An aftermarket ignition switch can cost between $25 and $100. An OEM ignition switch, on the other hand could be $50-$300. 

5. Perform a Tune-up

You might have to do a tune up if your engine is not running well before the problem started. The spark plugs will be replaced as part of the maintenance program.

You can clean some sparkplugs but it is more practical to change them. Installing new spark plugs will cost you between $50 and $250. 

6. Replacing the Fuel Pump

Putting in a new fuel pump isn’t the easiest fix, but it must be done when the part fails. Unless you have advanced mechanical skills, this isn’t a job you’ll want to tackle on your own. 

To have your fuel pump repaired or replaced, you can expect to pay between $200 and $1,000. While labor costs might be $125-300, the cost of the part could run anywhere from $75-$700. 

7. Fuel

If there isn’t fuel in the system, you have to fill it up to get the engine started. While the car is parked at home, this isn’t much of an inconvenience to you. You can take a gas can that has been approved to the nearest station. Then, bring it back to you vehicle.

You might be more at risk if you're driving when you run low on gas. If you aren’t near a fuel station and you don’t have an approved container, you might need to call for roadside assistance.

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