Radio Works but Car Won’t Start (Causes & Solutions)

If your radio works but car won’t start, Don’t panic or get frightened! There are some possible causes and solutions. Keep reading; you will learn more about them.

A dead battery keeping your car from starting is pretty simple to handle. But how do you deal with a situation where the lights and radio are working fine, but the car doesn’t start?

This means that the battery is not dead, and a different issue is responsible for the car starting problem. There are various reasons your radio works but car won’t start.

This guide will explain the reasons for this problem and reveal the best ways to fix it so your car can start.

If you solve this problem by shaking or touching the battery terminals or cables, it may be a sign that one or some of the terminals or cables are faulty or failing.

It can be very frustrating if you cannot start your car after multiple attempts and know that the lights and radio are working.

Usually, the battery would be the first thing to look at when this occurs. Your battery may be dead and need a recharge or jumpstart; it all boils down to the state your vehicle is in.

If the car radio and lights are working, you need to ask yourself if your car is not starting due to something wrong you did while driving or some sort of accumulated negligence?

However, the battery should be the first suspect. Although you may wonder why the battery is the cause when the radio is working fine? This can be difficult for a lot of drivers to understand.

Below is a full explanation of why your radio works but car won’t start.

Why Radio Works but Car Won’t Start

1. You Might Have A Bad Starter

The starter motor is important for the running of the car. You can use this starter motor to get the car started.

This device is also known as a solenoid. The car starter receives its power from the car battery; therefore, you must ensure that your car battery is not faulty or dead but completely charged.

You are more likely to have a problem with your starter if your radio works but car won’t start and if your car’s battery seems to be fine and working fine.

Also Read: How to Start a Car with a Bad Starter (9 Fast Ways)

2. You Might Have A Dying Battery

This is a contrast to what many drivers think. The battery is considered to be fine if the car radio works, but car won’t start.

This is not always true, as there are instances when a dying battery is the cause of the problem.

According to experts, the car radio working doesn’t mean all is well with the car battery.

However, this idea is valid because the power a vehicle radio uses from the battery is minimal compared to the one needed to start the car.

Normally, a properly functioning car radio draws a small quantity of power from a car battery.

However, this does not indicate or prove that your car battery cannot be faulty when the radio works but car won’t start.

3. You Might Have an Empty Gas Tank

A low gas tank can be a problem if your radio works but car won’t start. Some drivers forget to check their fuel level before driving. So an empty gas tank could be why your car refused to start.

If you have an empty gas tank, your car will not start. It is nothing to worry about if this is the case, as refueling easily solves this problem.

4. You Might Have a Faulty Spark Plugs

Starting a car is heavily dependent on the spark plug. The spark plug has to ignite the fuel for combustion. However, they don’t have a long lifespan.

It is important to frequently check and replace them when necessary during routine maintenance.

The spark plug may suffer corrosion or rusting. Damaged spark plugs will prevent your car from starting.

In this situation, it is necessary you replace or clean the spark plugs.

5. You Might Have a Blown Fuse

A damaged fuse can be a possible reason your radio works but car won’t start. When one or more of the car’s electrical fuses are blown or damaged, it may be difficult or impossible to start.

The solution to this is to remove the damaged fuse and get a replacement for it.

6. You Might Have a Bad Ignition Switch

Your vehicle is powered by relays. Until these relays are completed successfully, your car will not start. The failure of any of these relays will prevent your vehicle from starting.

An ignition switch is an important component that ensures that your car starts. If any part of the ignition switch is bad or malfunctioning, you will find it difficult or impossible to start the car even when the radio works.

7. Defective Fuel Pump

Gasoline and electric power are needed to get your car engine started. They are the major components that get the vehicle to start and keep running.

If the car’s electrical components are in good shape and won’t start, the fuel system might be faulty.

A defective fuel pump would be unable to supply petrol into the engine. When the fuel pump begins to fail, you will start noticing engine performance reduction, and you might also notice a whining noise.

Also Read: Fuel Pump Replacement Cost

How to Fix a Car That Won’t Start

Radio Works but Car Wont Start

Using the OBD2 scanner to read your car error codes is one of the easiest ways to diagnose and analyze a vehicle that is difficult to start or not starting at all.

Before replacing any parts, you should ensure that the car battery is not faulty and charged adequately if necessary.

Here are the different things to check and fix if your radio works but car won’t start

1. Test/Replace Battery

You should focus on the car battery if there are no other faults. You should expect a reading of 12.6 volts when you check the battery using a multimeter.

The battery is low if the multimeter reads below 12.3 volts. A battery load tester could be handy if a more accurate result is needed.

Jump-starting the car could actually help out, and if the car starts after jumpstarting, then the battery is faulty and is the source of the problem.

If, after jumpstarting and the vehicle starts, it is clear that the problem was the battery.  We advise you get a first-hand car battery, which costs about $50 to $200.

2. Replace Starter

If the starter motor is the component that fails, there is no other option than to replace it.

You will have to spend about $400 to $700 for labor and parts to replace a starter.

However, with the help of several YouTube videos peculiar to the different models and makes of the starter motor, you might be able to save some cash by changing it yourself.

3. Replace a Faulty Fuse

Changing the fuse is the least expensive fix to a car not starting but should be done only if the fuse is blown. Locate the faulty or bad fuse and replace it with a compatible one.

The cost of a car fuse is about $10 or less. Since this is easy to fix or repair, you can do it yourself, saving you the cost of labor.

4. Replace the Ignition Switch

Ignition switches can be changed easily. For many cars, simple hand tools are all you need to change the ignition switch. It is necessary to consult your repair manual before replacement as some vehicles require that the new ignition switch be reprogrammed.

An aftermarket ignition switch could cost between $25-$100, while that of an OEM ignition switch can be as high as $50 to $300.

5. Perform a Tune-up

A tune-up may be needed if you noticed a poor engine performance or the engine wasn’t running as it should during the last driving experience. One of these maintenance processes is changing the spark plugs.

While cleaning the spark plugs is an option, it is better to replace them completely. This might cost about $50 to $250.

Also Read: How Much Is A Tune-Up?

6. Replace Fuel Pump

Replacing a fuel pump isn’t easy and should be done only when the part is damaged or fails. You shouldn’t do this job yourself except perhaps you have good mechanical knowledge or skill.

On average, replacing the fuel pump should cost between $200 to $1,000, with the labor between $125 to $300 and the part from $75 to $700.

7. Add Fuel

If the fuel in the car is finished, you will need to top it up so that the car can start up again. If you noticed this at home, then you are in a more convenient situation. You can go to a nearby gas station with an approved can and fill your fuel tank.

This becomes more challenging if you run out of fuel or gas on the road. If you are far from a gas station and there is no approved can in your vehicle, you can request the assistance of other drivers or any other possible roadside assistance.

Can a Car Battery Be Dead if the Radio Still Works?

Usually, people think the car battery is in good condition when the radio works but car won’t start.

Technically, this is correct, but it doesn’t always imply that the battery is in good condition. It may be surprising to note that when your car radio comes on doesn’t mean all is well with the car battery.

Turning on the lights and radio doesn’t require much power, so when they get turned on as you attempt to start the vehicle is not a diagnostic hint as we think it to be.

The battery can have enough energy to power the car radio but not enough to start the engine and other heavy power electrical components.

A leaking or dying battery may power some devices in the vehicle, and this can be confusing when trying to identify the cause of your car’s no-start problem.

Dirty or corroded battery terminals can be another reason the lights and/or radio come on, but the vehicle doesn’t. The terminals are the connection between the car battery and the electrical system.

Corroded or dirty battery terminals negatively affect the connection. An improper connection can hinder the proper power supply from the battery, even when it is fully charged.

It is quite easy to spot if the terminals are corroded or dirty, and then you can proceed to clean them up yourself.

Jump starting the car will tell if the battery is the problem or not. If the car starts by jumping it, it’s most likely your battery was the source of the problem. However, This may not always be the case.

Radio Works but Car Wont Start

How Do You Tell if It’s a Dead Battery or Starter?

A vehicle starter is a motor that utilizes power from the car battery to start the engine.

If your vehicle begins to run after a jumpstart, it is possible that the starter was not the problem. It is important to be able to tell if the battery is dead, dying, or dirty or if the problem is simply from the starter.

When trying to start the car, a clicking sound indicates that the issue is from the starter. Other times, you may observe smoke coming out of the car’s hood as you crank it.

When it is impossible to tell if the issue is the battery or the starter because there are no clear signs to associate it with the starter (as sometimes is the case), then it’s time to consult your mechanic.

A mechanic will be able to tell from experience what the cause of the problem is.

Frequently Asked Questions – Radio Works but Car Won’t Start

Is My Car Battery Dead if the Radio Still Works?

The car battery may likely be undercharged or dead even when your car radio, light, or other electronic accessories are turned on. Unlike the starter, these components required lesser power to function. The battery can power the radio but may not be able to activate the starter.

What Does It Mean When Your Car Won’t Start, but the Radio Works?

Corroded or dirty battery terminals can cause only the radio and lesser power-consuming components to be on but won’t be able to power the starter. The connection may fail to work properly when the battery terminals are affected by corrosion or dirt.

Why Won’t My Car Start, but I Have Power?

Battery failure is often the cause of an engine not starting. However, it could result from a bad alternator, especially if the car still has power. The low charge retention ability of some batteries due to manufacturing deficit can contribute to this problem.

How Do You Tell if It’s Your Starter or Your Battery?

One way to know that there is a problem with your car starter is when you slot in your car key to start your car, but instead, you hear a clicking sound as you move the key to the start direction. This sound indicates that something is possibly wrong with your car starter.

Conclusion – Radio Works but Car Won’t Start

Since we have elaborated on some reasons your radio works but car won’t start, we believe this article has guided you on how to determine the actual problem and possibly help you fix it.

To get other information like how to troubleshoot your car and other related car problems and solutions, read our other articles.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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