One common complaint from drivers is a clicking noise coming from their vehicle when they try to start it, which can be related to your car’s various electrical components.
Whether you’re heading out for your daily commute, or your sculpt yoga class, your car should help get you there safely. A major indication of how your drive will—or won’t—go starts the moment you put the key in the ignition or press the start button.
Here’s what this irksome sound might mean.
- A clicking sound when you start your car could suggest a problem with your car’s electrical system.
- A rapid clicking sound might hint at a battery- or alternator-related issue.
- A single loud click might mean problems with your starter motor.
- Listen closely to the type of clicking you hear; you’ll want to visit a certified mechanic, and give them specifics about the noises you’re experiencing.
What could be causing the clicking noise that’s coming from my car?
Not all clicking noises sound the same, or mean the same thing. A rapid clicking noise is usually alerting you to car battery issues, for instance, while a single click could be related to a faulty starter motor.
Listen closely. Your car will likely require a visit to the repair shop to get it safely up and running again. An automotive technician will be able to diagnose and fix the problem more quickly if you have more specific details than “it just clicks.”
If your car has a drained or bad battery, you might hear a rapid clicking noise when you try to turn it on. Huge bummer.
Turn your headlights and interior lights off, or use the auto setting if your car includes it, when you park your car to help prevent the battery from draining. Also, keep jumper cables in your trunk, just in case. This could speed up the process if you need to ask a trusty roommate or neighbor, or a generous rando in the Whole Foods parking lot, to help jump your car. Stowing a portable jump starter in your trunk, and understanding how to use it, could also give you some independence in a pinch.
Even if a jumpstart gets your dead battery going again, there could be underlying issues causing the clicking noise in the first place. Get it checked out by a qualified professional.
Good preventative care is also key. Include a battery performance test as part of your car’s regular maintenance schedule, especially when it will be exposed to extreme temperatures in the winter or summer. A battery test, available for free at most auto parts stores, could help identify if the battery itself is causing the clicking noise (and if it’s time to replace the battery entirely).
Do you know if your battery is under warranty? If so, you might be able to find the warranty details on the battery’s label. Keep track of how long it will be under warranty, what it covers, and what maintenance schedule you’ll need to follow to keep it valid.
Corrosion, cables, and connectors
A rapid clicking noise could also be indirectly related to the battery, through its connections, even if the battery itself is properly charged. Sometimes clamps for the battery cables loosen their grip because of the vibrations caused by driving, for example, or corrosion builds up on the battery terminals.
Either of these problems could lead to a bad connection to the battery and hinder you from starting your car (and causing further damage if you keep trying to start or drive it).
If a certified technician diagnoses this as the problem, having them ensure that the connections are secure and clean could get you safely back on the road in no time.
If the battery and its connections look good to go, but you’re still pulling your hair out over a rapid clicking noise, the issue could be the car’s alternator. This car part is essentially a charging system for the battery, and for other electrical components of your car.
When your car has a bad alternator, or a low-functioning one, it won’t give your battery the boost it needs to start properly. Get your car’s alternator tested periodically by a professional to make sure it’s functioning. Failing to get this checked and fixed early could be the demise of your car’s battery power level.
Sometimes the battery isn’t causing the problem. A good indication that the issue is related to something else altogether is if you hear a single loud click, instead of rapid clicking, when you try to start your car.
A single loud click could mean that there are troubles with the starter motor or the starter solenoid—which together act like a crank to help get your car’s engine going—or more specifically from a failing or bad starter relay that’s not sending enough electric current from the battery to the starter motor.
What should I do if my car is making a clicking sound?
There are so many electrical problems that can cause your car’s clicking noise. Don’t play detective, digging under your car’s hood for clues (this can actually be dangerous if you’ve got a hybrid vehicle). Unless you know what you’re doing and have the right tools, you could wind up seriously harming your car, and yourself.
It’s better to get your car to a professional immediately. Take your car to a trustworthy, certified auto repair shop to help diagnose the problem and fix it quickly, before it develops into something more serious, dangerous—and costly.
At Lemonade Car, we want all drivers on the road to feel prepared and confident when they head to the auto repair shop. Check out our top tips for getting your damaged car the TLC it needs.
When you include roadside assistance coverage on your Lemonade policy, we could send help to jumpstart your car, or tow it to a nearby auto repair shop.
Sometimes things just click (but they shouldn’t)…
Notice a clicking sound coming from your car right after it was damaged, or directly after it was repaired? Get your car back to the repair shop right away for a diagnosis.
Car insurance policies usually don’t help pay for things like general wear and tear, or routine maintenance. But if the issue that’s causing the noise is related to a recently covered incident, your insurer may pay for the associated diagnostics and repair expenses. For instance, including collision and comprehensive coverages on your Lemonade Car policy could help cover the costs to get your car repaired, depending on the incident.
In any case, don’t just plug your ears, jumpstart, and hope for the best. It’s a smart idea to keep your car in tip top shape to prevent bigger—and expensive—issues down the road.
A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage may not be available in all states.