How do I tell if its my battery or starter that is bad?


Asked by Mar 03, 2013 at 04:01 PM about the 2001 Saturn S-Series 3 Dr SC1 Coupe

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Hello all,
Last week, my car did not start. What was weird was that all the electrical stuff was working, my headlights and all,however; my car was not kicking over. I would turn the key and it just went all the way through so to speak. It did not crank or anything, just *click*. Someone came and gave me a jump and It started right up and worked fine until yesterday.

Same scenario, all electrical working, and same *click*. I called someone to give me a jump and let it charge for a while, but it did not start this time. Is this my battery or my starter? I would appreciate any help, this is my only car and I am stressed out of my mind!

24 Answers

well grab your voltmeter. your battery should read 13.5 volts. Next you have to get it to a load tester, this will impose a load drawing the battery dead, if it isn't up to par and checks the ability to accept a charge..if it fails, just get a new battery. Your starter will need all the amps the battery will put out, so if you're battery is a weak sister all you'll get is a 'click'- they will bench test your startermotor at the same place at your battery. NAPA auto parts comes to mind, but they all will bench test ya-

13 out of 13 people think this is helpful.

don't get stressed out over $79 dollars worth of lead...really.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

I took my battery to autozone, they told me it wasnt holding a charge. Just got a battery from the junk yard,its only one year old. I put the thing it and charged it, but it didn't start. All electrical works. They checked the battery at the yard, but my car is doing the same thing

11 out of 11 people think this is helpful.

invest in an interstate battery, little more money, but they will stand behind every battery, pro-rating up to ten years after purchase....on exchange..later.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
Michael Tutty

When you turn the key, does everything go dim, or does everything stay the same? If everything dims, there is a good chance the battery does not have enough amps. If everything stays the same, or only dims a very little bit, then chances are the starter motor itself is defective. The click you are hearing is the solenoid engaging.

15 out of 15 people think this is helpful.

It does not dim,

6 out of 6 people think this is helpful.

does it go click?

13 out of 13 people think this is helpful.

clearly you need a new battery, not a junkyard one. invest a bit and be happy, rather than the annoyance of never knowing whether it's gonna start.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.
Alex Nazarian

+1 on new batteries/verifying the battery you just got is up to the task.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

may be one of your sensors,but most likely its gonna be your starter.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

sounds like your battery cables not tight enough

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Hey guys I've got a no crank no start problem with my 01saturn sl1. All the lights turn on but no crank. Got starter checked, it's fine. Got battery checked and they said the cells were bad so I got a new one. The car started just fine for about 24 hrs, but now I'm back at square 1. Any suggestions???

36 out of 36 people think this is helpful.
Cora Ellis

I have a question about my car .. My lights was dim and the radio worked for a minute then went off and now I have no lights ... When someone goes to give me a jump my car wants to start but won't ... Could that be my battery?

16 out of 16 people think this is helpful.


1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

I have a question my car will not start but the lights and radio came on. Had someone to jump it wouldn't start. Come to find out if was a fluse. We changed the fluse. And it started up .work all the next day. Then the next morning it wouldn't start again i had someone jump my car and it wouldnt start the lights and eveything went off .what could it be

21 out of 21 people think this is helpful.

I have the same problem I have a 97 vw jetta gt mk3 gas not diesel I turn the key an clink about a week ago it ran fine I knew it needed a new battery so I got a new duralast one with new battery connectors there tight on the battery I drove it threw a few 8" deep or so puddles on a back road (had no choice) an once I got back on the asphalt it just died I tried starting it till battery died had a guy give me a jump took my after market filter off an kept it at 2k rpms to dry it all out drove 20 feet an it died again would start just tried to call my buddie he towed me the rest of the way home with his truck cars a auto had it in neutral the whole way put the battery charger on 200 amps an then the clickING started took the starter out grounded it from the shaft to the chassis an turned the key an it spun freely I've already turned my fly wheel with a flat head turns freely can feel the compression I put the starter back in an click again I also tried jumping the solinoid srew driver from positive on starter to My oil pan skid Plate an alotta sparks but click again is it my starter the solinoid, ignition switch wiring some where a relay I kno very little about vw's

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

An when I try to start an hear the click everything goes off cluster lights guages head unit an day time running head lights not dim completely off

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
Lavondra Stubbs

Everything comes on radio power windows lights... but wont turn over no clicks. Nothing hit starter a few times it started but now it wont do it... what could that be? I have new battery, rottery cap stitch and cap, and Transmition

27 out of 27 people think this is helpful.

I have a 2002 Pontiac grand am, just replaced the battery and alternator maybe 6 months ago, Battery light came on the other day, everything cranked fine though, we were going to get it tested today. Came to work and cut the car off, thought about cranking it just to make sure and car wouldn't crank. Dashboard lights came on but when I tried cranking it, it would make a noise and the lights on the dash would dim with it. ive read that it could be the terminals or the starter, was hoping for some insight or advice!

6 out of 6 people think this is helpful.
Sumyra Calhoun-Ford

my Saturn Vue Donna same exact thing this morning it will not crank but all electricity came on the lights the radio but it would not crank the battery is good so we having a mechanic coming over in the morning because he said its my starter so hopefully and I'm praying that its the starter so I can get back on the road


First of all, invest some money in a multimeter. They're relatively cheap and have PLENTY of other uses beyond the garage. Now that you have your multimeter (and the batteries to power it!), set it to DC Volts. Make sure your car is off, and in park. Setting the parking brake's not a bad idea, too. Open your hood (or pull up your back seat for our Pontiac friends) and put the multimeter test leads to your battery terminals (Red = +, Black = -). If the meter reads 12.5V or higher you have approx. 80% + charge (12.66V is 100% charge); so your battery should be OK. Now if you see anything between 12.24V and 12.49V, you may be able to recharge the battery or just let the alternator do the work once the car is running. Anything below 12.24V, I'd revisit judge_roy's answer above. At any rate: The thing to remember is that the battery is needed only between the time you turn your ignition key on until the car has started. (Don't believe me? Turn the key to the "ON" position and play some AC/DC on the radio while you read the rest of this. Then go get a new battery) Anyway, do you hear a rapid "clicking" when you try to start the car? If so, that's your starter soleniod trying to engage your starter motor. That clicking means your battery doesn't have enough power to turn engine over, or you may have some funky electrical connections (check your battery terminals for rust, scale, looseness, etc.) Without going too deep, your starter motor requires much more power than can flow from the battery through your ignition switch. The solenoid is a type of "on/off" switch that keeps the starter from drawing too much power from the battery. The "on/off" cycle of the solenoid is the clicking sound you hear. And finally, could it be your alternator? Could be, but an alternator problem would only lead to the dead or depleted battery problem in the first place. Your battery and alternator operation are connected. Here's how: You tested your battery using DC (direct current) voltage readings across the battery terminals. And you should already know that the battery is only used to start the car. So how do you keep your radio, heater fan, defrost, map lights, phone charger, etc. going while the car is running? That's the job of the alternator. The alternator spins up and runs once the engine is started because it's connected to your car's crankshaft and that mysterious sepentine belt under your hood. The alternator takes mechanical power and produces AC voltage (hence "alternator") which is fed throughout the car to its electrical systems. And - via your car's charging system, some of this voltage is fed back into your battery to maintain ITS charge. So say you're at a stop light at night and your headlights start going dim; or your AC/DC (get it?) concert on DVD begins cutting out.That's a sign that your alternator is bad. And most likely your battery will be dead tomorrow. Sorry, I just write these things.

12 out of 12 people think this is helpful.
Charles Nelson

I have an09 Honda Civic and my car will not start. It gives me a gurgle like it wants to but then it stops. I had my brother in law try to charge it but still the same result. It will not start at all. Please help my head and let me know what y'all think the problem might be. Thank you for your time and response

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Ok, I got a 2013 Honda Accord, won't start sometimes, most of the time it does... So like 1/10 times it won't start. I had to get a new battery a few months ago so naturally, I'm eliminating that as a problem. (FYI) I use my car to deliver on the weekends. All electronics are on and works fine, it clicks but won't turn over. My noobie assumption is that it's the starter, also could be loose connections with battery or ground, But everything else is on.. So I'm kinda confused as to why it would start sometimes but not all the time. It's getting more and more frequent also. So I'm scheduling to get my starter replaced, just wanna know if I'm about to waste like 300-400 dollars lol

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

i have a 1982 toyota truck that drags while cranking and after three or four dars it kills the battery what could be wrong?

Your Answer

Add photo

Related Questions


Looking for a Used S-Series in your area?

CarGurus has 1,149 nationwide S-Series listings starting at $1,995.


Search Saturn S-Series Questions

Saturn S-Series Experts

#1 Alex Nazarian
Alex Nazarian
Reputation 1,370
#2 helpmeplease
Reputation 910
#3 fabian_09_21
Reputation 720
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Honda Accord"
1,313 Great Deals out of 78,754 listings starting at $1,395
Used Toyota Camry"
1,654 Great Deals out of 99,024 listings starting at $895
Used Ford Focus"
1,211 Great Deals out of 57,390 listings starting at $1,495
Used Toyota Corolla"
1,485 Great Deals out of 67,842 listings starting at $1,295
Used Honda Civic"
1,176 Great Deals out of 59,022 listings starting at $1,300
Used Nissan Sentra"
924 Great Deals out of 49,968 listings starting at $500
Used Pontiac Grand Prix"
27 Great Deals out of 4,393 listings starting at $1,972
Used Honda CR-V"
1,602 Great Deals out of 81,723 listings starting at $1,695
Used Mitsubishi Eclipse"
53 Great Deals out of 1,767 listings starting at $950
Used Nissan Altima"
1,497 Great Deals out of 88,168 listings starting at $1,195
Used Ford Mustang"
730 Great Deals out of 41,499 listings starting at $900
Used Volkswagen Jetta"
669 Great Deals out of 32,712 listings starting at $1,200