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While we were out running errands yesterday, our car failed to start after a half hour stop at one of our destinations. The first attempt to start the car resulted in nothing but a rapid clicking noise. The second attempt was a single click and then nothing. After turning everything off (head lights, air, etc) and letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes, it started fine.

We drove it to Walmart to see if they could test the battery. They tested it and said it was good. The recommended that we go to Autozone to have them test the alternator which we did. Autozone said the battery and starter were fine but that the alternator was bad.

We took it to a mechanic (we're new to our current area so it was the first time we've been to this mechanic but they have good reviews). They ran tests and said that the alternator was fine. After more tests they said the only thing they could see was that the battery's cells were all weak which would result in intermittent issues.

I went back to Autozone at this point (a different Autozone), and before buying the battery they ran the tests again. This time their tests showed that the battery, starter, and alternator were all fine.

So we've had 3 tests say that the battery was good plus 1 test saying it was good but had weak cells. We've had 2 tests say the alternator was good but one said it was bad. We're not sure exactly which of these tests to believe at this point. There has only been one incident where it failed to start and its worked fine since then (we've started it nearly a half dozen times since it failed with no apparent problems). The only thing that I can think of is that maybe the battery died because it had been turned off and on approximately half a dozen times with little driving each time right before it failed due to the fact that we took it to get the tires rotated and balanced.

Should we replace the battery? Take it to another mechanic?

  • If it only happened the one time and has worked fine since, I would just ignore it. Sounds like something may be going out, but isn't far enough gone to make a proper diagnosis. Until it is far enough gone that you can somewhat verify that it is fixed or not you won't accomplish much by replacing things yet. – Becuzz Jan 28 '15 at 18:28
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    Did you or anyone check the battery connection? A loose or dirty connection could produce your symptoms. – mikes Jan 28 '15 at 19:55
  • What's the age of the battery? – Josh Caswell Jan 28 '15 at 20:13
  • The battery is 2.5 years old. The alternator was replaced 2 years ago. – Kenneth Jan 28 '15 at 20:15
  • @mikes I'm not sure if either of the mechanics we've taken it to now did. The two Autozone employees didn't mess with the connections at all. I'll ask the mechanic that has it now to see if they checked the connections. – Kenneth Jan 28 '15 at 20:16
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When the starter motor clicks but doesn't start the engine, that means it is not receiving enough power. If you get no click at all, then it's receiving almost no power at all.

There are three possible causes:

  • your battery is flat.
  • your battery is no good.
  • there is a bad connection somewhere between the battery and the starter motor.

Or, alternatively, some combination of the above.

From your description I recommend replacing the battery. Never mind what the tests said, it's over two years old and it went from not enough power to completely flat in a few seconds, that doesn't sound like a healthy battery to me and batteries are cheap. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with a car that won't start is expensive.

Next time your car is serviced also tell the mechanic what happened and ask him to check the wiring, maybe he'll find a loose connection somewhere. Or check it yourself if you know how.

If the new battery doesn't last very long then I'd replace the alternator.

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