I wanted to reset my check engine light to see if a problem I think I fixed resurfaces, so I disconnected my negative lead from the post. When I reconnected the lead the car refused to start.

Occasionally it will click for a few seconds when I crank, and then there is nothing. Most times there is just nothing from the get go in terms of engine sounds. All the dash lights come on, the headlights come on bright, and the radio comes on. The only noise I hear from the car when I crank (besides the occasional clicking) is a sort of "hiss" that I think is the fuel pump.

The only oddity I've noticed is that the lead seems to be a tad loose on the post but it is as tight as the screw will go. I tried shimming around it with some aluminum foil (as someone suggested me) but that did not help.

Has anyone experienced this issue or have any thoughts? Thanks.

EDIT: I have not yet jumped it or tested the battery. I am waiting on my girlfriend to get home to do those things since I need a working car for that.

EDIT2: Unable to comment since I'm new. @Arturs, I only had to disconnect the clamp on the post, nothing else. I looked for broken wires and all I found was on one of the two wires leading off the negative lead the cladding had broken open in a small spot, but the wires inside looked fine. The problem I was checking on was something with my exhaust/emissions from a long time ago, I just hadn't gotten around to resetting the light.

EDIT3: @Ben I mean when the key is in the start position.

EDIT4: I may have found the culprit. The negative terminal on my battery leads off to two locations: a wire to the body and a wire to part of the metal on the engine. Using a multimeter I'm reasonably certain that the wire going to the engine isn't grounding the engine properly. Am I correct in thinking that means the starter isn't getting grounded?

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    If your dash lights are lit, and your headlights are lit, and it cranks, you have a good connection. Don't worry about that. The issue is somewhere else. Did you have to undo any other wires to disconnect the main earth lead? Or it came off all at once? Would you mind to have a look around the battery to check for any loose/broken wires? Jul 22, 2016 at 19:44
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    P.S. What was the issue you repaired? And did you try to start after repair / before "resetting"? Jul 22, 2016 at 19:44
  • Does the engine actually turn over? or do you mean when the ignition is in the start position?
    – Ben
    Jul 22, 2016 at 20:29
  • A hiss or whirr when turning the key is the fuel pump priming the fuel system. Are your battery posts clean? Clen them anyways! :) Use a steel brush.
    – tlhIngan
    Jul 22, 2016 at 21:17
  • @T.Rogers: FYI On this site you actually can comment on (and edit) your own posts no matter how new your account is. It just appears, based on your avatars, that you somehow created a second account with the same name and are now using that instead of the one you originally posted with. So what you are running into is limitations on commenting on somebody else's post (even though that somebody else is still you, different account) with a new account.
    – Jason C
    Jul 22, 2016 at 21:26

3 Answers 3


If your car has a thief-deterrent (start inhibitor) or a remote starter, it may have been buggered up.

Also, there are simpler methods to reset your check engine light. Most code readers will do this, and many cars have an onboard procedure that will blink the codes and then reset the light.


The symptoms that you're describing sound like a poor ground connection for the starter motor. The starter draws way more power (i.e., current) than any other load. If you don't have a good solid connection it is likely that the motor won't be able to run, or won't develop enough torque to start the car.

The battery posts are slightly tapered and the slight looseness you describe makes me think that the ground terminal may be upside down on the battery post. That could explain both the looseness and the difficulty getting the starter motor to run.

Your Edit 4 to the question is indeed the probable cause. Without a good ground to the engine you almost certainly don't have a good ground for the starter motor.


Are you sure you don't have the wrong battery? The terminals have to be tight or the contact resistance will limit the current to the starter.

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