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My 2008 Honda Civic has been turning over slowly, but failing to start on the first couple attempts to start it lately. Sometimes it'll start first try, but typically it needs multiple attempts. My father thinks that this is an alternator issue. However, this morning it was completely dead, and I attempted to jump it with no success. Why is my car not starting?

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  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! How long did you let it sit on the jumper cables before trying to start it? Are you sure you had a good connection with the jumper cables? Are you sure the jumper cables were put on correctly? If you have the availability of a battery charger, you can also try recharging the battery. The alternator in and of itself will not necessarily be the problem. If your battery is fully charged, it will start/run the car just fine. It could be the alternator, but ensure its not the battery first by having it tested if it won't take a charge. Nov 22 '21 at 14:55
  • When this problem first started, I went to a local parts store and had them test the battery and alternator, but they didn't find an issue. When trying to jump it I let it sit for about 10 minutes or so after making sure that the cables were seated correctly. I do not have a battery charger unfortunately. Nov 22 '21 at 15:01
  • My first guess is the battery is the issue. If it is over (or approaching) 5-years old, it's probably due for a new one. If you have the digital multimeter (you can get those cheap at Harbor Freight or big box home improvement stores), check to ensure the battery has ~12.5vdc or better. If not, it needs to be recharged. If the battery checks out, something else is wrong. Nov 22 '21 at 15:31
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If the car is silent, no starter noises then this may be a dead starter with several starts needed on almost every startup. This can lead to premature starter wear. There's a simple test but relies on a good battery and battery connections. With automatic in Park, parking brake pulled, front jacked up to see starter terminals, short two terminals on the starter solenoid - small terminal to large terminal with battery cable attached. This should result in the starter engaging and cranking the engine immediately regardless of ignition switch position (leave ignition OFF during this test). This tests the battery, battery cables, their connections and starter all at once. If the starter doesn't run or grunts, the starter may be worn out, battery is faulty, battery cables loose or corroded and won't provide high amperage to the starter. If the starter runs then there's either a fuel or spark issue.

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  • This very well may be the answer. I'm currently in the process of replacing my starter, so we'll see if that's the cause. Nov 28 '21 at 8:56
  • Update: the starter was indeed the culprit. On a side note, replacing the starter on this car was one of the most frustrating things I've ever done. I spent a total of 11 and a half hours replacing this in the cold, partly because I'm still learning how to repair my car and partly because it was below freezing the whole time. Plastic clips are so difficult to bend in the cold. Dec 22 '21 at 19:57
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The root problem may well be the alternator since if it were bad or failing the battery would not be charged between starts and eventually you'd get to the point where there is no enough energy left in the battery to start the engine.

But the first thing to check is the battery connections. Be sure that the connectors on the battery are tight and free of corrosion. Also check that the cables themselves are not damaged and that the non-battery ends are firmly attached.

If that checks out, then take the battery to a shop and have it load tested. This will give you a health status of the battery. If it passes then the problem is elsewhere, like the alternator. If it fails, then you should replace the battery.

Now check the alternator drive belt and make sure it's properly installed and not slipping. An alternator that is not properly driven can fail to charge.

At this point the alternator may still be bad so you can either check the battery voltage with the engine running and see if it's around 14V.

If it's too low or too high, it's probably the alternator. Many shops can test the alternator if you remove it and take it to them.

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