My friend has a Mk4 Ford Fiesta with a 1.25 16V Zetec engine.

She went to start it earlier today, it turns over but it makes a strange clicking/chugging sound:


I've never heard that sound from an engine before, what could it be? Is that the sound of an engine not getting fuel?

It has previously been starting and running fine. The ambient temperature is about 4°C.

Update: Having spoken to the owner again, apparently the dashboard has been playing up a bit this week with the lights flashing (it didn't do that when I had a quick look earlier). So I'll look at the fuse boxes tomorrow - is there anything in particular I should look at first?

  • That sounds pretty ugly. Possibly a valve lifter issue? Is noise coming from top of engine? Stethoscope or long screwdriver in ear test?
    – zipzit
    Jan 21, 2022 at 15:44
  • @zipzit Thanks for your comment; it's going to be tomorrow before I can get to it in daylight for more investigation. Jan 21, 2022 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


While it sounds very loud, to me it just sounds like the starter solenoid going in and out due to either a flat battery or a bad connection at the battery.

You can hear the starter turn the engine over a few times, but then there isn’t enough power to keep the starter turning and the solenoid engaged.

Presumably the engine isn’t running at this point?

Check the battery connections are clean and that the battery isn’t flat.

  • Ooh, interesting. I always associated a poor battery with the starter motor going slower and slower, but I can see that maybe a more modern car from the 1990s might behave differently. The engine is not running at this point. The battery connections appeared good with no corrosion, but I'll clean and re-secure them anyway to make sure - perhaps after a spell on a battery charger. The vehicle is generally used for only short journeys. Jan 21, 2022 at 20:55
  • Yes, put it on the charger for a few hours and see how it goes then. Hopefully that is all it needs, but it may be a sign that the battery is getting near the end of its life.
    – HandyHowie
    Jan 21, 2022 at 21:03
  • The car has only done 20,000 miles—I don't think it's the original battery, but....(!) Jan 21, 2022 at 21:06
  • I took the battery to a motor factors and it tested as bad even though it had a charge on it. The car started straight away with a replacement battery. Jan 22, 2022 at 10:53
  • I suppose overall it is good news.
    – HandyHowie
    Jan 22, 2022 at 12:31

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