Battery Equivalents and Replacements

Car Won't Start: It Sounds Like A Drill

A reliable vehicle is essential for daily life, whether it's for commuting to work, running errands, or taking road trips.

The car's engine starting process is a complex system that relies on the harmonious operation of numerous components.

When one or more of these components fail or wear out, it can lead to a host of issues, including the dreaded "drill-like" noise when attempting to start the car.

Published: April 22, 2023.

car engine 1

How Car Engine Starting Works

The process of starting a car engine involves several crucial components working together in harmony.

When you turn the ignition key or press the start button, the battery sends an electrical current to the starter motor, which then engages the flywheel. The flywheel, connected to the engine's crankshaft, begins to rotate, which in turn starts the engine.

During this process, in gasoline engines, the ignition system provides the necessary spark to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber, and the engine comes to life. In diesel engines, the diesel fuel is under very high pressure injected directly into the compressed hot air, allowing the diesel engine to start.

Reasons Why Your Car Won't Start But Would Sound Like a Drill

When your car refuses to start and instead produces a drill-like noise, it is often an indication of an issue within the starting system or related components. The following sections describe some of the most common reasons for this problem.

Stripped or damaged flywheel teeth

The flywheel is an integral part of the starting system, and its teeth are crucial for proper engagement with the starter motor.

If these teeth are worn, damaged, or stripped, the starter motor may struggle to grip the flywheel effectively.

This improper engagement can produce a grinding or drill-like noise when attempting to start the car. A thorough inspection by a professional mechanic is necessary to confirm and resolve the issue.

Worn or damaged starter drive gear

Similarly, the starter drive gear, which engages with the flywheel teeth, can also wear down or become damaged over time.

A worn or damaged starter drive gear can create an inadequate connection with the flywheel, leading to a drill-like noise during the starting process. Replacing the starter drive gear or the entire starter assembly may be necessary in this case.

Faulty starter motor

The starter motor is responsible for turning the engine over during the ignition process. If it is malfunctioning or damaged, it may struggle to rotate the engine, causing a drill-like sound.

In this scenario, it is essential to have a professional mechanic diagnose the problem and replace the starter motor if needed.

Faulty or misaligned starter motor mounting

A properly mounted starter motor is essential for optimal engagement with the flywheel.

If the mounting is faulty or misaligned, the starter motor may not connect with the flywheel effectively, resulting in unusual noise. A mechanic can check the starter motor mounting and make necessary adjustments or replacements to resolve the issue.

Engine mechanical issue

In rare cases, an engine mechanical problem, such as a seized engine or broken timing belt, could cause the starter motor to struggle and produce a drill-like noise.

car engine 4 engine repair

These issues may require more extensive repairs and should be addressed by an experienced mechanic.

Note: this is a worst-case scenario - when the timing belt breaks or skips a little bit, pistons may catch valves, breaking them. This sounds as if an electric drill is mixing pebbles in an iron pot.

Bad ignition switch

A faulty ignition switch may not provide sufficient power to the starter motor, leading to an unusual sound. If this is the case, replacing the ignition switch should resolve the problem.

Damaged wiring or other electrical issues

Damaged wiring or other electrical issues within the starting system can also prevent the starter motor from receiving adequate power. A thorough electrical inspection by a professional mechanic can help identify and repair any such problems.

car engine 2 test

Drill Sound vs. Clicking Sound

There is a very fine difference between a car engine producing a drill sound and a clicking sound.

In this article, we mentioned the most common causes of the car's engine producing drill sounds.

But, the car's engine may also produce a clicking sound, typically caused by:

  • Weak or dead car battery: The most common reason for this problem is a weak or dead battery. The drill-like sound could be the starter motor struggling to turn the engine over due to insufficient power from the battery,
  • Worn or damaged starter solenoid: The starter solenoid, responsible for engaging the starter motor, could be worn or damaged, leading to abnormal noise,
  • Loose or corroded battery connections: Poor electrical connections at the battery terminals can cause insufficient power delivery to the starter motor, resulting in a drill-like sound, etc.

So, if your car is producing a clicking sound, there is probably an issue with the battery, while if the car is producing a sound like a drill, there is probably an issue with mechanical parts included in starting process. Of course, this is a simplified scenario, but very common.

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Few Final Words

When your car won't start and instead sounds like a drill, it is often indicative of a problem within the starting system or related components.

To diagnose and address the issue, it is crucial to consult a professional mechanic who can accurately determine the cause and suggest the appropriate repairs.

Regular maintenance and timely repairs can help prevent these issues and ensure a smooth and reliable starting experience for your vehicle.

But, when this does happen, stop trying to crank/start the engine, don't get nervous/panic, and simply call a tow service.

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