How to Fix a Honda That Won't Start: Common Causes & Solutions

By Vlad Samarin May 27, 2024
From our extensive experience with Honda vehicles, we know that in most cases, your Honda doesn't start because of one of the following common reasons:

Discharged or Dead Battery:

Battery, Honda Civic12-volt Battery, Honda Civic
The first and most common cause is the 12-volt battery. It may be just low on charge or has deteriorated to the point where it no longer has enough capacity. Symptoms of a discharged battery include:
  • No lights on the dash at all if the battery is completely drained.
  • If the battery is very low on charge, the dash lights come on but flicker when pressing the start button or turning the key. No starting sound.
  • If the battery has some charge but not enough to start the vehicle, you will hear a single click or the engine may turn over very slowly and then stop.
  • If the battery has deteriorated and no longer has enough capacity, the Auto Idle Stop function may not work, or the engine won't restart after shutting off (Pilot, Odyssey, Ridgeline).
Solution: Have the vehicle boosted (jump-started) and run the engine for a while to recharge the battery. If the battery is less than 5 years old, it may work fine after recharging. An older battery will most likely need to be replaced. If you want to know for sure, your mechanic or dealership can test the battery's condition. Some Honda vehicles with Auto Idle Stop require an AGM battery which is more expensive. Check your owner's manual for details when replacing the battery. Some Honda vehicles will need the security code to be entered to unlock the audio system after the battery is replaced. You may have the card with the code stored in the owner's manual pouch, or your dealer can get the code for you.

Starter Motor:

Starter Motor, Honda PilotStarter Motor, Honda Pilot.
The starter motor is a common culprit, especially in the Honda Civic, Accord, and CR-V. Often, the starter motor deteriorates gradually, although it may fail suddenly without warning. Symptoms of a bad starter motor include:
  • The lights come on but no starting sound at all, not even a click.
  • Before failing, the starter motor may have been making unusual noises or occasionally worked with a delay or intermittently.
  • The vehicle doesn't start even when boosting the battery.
Solution: If confirmed, the starter motor will need to be replaced. It's a several-hundred-dollar job. In many Honda vehicles with a 4-cylinder engine, the starter motor is located under the intake manifold, making its replacement more difficult. In some cars, such as the 2016+ Honda Civic, oil leaking from a bad valve cover gasket onto the starter motor can cause it to fail prematurely. In this case, it's a good idea to have the valve cover gasket replaced at the same time. Here are several videos showing the starter replacement process in the 2016 Honda Civic.


Alternator, Honda Civic, 2.0L engineAlternator, Honda Civic, 2.0L engine.
A failed alternator will not directly cause your Honda not to start. However, as a bad alternator cannot recharge the battery, the vehicle will not start once the battery is completely drained. Often, the alternator fails gradually, giving intermittent problems first. Symptoms of a failed alternator include:
  • The red battery warning light or "Check Charging System" message.
  • The vehicle starts when boosted but does not restart on its own battery after running, even if the battery is fairly new.
  • The alternator might be damaged by oil and visually appears covered in engine oil leaking from a valve cover gasket or other parts located above the alternator.
  • The alternator is driven by a drive belt and will not work if the belt is broken or loose.
Solution: Your mechanic can test the alternator with a multimeter or a battery tester. The labor charge to replace the alternator varies between 1.0 and 1.7 hours for different models. The part costs several hundred dollars; aftermarket alternators are cheaper, but some aftermarket alternators can cause the warning light to stay on. If the old alternator is covered in oil, we recommend repairing the oil leak at the same time to prevent the new alternator from failing prematurely. For example, in the 2011-2017 Honda Odyssey, a leaking spool valve may need to be replaced.

Ignition Switch:

Ignition switch (circled). Honda CivicIgnition switch (circled). Honda Civic.
In many older Honda vehicles, such as the 2003-2007 Honda Accord or 2005-2010 Honda Odyssey, the electrical portion of the ignition switch can wear out and cause the vehicle not to start, often intermittently. Sometimes the vehicle starts but stalls. Symptoms of a bad ignition switch include:
  • When turning the ignition ON, there is a buzzing noise coming from under the dash.
  • The car may start when turning the ignition key with slightly more pressure or when holding it down while turning.
  • The vehicle stalls if the ignition key is slightly pushed sideways without turning it.
  • The vehicle starts after several attempts of turning the key to "Start".
One way to verify a faulty ignition switch is to confirm that moving the key without turning it affects starting or stalling.

Solution: Replacing the electrical portion of the ignition switch is not very difficult. The part is cheap. It's attached to the back of the ignition lock. To replace it, the lower steering column cover will need to be removed. For example, these YouTube vidoes show how to replace the ignition switch in the 2010 Honda Odyssey. If you want to have it done at your Honda dealer, they may charge about 1 hour of labor plus the diagnostic fee if needed.

Ignition Lock:

Ignition lock, Honda CivicNew ignition lock. Honda Civic.
The ignition lock can also fail and cause the key not to turn in the ignition. Symptoms of a bad ignition lock include:
  • The key doesn't turn in the ignition.
  • The ignition key could also break or get stuck inside the ignition lock.
Solution: A failed ignition lock will need to be replaced. Your Honda dealer is the best place to visit for this issue. The reason is that the new ignition lock comes with new keys that will need to be programmed to the car. Alternatively, check with a local locksmith for repair options. In some cases, the lock cylinder can be repaired. Here is a great YouTube video showing the repair of the lock cylinder in the 2004 Honda Civic.

Start/Stop Switch:

Start/Stop switch, Honda HR-VStart/Stop switch, Honda HR-V.
In some Honda vehicles, such as the HR-V, a faulty Start/Stop switch can cause the vehicle not to start. Symptoms of a bad Start/Stop switch include:
  • To start the vehicle, the start/stop button must be pressed repeatedly or with more effort.
  • The key-shaped amber warning light may illuminate on the dash.
Solution: Replace the Start/Stop switch. It's an inexpensive part and is not very difficult to replace. Check with your local dealer for possible warranty extension.

Brake Light Switch:

Brake light switch, Honda AccordBrake light switch, Honda Accord.
In Honda vehicles with start/stop switches, a failed or sticking brake light switch can cause the vehicle not to start. Symptoms include:
  • When pressing the start/stop button, the dash lights come on but the vehicle doesn't start.
  • The brake lights do not come on when pressing the brakes.
  • The transmission shifter may not shift out of Park; often, this problem is intermittent.
Checking the brake light switch is easy: verify that your brake lights come on when pressing the brakes. Although other parts of the brake light circuit can cause this issue, the brake light switch is the most common.
Solution: Replace the brake light switch. We recommend getting it done at a Honda dealer because the procedure to replace and adjust the switch is very precise, and the switch can be damaged if not installed correctly.


Honda produces great cars; however, things can wear out or break as in any vehicle. If your Honda doesn't start, we hope this article will provide you with some useful information.