Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start?

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The first generation Kia Optima was introduced around 2001.

Even though it could not promise the same level of reliability as its competitors, refinements were made to the second generation.

However, the refinements made to the fourth generation in 2016 packed it with much more substance and value.

The KIA Optima acknowledged and made continuous changes to the car with every generation.

Even though improvements were made, the cars were still recalled for various issues from 2011 to 2013 and from 2016 to 2019.

Let’s look at the main problems people had that caused them to go, “Why won’t my KIA Optima start?”.

  1. Bad Starter
  2. Battery Problems
  3. Bad Alternator
  4. Ignition Switch Problems
  5. Faulty Cables Or Connections

These issues can be commonly seen in the KIA Optima. If you want to learn about them in detail, stick around until this article’s end.

What Would Cause A Kia Optima To Not Start?

What do you do when your Kia Optima won't turn over? Read my guide to find out

There could be many reasons why your Kia Optima is having problems while starting.

Let’s look at them in detail, their reasons, and what you can do if you face a similar problem.

1: Bad Starter

As the name states, the starter is what causes your Kia Optima’s engine to start. It consists of a motor that connects the battery to the engine.

A bad starter can be due to battery corrosion, damaged parts of the starter system, or loss of wiring to and from the starter.

It is easy to confuse this problem with other car problems, and you might need to get your car towed. You might be able to identify a bad starter by looking out for some symptoms.

If there is a clicking noise when you turn the key to start your car or push the start button, it doesn’t work.

Another symptom is when you start your car, but the engine doesn’t power, and only the dashboard lights up.

Look out for these symptoms if you are not sure you have a bad starter problem, and get your car checked by a technician.

What Should You Do About It?

  • You can try jumpstarting your vehicle. Check to see if the wires to and from the starter are secure.
  • Try tapping the starter with a tool, as the problem could be a stuck gear.
  • If it doesn’t work, go to your nearest auto shop to get it checked.
  • It is better to replace your starter than to get it fixed.
  • However, ask your mechanic as the problem may vary in each case, so before spending your money, check if you need to replace it.

2: Battery Problems

This is a very common problem among many car models. Many reasons affect the functioning of the battery, even the weather that might cause the battery to die or slow down.

If your car battery is dead or weak, it will not be able to power the starter. Since the battery is the main power source, you need to maintain it if you want your Kia Optima to work properly.

Moreover, if your battery is dead or you haven’t charged it properly, your engine might make a clicking sound, and even the dashboard lights may flicker when you try to turn on the car.

Common reasons for a weak battery might include leaving your headlights on for too long, water inside the battery evaporating, and keeping the fan on while the engine is off.

Ensure the battery is connected properly and keep the battery charged and well-maintained to avoid any such issues.

Also, check the battery’s fluid level and get it checked by an experienced technician regularly.

What Should You Do About It?

  • Start by checking your battery and the wires that connect your battery to the engine. If you encounter any such problem, get it fixed.
  • If you’re stranded in the middle of the road, try getting your car jumpstarted that will help you reach your nearest auto shop to get it fixed.
  • If your battery is old and causing problems, just get it replaced to avoid future disruptions.
  • Lastly, you can use a voltmeter if you are not sure what the problem is; anything below 12V means it is low on charge.
  • Even though a battery can last you for about three years, get it checked annually to avoid future problems.

3: Bad Alternator

An alternator is responsible for charging the battery of your Kia Optima. It converts chemical energy to electrical energy to charge the battery.

If the alternator becomes faulty, you might have trouble with your car.

Signs of a bad alternator include dim lights or overly bright lights. This is because the voltage is not constant.

If the faulty alternator is not replaced in time, it can affect the working of other accessories of your car, such as windows that might take longer to roll down.

Your Kia Optima might take longer to start and make odd noises from under the hood. A bad alternator can even result in a dead battery.

Lastly, while starting your car, if it smells of burning rubber, then it means that the alternator is beginning to wear out.

Since the drive belt is under friction and your alternator is overworked, it may emit a foul odor.

What Should You Do About It?

  • In case of a bad alternator, try jumpstarting your battery. I believe this would be your first step to resolve the problem.
  • Take it to a mechanic to fix it if jumpstarting is not working for you.
  • If you are stranded, try replacing your battery with a charged battery, and you can drive your car to the nearest auto shop to get the alternator fixed.
  • Replace the alternator rather than get it fixed. A bad alternator can quickly deplete a perfectly good battery which is not good at all.

4: Ignition Switch Problems

This is another reason that causes your car to have problems. A bad ignition switch does not supply power to the engine’s ignition system, starter motor, and other parts.

This switch can temporarily cause your vehicle’s dashboard lights and other accessories to turn off.

However, if you are not sure that it is your ignition switch or any other problem causing this, then you can use a voltmeter to see if the wires leading from the ignition switch to the starter have any voltage.

If there is power, then the problem might be in the starter.

The ignition switch might be old, which is why it causes trouble and stalls the car when you turn it on, either with a key or a button.

Thus, you need to consult with an experienced technician to know whether you should get it replaced or not before spending your money.

What Should You Do About It?

  • The ignition switch can be fixed easily by going to your mechanic.
  • If the key doesn’t turn, you might have a slightly bigger problem that can cost you more, but it can still be fixed.
  • If the ignition switch remains faulty without repair, it can cause electrical damage to other engine parts. Therefore, get it fixed as soon as possible.

5: Faulty Cables Or Connections

Your KIA might have an electrical short, which is why you might have some problems with your car.

This can be due to bad cables or connections as sometimes the cable might not be connected properly to have a secure connection or worn-off cables are used.

In this case, the power doesn’t flow through the engine. The cables might go bad due to an electrical short.

Lastly, if the posts of the battery are corroded, they might not connect.

To start your Kia Optima, the starter motor needs to maintain a good connection with the battery post to power the engine.

What Should You Do About It?

  • If it is a case of faulty cables, get it fixed by a mechanic and replace the faulty cables.
  • Simply tighten the connections if the cables are loose.
  • Finally, if there is corrosion, just brush it off with steel to maintain a good connection with the battery posts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start With New Battery?

If you have changed your battery and the car still isn’t working, check if the battery is connected properly and ensure it has no loose wires.

If you have done that and it still doesn’t work, it might be due to other reasons, for example, a bad starter; get other parts checked as well.

Q2. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start Even With A Jump?

A jump start can help with almost any battery problem but if your battery doesn’t work even after that, look for other parts, such as the starter or alternator, as they can be faulty.

Q3. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start But Lights Work?

The battery in a car provides power to the entirety of the car and is not just restricted to the engine. If the lights work, the battery is working, but other parts might be faulty.

Since the lights do not require a lot of power, even if the battery is faulty, the lights can still work.

Q4. Why won’t My Kia Optima Start But Cranks?

Your Kia Optima might crank because of a problem in the fuel system or engine problem. This can be due to a bad ignition coil or a clogged fuel tank.

Your engine might have trouble getting fuel or producing a spark. To fix this, get the fuel tank cleaned and the engine checked to avoid this problem.

Q5. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start Just Clicks?

If you hear a clicking sound, there is a problem with the Kia Optima’s electrical system. Firstly, your battery might be low on charge or even dead.

Maybe the starter is causing this problem as it cannot power the engine and rapidly turns on and off, making a clicking sound.

It can also result from a problem with the alternator. It would be better if you got it checked by a mechanic.

Q6. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start In The Cold Weather?

The cold affects the battery by slowing the chemical process by producing less current.

It causes the engine oil to thicken, which increases friction in the starter motor, causing it to exert extra force.

Since the Kia Optima already has a weak starter, the cold weather causes the engine to work extra hard.

Q7. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start After I Get Gas?

In this case, there might be a blockage in the filters or leakages that might affect the engine and prevent it from starting.

There is a chance that you have a faulty fuel pump; get it checked by a mechanic. Moreover, get any leakages in the gas pump fixed and clean out the blockage in the filters.

Q8. Why Won’t My Kia Optima Start But Radio Works?

Like the lights, the radio does not require a lot of power to start, unlike the engine. Therefore, other car accessories will work fine if the problem is in the battery or the starter system.

Related: What Are The Worst Years For The Kia Optima?


Kia Optima, a small brand from South Korea, started a lineup in the US in search of increased market share.

Since the start, it had many other Japanese competitors, but it proved to be of value with its latest models.

It had many previous models being criticized due to the problems they had, but they were always acknowledged, and got better with time.

Finally, I hope you might not need to ask, why won’t my Kia Optima start anymore if you have completely read this article.