Q: Car intermittently won't start -- this time won't even start when jump started

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A few months ago I replaced my alternator and battery. So far it happened twice that the car won't start, with a few weeks in between. It happened after morning commute for both times (i.e. after parking in company lot for a whole day). The symptom is that the dashboard lights are on when the key is inserted, but are shut down when I turn the key to try to start the engine. I can't barely hear any cranking noise. Immediate after a starting attempt the battery seems completely dead (lights are all off) but after a while the lights turn back on, but the engine still can't be started. The first time I found another car to jump start my car and it was OK for a few weeks. This time nothing happens even though I'm connecting my battery to that of a Toyota 4-runner's. I guess something downstream of the battery is broken? Could be the wires connecting the starter, or the starter itself?

My car has 109500 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Hi Eric M. An issue like you’ve described is very difficult to diagnose without an onsite inspection. If you’re able to activate the starter on a consistent basis, then you can rule that component out as the source of your electrical problem. If the dash lights randomly turn on and off, and you have inconsistent operation of the ignition system, then the root issue may be related to the ignition cylinder itself. Sometimes an exposed wire or electrical short can cause this to occur, while in other instances, electrical wires and connections from the battery or alternator, connected or relayed to the ignition switch or relay can also cause these problems. This is a rather complex issue to attempt to diagnose and resolve, so you might want to have an experienced mechanic help you at your location.

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