2011 Hyundai Sonata starter problems troubleshooting

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Did you know your Hyundai Sonata starter motor and alternator have a limited life span that can cause the car not to start? An alternator can become defective after 200,000 to 300,000 miles. The starter motor, on the other hand, can break after just 100,000 to 150,000 miles.

Battery issues and corrosions are majorly the reasons behind the starter problems of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The alternator and starter motor defects are the costliest reasons and easy to fix if you are handy.

This article will dive into the reason why your Hyundai Sonata won’t start and the associated fixes. It is vital to practice caution when dealing with electrical components. Therefore, it is advisable to seek professional help if you don’t have much experience fixing car troubles.

10 Definitive Reasons Why Your Hyundai Sonata Won’t Start

10 reasons your 2011 Hyundai Sonata won't start
There are many reasons that make Hyundai Sonata 2011 version does not start. These include battery-related problems, ignition, motor, alternator, fuel-related issues as well as damages caused by rodents.

It can be challenging to pinpoint the cause of the issue, especially when you have no stored codes. You can use an OBD-II scan tool to capture any stored codes that can narrow the causes. Regardless of the stored codes, you will be required to get your hands dirty to diagnose the issue.

Moreover, it would help to have another person helping you with the fixes since they can be tedious and demanding for one person. 

Bad Battery

Good and bad batteries
Good batteries usually look quite new and can perform well. However, when they have gone bad, there is white or green corrosion or loose connection at their terminals.

For your vehicle to start, you need a fully functional battery that can transfer a starting signal from the starter to the engine. Defective batteries will not hold a charge for a long time and can fail from time to time due to overuse. Old batteries are not recommended since they can cause your vehicle not to start at any moment. 

Most car batteries will be unreliable after four to five years. Therefore, it’s better to replace it after three years to avoid any inconvenience. The battery is most likely the culprit if the Hyundai’s engine takes a long time to get cranked. 

If this is the case, you will need to test the voltage between the terminals using a multimeter. Additionally, you may need to check the starter battery state and the acid levels of the battery itself.

Start by using the multimeter. Set it to the voltage range of your car-specific battery and attach the respective battery terminals to the multimeter terminals. 12 to 13 Volts is considered normal, whereas anything below or above these values is a sign of a defective battery. 

How to check the starter battery by using a multimeter

You can also test the battery using jumper cables and another functional external car battery. You need to connect one end of the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the external battery. Take the other end and attach it to your car battery. Proceed to connect one end of the black jumper cable to the other terminal on the external battery and the other end to the metal in the engine area. 

If these diagnoses fit the issue, you had a bad battery. Proceed to replace it with a new one that is rated for your car specifically. 

Corroded Battery Terminals

Corrosion is a common occurrence in the engine bay, especially near electrical components full of metallic elements. Apart from environmental factors such as moisture and oxygen, battery components can cause corrosion on battery terminals. 

Sulfuric elements in the battery emit hydrogen gas. The gas gets trapped under the bonnet resulting in terminal corrosions, which can be accelerated if there are any leaks or loose connections. The breakdown will inevitably deter the power flow from the battery to other electrical parts of your car. 

The first step to diagnosing the corrosion is to remove the rubber covers from the battery terminals. You can inspect them visually by checking for any rust, dust inclusions, or debris settlements. These deposits will be white or silver-green. 

Corroded battery terminal is one of the reasons that 2011 Hyundai Sonata won't start
Corroded battery terminal with white or silver-green deposits. This causes faulty operation when starting the vehicle.

You should inspect the deposits and look for any cracks and signs of damage to the terminals. Corrosion will slip into a metallic element by gradually eating it away till cracks start forming, allowing for leaks and defects. In case there are no cracks or deformations on the part, proceed to clean the corrosion off.

You will have to remove the battery from the vehicle to clean it. Use plastic pliers or other plastic tools to detach the battery to avoid any electrical shocks and power surges. Clean the terminals once the battery is safely disconnected and ensure the parts are dry as possible. Reattach the battery and the terminals to see if the fix worked. If not, proceed to the next cause.

READ MORE: Battery light comes on while driving and the car dies

The Key Does Not Turn In The Ignition

A locked steering wheel is the primary reason why your key won’t turn in the ignition. The steering wheel will often lock if it is turned after removing the key from the ignition part. This is a common occurrence, but it can be frustrating. Do not be tempted to pull the steering wheel aggressively or turn the key too hard since this will complicate the issue further. 

key won't turn in the ignition
The car’s ignition is a vital part, which shows when the vehicle is ready to start. If the key can’t turn in the ignition, then there should be a starter problem that is needed inspection.

There is no foolproof way of fixing this issue, but you can try a trial-and-error method to find a fix. The trial-and-error process entails turning the steering wheel to either side while jiggling the key in the ignition. You can try to turn the wheel to the left and right to see which side has more give than the other.

Proceed to turn the steering wheel to the side with more give and hold it in that position as you turn the key. You can then start rocking the steering wheel back and forth as you turn the key. Remember to do all of this gently to avoid breaking the key inside the ignition cylinder. 

Another reason why the key does not turn in the ignition has to do with the lubrication of the lock. You can use graphite or silicone-based lubricants to lube the lock. These lubricants are the best for such scenarios since they won’t accumulate dust or particulates, blocking the lock’s internal systems further.  

Other uncommon but plausible reasons include: using the wrong key, a deformed key that can’t function properly, or a defective ignition cylinder. 

Faulty Starter Motor

bad starter motor
A bad starter motor can be easily noticed based on symptoms such as a buzzing noise, loud clicking, wiring noise, or a grinding sound.

The starter motor is a simple electric motor whose purpose is to turn electrical energy into mechanical energy. This transfer of power from one form to another is what helps start the engine. If the battery, battery terminals, and ignition are in good condition, then the starter motor is the next likely candidate for this problem. 

Electrical power moves from the battery to the starter motor. Once the starter motor is on, it rotates the flywheel, followed by the crankshaft rotations. The crankshaft will then end the starting cycle by moving the pistons to crank up the engine. 

A faulty starter motor will have symptoms such as a buzzing noise, loud clicking, whirring noise, and even a grinding sound. The buzzing noise indicates a flow of power to the motor, but it cannot be actuated. A bad battery and corroded terminals can cause this lack of any actuation, but a faulty motor is most likely the cause. 

On the other hand, the grinding sound indicates a loose starter motor caused by worn-out flywheels or pinion gears. If you hear any clicking sound when turning the key in the ignition, the cause is a faulty starter motor. 

A quick fix for a defective starter motor is to try and hit it while turning on the ignition. This is effective for a short time if the associated components are out of alignment. However, the best fix is to get a replacement motor for your Hyundai Sonata. 

You may require a professional’s assistance to replace the part since you need a car-specific motor and correct installation procedures. You should expect to spend around $400 to $700 to pay for the replacement part and the installation service.

Bad Alternator

A bad alternator may cause your vehicle not to start but can also cause it to stay on for a short period. The purpose of an alternator is to ensure your car battery is always charged. The alternator is an electric power generator that helps set the battery and supply the extra power to the electrical components. 

Bad alternator
A bad alternator could provide unstable electrical resources and be shown in the form of dim, flickering, or very bright headlights.

Alternators are relatively low-maintenance and have a long life span of 10 to 15 years. You may be wondering, how long can you run the vehicle without the alternator or with a defective one? Once the alternator malfunctions, the battery is essentially disconnected from the electrical power supply and won’t charge. 

With that in mind, you can expect more run times with a fully charged battery than one that does not have a full charge. On typical occasions, you can expect the vehicle to work for just 8 to 30 minutes. 

A bad alternator will give you a few signs before it completely fails. A faulty alternator will provide unstable voltages to the electrical parts, and this can be seen in the form of dim, flickering, or very bright headlights. If you try jump-starting your car, but the battery dies quickly after, the alternator does not charge the battery sufficiently. 

The best fix for a bad alternator is to replace the part with a Hyundai Sonata alternator to avoid compatibility issues and future failures. The alternators will rarely fail, but this will depend on the usage and stress levels. 

Clogged Fuel Filter

Bad fuel filter
Clogged fuel filters can’t let fuel pass through into the engine, which makes the vehicle fails to start.

As it is aptly named, the fuel filter aims to serve the critical purpose of filtering dirt, debris, and particulates from fuel. It does this to keep the inclusions from entering the engine area and damaging essential components. Dust and particles can accumulate in the engine cause friction, increasing heat, and the tear of internal components. 

To pinpoint the cause of a clogged filter, you will first have to look for other symptoms of a bad fuel filter to save yourself some time. A clogged filter will often sputter, leading to weird howling sounds when you idle. Another sign is inconsistent acceleration which is caused by low fuel levels in the engine block. Over time, the clogged fuel filter will result in poor fuel efficiency and high engine temperatures.

Your vehicle will have difficulties starting if the fuel filters are clogged, thereby not allowing fuel to pass through into the engine. For the engine to start, you need sufficient fuel delivered into the system to be mixed with the proper air ratio for combustion. The vehicle will fail to start if you have a wholly clogged filter since partially clogged filters do not affect the ignition process that much.

It would help to replace the fuel filter every 30,000 miles to avoid straining its effectiveness. However, some filters can last longer, and it all boils down to maintenance and the quality of your filter. The cost of replacing the part depends on the car and the labor costs of your mechanic. In a typical case, you should expect to pay around $100 to $200. 

Failed Fuel Pump

bad fuel pump
The bad fuel pump will provide insufficient fuel to operate the engine and not build enough pressure to transfer the fluids.

The fuel pump is built to help transport fuel from the fuel tank to the carburetor in an internal combustion engine. The pump is made of a mechanical system of an electrical system to help build enough pressure to transfer the fluids. 

It is hard to diagnose a bad fuel pump since it is connected to multiple components that can cause it to malfunction. However, there are a few signs that can help narrow your diagnosis. Like the fuel filter, sputtering can point to a failed fuel pump since the engine isn’t getting enough fuel. Another sign is inconsistent acceleration and decreased fuel efficiency. 

A bad fuel pump won’t be able to provide enough fuel to the engine section. The engine’s lack of fuel or enough fuel will prevent the car from starting since there is no fuel to combust and start the engine. 

The quick fix to diagnosing this problem is to listen to the sound of the fuel pump. Open the fuel cap and turn on the ignition. A fully functional fuel pump will produce a humming sound if you listen to it carefully. The fuel pump is probably faulty if you do not hear the sound. Replace the defective pump with a new Hyundai Sonata fuel pump to fix the issue. 

Bad Spark Plug

bad spark plug
Bad spark plug with corroded parts couldn’t ignite the mixture of air and fuel in the engine.

As you may know, spark plugs do precisely what their name entails. They spark, creating sparks that ignite the mixture of air and fuel in the engine. The result is explosive combustion that produces the chemical power translated into mechanical energy to drive your car. 

A bad spark plug is dangerous since it can cause engine surging and jerky rides. You will also experience high fuel consumption and poor acceleration when you have bad spark plugs. Moreover, they can cause the engine to misfire, produce higher emissions, and even fail to start.

Spark plugs can function appropriately for 30,000 to 90,000 miles without any need for a replacement or service. Frequently changing your spark plugs can improve fuel economy with an increase of up to 30%. Moreover, it may cause your vehicle to start more smoothly and effortlessly. The solution to fixing the bad spark plugs is to replace them as soon as possible. 

Damaged Fuse

damaged fuse
Fuses are damaged when electrical components create too much current flow.

Fuses protect the different types of electrical components from electrical surges. They are built as a safety measure on the electrical circuit to prevent one part from damaging the others due to current flow. The fuse is made of a quickly melted wire which will break to cut the circuit once a component causes too much current flow. 

The fuse box is a delicate part to fix if you are not an expert. You can take your car to the workshop, where a mechanic can resolve the issue without the risk of power surges and shorts. 

Rodent Damage

Most people know that their cars are a source of heat for rodents such as rats, squirrels, opossums, and woodchucks. A lot of cars will experience rodent infestations in the engine bay, especially during the cold weather. The rodents will often destroy components as they hunt for the heat. This includes chewing on wires and breaking other essential electrical parts.

Rodents damage the starter
Rodents, which can be rats or squirrels, bite the car wirings when looking for a warm place in the engine bay.

It is essential to deal with rodents as quickly as possible since the repair costs can be very high compared to other causes. Since the damage may be more significant than what your eyes can see, it is advisable to take the car to the workshop instead of only looking under the hood. 

You can take preventive measures to avoid future rodent damage by blocking entries to the engine and using the vehicle regularly. 


All in all, the reasons that cause the Hyundai Sonata starting issues are easily fixed once you know how to pinpoint them. Diagnosing the starter motor may take you more time than the rest of the components, but it is rarely the cause. 

Most of the time, you will be dealing with a weak battery and corroded battery terminals. With that said, you should make a habit of regularly maintaining your vehicle. This is because most of the causes mentioned above can be prevented with regular care, thus saving you a lot of money on repairs.

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