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How to Start a Car with a Bad Crankshaft Sensor!

  • Car Services
  • Gerard Stevens
  • 10 minutes

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Are you hurrying to drive to your workplace or going on a trip with family or friends? Well, the worst thing that can happen is you turn on the ignition, and the car hesitates to start. It can happen for various reasons, but mostly, it can happen due to a crankshaft sensor failure. So you need to drive the car to a mechanic for diagnosis. But you must know how to start a car with a bad crankshaft sensor! 


A bad crankshaft sensor is a major problem that can lead to engine failure if left unchecked. It isn’t advisable to drive your car with a faulty crankshaft sensor. You can drive by doing basic mechanical repairs or by utilizing starting fluid. If your car’s crankshaft sensor is faulty and won’t start, our blog will guide you in detail about how to start a car with a bad crankshaft sensor! 

how to start a car with a bad crankshaft sensor

What is a crankshaft sensor?  

It’s crucial to understand what a crankshaft is to know how a crankshaft position sensor (CKP) works. The crankshaft is essentially a shaft where the pistons are mounted. They are mounted on the lower part of the engine block. They rotate as the pistons move up and down, sending power to the transmission. The CKP helps the powertrain control module (PCM) keep track of the crankshaft’s position and rotation to correctly time the ignition and fuel injection. 

The PCM finds and notes a misfire-related DTC code when the engine isn’t rotating correctly. The proper operation of the engine depends on the CKP’s function. Depending on the car model, the PCM precisely times the injection time and length, the ignition timing, and occasionally other factors. 

Fortunately, replacing a bad crankshaft sensor isn’t a complex job. Still, before that, you must learn how to start a car with a bad crankshaft sensor! 

How does a crankshaft sensor work? 

You can locate the sensor close to the engine’s crankshaft, made of a coil of wire and a magnet. The crankshaft rotates while the engine is running. The rotating motion produces a tiny electrical current. The crankshaft’s speed affects how strong this current is. The PCM uses this signal to gauge the engine’s speed and accordingly time the ignition and fuel injection. 

Can I start a car with a bad crank sensor? 

The answer depends on the type of car you drive. Some cars, particularly older models with simpler engine electronic systems, only check the engine for misfires using the CKP sensor. The check engine light may start blinking or will turn on for a few extra cranks on certain cars, but the engine should start without any problems. However, it might not be practical as modern cars rely extensively on technology. The PCM will typically disable the fuel injection or ignition systems to stop the engine from starting. 

How can you start a car with a bad starter? Here’s the info!

What are the indications of a bad crankshaft sensor?  

These common symptoms show that your car has a bad crankshaft sensor. 

Vibrations from engine 

Are there vibrations from your car’s engine? When the crankshaft position sensor malfunctions, the PCM won’t be able to control the crankshaft effectively. Your engine will vibrate quite a bit as a result of this. As you grip the steering wheel with your hands, you might feel these vibrations settling into it. 

Check engine light turns on 


The crankshaft position sensor and PCM are in constant contact. The PCM will receive inaccurate information about the crankshaft’s position and speed if the sensor has a problem. So, the check engine light will turn on as the engine experience functional issues. It indicates the initial signs of a faulty crankshaft position sensor. Two specific engine error codes, P0335, and P0336 can activate.  

Issues with engine performance 

The PCM won’t know the correct position of the crankshaft or cylinders if the crankshaft position sensor malfunctions. The PCM’s ability to maintain the engine’s operation and performance will get delayed. There will be a hesitation every time you press the throttle pedal a little bit harder throughout this time. It occasionally responds at all.  

The car doesn’t start 

The PCM gets informed when there are issues with the crankshaft position sensor. The sensor sends it a unique error code to let it know there is an issue with its functionality. It will be more difficult to start the engine when you try to start your car when this problem exists. You might be unable to start your engine if the issue persists. 

Engine stalling 

Your engine may stall when you have a defective crankshaft position sensor. If you don’t replace this sensor soon, your engine won’t run. The only option will be to have your car towed to a shop so that you can replace the sensor. 

Misfiring of a cylinder 

When a crankshaft position sensor malfunctions, the PCM cannot get exact data on the position of the piston. A misfire frequently occurs inside one or more of the chamber cylinders as a result of this. However, if your car exhibits any other symptoms, don’t consider the possibility of a damaged crankshaft position sensor alone. Sometimes a bad spark plug can also cause this. 

How to start a car with a bad crankshaft sensor 

It is always best to drive your car with a good CKP. But if you want to take the car to a mechanic, follow these steps.  

Steps to follow 

  1. First, locate the crankshaft position sensor. You can usually locate it at the back of the engine near the flywheel. If not, it will be attached to the timing cover. Then you must remove the front passenger side tire to access the sensor. 
  2. Then, you must unplug the sensor. You must hold and press it, then pull it to detach it from the port.
  3. The next step is to spray or apply a starter oil/fluid on the mount’s opening. Find the throttle body under the hood to spray the starter fluid. Throttle bodies are generally near air filter boxes. Remove the throttle body cap and sprinkle a little starting fluid into it. It will help the engine ignite so that you can drive the car to a mechanic for diagnosis and repair. 

What to note 

So, imagine you’ve followed all these steps. Then you try starting the car with enough fuel, and the car hesitates. Then understand that the issue is with the spark plug. You can resolve it by replacing the spark plug or taking the car to an auto store 

How can I replace the crankshaft sensor?  

  • Remove the negative battery cable. It can help you avoid any electrical shorts while working on the car. 
  • Find the crankshaft sensor. You can locate it next to the engine’s harmonic balancer or timing cover. 
  • Unplug the sensor’s electrical connector. Pull the sensor out of its mount after removing the mounting bolts. 
  • Make sure the area around the sensor mount is clean. It will help you ensure a solid seal while installing the replacement sensor. 
  • Install the new sensor into the mount and tighten the mounting bolts. 
  • Reconnect the sensor’s electrical connector. 
  • Start the car to put the new sensor to the test. If it starts right away, you’ve successfully replaced the crankshaft sensor. 
  • If the car still doesn’t start, there could be another issue that needs repair. For further diagnostics and repairs, consult a skilled mechanic. 

How much does a crankshaft sensor replacement cost?  

The crankshaft position sensor costs between $120-$300 to replace. The part alone will cost between $75-$120. The labor cost will range between $45 and $180. 

Know how much does a car maintenance costs!

What other ways can you start your car having a bad crankshaft sensor? 

If your car doesn’t start and you suspect a defective crankshaft sensor, there are more things you can try. 

  • Examine the fuel level. The car will most likely not start if the fuel tank is empty. Fill it up and try once more. 
  • Check the oil level. If the oil level is low, this could be the source of the problem. Try starting the car again after adding more oil. 
  • Look for any loose wires. If cables near the crankshaft sensor are loose, an electrical short may occur. Tighten them up and see if that resolves the issue. 
  • Start the vehicle in neutral. If the problem is with the transmission, this might help. 
  • If all these fail, get a skilled mechanic’s help for further diagnosis and repair. They will be able to help you determine what is wrong and resolve the issue. 

How long does a crankshaft sensor last? 

Ideally, a crankshaft sensor should last the life of your car. However, it is subjected to wear and strain, just like any other component in your car, and will eventually fail. Crankshaft sensors can fail for a variety of causes like the following. 

  • Wiring issues 
  • Physical damage 
  • Contamination 
  • Extreme vibration 

If you feel that the crankshaft sensor is failing, you should have it checked out as soon as possible by a dealership or a skilled mechanic. 

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Can you drive without a crankshaft sensor?  

No. Driving without a functional crankshaft sensor is dangerous and can cause severe engine damage. If the crankshaft sensor in your car fails, you should repair or replace it quickly as possible. 

What happens if you drive without a crankshaft sensor? 

Your car’s engine will not function correctly if you do not have a crankshaft sensor. It can result in lower performance, greater fuel consumption, and engine failure. Driving without a crankshaft sensor may sometimes cause your car’s check engine light to activate.  

Can starter fluid damage my car? 

The function of starter fluid is to assist engines that cannot start due to insufficient battery power or cold weather. However, starting fluid is very flammable and can cause damage to your car if used incorrectly. The engine will flood and stall if you use more starting fluid. It can even cause the engine to catch fire in extreme circumstances. As a result, it is critical to use starting fluid sparingly and only when essential. 

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