What to do when your car won’t start
Vehicles today are much more reliable than they were in the past, but they can still let us down at the most inconvenient times. There are thousands of moving parts in your car or truck, and some might be digital, so even a well-maintained vehicle can be temperamental.
If your car won’t start, hopefully, you are in a safe place. If you are not, you need to think of your safety first and remove yourself from any dangerous situations. Provided you are at home, in a parking lot, or on the side of the road, you can try to diagnose the issue.
While your efforts may not always fix the root cause of your problem, they might help you back on the road to reach a repair facility. In some cases, your troubles might be minor and simple to resolve. Here is a checklist of items that could be causing you pain, and how you can address each one either on your own or with some assistance.
When the Engine Won’t Crank
When you turn the key in the ignition and nothing happens, you likely have an electrical problem. You can also test this by trying to turn on your car’s lights or radio (turn them back off after the test). A few of the common electrical issues that will impact your vehicle include:
- Dead Battery. One of the most common causes of a “dead vehicle” is a problem with the battery. This can include a battery that is drained and one that is completely In the first case, the battery can be recharged, and in the second it needs to be replaced. If your battery is just drained, you can get a jump start, and your car’s alternator will recharge the battery as long the car is still running. Battery terminals can also become corroded, which you can fix with a simple cleaning.
- Starter Issues. If your headlights and other electronics turn on, but the car doesn’t crank, you might have a problem with your starter (or ignition switch). Your car has a starter under its hood, which could stop working. If you hear clicking, but the engine doesn’t start, this may be the cause of your trouble.
- Ignition Switch. After ruling out the starter, the ignition switch itself could be the problem. Both starter and ignition switch issues should be addressed by a mechanic.
The Engine Cranks, But the Car Won’t Start
If your engine is cranking, but the car won’t start, you probably have a fuel related issue. First, continuous cranking of a vehicle in cold weather could be harmful to your engine. If the system is allowing you to crank the engine, you know that your battery is working. A few common issues are:
- No Fuel. Look at your vehicle’s gas gauge. Did you run out of gas? This is the simplest problem to fix. Your fuel gauge might also need to be recalibrated if it isn’t giving you accurate information.
- Clogged Fuel Filter. A clogged fuel filter will prevent fuel from reaching your vehicle’s engine. If this hasn’t been replaced recently, it’s time. This could resolve your issue.
- Bad Fuel Pump. Once you’ve ruled out the fuel and fuel filter, it’s possible that your fuel pump is the problem. If your vehicle has been jerking while driving or your gas mileage has dropped, this could be your culprit, and this part will need replacing.
- No Spark. An engine needs a spark to ignite the fuel. If this isn’t happening, you are probably going to need the services of a mechanic.
When You Need Assistance
If you can’t fix the problem on the spot or don’t feel comfortable attempting to work on your vehicle, it’s time to get some help. When your car won’t start, you can get it to the nearest repair facility with a trusted towing and roadside assistance service.
To recap, the steps you should take when your car fails to start include:
- Make sure you are in a safe place.
- Attempt to diagnose the issue.
- Fix it, at least temporarily, when possible.
- Call for help if you need a tow or other assistance.