Nothing can be more frustrating than heading out to your car, turning the key, and nothing happening.
“Why won’t my car start?”
With meetings, errands, or your regularly scheduled driving put on hold, a lot races through your mind. What can it be? What is the problem?
Depending on where you are, it may also be a logistical issue. How will you get home? What about your car?
Most people don’t carry a mechanical toolbox in their vehicle. When your car won’t start, it can bring on a pretty helpless feeling.
Before you give up and call for help, there are a few things you can do to look for the root cause of the problem.
The first check is to ensure your steering wheel isn’t locked. You can fix this common issue simply by turning the steering wheel from side to side while turning the key as well. If the steering wheel lock was blocking the ignition from fully turning in the starting position, this will fix the problem.
An empty gas tank will also prevent your car from starting. When was the last time you filled up? If you were low on fuel the last time you drove, or if your gas gauge has a default or is broken, your tank could be low on fuel.
Your car still won’t start?
You turn the key, and the engine won’t crank
When you turn the key to start your car engine, several parts are set into motion. The starter motor comes to life, and the engine comes to life as the spark plugs fire. Turning the key starts the engine turning over, which includes turning the crankshaft, which moves the pistons in the cylinder. This starts the engine cycle. Air and fuel are combined and pushed into the cylinders, where it’s compressed to fire off the spark plugs. This starts the combustion process.
When you turn the key and the engine won’t crank, it could cause several problems within this system.
Car battery – a dead car battery is one of the easiest to detect. When you turn the key to start the ignition process, if nothing turns on – lights, dashboard icons, or music from the radio – it means your battery is dead. This is a good reason to carry a set of jumper cables with you. Find another car nearby and use the jumper cables to jump-start your vehicle. This is a short-term solution – you’ll need to replace the battery soon. But this will give you a chance to get to safety, and decide what battery to buy.
Battery corrosion – as a battery ages, it can corrode. If enough corrosion accumulates, it could prevent your vehicle from starting. It might even prevent you from jumping your vehicle. Check the battery for corrosion and wipe it down if necessary. With the connection clean, try the key again.
You turn the key, and you hear clicking
When you hear a clicking sound as you turn the key, but the engine won’t turn over, it could mean a problem with the electrical system. The starter is responsible for the engine cranking over. If the proper connections aren’t made, you’ll need a new starter. With today’s modern vehicles, starters can last a long time. Check your owner’s manual for guidelines on how often your vehicle needs a starter motor replaced.
You turn the key and it cranks, but it won’t turn over
This can be especially frustrating. You turn the key and hear it almost start. You turn the key again, hoping to catch a break. This happens if:
The fuel filter is clogged – a clogged fuel filter prevents gasoline from reaching your engine. Without the proper levels of fuel, the engine won’t turn on. This occurs from buildup over time. As you hear the car sputter to life, it’s a sign a bigger problem is looming. Check your owner’s manual for how much life you can expect from an oil filter. If you’re reaching its lifespan, it’s a good idea to change it before it causes a problem.
The fuel pump fails – this could be something as simple as a relay or switch that no longer works. This is simple to check before replacing the fuel pump. If the fuel pump is damaged or fails, it’s time for a full replacement.
The timing belt is bad – a timing belt ensures the valves inside the engine open and close properly so that the valves and pistons never meet. This is a delicate balance of synchronicity to ensure the engine is stable as it operates. A timing belt is one of the most critical maintenance items. A bad timing belt can cause catastrophic engine damage, and require extensive engine repair or even replacement. Most car manufacturers recommend replacing timing belts according to mileage – pay attention to your manufacturer’s suggestions, as they can help you avoid major repairs.
You turn the key and the engine won’t turn over, but accessories work
When the dome light turns on and other accessories in your car still work, it’s a sign your battery is still providing energy, so the ignition system is at fault. The ignition system transforms the battery’s voltage into an electrical spark. If this switch is damaged or bad, it means there’s not enough power to complete the process.
When your car won’t start – take action immediately
As you read through this list, you’ll find one of them resonates with your current situation, Use this to guide you to safety. Once you’re home or in a location where you can further assess your situation, the key is ensuring that whatever was wrong won’t happen again.
It’s time to fully diagnose the issue and repair it.
Replacing it sooner will ensure you get safely back on the road without further issues, whether it’s a battery, an ignition problem, or a timing belt issue.
How can we help you? What questions can we answer? We’re here to help keep your vehicle healthy and on the road. Give us a call today.