You have a busy day scheduled, including running a few errands and a scheduled appointment. You’re ready to get the day started and jump in the car only to learn it won’t start. It is the last thing you want to deal with, but you have no idea what is wrong. Sometimes intuition signals a possible problem, but you know it is imperative to start investigating. Whether you have a preceding vehicle or a newer model, it is possible to run into car problems when you least expect it.
Here are nine potential reasons why your car won’t start and what to do about it.
Battery is dead
Besides the need to fix a broken transmission as a common reason for a car not working, a dead battery is also a top culprit. Usually, it is the case if the starter is slow or cables show signs of corrosion. There are different reasons why a dead battery occurs. Something on the car such as the headlights were left on for an extended period. There could be water somewhere that doesn’t belong preventing the connectivity the battery needs. A wire may be loose, or the battery needs changing because it is old. Jump-start the battery to see if the car will start and try cleaning your connections if corrosion is present. If these options don’t work, replacing the battery is likely.
Electrical issues related to remote start
Many cars have a convenient feature that includes remote start or remote keyless entry. These may seem like luxury features, but they can cause havoc when they don’t work correctly. Sometimes the computer system in the car may be “off” when something is wrong. Think about mobile apps and how they sometimes have “bugs” that make them malfunction. In some cases, the same occurs with vehicle electronics. If you can’t find the key to get into the vehicle and start it manually, you may need professional assistance to diagnose the problem. A mechanic may connect your car to a computer to determine a solution.
The alternator helps your battery hold a charge. If it is not working correctly, it may prevent your battery from charging. A drive belt that is worn out may be a sign your alternator has failed. Your vehicle check engine light may come on if the belt breaks. The light may not come on if your charging system isn’t working correctly. Look for voltage and check for the number 14 or something in that ballpark. Modern vehicles may have a variation in components. Parts of your car might work but at a lower capacity such as dim headlights or a slow starter. The battery may not be charged. Get a technician to check things out.
Empty gas tank
Did you forget to check the gas tank and realized your car ran out of gas? Sometimes people continue driving their vehicle when it’s close to empty. The car may tell you so many miles until your gas tank is empty, but some continue pushing the limit until it is too late. You wait to stop at the gas station or keep putting it off thinking you still have time. Make sure you check the fuel gauge and watch the needle to keep track of how much gas is left. Refill a gas can or use roadside assistance service to have gas brought to your vehicle.
Failed fuel pump
If the fuel pump isn’t working correctly, it affects how the vehicle runs. The problem depends on the model and age of the car. The fuel pump plays a vital role in modern vehicle performance and ability. Earlier cars may not have this issue as the fuel moved through the vehicle differently with the help of gravity. It allows vehicles to travel up steep hills. When the key is in the ignition and turned on you may hear the pump running briefly. It may be difficult to hear, but if it is not running your car won’t start. Get it checked out for a professional opinion.
Starter went bad
When you start a vehicle, you’ll hear the engine turn over. The starter begins this process, and it plays a critical role before the motor starts. Technology advancements for the starter design have improved, but they still fail. When a starter doesn’t work it makes a clicking noise signalling it’s broken. Sometimes a lousy starter gives the impression that the battery is weak if it spins slowly. As you start the car it makes the sound as if the engine is trying to turn over, but it doesn’t. If you hear clashing or grinding noises the ring gear or engine’s flywheel could have teeth damage. It may be worth to check other areas of your vehicle such as the ignition switch or relay. In many cases, the starter needs replacement.
Bad spark plugs
The spark plugs are part of the ignition system. They are common culprits suspected when a car doesn’t start. The life of spark plugs may vary depending on the vehicle model and age. Earlier vehicles would see spark plugs go bad at or around 100,000 miles. Because people tend to change their cars every few years, it’s a non-issue until the car won’t start. The spark plugs should be replaced as recommended in the owner’s manual. When your vehicle is scheduled for maintenance you can have them checked if you have concerns or want to know the status. If your car doesn’t start a technician may spot the problem and replace them.
Locked steering wheel
A car won’t start if the key does not turn when inserted in the ignition. The steering column locks as an anti-theft precaution when the key is taken out. The position of the wheel may shift as it locks. As you turn the key, try moving the steering wheel to the right or left. You should feel the anti-theft lock release. From here, the starter should get the engine to turn over starting the car.
The air filter is clogged
The fuel filter allows the car to breathe. The filter keeps out debris such as grease and dust. Over time, as it collects it gets clogged. The more miles and years accumulated with the vehicle, it is possible to combust. A clean filter is important because it affects airflow the filter needs to help the car run efficiently. Some can change the filter themselves by going to an auto parts store to purchase the filter. You can also have a mechanic install it for you.
Other reasons why a car won’t work
There are other reasons why a vehicle won’t start. A clogged fuel filter serves a similar purpose to an air filter. It keeps the fuel separated from unwanted debris as it flows. Experts suggest changing this filter every 20,000 to 40,000 miles.
A frozen fuel line may prevent a car from starting, especially during cold weather or when condensation occurs in the fuel lines. Sometimes water gets in the tank as a result. When it’s cold outside, keep your gas tank at least half full. The timing belt may fail, leading to engine damage.
The belt keeps the pistons and valves from touching each other. To prevent damage to the engine, the belt should be changed based on the owner’s manual for the vehicle. It may be after 60,000 miles or within several years.
A distributor cap that’s cracked or broken with moisture could lead to severe problems with your vehicle, besides failing to start. It protects different elements including the spark plugs and ignition coil. Keep the cap dry by wiping it and make sure it is clean. If the cap is damaged, replace it.
Car maintenance tips
No matter how long you’ve had your vehicle, it is important to establish regular maintenance to keep your car running smoothly. It is essential to know your options when you need something fixed, or you need a professional opinion. Routine maintenance may prevent many situations previously mentioned. Other aspects of your vehicle get the attention they need during maintenance checks such as an oil change or tire rotation. When the check engine light comes on, don’t ignore it. The light went off for a reason, and even if the car is driving fine, it may be worth visiting a mechanic. Roadside assistance coverage plans provide support for members experiencing car trouble. It may include a towing or cost of labour.
Many of today’s cars feature modern technology people can’t live without, but it doesn’t mean your vehicle won’t have problems. When your vehicle stops working you need answers. You may be able to determine what the problem is, but if you can’t, that’s okay. A professional mechanic may help. Regular service maintenance reduces the risk of car troubles. Keep in mind that some problems may incur unforeseen costs. It is imperative to understand how your vehicle works. Have an action plan ready including contact details of a reputable auto business source and a backup transportation option if your car needs fixing.