Car won’t start? Follow these troubleshooting tips to diagnose the problem
There are few things worse than hopping in your car, pushing the start button or putting the key in the ignition and turning the key, only to have nothing happen. Whether you’re sitting in your driveway running late for work, stuck in a parking lot on a hot summer day, or stranded in a parking garage late at night, there’s just never a good time to have your car not start.
If this problems happens to you, it’s important to know what could be causing your issues so you know who to call and how to get it taken care of quickly.
Here are the most common reasons why a car won’t start:
1. Dead Battery
Car batteries are built tough. Eventually, though, the extreme temperatures (cold and hot) in addition to hundreds of start cycles will eventually take their toll. Leaving a light on in your car, a loose terminal connection, or simply old age could also be the cause of a dead battery. Whatever the case, you won’t be going anywhere anytime soon until the battery has enough power to turn the starter motor.
The easiest short-term solution is to ask someone to give you a jump using jumper cables. If you’re able to jumpstart your car, you should immediately take it to a mechanic, auto parts store, or our dealership if you’re around Sedalia, MO to have a new battery installed.
Have the technician try to identify the source of the battery drain to avoid the same thing from happening again down the road. We always recommend keeping a set of jumper cables in your trunk so you won’t be left stranded if your battery goes dead.
2. Bad Starter
The starter motor is a device that takes current from your battery and converts it into high-energy motion that’s transferred to the engine through a flywheel. This motion allows the engine to draw in fuel and air to begin the combustion process that allows your vehicle to run. Like any other car part, your starter can fail, and when it does you’ll get even less response from your vehicle than if the battery is dead.
The unmistakable symptom of a bad starter is a clicking noise when you try to turn the engine over. If you can put your car in accessory mode and use the radio, in addition to hearing the clicking noise, you know it’s probably a bad starter.
As a core engine component, a bad starter will can’t be fixed with a jump. Typically, you’ll have to tow your car to a mechanic shop and have the starter replaced.
3. Empty Gas Tank
If you can use your radio and the engine seems to want to turn over but it won’t fire up, consider checking your gas level. Running out of gas can happen to any of us, and it’s the easiest problem to fix. Since gas gauges are sometimes not entirely accurate, people who like to run your vehicle near empty occasionally go too far and end up without enough gas to get the engine going again.
Checking your gas tank early on in your diagnosis is an easy and important item to do since you want to avoid spending a lot of money to tow your vehicle when it could be resolved with just a few gallons of gas.
If your gas tank appears to be empty, you’ll need to refill it before it will start. Most gas stations sell government-approved gas containers for just this purpose, so purchase the smallest one they sell and fill up your tank with just enough gas to get you back to the gas station.
4. Bad Alternator
While your car depends on its battery, starter, and sufficient fuel to get going, it also needs a working alternator to charge the battery so that it’s always ready for action. If the alternator goes bad, you will experience many of the same signs as you do when you’re dealing with a bad battery. The difference is it will be difficult or impossible to jumpstart your vehicle because the alternator won’t take over to charge the battery once your vehicle has started. If your battery keeps dying even after being jumped, this is another surefire sign of a bad alternator.
Most alternators die over time, so if you’re paying attention you will likely start noticing signs like dimmer lights and slower-moving power windows before it fails completely. If you ignore or don’t notice these signs and don’t have the alternator replaced, it could end up leaving you stranded.
When your car won’t start, it’s easy to assume the worst. You might worry that something has gone critically wrong with your vehicle and it will be expensive to repair or replace. On the contrary, a car not starting is often fairly easy to fix and repair. Just try to remain calm so you don’t make the situation worse, and then focus on getting the help you need to ensure the problem is resolved correctly.
Additional reason why your car won’t start may include:
- Electric fuel pump failure
- Timing belt failure
- ECM/PCM (computer) failure
- Lack of oil
- Clogged catalytic converter
- Carburetor problems
- Broken or cracked distributor cap
- Bad ignition coil
- Clogged fuel filter
At Bryant Motors, our technicians are ASE-certified and Repair Pal approved. We’re a full-service auto shop, and can service or repair just about anything – whether you bought it here, at a competitor across town, or across the country. If your car won’t start, bring it on down to our automotive repair center in Sedalia, MO.