A car can fail to start for many different reasons. Failed components, dead battery, bad gasoline, poor maintenance are some of the main reasons why my car wont start. The worst time for a car to fail to start is on a road trip. We delve into the top 20 reasons that cars do not start and discuss what owners can do to solve their car starting problems.
Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start
The following are some of the top reasons car owners are unable to start their cars. In some situations, you may have to have your vehicle towed to the car repair shop to have the problem diagnosed while others have simple solutions and can be dealt with by the owner.
Car owners can avoid many of these causes and save money by regular car maintenance, including oil changes and keeping their car in excellent running condition. Check your owner’s manual for maintenance schedules.
The Key Battery is Dead
The key FOB has become standard for many cars. The FOB provides another level of security for the owner. If the FOB is not near the vehicle, the car can not start. Owners need to keep the FOB in their pocket or purse and press the ignition button. Even cars with regular keys may have this security feature. All of the FOB’s depend on a battery for the system to operate. A dead FOB battery causes the FOB to malfunction. You may not even be able to unlock the car with your FOB. Check the battery of your key periodically.
Wheel Lock is On
Modern cars have an anti-theft device called the wheel lock. When the key is removed, the steering wheel locks in place. Occasionally it can be challenging to insert the key into the ignition switch because the steering wheel is locked and preventing insertion of the key. Try nudging the steering wheel in both directions which should allow you to insert and turn the key to start your car.
Empty Fuel Tank
Forgetting to listen to the warnings and check the needle on your fuel tank display could leave you stranded. Many people push the limits, and they rely on the mileage left on your fuel tank display.
This is an average of your consumption of fuel. Changing speeds, more city driving than usual can lead to an empty tank earlier than expected. Keep your fuel tank topped up. Believe it or not sometimes you car isnt starting because it needs gas.
Bad Spark Plugs
Spark plugs, spark plug wires, and ignition systems have been improved to a large extent in new cars. They typically last beyond the hundred-thousand-mile mark. However, these elements can deteriorate for several reasons and may make your car difficult to start, deliver poor fuel economy and poor acceleration. Confirm your plugs and wires are in good condition.
Car Battery Dead
Dead car batteries are a common reason a car may not start. Leaving the dome light on mainly if the light stayed on for an extended period, corroded battery cables, and old batteries that are approaching the end of their life cycle are some of the reasons your car may not start. If the starter motor is turning slower than usual, have your battery checked out. A simple test can determine the overall health of the battery and if it should be replaced.
Also, it is always good to carry jumper cables just in case you need to jump start your vehicle if your battery runs dead.
Corroded Battery Terminals
Corrosion builds up on battery terminals over time and can reduce the transfer of power to the starter motor. Remove the cables and clean them before replacing the wires on the battery. Ensure that they are secure before starting the car.
Broken Starter Motor
A broken starter motor thankfully has become less common with late-model cars. However, when they fail, your vehicle is inoperable. The engine may lose teeth and not engage with the flywheel properly. If you hear a clicking sound, the motor may be broken or not receiving enough power from the battery. Try jump-starting the battery. If the starter still has a clicking sound, the starter motor has likely failed.
Apply More Pressure on the Clutch
Depressing the clutch before attempting to start the car triggers a clutch switch which in turn tells the car’s computer that the clutch is ready for you to start the car. The same applies to automatic transmission vehicles. In this case, the brake must be depressed. Either the operator forgot to depress the clutch or the switch itself may be defective.
Broken Car Battery Terminal
A broken car battery terminal or a broken car battery cable or even a loose cable connection can stop the electric current from being transmitted to the starter.
If some power is getting through, the starter may click; otherwise, there may be no power at all. Even your dash lights, dome lights, and headlights can not operate if the terminal is broken.
Security System Delay (Starting your car with the wrong ignition key)
Attempting to start your car with the wrong ignition key does not work. The cars security system is looking for an electronic signature associated with your key. If it does not receive this signature, the security system can not allow the car to be started. Losing an electronic key or FOB can leave you with a vehicle that cannot be started and driven.
Bad Ignition Switch
Ignition switch failures occur from time to time. Keyless entry vehicles depend on an electronic signature to be received before they can start the car. Cars that still require a key to be inserted and turned may have their ignition switch damaged because the wrong key was used, or the switch was damaged in some way. If the key cannot be turned or the car does not start when it is turned, the ignitions switch could be defective.
Fuel Filters Clogged
Fuel filters are designed to filter out any impurities from the gasoline before it gets to your engine. Dirt and grit can accumulate in your fuel tank and fuel lines over time. Running on a low fuel tank can allow some of this material to find its way to the filter. If too much is caught, the fuel filter can be clogged and not allow sufficient fuel to be passed to the engine.
If the alternator is not charging your battery, it can quickly discharge and your car can not start and could stall any time. Check to confirm that the belt driving the alternator is still in place and not slipping.
A faulty alternator or a discharged battery should cause a check engine soon light to be illuminated. You may have to have a mechanic check for codes generated by the engine control module to diagnose the problem.
Electrical System Problem
Electrical system problems can make it difficult to start your engine. Everything from bad sensors to a faulty ECM (Engine Control Module) can cause your car to run roughly or not even start at all. A bad alternator, battery terminals, an old battery, loose connections, corroded connections, bad ignition cables, and more. Have your car looked at by a local mechanic! They can use a code reader to assess the problem.
Bad Fuel Injector
Fuel injectors can have carbon and dirt in them, which disrupts the flow of fuel. Electrical connections may be loose or corroded. Your car may run roughly if only one fuel injector is not working correctly. It should either be cleaned or replaced. While the mechanic is doing the work, replace all of them to eliminate future issues.
Timing Belt Replacement
Timing belts are designed to last from seventy-five to one hundred thousand miles. They control the timing of your valves and camshaft so that the pistons and valves are in the correct position to deliver maximum power from the engine. A worn timing belt can cause severe damage to the engine in addition to being unable to start the engine.
Belt Unbuckled Security System
Drivers and passengers who do not buckle up while in a moving vehicle are placing themselves at risk. However, an unbuckled seat belt only generates a warning in the car to the driver and occupants and does not prevent the vehicle from being started.
The Instrument Panel is Not Ok
One indicator of electrical problems is that your instrument panel is not ok. There may be one of more indications that something is not as it should be. The check engine soon light is one of the first indicators that something is wrong. Check for error codes saved in the ECM. Depending on the vehicle, other warning lights may be illuminated, providing a better indication of what may be wrong with your engine.
Check Fuel Pump and Relay
An engine may suddenly stop and cannot be restarted if your fuel pump and relay stop working. When the fuel pump is working, you may hear a low hum from the pump as it pumps fuel to the engine. The relay turns on the fuel pump and off as the fuel is needed. Check the fuse for the relay to assess if it has failed. If you feel that the fuel pump or the relay has failed, have a professional mechanic inspect the system.
Bad Cold Start Valve
A cold start valve enriches the air-fuel mixture when starting an engine in cold weather. A bad cold start valve does not deliver sufficient fuel to start the engine. Your car may be difficult to start in cold weather, fuel economy declines, and engine performance may also decline. It may even misfire or stall unexpectedly. An auto mechanic can diagnose the problem and replace the faulty valve.
Why Does my Engine Cranks but the Car Isn’t Starting?
If your car engine cranks but does not start, there are a few potential issues that can be eliminated. Obviously, the car battery, the starter motor, and the battery terminals are working correctly. Your engine may not be receiving sufficient fuel due to no gas in the gas tank, a bad fuel pump or fuel pump relay, a clogged fuel filter, a bad cold start valve, bad fuel injectors or your spark plugs/ignition cables could be bad.
In some situations, a car that won’t start can cause the check engine light to be illuminated indicating the ECM has saved an error code. Check the obvious, i.e., fuel in the gas tank. Arrange for your car to be inspected by a professional mechanic to determine the reason for failing to start. While the vehicle is being checked, owners can have their summer tires rotated and balanced.
How to Clean Corroded Battery Terminals?
Corroded battery terminals have an ashy white deposit around them, which over time can decrease the power transfer efficiency of your battery. Cleaning the battery terminals is pretty straightforward.
- Use a disposable towel to wipe away as much of the material as possible
- Disconnect the battery cables starting with the positive terminal (do not allow the battery cables to be short-circuited)
- Wipe away as much of the white ashy material as possible from the terminals and the wires
- Mix 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda in a small bowl of distilled water
- Use an old toothbrush to apply the baking soda solution to the cables and terminals
- Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands
- Wipe away the excess material and then wash the battery with water
- Avoid getting the paste on other car components
What if My Car Won’t Crank?
If your car engine won’t crank, several potential reasons should be looked at. These include:
- A car battery is fully discharged
- The battery terminals and cables are corroded
- An Alternator belt is slipping or broken and not charging the battery
- You have not depressed the brake or the clutch pedal
- The starter motor connections are broken
- A neutral safety switch is on
- The starter motor is faulty
- Key battery is dead
- The FOB battery is dead
- Attempting to use the wrong key or FOB
How to Check if Your Car Battery is the Problem?
Diagnosing a car battery problem is a matter of elimination if you are doing this on a DIY basis. A repair shop has the testing equipment to confirm your batteries health and ability to store a charge and provide sufficient cranking current to the starter. They can also confirm that the alternator is producing current necessary to meet the specifications provided by the manufacturer.
DIY car testing can be more challenging. Start by charging the car battery with a battery charger. Once charged, if the car starts easily, you have eliminated the starter motor and battery terminal issues. Your alternator may not be producing sufficient current or your battery may not hold enough charge. Lights and dashboard systems typically run off current produced by the alternator. If they dim while the car is idling, your alternator may be the cause.
Have a professional mechanic verify your findings and make the appropriate repairs.
Car Wont start Clicking Noise
When you hear that clicking noise while trying to start your car, it suggests that there is not sufficient power getting to the starter or that the starter motor has failed. First, check that the battery terminals and cables are in good condition. Connections should be secure. Tighten any loose connections after first removing any corrosion that is present.
Provide a battery boost from another vehicle to start the car. If it cranks and starts, the problem is either a bad battery or a faulty charging system. The battery can be load tested, and individual cells in the battery can be tested to confirm overall battery health. The alternator should also be tested to confirm output and eliminate a bad alternator. Confirm that the alternator belt drive is not slipping or broken.
Batteries typically last five years assuming standard operating conditions and use. Although the alternator and starter can be the cause of starting problems, the battery is often the cause of the problem, mainly if the battery is older. Have your car diagnosed by a mechanic if the car fails to start after being boosted. Better to have a professional check a car that wont start.
What Does it Mean When Your Car Wont Start, but All the Lights Come On?
If the car does not crank, but the lights come on, it may indicate that you have a dead or dying battery. Car lights and dash lights require very little power to operate, which even a dying battery may be able to provide. A starter motor requires much higher power from the battery which a dead or dying battery cannot provide.
Even corroded battery terminals can provide sufficient power to operate the lights but not start the car. Verify that you have tight connections on the battery terminals. Verify that you have depressed the brake pedal or the clutch pedal to engage the safety switch. Request a boost from another vehicle to confirm that the starter is working and allow your vehicle to be driven to a car repair shop.
Car Won’t Start, but Battery is Good
Figuring out why a car does not start can be a process of elimination. There are several easy steps to take to sort out why a car doesn’t start. For example, the common reasons your car won’t start are:
- Fuel tank is empty
- The clutch or the brake peddle is not depressed
- Steering wheel lock is engaged
- The battery in the electronic key or FOB is weak
- Using the incorrect key
- Verify that fuses related to the ignition system are good
- Verify that the alternator belt is tight and not slipping or broken
Then there are more challenging issues or reason your car won’t start that may need the services of a professional with the appropriate test equipment. These include:
- Cold start valve is defective
- Spark plugs are faulty
- Neutral safety switch on
- Ignition wires are broken
- The fuel filter is clogged
- Dirty air filter
- Fuel pump or relay is broken
- Fuel injectors are dirty or defective
- The timing belt is worn
- Battery is dead
- Battery terminals are corroded
- The alternator is faulty
- The starter motor is broken
The check engine soon light may be flashing or glowing solid indicating that there is a problem that has generated an error code which is stored in the ECM. A code reader can read this code, which may provide some guidance regarding the problems starting the engine. Sometimes you car isnt starting for silly reasons like empty fuel tank, neutral safety switch or dead battery.
What to Do if Your Car Wont Start?
As you can see in this article, there multiple reasons why your car can fail to start. It is crucial to check the battery of your vehicle periodically, and always carry jumper cables in case you need an emergency jump start. Sometimes the car overheats, but in most cases, a dead battery is proven to be a common cause why your car wont start.
Check your owners manual if you see warning signs and lights radio on. You can find more related articles down bellow with great information about your car. Also, If you notice that the car check engine light stayed one when you start the engine, then the car owners manual will be your first choice of information.
The engine wont start due to many factors including car overheats, worn timing belt, bad ignition switch, and many more. Schedule an appointment with a car repair shop as soon as you notice some of the previous symptoms to avoid complete engine failure.
Nothing ruins your morning faster than getting into your car, turning the key and finding nothing happens. When your car won’t start it slams a screaming halt to whatever plans you had. According to the Chicago Tribune, the number one cause of this is a dead battery.
When you Try to Start Your Car, but Absolutely Nothing Happens
One sign that your battery has decided it’s time to take a sick day is that nothing will happen when you turn your key, except maybe a series of clicks as it tries unsuccessfully to come to life. When you decide to start your vehicle, and there isn’t enough juice in your battery to get things going those frustrating clicks will be one of the tell-tale signs, other than the engine not starting, of course.
Another signal that your unresponsive engine is the fault of your battery is that the dashboard doesn’t light up, your overhead lights don’t come on, and your radio won’t play. Your battery is what gives life to all the accessories for your car. If it doesn’t have enough charge to start the engine, you can bet that it won’t be able to get your auxiliary items going either. In this case, it’s a safe bet that your battery needs some attention.
It Cranks And Cranks but Just Won’t Catch
We’ve all felt that little ray of hope as you turn the key and hear the engine start to crank, but it just won’t grab hold and start. Most times, this is due to your battery not having enough charge to turn over the engine. In some cases, after a few times of cranking the car will just start to click. And as we mentioned earlier, those frustrating clicks are one of the ways your vehicle reacts to an unresponsive battery.
The great news is that more often than not, with this symptom, you can buy some time by having someone jump start your car. It can be tempting to ignore it now that your engine is running, you must give it the attention it needs. Be sure to use your borrowed time wisely and find yourself a new battery before you end up stranded with no jumper cables or Good Samaritan insight.
You Live in a Place with Extreme Weather
According to Firestone Complete Auto Care, extremely high or low temperatures can significantly reduce a batteries life. If you live in an area that the climate can reach these radical temperatures, it could take months or even years off your battery.
If you had to leave your car out in the extreme cold or extreme heat and it won’t start, there’s a good chance the temperature has killed your battery. Be sure to check them often in these regions and try to keep your vehicle protected from the elements to avoid the problem altogether.
One way to determine if the weather has affected your battery is by taking a look. There will be outward signs that your battery has been compromised. When your automobile has been sitting out in the heat or cold, then you will notice that the battery casing is swollen. If the outside walls of the case have bulged out, even by a little, it means trouble. Unfortunately, when this happens, there’s not much you can do but replace your battery.
Needs a Little Help to Get Going
Your battery is designed to have enough juice to be able to start up your car all by itself. If you find yourself having to pump the gas to get it moving, then it could be signaling that it is low on charge and won’t be useful much longer. Or if you need to jump start your car more than once or twice than it’s a surefire sign your battery is on its way out.
These can be symptoms of other problems, but checking your battery is easy enough to do. If you have your own multimeter or voltmeter, hook up the red cord to the positive battery terminal and the black cable or wire to the negative. If it’s 12.4 or above your battery is good, if not then you should start searching for a replacement. You can learn how to test a battery yourself with online tutorials such as this one by ChrisFix.
Your Car Could be Telling You
There are a lot of different alarms and warning lights that come standard on cars today. This makes troubleshooting simple vehicle issues quite easy. One of those notifications is usually regarding your battery. Your engine will troubleshoot itself and illuminate a signal on your dashboard telling you that something is wrong with your battery.
However, if your battery has already died, then your dashboard will remain dark, and you won’t get the message. Pay attention to the typical signals your car is telling you before problems happen, and if you see a check engine light come on, make sure you take it seriously. Address it before the issue escalates, and you should be able to have enough time to find a replacement or charge it sufficiently to avoid disaster.
A Weird Smell is Coming From Under the Hood
As anyone who has ever driven a car knows, your vehicle can emit some unusual smells at times. However, if you smell something that resembles rotten eggs coming from under your hood, realize this is an immediate sign of your battery in distress.
As batteries start to leak, they can build up sulfur deposits. When your battery is recharged, it releases hydrogen gas. When the hydrogen gas mixes with the sulfur deposits, bad things can happen, such as explosions. It’s not likely, but it is a definite possibility. So if you notice that type of smell, replace your battery immediately. There’s no reason to tempt fate when the end result is that bad.
Your car’s battery is its lifeline; its heartbeat, and when it doesn’t work correctly. Practicing a little bit of preventative maintenance will go a long way. If you pay attention to the symptoms of your car, it will help you determine how best to get your battery back to life and you back on the road.
If you check the battery and notice that it is working correctly and your car doesnt start, then you should consider scheduling an appointment with a local car repair center for a complete check-up. Also, things like a dirty air filter, defective spark plug, and bad alternator are common causes when the car doesnt start, and the car battery is in good condition.
When your engine starts to fail due to extreme road trip driving conditions, it is best to take your vehicle to a car repair shop to make sure they run a complete system check-up. Regular car maintenance will ensure your vehicle will continue to run safety.
Most times you car isnt starting for simple things like empty fuel tank, neutral safety switch or FOB dead battery. Make sure you take your car periodically for car maintenance and oil changes.