The last thing you want when you are all set to leave a place is car problems, especially when your car just won’t start! It is frustrating to say the least, and at the same time, fairly common too. Most car owners have experienced this at some time or the other.
When your car is not starting the next time, you don’t have to panic because in this guide, we’ll tell you all that you should do to get your car going on. This way, at least you won’t feel frustrated or hopeless, though it may take a little more time and effort than what you had planned.
So, what really happens when you try to start your car and what is the problem?
Reasons Why Car Won’t Start
There are hundreds of reasons why your car won’t start when you turn on the ignition. But some reasons are more common than others, and this is why we will focus on them.
Probably the most common reason why a car won’t start is dead battery. Your car battery can drain due to many reasons. For example, you would have kept the headlights on while parking and forgot to turn them off. This could cause your car battery to drain.
Other reasons could possibly be a loose wire, evaporation of water inside the component that could cause poor conductivity, or just the long use of the battery itself! It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause, but the end result is that your car will not start.
One way to know if the dead battery is the problem is to use jumper cables. If your car starts, then obviously it is a dead battery. On the other hand, if the car still doesn’t start, look at the next possible reason.
Another way to affirm is the problem is a dead battery is to turn on the headlights. Since the battery controls the headlights, you can rest assured that your battery is fine if your headlights turn on.
Bad Ignition Switch
When you know for sure that there is no problem with your car battery, the next place to look for is the ignition switch. If your car does not start after a few tries, the reason could be a possible bad ignition switch.
Also, if your car starts and stalls suddenly, it can be due to a bad ignition switch. This happens when the ignition switch fails at the “on” position, the one that is meant to power the fuel and ignition systems.
You can check if the problem is with your ignition switch by turning the ignition key to the start position and letting go of the key. Allow it to come back to the “on” position and look at what the warning lights (if they blink) tell you. If they go out when the switch snaps back in, then your ignition switch needs to be fixed.
Just like a faulty ignition switch, a broken starter is another reason why car won’t start. Your starter is the force that turns on the engine, so if this is broken or faulty, it will not turn on the engine and resultantly, your car will not start.
To check if the problem is a broken starter, look for a clicking noise when you start your vehicle. If your hear it, the cause is definitely a broken or possible even a weakened starter.
Your fuel filter should be clean to ensure that gasoline reaches the engine. Ideally, these filters should be changed every 10,000 to 15,000 miles, to prevent them from getting clogged. Obviously, when they get clogged fuel will not reach the engine and your car won’t start. How can you find out if clogged fuel filters are the cause?
The best way is to open and check. But a good rule of thumb is to change fuel filters after every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. If you haven’t changed it for some time, consider changing it and check if your car starts now.
Security System Compromise
Most cars today come with a immobilizer or a security system that allows the car to start only when the right key is inserted. The ignition key and your car key have a chip and this should match, otherwise your car will not start. This has been done to give additional security to your car and to prevent the possibility of thefts.
When the right key is inserted and the chip code in both the ignition system and key matches, the security light will turn on for some time and it will turn off automatically. This is a sign that everything is fine with the car.
But, if your security light does not turn off within a few minutes or continues to keep flashing, it means there is some problem in the security system. In turn, this will not allow the car system to start.
If you look at it, this is a logical mechanism. If someone tries to start your car with the wrong key, it is most likely a thief trying to steal your car. This will cause the security lights to come on and in turn, your car will just not start. This entire system is meant to keep your car safe from thieves and anyone who is looking to compromise your car and its security system.
Sometimes, you can mistakenly insert the wrong key, especially if you own multiple cars. If that’s the case, you can reprogram your car keys. This information should be available in the owners’ manual itself. If you can’t find it there, simply Google it and there should be ample information and videos on how you can do this reprogramming by yourself. Just make sure you are looking for the right model and make, as the programming method can vary from one car model to another.
Empty Gas Tank
Though this may seem like an obvious cause, we don’t think about it often. If you have been driving for a long time without refueling, an empty gas tank can be the possible cause why your car won’t start.
The best way to fix it – grab your wallet and head to the nearest gas station.
Now that we have seen the most common reasons, it is sure to make you feel better. Many times, you can identify the cause quickly and fix it right away, especially in easier to fix problems such as an empty gas tank.
If you are unable to fix the problems by yourself or worse, if you cannot identify the cause of the problem, it is best you call a car repair technician and take help from him/her to fix your car.
But, here are some ways to identify the cause of the problem.
How to Identify the Problem?
Here are some things you can do to identify the problem.
- Turn the key in your ignition. Are you able to do the turn? If you can’t, it could mean a bad ignition switch that needs to be replaced. It could also be because your steering is locked with the ignition lock. This is the typical way to park when you are parking your car on a hill or if the front wheels are pushed against something, the steering gets locked automatically. So, move your steering a bit to see if it unlocks, so you can turn on the ignition. Otherwise, consider replacing or fixing the ignition switch.
- If you are able to turn on the ignition, next check if the lights are turned on in the instrument panel. If there are no lights on the instrument panel, it means no power is coming from the battery. The reason could be both a bad ignition switch or a dead battery. Turn on the headlights, and if they work, the cause if a bad ignition switch. If the headlights do not turn on, you have a dead battery on your hands.
- Moving on, check if the security light (the light shaped like a key) flashes in the instrument panel or if it stays on. If this happens, then it means your car has been compromised. As mentioned above, you will have to reprogram the key to get the engine going again.
- So far, if you haven’t identified the cause, next look for the check engine light. Does this get turned on? In general, this light should come on while starting, and this could mean, that power is coming from the engine and the computer is working fine. On the other hand, if you can’t see this light, it could mean that engine is not getting battery or there is some problem with the engine computer itself.
- The above things should give you an idea of the problem. In case none of those have helped you identify the problem, turn on the ignition and see what happens. If nothing happens and the car doesn’t start, it could mean a dead battery, a broken starter or even a faulty ignition system.
- On the other hand, if you hear a clicking sound, but still the engine doesn’t turn on, it means your battery is weak or there is a poor connection between the battery terminals. Many times, the battery cables present inside the compartment can get corroded, and this could cause this clicking sound.
- The next possible situation is that the engine will crank, but very slowly and the car won’t start. This happens because of a weak and discharged battery, problems with the starter motor or even bad connection at the battery terminals. All of these can be fixed only by an auto repair technician, so get in touch with an auto repair company right away.
- The last possibility is your engine will crank progressively slower each time, and will finally click. Again, your car will not start. This could be because the motor does not have enough power to turn on the engine. The good news is, you can easily spot this problem and maybe even fix it. if you open the hood, you’ll see two cables, a positive and negative one that work together to send electric current from battery to starter motor. When you connect these cables, you can know if the problem is a weak battery or problems with the cables or even corrosion in the battery compartment. Accordingly, you can make the fix.
Now that you know the possible reasons as well the way to identify them, it is time to know what you can do to start your car.
Sometimes, you will need the help of a technician, especially if it is a dead battery, broken cables, starters and things like that. But in the case of weak battery or cables, you can definitely jump start your car to get it going again.
To do this, you need the best jumper cables and some basic knowledge on how you can do it.
Generally speaking, jump starting is a way to start a car with a weak battery by taking power from a good and working battery. All that you need is a pair of best jumper cables and another car with good battery.
Though the process to connect the cables and get the necessary power is a simple process, it is best you consult your owners’ manual for the exact connection process, as different cars have different connection points, and you sure don’t want to have the connections wrong.
You can even download these instructions from the website of your manufacturer, if you cannot find your manual or cannot locate the information you want. But ensure that the positive and negative cables are in the right place, because damages to electric system can cost you a ton of money!
It is always a good idea to keep a pair of the best jumper cables in your car at all times, so with the help of a friend or a fellow driver, you can jump start your car and get going.