You’re running late for work. Your hands are full with your thermos, laptop bag, and everything else that you bring to the office. You throw it in the car, put the key in the ignition, and hear the one sound that you don’t want to hear – click.
As you start sweating, worrying about what your boss is going to say about being late, you ask yourself, “why won’t my car start” over and over. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a genius under the hood to troubleshoot what’s stopping your car from starting.
You can isolate most problems to a few areas of your car that you should be more than familiar with. It’s most often the battery, one of the engine parts, or something to do with the gas. Here a few of the places to look and some tips on how you can get yourself back on the road again before your boss notices that you’re missing.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Battery?
Your car battery is responsible for starting your vehicle. It also powers the electrical components of your car, such as the radio.
A dead battery is often the most common reason why a car won’t start. The battery can drain because you forgot to turn the headlights off, a wire is loose, or conductivity, or just due to extended use.
There are two ways to test if the battery is why your car isn’t starting. The first is to try the headlights. If the headlights turn on, then the battery is not the cause of your problem.
You can also try some jumper cables. If the car jump starts, it will give you enough juice to get to a mechanic to replace the dead battery.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Ignition Switch?
The ignition switch is in the control system of the motor vehicle. It turns on the main electrical systems, such as the power windows.
If your battery is working fine, the next place to check is the ignition switch. You can tell if there is a problem with this part if your car starts but suddenly stalls. This occurs when the ignition switch fails in the on position as it’s meant to power the fuel and ignition systems.
You can confirm that the ignition switch is the reason your car won’t start by turning the key to the start position and letting go of it. It should turn back to the on position. If the warning lights turn off, then you need your ignition switch fixed.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Starter?
The starter motor is the part responsible for turning the engine on during ignition. When it works properly, it allows the engine to suck in air to help get it revving. It also sends electricity to the spark plugs and ignites the fuel in the combustion chamber.
If you’ve ruled out the battery and ignition switch, it’s time to turn your attention to the starter. This part forces the engine to turn on. Naturally, if the starter is broken, then it can’t fire up.
You can tell if the starter is the problem if you hear a loud clicking noise when you try to start your vehicle. The sound of the clicking almost guarantees that this is your problem, so you should start looking into what a starter replacement cost.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Alternator?
When the car is working as it’s supposed to, the alternator sends electricity to the battery to ensure it remains charged. But if you’ve got a bad alternator, your battery can go dead. There are a few ways to see if your alternator needs some attention.
The most common sign is your car stalling. Another is the sound of squealing coming from the engine that gets louder over time. You can also tell if the alternator is the problem if your stereo goes fuzzy when you accelerate.
A bad alternator can cause damage to the battery. If you notice any of these signs, then it’s vital to get it investigated so that you don’t have to replace other parts as well.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Fuel Filter?
You can find the filter in the fuel line. It screens out containments such as dirt, debris, and any other particles from the fuel. This protects the most critical parts of the engine, particularly the fuel injector, which helps start the car.
Your fuel filter needs to be clean to ensure that gasoline can get to the engine. Filters should get replaced every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. If fuel can’t get to your engine because your filters are clogged, your car won’t start.
If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your fuel filter, then this is likely the cause of why your car won’t start. You can check the fuel filter yourself, or you can get a mechanic to replace it to see if this is the cause of your problem.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Fuel Pump?
The fuel pump transfers the liquid from the tank to the carburetor in the engine. Once here, it mixes with air and a spark to create combustion that starts the car.
You can test the fuel pump by turning the car and listening for a buzzing sound. Make sure the radio is off. If you hear the noise, this is the fuel pump getting the injection system ready. But if you don’t, then you may have a problem with the fuel pump relay.
You can confirm your suspicions by trying a different relay. Locate the fuel pump relay by using your owner’s manual or the legend on the fuse box. Take out the relay and replace it with the same part number.
If the car starts, then you’ll only need to replace the relay. But if it doesn’t, then you’ll need to take it to a mechanic to ensure that the fuel pump is working correctly.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It an Empty Gas Tank?
Driving with a little gas tank is always a risk. If you’re running on empty, then this could be why your car won’t start.
If your car doesn’t have enough gas, it can’t ignite the engine. Fuel gets injected into the combustion chamber of the engine. When you turn the key, the air is sucked into the engine and combined with the gas to create a spark that turns the engine on.
Naturally, the easiest way to fix this problem is to grab your wallet and head to the gas station. If you don’t have a jerrycan, you will be able to get one there and fill it up with fuel. Take it back home, fill up the car, and see if the vehicle will start.
Why Won’t My Car Start? Is It the Security System?
Most modern cars come with an immobilizer or security system that ensures the vehicle will only start with the right key. The ignition and your car key have chips that should match. If they don’t, then the car won’t turn on.
When the protection system is working correctly, the security light will turn on for some time and turn off automatically. This means that the chip code in the key and the ignition system match, and everything is fine.
But if your security light doesn’t turn off or continues to flash, then it means there is a problem with the security system. This will stop the car system from activating, and nothing will be able to start.
The immobilizer and security systems are designed to protect your vehicle from thieves. But if your car is overprotective and stopping you from starting it with your own key, then you should speak to a mechanic or auto-electrician.
What Should You Do Now?
If you’re still left wondering why won’t my car start, then you’re best to take your vehicle to a professional. They will do a thorough investigation of all of your car parts to ensure they’re in working order. If your car won’t turn on, then it’s likely you’re going to need it towed to the car yard.
If you have identified the problem, then you’ve got a good chance that you can fix it yourself. But if you’re worried about causing even more damage, then you should seek a professional to carry out the repairs. If you need a new car, then take a look at some of our recent posts about some of the most luxurious vehicles available today.