Car Won’t Start? Here’s Quick Solutions to the Most Common Causes

Car Wont start

Hey there, I’m Robby – your friendly neighborhood mechanic with over 20 years of experience under the hood. If you’ve ever turned the key only to hear unwelcome silence from your engine, you’ve come to the right place. Whenever your car won’t start you need to get somewhere is incredibly frustrating, but don’t panic. I’ve seen it all and will guide you through some quick troubleshooting techniques to get your wheels rolling again.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the most common reasons your car won’t start and some temporary fixes you can try yourself. I’ll also explain when it’s time to contact a professional mechanic or a proper diagnosis and repair. You’ll learn how to tell if the issue is with your battery, alternator, starter, or something else entirely. I’ll even share tips on avoiding a dead battery in the first place with simple maintenance.

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Now let’s dive under the hood and get you back on the road!

First, What is Needed To Start a Car?

car problems wont start
Image Credit: MechanicAnswer.com (Starter Motor Components)

Modern vehicles are engineering marvels, using a symphony of electrical, mechanical, and computer components to get the engine running. It all begins when you turn the ignition key or push a start button, sending an electrical signal to the starter motor. The starter engages the flywheel, which rotates the engine’s crankshaft, beginning the combustion process. Fuel, air, and an ignition spark combine in the cylinders to start the engine. Pretty amazing, right?

Now let’s look at why this starting process can fail and your car won’t cooperate. I’ve organized the most common culprits by symptom to help you diagnose what’s going on quicker.

The Car Makes No Sound When Trying to Start

my car wont start

  • Dead battery – This is the #1 reason your car won’t start. Cold weather especially kills batteries. Telltale signs include dim or no interior lights when turning the key, weak cranking or no cranking at all. Try jump starting the battery as a temporary fix with a portable car jump starter. Replacing older batteries every 3-5 years with a quality new one can also help prevent no starts.
  • Bad battery connections – Loose, damaged, or corroded battery cables prevent electrical current from flowing properly. Wiggle the connections and clean any corrosion using a battery terminal cleaner.
  • Bad alternator – If the battery tests fine, a bad alternator could be the issue, not recharging your battery while driving. Indicators are dimming lights or a battery warning light.
  • Car in wrong gear – It must be in park or neutral to start. Try pressing the brake and shifting gears.
  • Steering lock – Your wheel is locked as an anti-theft measure. Jiggle the wheel while gently turning the key.
  • Dead key fob battery – Replace the small button battery in the wireless key fob if the car won’t detect the start signal of your key fob is damaged, you can order a new one here on Amazon.

The Car Clicks But Won’t Start

car problems and solutions

This clicking sound usually means there is still some juice left in the battery but not enough to fully start the engine. Causes include:

  • Weak battery – Attempting to jump start the car multiple times in a row can overheat and damage the battery. Let the engine run for a few minutes after jump starting to recharge the battery or use a battery charger to maintain it.
  • Dirty battery terminals – Loose connections or corrosion on the battery posts prevent proper electrical contact. Clean and tighten connections.
  • Bad starter motor – Starters make a distinct clicking sound when failing and draw less electrical current. You may see smoke from overheating. Have this inspected and replaced by a professional.
  • Fuel pump relay issue – No buzzing sound from the fuel pump inside the fuse box indicates a bad relay. Swap it with an identical functioning relay to test.

The Engine Cranks But Won’t Start

car won't crank at all

The starter is engaging and the engine is partially turning over but not fully igniting. Several of the most common culprits include:

  • Out of fuel – It may sound obvious but check your fuel gauge! Call for backup fuel if needed. Also watch for leaks.
  • Clogged fuel filter – After 30k miles, debris buildup blocks fuel flow. Replace the filter if you have acceleration issues.
  • Bad spark plugs – They fail over time, resulting in misfires. Replacement should be done by a mechanic. Use a code reader to diagnose engine issues.
  • Broken distributor cap – Cracks in this cover stop electrical flow to spark plugs. The fix involves replacing the entire distributor cap and rotor.
  • Failed timing belt – This vital component slips and prevents proper engine timing. You’ll hear rattling noises. Replacement is critical.
  • Flooded engine – Gasoline overwhelms the cylinders so fuel can’t combust. Press the gas while cranking to start.

The Car Starts Then Stalls

issues with car starting

Your engine is turning over but cutting out quickly after. Potential causes are:

  • Bad alternator belt – If you smell burning rubber and hear a squeal, the alternator belt may be loose or worn. Tightening or replacing it fixes the issue.
  • Faulty fuel pump – An engine that starts but stalls while driving likely has a fuel pump failing to maintain fuel pressure. This component may need replacement.
  • Clogged fuel injectors – Gunk buildup obstructs the injectors from spraying fuel at the right pressure into cylinders. High mileage vehicles tend to develop this. A fuel system cleaner can help with this, provided it’s not extreme.
  • Vacuum leak – Cracks in hoses make the air/fuel mix too lean. The check engine light may turn on. Inspection of hoses and sensors is needed.

Do-It-Yourself Quick Fixes When Your Car Won’t Start

car having trouble turning over, fixed
Image Credit: MechanicAnswer.com

Try some of these DIY troubleshooting techniques to get your engine running again:

  • If the battery terminals are corroded, clean them with a battery terminal cleaner or wire brush. Or if they are loose, tighten the connections using pliers.
  • Lightly tap on the starter with a wrench to jar the electrical contacts. Quality mechanic’s tools help DIY repairs.
  • With an assistant’s car, jump start your battery following proper connecting order. Let the engine run for a few minutes before disconnecting the cables.
  • Swap out any visibly damaged relays with identical spares of the same amperage if you have them. This includes the fuel pump relay. Use a fuse tester to check.
  • Shift into neutral if it won’t start in park and vice versa. Move the shifter around trying different gears.
  • If you ran out of gas, have a friend bring a portable gas can or call roadside service for a top up.
  • For wireless key issues, check that the battery is fresh and properly inserted in the fob. Reprogram if needed.
  • For steering wheel lock, turn the key gently left and right while jiggling the wheel. It should unlock.

While the above tips can temporarily get your car started in an emergency, I recommend bringing your vehicle to a professional mobile mechanic near you for inspection and any necessary repairs soon after the issues arise. Proper diagnosis is needed to find the root cause and fix it.

When to Call a Mechanic

car starting problems

As an experienced mechanic, I know the value of proper diagnosis. While the do-it-yourself tricks may work temporarily, there are many reasons why your car won’t start that require an expert opinion.

Signs it’s time to call a mechanic include:

  • The check engine light is illuminated
  • Your car won’t start after multiple jump start attempts
  • The engine cranks normally but still the car won’t turn over
  • There is smoke or a burning smell coming from under the hood
  • The starter makes grinding noises when engaging
  • Your battery cables feel abnormally hot after starting attempts
  • The fuel pump makes no audible noise during cranking
  • Interior lights and dashboard gauges flicker or power off completely

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable on the side of the road – keep the number for a trusted mechanic handy in your glove box or contacts. Our better yet, our online ask a car mechanic service makes this super easy, you have 24/7 access to online mechanics whenever you need it most.

How to Get Help From a Mechanic When Your Car Won’t Start

If you’ve tried the troubleshooting tips and quick fixes in this article but your car still refuses to start, it’s likely time to get a professional mechanic involved for a proper diagnosis and repair. Here the best options for connecting with certified mechanics:

A Mobile Mechanic Near You

automobile starting problems solved by mobile mechanic

Rather than googling “how to get car to mechanic if it won’t start” or figuring out expensive towing options, one convenient and money saving solution is to have the mobile mechanic come right to your location. This is especially useful when your car won’t start, as you don’t have to worry about getting the car to the garage, they come to you. I personally recommend as they are the best, and offer mobile mechanic services where they will dispatch a certified technician to your home, office, or even a parking lot in as little as an hour.

The mechanic will arrive in a fully stocked van equipped for on-site car repairs. They can diagnose why your car won’t start and complete many repairs like replacing the starter, battery, or alternator at your location. This saves the hassle of paying to have the car towed or trying to drive it to a shop yourself when it’s not starting reliably.

Other benefits of mobile mechanics are upfront pricing quotes with no hidden fees, warranties on parts and labor, and flexible booking. For a major relief when your car won’t cooperate, consider booking a mobile mechanic online.

Consult an Online Mechanic

causes for car not starting
Image Credit: MechanicAnswer.com

Another option is to get advice from a certified mechanic without leaving your home. Websites like ours connect you to ASE-certified mechanics 24/7 for online troubleshooting.

You can describe the issues you’re experiencing, sounds coming from the engine, dashboard warning lights lit, and other important details, even sending pictures and videos if you want. The mechanic will then provide knowledgeable guidance on likely causes and next steps you should take.

Online mechanics can save you time and give you confidence that you’re on the right track for repairs. Get professional help, at times that suit you, without the hassle.

So don’t stress next time your car won’t cooperate. Arm yourself with the helpful information in this article and know you have access to mobile and online mechanics for getting timely assistance from certified specialist auto experts. They can troubleshoot why your car won’t start and help get your engine roaring again.

How a Mechanic Will Diagnose and Repair No Start Issues

car not starting causes

When you have a mobile mechanic come to you, or you go to a local garage, here is the general process a mechanic will follow to get your engine running properly again:

  • Visual Inspection – The technician will first perform a thorough under-the-hood inspection looking for any obvious causes like loose connectors, damaged belts, or leaking components.
  • Battery Testing – A battery diagnostic tester is connected to the terminals to measure the state of charge and cold cranking amps. This confirms if the battery is still good or needs replacement. The cables are also checked.
  • Starter Testing – Voltage output is checked at the starter when engaged to see if it’s drawing sufficient current from the battery to start the engine. This determines if the starter needs repair or replacement.
  • Electrical System Diagnostics – Wiring harnesses, fuses, and component connectors are tested for continuity of circuits, resistance, and voltage drops using a multimeter. Any electrical faults are located.
  • On-Board Computer Diagnostics – The on-board diagnostics system is accessed to check for any fault codes set for issues with ignition, fuel or emissions components. Pending codes may also show problems before setting a check engine light.
  • Fuel Delivery Testing – Fuel pressure is tested to check for filter blockages or a bad pump. Injector wiring and patterns are also analyzed as part of ensuring proper fuel delivery.
  • Sensor Diagnostics – Important sensors like the crankshaft position sensor, camshaft sensor, coolant temperature sensor, and throttle position sensor are tested for correct values and operation. Faulty inputs prevent starting.

Once the specific reason your car won’t start is found, the mechanic can make the proper repairs to belts, sensors, electrical wiring, the battery, starter, fuel components, engine, or emissions systems. This will get your car reliably up and running again.

Protecting Yourself From No Start Situations

problems starting car

While it’s impossible to prevent all starting issues, there are proactive maintenance steps you can take as a car owner:

  • Have your battery tested annually and replaced every 3-5 years or if it fails testing. Cold climates shorten battery lifespan.
  • Inspect battery cables and terminals regularly for corrosion and looseness. Clean and tighten as needed.
  • Change the engine air filter and fuel filter at manufacturer-recommended intervals, usually around 30k miles.
  • Address any leaks, squeaks, or performance issues right away before they worsen.
  • Follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual for fluid changes, timing belt replacement, and other upkeep.
  • Keep records of repairs to help diagnose problems faster. An ongoing issue likely means an underlying problem wasn’t fully fixed.
  • Consider an annual inspection by a mechanic to spot potential issues early, even if the check engine light hasn’t come on yet.
  • Consider keeping a high quality portable jump starter in your car at all times in case you run into starting trouble, it can be a lifesaver.

By being proactive, you can avoid many last minute issues of your car not starting when you need to get somewhere. But if you do find yourself broken down, use the helpful troubleshooting tips in this article to get your engine running temporarily and have an online mechanic service you can use any time. With the right knowledge, preparation and quality tools, you’ll be prepared for anything to keep your car where it belongs – out on the open road.

Conclusion

Don’t let starting troubles keep you stranded. With the handy troubleshooting tips in this guide, you can get your engine revving in no time. But remember, DIY fixes are temporary – have your car inspected by a professional mobile mechanic like to pinpoint and properly repair the underlying issue. With some battery maintenance, attention to warning signs, and a trusted mechanic’s number on speed dial, you can avoid most no-start situations.

I hope you found this article helpful, now get wrenching and get back on the road!

Frequently Asked Questions About Cars Not Starting

Why won't my car start but I have power?

If your car won't start but the lights, radio, and dashboard electronics turn on, the issue is likely with the starter motor. The starter solenoid may have failed or the starter motor itself may be drawing insufficient current from the battery to crank the engine. This can happen when the starter motor brushes are worn. Try tapping the starter gently with a wrench to jar the electrical contacts. If that doesn't work, your best bet is to call a mobile mechanic or tow truck to have the starter inspected and replaced if needed.

Why is my car suddenly not starting?

There are a few common reasons a car that was previously starting normally suddenly won't turn over. One possibility is a failed alternator no longer recharging the battery while driving, causing the battery to die. Corrosion buildup on the battery terminals can also cause sudden connection issues. And in cold weather, gasoline or diesel fuel can gel leading to fuel starvation. Check your battery terminals for corrosion, try jump starting, and check your fuel lines for any blockages. If those quick fixes don't work, it's time to diagnostic testing by a professional.

What are the signs of a bad starter?

Telltale signs your starter may be going bad include a slow labored cranking sound when turning the key, a click but no crank, hearing a grinding noise from the starter when engaging, smoke from an overheated starter, and the car not starting but the lights come on. If jump starting your car does not resolve the issues, the starter likely needs to be repaired or replaced. Consider calling a mobile mechanic for a quick on-site fix.

Why is my car not starting but the lights work?

If your car won't crank or start but the interior lights, infotainment system, and other electronics still have power, the issue typically points to problems with the starter motor. Reasons include a dead spot in the starter solenoid windings, worn brushes not making sufficient contact to spin the motor, or high resistance in the circuit between the battery and starter. A qualified technician can diagnose the specific starter failure and repair or replace it.

Why is my car not starting but the battery isn't dead?

There are a few reasons a car may fail to start even with a good battery. One possibility is a bad battery cable connection. The terminals could be loose or corroded, interrupting the flow of power. An issue with the starter motor itself not engaging is also a common culprit. Other causes include a blown fuse for the starter circuit or problems with the neutral safety switch. Start by inspecting your battery cables and connections. If those appear fine, you'll need diagnostics to pinpoint the no start reason.

What are the signs of a bad ignition switch?

Warning signs of ignition switch failure include turning the key but nothing happens, the key is stuck and unable to turn, dashboard electronics flicker or shut off while driving, or the car stalls out. You may also hear no clicks when trying to start, indicating the ignition switch is not sending the signal to the starter as expected. If jiggling the key allows it to turn and start, that points to an internal fault in the switch. Any of these symptoms mean the ignition switch likely needs to be replaced.

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Which Mechanic Suits You?

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Where Can I Find My VIN?

Your vehicle’s unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can be found on the title document, the vehicle registration, and the insurance policy. It is a series letters and numbers like this as example: WAUGC0896JA235262. The VIN can also be located on the following locations on the vehicle itself:

how to find VIN on vehicle