Let's face it, we've all been there, you've got places to be, you get in your car, turn the key, and…drum roll please…nothing! Your car won't start! This a super annoying situation, but don't worry, we've got you covered. There are lots and lots of reasons why your car won't start, and in this guide, to save you time we'll cover the most common reasons as well as give your practical solutions to get your car back on the road!
If you're short on time, instead of reading, you can also always speak to a live mechanic 24×7 and get instant help and guidance on finding and fixing the issue, by clicking the “ask a mechanic” button in the bottom right of this page.
Understanding the Problem
Before we get stuck into the causes and solutions, it's important to first understand the problem. When discover for yourself “my car won't start“, this could actually be because of a number of reasons. Perhaps the engine is not cracking at all, possibly it is cranking but then not starting, or maybe it's making a clicking noise when you try to start the engine, but ultimately nothing happens. Each of these scenarios can point to different issues, which is all to confusing but we'll shed some light on it today.
Common Reasons Why Your Car Won't Start
There are numerous reasons why a car won't start. These issues can include a weak or dead car battery, a bad alternator, starter motor failures, fuel system complications, as well as electrical or wiring issues. Each one of these issues can manifest as different symptoms and require different solutions to fix.
Symptoms of a Car That Won't Start
Being able to identify and diagnose these symptoms, will help you find the problem. For example, when you return the key in the ignition, and you hear a clicking sound but your car still won't start, it can be a sign that there is a problem with the fuel or ignition system.
Overview of the Reasons Why Your Car Won't Start
The first step to finding a solution to the problem is understanding the root cause of that problem, so let's delve into the most common reasons your car won't start.
In the majority of cases, the most common reason why your car won't start is a bad battery, it's either weak or dead, and you need to recharge the battery or replace it. The car battery provides the power needed to start the engine, and power all the electrical parts in your car. Symptoms of a bad battery issue can be the car being slow to crank the engine, weak or dim headlights, and a lit-up battery warning light on the dash.
The alternator is responsible for charging the battery from the engine while the car is running. A faulty alternative can easily prevent your car from starting as it won't be able to charge the battery, so the battery will drain over time until it's dead and you realize when you can't get your car started. Symptoms that the alternator is faulty, include a lit battery or alternator warning light on the dash, dum headlights when the engine is idling, and also a whining or grinding noise from under the hood while the car's engine is running.
Starter Motor Failures
The start motor handles turning the engine over (cranking) when you start your car. If the starter motor is faulty in some way, then the engine won't crank, and your car won't start. You can tell if your starter motor has an issue or not often by listening if you hear a clicking noise when you turn your key, a grinding noise during the startup, or your car only starts intermittently.
Fuel System Complications
We're not talking about when you simply run out of gas here, but the fuel system itself having problems. Your car uses a combustion engine, and therefore to start and run, it needs a proper mix of fuel and air. If your car problems are because of a faulty fuel system, this could be a clogged fuel filter or a failing fuel pump relay, which would mean the engine might not be getting the fuel it needs to get the car going.
Electrical System or Wiring Problems
Modern cars rely heavily on electronics, which can mean there are lots of things that can go wrong. Even in an older car, if you have issues such as a blown fuse, spark plug issues, a broken ignition switch, or a faulty sensor, these can be some of the many reasons why your car won't start. Signs of a wiring or electrical problem can vary widely but can often include the engine not cranking, or your car starts but only intermittently, or various warning lights come on the dashboard. To properly diagnose and fix this, you will likely need the skills of an experienced mechanic locally or online.
Once you have figured out what the cause of your car failing to start is. The next step is of course to try and fix it. Here are some troubleshooting tips for the common problems why your car won't start, that we've covered so far.
How to Troubleshoot and Solve Battery Issues
If you suspect it's possible a battery problem is the reason your car has trouble starting, then the first thing you should do is check around the battery and check the battery terminals. You want them to be clean, not corroded, and tightly connected. If you find that the terminals are corroded you can try cleaning them with a mix of baking soda and water. You will need to replace the battery if it is old or weak, otherwise even if you charge it up enough to start the car, it will likely die again in the future. You can use a multimeter or battery tester to see if it is worth saving or if it needs replaced. You can have a professional mechanic online or locally to advise on this.
How to Identify and Solve Alternator Problems
If the alternator is what you suspect to be the culprit, you can test it if you can get the car started temporarily, let the car run, and while its running disconnect the positive terminal of the battery. If you find your car dies immediately, it's likely due to an issue with the alternator. However, be warned this test can be risky, and might damage the sensitive electronic components in your car, so it's best to consult with a professional mechanic locally or online, before ever attempting this.
How to Diagnose and Solve Starter Motor Failures
If you think the starter motor is the cause of your car not starting, listen for a clicking noise when you turn the ignition key. If you hear the clicking sound but the engine doesn't crack, then its likely a problem with your starter motor. In this case, the solution is to have the starter motor replaced by a professional mechanic.
How to Troubleshoot and Solve Fuel System Issues
If you suspect the problem may be due to a fuel system issue, listen for the fuel pump when turn the key to the “on” position, before starting the car. You should hear a humming sound for a few seconds. If you are unable to hear this noise, then it may be there is an issue with the fuel pump. If you notice your car is hard to start, it stalls, or it has poor acceleration, it could be due to a clogged fuel filter. Both of these will likely require a professional mechanic in order to properly fix.
How to Identify and Solve Electrical or Wiring Problems
If you suspect a wiring or electrical system problem, first check the fuses related to the ignition system, and replace any that have blown. If your car starts after this, then it was a successful, cheap and easy fix! However, if the car doesn't start, even intermittently, it could be a problem with the ignition switch itself. If various warning lights are visible on your dashboard, it could be a faulty sensor. These issues can be very complex and a professional mechanic is more than likely needed to diagnose and repair.
As my father always said “prevention is better than cure”, so here are some preventative measures to make sure you avoid any car starting trouble again!
Regular maintenance of your car is key to preventing future car troubles. This includes things like regular oil changes, checking the battery, cleaning the terminals, replacing the fuel filter as recommended / needed, and having the car inspected by a professional regular. If you are unsure about the regular maintenance tasks needed for your specific vehicle, you can consult a mechanic locally or online.
If you happen to leave your car in the driveway for long periods of time, the battery can drain as it's not being charged up by the engine being in use. Try to drive your car regularly to keep the battery charged. If you remember you haven't driven your car in a while, take it for a quick spin to make sure there is still charge in the battery. Letting the battery fully drain, is also damaging for the longevity of the battery.
Pay Attention to Warning Signs
If you notice anything weird like unusual noises, changes in driving and performance, or warning lights on your dash, don't just ignore them. These can be early signs of a problem and are best being addressed ASAP before they become bigger problems. Speak to a mechanic locally or online about these issues and if they need to be addressed.
When to Ask a Mechanic Online
If you're either short on time, want an expert on hand guiding, or you've tried to solve it yourself, but despite your best efforts your car won't start, then chatting with a mechanic online can be a great option.
Benefits of Online Mechanic Services
Online mechanic services, like ours in the bottom right of this page, offer several benefits. You can get expert specialist mechanic advice 24×7 and without leaving your home, which is especially useful if your car won't start and is stuck in the driveway. You can also save money as online consultations are much cheaper than a physical visit to a local mechanic near you. Plus, you can get answers quickly, which is great if you're in a hurry, need a second opinion, or just like having an expert on hand.
How Services Like MechanicAnswer.com Can Help
We connect you with certified specialist mechanics who can provide instant help, guidance and advice. You can describe your car's symptoms, ask questions, and even upload pictures or videos. These expert car mechanics can help diagnose the problem, suggest solutions, and guide you on what to do next.
You're able to describe the issues you are having with your car, ask mechanics unlimited questions, and even upload pictures and videos so you really show the mechanic what you mean. You can talk to them via online chat or by phone call, whichever you prefer. The mechanic will help you diagnose the problem, guide you on what are your best options for your individual situation and even guide you through simple maintenance and repairs step by step.
When your car won't start, it can be a major bummer and massive inconvenience, but understanding what might be causing the issues, being able to troubleshoot them, and what steps are needed in each case, and where to get help if needed, will be a huge help. Remember that regular maintenance is key to preventing all car issues. And if you are in any doubt, unsure, need a second opinion, clarification, or cost estimates, be sure to speak to a mechanic locally or online.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I do if my car won't start?
First of all, don't panic. Try to identify any symptoms that could indicate a problem, such as noises, warning lights on the dash, or changes in performance. The cause of the problem is likely one of the main causes discussed in this guide. If you can't find the problem yourself, you will need the help of a mechanic locally or online.
How to tell if my car wont start because of the battery?
Signs of a battery issue include the engine is slow to crank, dim headlines, and lit battery warning lights on dash. You can also check the battery terminals to see if they are clean, not corroded, and tightly connected. If the battery is old or weak, it may be best to just replace it.
How can I prevent my car not starting issues?
In order to make sure this annoyance never happens again, regular maintenance is key. This includes things like oil changes, checking the battery and cleaning it's terminals, replacing the fuel filter as recommended / needed, and having the car inspected by a mechanic regularly. it's also a great idea to drive the car regularly so the battery remains charged.
Can I ask a mechanic online if my car won't start?
Yes, you can. Online mechanic services like JustAnswer.com can provide professional advice without you having to leave your home. This can be especially useful if your car won't start.
Yes, you can. An online mechanic service like ours can provide instant expert help and advice, without you having to leave your home. This is especially useful if your car won't start and is stuck in the driveway.
Why is my car not starting but I have power?
Your car might not start despite having power due to several reasons. The most common one is a problem with the ignition switch. The ignition switch is responsible for sending power to different parts of the vehicle, including the starter motor. If it's faulty, it might not send power to the starter, preventing the car from starting. Other possible reasons include a malfunctioning starter motor, a faulty fuel pump, or issues with the car's security system.
What to do if your car suddenly won't start?
If your car suddenly won't start, the first thing to do is to try and identify the problem. Check if the lights and radio are working. If they aren't, the problem might be with the battery. If they are working but the car isn't starting, the issue could be with the ignition or fuel system. If you can't identify the problem, it's best to call for professional help. A mechanic online or a roadside assistance service can diagnose and fix the problem.
Why is my car not starting but the battery isn't dead?
If your car isn't starting but the battery isn't dead, the problem could be with the starter motor. The starter motor is responsible for turning the engine over, and if it's faulty, it won't be able to do that. Other possible reasons include a bad ignition switch, a clogged fuel filter, or a malfunctioning security system. In some cases, a problem with the car's computer system might prevent the car from starting.
Why won't my car start just clicks but the battery is good?
If your car just clicks when you try to start it but the battery is good, the most likely culprit is the starter motor. The clicking sound is usually a sign that the starter motor isn't turning over the engine. This could be due to a faulty motor or a problem with the electrical connections leading to the motor. Other possible reasons include a bad ignition switch or a problem with the car's security system.