Your Car Isn't Starting? Top Reasons and What to Do

Let’s say you’re running late to work, going to the mall to pick up groceries, parked briefly by the roadside to grab some snacks, or walking with your wards to the parking lot after picking them up from school. 

Upon reaching your automobile, you insert the key into the ignition and turn it to start the vehicle, but it won’t. The car even makes funny noises and still won’t budge an inch. How frustrating was the experience? Whatever the situation, there’s hardly a good time for your car not to start. If your car is not starting, it might require repair and significantly affect your plans for the day.

Call Nationwide Report’s Car Genius™ from RepairPal at 1-877-671-3040 from 9am-6pm ET, Monday through Friday. 

12 Reasons Your Car is Not Starting

If your car is not starting, the problem often has ties to a faulty vehicle component. Discovering which part the fault originates from is key to determining the best car repair strategy.

Here are the common reasons your car might fail to start:

1. Battery Is Spoilt or Dead

When vehicles refuse to start, one of the first points to question is the battery. The battery is vital to your car. Although vehicles require fuel, the battery releases the electrical charge the vehicle requires to function and it would be impossible to kick-start your car engine when your battery dies or becomes faulty.

Your car’s battery can get faulty or die due to several prominent causes, including: 

  • The battery is old and has served up to its lifespan
  • Loose connections in the electric system
  • Evaporation of the water component necessary for conducting current
  • Forgetting to switch off the dome light
  • Corrosion of the cables

If the problem is from the vehicle’s battery, you’ll notice some of these symptoms:

  • The vehicle engine cranks sluggishly
  • Zero sound when you try starting the vehicle
  • The interior lights don’t come up when you turn the key in the ignition
  • Corroded wires that affect power flow

When your car doesn’t start due to battery issues, you can execute a jumpstart. Nonetheless, jumpstarting the vehicle is a temporary fix. 

To prevent this problem from cropping up for extended timelines, it’ll be best to get the vehicle to an auto shop for checks and maintenance. 

At the auto workshop, an expert inspects the battery’s fluid level, its terminals for corrosion, and the cables for tight connections and possible corrosion. 

They’ll also do an electronic battery test for a deeper evaluation. Based on the results, the auto mechanic will either repair the faulty parts or replace the battery if it has expired.

2. Faulty Alternator

Another frequent site where an issue with starting your vehicle can stem from is the alternator. 

After igniting a vehicle, the alternator circulates power through all its electrical parts, including the battery, to recharge it. 

Since the alternator works alongside the battery. Thus, the former will go bad when the battery malfunctions. However, this issue doesn’t mean the battery is faulty.

When the alternator is defective, you may notice one or more of these signs:

  • The car is not starting at all or has trouble starting
  • Dimming vehicle lights
  • Stereo system malfunction
  • The vehicle starts but stalls
  • Squealing sound from the engine. These sounds get louder when components like the heater are active

If your car won’t start, check if the alternator is faulty by observing the drive belt for slipping or worn-out parts. 

Once the drive belt fails or the alternator is defective, usually, you’ll get a flash of light as a warning. 

Also, you can check if the instrument panel displays an estimated 14 volts. However, your car might not have an alternator gauge, so you’ll need an auto mechanic to run this check.

A top mechanic runs checks to gauge the alternator’s current and voltage production and also looks for faulty diodes. If the alternator is damaged, they’ll replace it with a new one suitable for your vehicle’s needs. 

3. Trouble With the Starter Motor

Assuming the battery and alternator aren’t the reason your car is not starting, the starter motor is another common place to look. 

The starter motor receives electrical energy necessary to start the engine. So, if the starter motor develops a fault, your engine won’t crank when you turn the keys.

Spotting a faulty starter motor is easy. Insert the key in your ignition and turn it on to see if the lights turn on. Turning the key in the ignition switches on the battery and the engine. The lights come on if the starter motor is faulty, but the engine won’t start. 

Additionally, your vehicle’s electrical faults can indicate something might be wrong with the starter motor.

If you suspect an issue with the vehicle’s starter motor, get a professional to look at and fix it. Nevertheless, don’t wait till the problem arises before acting. Regular car maintenance will help you stay out of trouble. 

NOTE: If you’re executing DIY (Do It Yourself) repairs, ensure that you don’t use a starter motor with a blown fuse, as it can overheat and produce smoke. 

4. Ignition Switch Is Faulty

Your car refusing to start could point to a fault from the ignition switch. The component plays an essential role for the battery and starter motor, as it conveys electric current from the battery to the engine to start it up.

When the ignition switch is faulty, you might not hear the starter motor functioning to start the engine. Also, you may find it difficult to turn the key in the ignition. 

Furthermore, your vehicle will most likely have some electrical problems. The dashboard light may flicker or die off because the starter motor activates the vehicle’s major electrical system.

5. Old or Dirty Spark Plug

Spark plugs can get old or become dirty, thus making it impossible to start your vehicle. Defective spark plugs often present problems like:

  • Drop in gas mileage
  • Loss of acceleration
  • Misfiring engine
  • Trouble starting the car

Spark plugs require routine replacement, so take note of the appropriate time to get a replacement. However, since most folks don’t use their vehicle for the length of its lifespan, the spark plugs may never be replaced. 

6. Damaged Distributor Cap

The trouble with starting your vehicle can also originate from the distributor cap and not necessarily the spark plug. In the vehicle’s electrical system, the distributor cap directs power from the ignition coil located in the engine to the spark plugs.

If the distributor cap is faulty, it can have these effects:

  • The engine misfires
  • Activation of the check engine light
  • Production of strange noises
  • Stop the vehicle from starting

If you encounter any of these signs, check and ensure there’s no moisture on the distribution cap. Afterwards, get the vehicle to a certified auto mechanic to replace the distributor cap if it’s damaged. 

7. Faulty Timing Belt

Your vehicle relies on the timing belt to function. The timing belt is responsible for turning the camshaft so the cylinders can fire at the right time.

In a scenario where the timing belt is the reason your car isn’t starting, you’ll know from your engine’s ticking sounds. Also, you may also notice strange differences in your engine revs. Sometimes, your car engine may not turn over at all.

To stay ahead of a bad timing belt, you might want to keep up with routine vehicle checks. Towing this route ensures you’ll rarely have days your daily plans ruined by a faulty timing belt. 

However, if you don’t stick to a definitive maintenance schedule and your timing belt spoils, you’ll need to hire an auto mechanic to remove the faulty one and replace it with a new one. 

8. Blocked Fuel Filter

A blocked fuel filter cuts off fuel supply, making it a tad challenging to start your vehicle. For cars to function optimally, a steady supply of clean fuel to the engine is necessary. 

Over time, your vehicle’s engine sucks up different dirt and debris. 

To ensure dirt doesn’t go into the combustion chamber, a fuel filter sieves out all contaminants that can prove damaging to the car’s engine.

Nevertheless, as these specks of dirt keep building up around the fuel filter, they dampen or outrightly halt fuel flow into the engine. 

With this in view, most car manufacturers and experts recommend you change your fuel filter after covering 25000 – 40000 miles with your vehicle or earlier if you ply dusty routes regularly. 

That way, you reduce the chances of dirt building up enough to block fuel transport.

If your fuel filter is clogged and you find it challenging to start your car, you’ll also notice the car sputters and has poor mileage. Once you spot these signs, contact a professional to check the fuel filter or facilitate a total replacement if necessary.

9. No Fuel in the Fuel Tank

Sometimes, everything may be okay with your vehicle components, yet it won’t start. 

So, what could be the issue?

Well, it could be as simple as your car not having fuel.

Modern cars have dashboards displaying an updated number of miles the fuel available in the tank can last. However, multiple drivers ignore this and delay a refill, stretching the vehicle to its limit.

Assuming you forgot to refill your fuel tank or reset the speed at which your car displays mileage, your vehicle not starting might be due to fuel shortage. 

To fix this, purchase fuel from a petrol station and put it in your car accordingly. Your vehicle should be up and running in no time once you’ve executed this activity.

10. Clogged Air Filter

Vehicles need air to function optimally. Air is necessary to ignite the gas and kickstart internal combustion to generate the energy required to move the automobile. However, the air must be clean and free of debris, so an air filter stops dirt from getting in.

With time, the filter collects grease, dust, and different kinds of muck which obstructs airflow. Consequently, ignition and internal fuel combustion will be incomplete. 

The result?

Difficulties in starting your vehicle.

Fixing a clogged air filter is simple. An auto mechanic will purchase a new filter, remove the old one and fit in the new filter. 

You can even go through this activity yourself.

11. Faulty Fuel Pump

Another reason your car is not starting can be because of a faulty fuel pump that can’t supply the right amount of gas into the combustion chamber. 

To determine if your car’s fuel pump is the problem, put the key in the ignition and turn it to start the car. After doing this, listen to hear the sound of the tank pump. 

Hearing no sound implies that the fuel pump is faulty and the vehicle is not getting the gas needed to work.

12. Jammed Steering Lock

Sometimes your car won’t start because you can’t turn the key after inserting it into the ignition. Experiencing this situation signifies the steering lock is jammed. 

Usually, when someone moves the vehicle without the key inserted in the ignition, the steering lock jams as an anti-theft measure.

To resolve the problem, wriggle the steering wheel left and right. Afterward, turn it in a direction that permits some movement. Once the lock opens, insert the key in the ignition and turn it normally. 

Final Words

Your car’s failure to start when ignited can totally ruin your plans for the day.

Usually, the issue originates from varying faulty vehicle add-ons such as the battery, alternator, spark plugs, distributor cap, starter motor, fuel, and air filters. 

On the other hand, your car may fail to start because it’s low on gas.

Whatever the case, knowing the cause of the problem is key to finding a suitable solution. If you can’t figure out the issue, hire an expert professional to diagnose and resolve the problem pronto.

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