Top 5 common reasons car won’t start.
Nothing can be more frustrating to a car owner then a vehicle that does not start. In my businesses we get calls from all over the country from people who cannot get their cars started.
The majority of people who have this issue are drivers who are not very mechanically incline or know someone close to them who is, that can help diagnose the problem.
We have helped many would be car sellers start there cars with simple solutions that only takes a couple of minutes if that.
The good news for you is that just because your car won’t start does not mean it has to be junked or have a engine replaced.
They’re are many simple quick fixes that can have your car up and running in no time.
Quick note I have witnessed many bad mechanics and mechanic shops not being honest with customers.
They give inaccurate assessments and/or jacked up prices for repairs because they
A. Want to buy the cars themselves for a dirt cheap price
B. Want to charge through the nose for a easy repair job.
Being sure you have the right mechanic on your side is detrimental to your vehicles life and your wallet!
So if you are a bit weary of a diagnoses your mechanic may have given you try these simple fixes and/or invest in a second opinion from another mechanic that is recommended from a friend or has good online reviews.
I have a lot of years in the field, so I am going to give you a simple run down of the most common solutions for your non running automobile that we have come across the past decade or so.
So Here Is The Top 5 Common Reasons Your Car Wont Start.
By far the most common issue is a dead or low battery. They’re are many ways to check the life of a battery without investing in any battery packs or testers. The life of a brand new battery is typically 2-5 years depending on the car and usage.
Most batteries will have a sticker or marking with a date on it, this date is typically when purchased or when a auto part store placed it out for sale
Be sure this date is not too old because all batteries have a shelf life once they are connected to a car.
A bad alternator will drain a battery fast.
Having a malfunctioning alternator will drain a brand new battery in a day or two. So if you recently installed a brand new one and your battery is dead in a few days this is most likely the reason why.
A mechanic can check a alternator for you to see if it’s functioning properly.
Alternators are typically inexpensive and should run between $60-$150 and should only cost you $100 to install on a average vehicle.
Also in the case of a bad battery or alternator you should see a red battery light come up on your dash once the car is started.
This is letting you know that something is draining your battery or that your battery and/or alternator needs to be replaced.
Cold weather will kill a battery faster then warm weather.
I live and work in NJ so we can get some pretty cold winters and like clock work that is when we start receiving the most calls on cars that people want to sell with dead batteries so our jump boxes are always on charge during the winter months.
A sitting vehicle will drain a battery.
Having your vehicle sit for a few weeks or months can also kill a battery. The good news about this case is that most times you can just jump start the vehicle and have it run for 20 minutes and the battery will come back to life on it’s own.
Having aftermarket speakers, radio and other entertainment equipment can also diminish a battery.
Having all sorts of aftermarket electronics connected to your car can drain a battery faster then not having all the connected equipment, especially if not installed properly. You can not connect the wiring properly so that the equipment installed is running constantly rather then shutting down when the vehicle is shut off.
A simple solution to a dying batter can also be a dome light or headlights being left on by mistake. So if you have a consistently dying battery be sure that no lights have been left on by mistake.
I do not recommend purchasing a used or refurbished battery for long term.
These types of batteries don’t offer as much juice as brand new ones but are obviously priced much cheaper.
If you are not sure if a battery is your issue you can buy a used or refurbished one just for the time being then I would eventually purchase a new one in the very near future.
If you are going to purchase a new battery to solve the problem be sure to hang on to your receipt and ask the sales associate what the return policy is.
If your issue is not the battery you can most likely return the battery and get back your money, which can be upwards of $100.
A starter is another key function that helps the engine turn over but is also a very common malfunctioning device.
If your vehicle is not starting here is a good way to get a feel if a bad starter is the cause.
1. Turn the key and check to see that all the dash lights come on, your headlights are working fine and not dim, your dome light is not flickering or is very low, your horn is loud and not low and your windows are moving up and down at normal speed and not at a crawl
This is just making sure you do not have a battery issue as mentioned above.
2. Now that we know your battery is good were going to turn the key to the start position, If we just get a clicking noise with no attempt at the engine turning then that is a good indicator that you have a bad starter.
Testing a starter
(We recommend having a trained professional test not only your alternator but every part that may be malfunctioning in your automobile.
Be careful when attempting this, pounding away at something you may think is a starter is a great way to damage your vehicle.
If you are not sure what you are doing or you are a complete novice in the world of automobile mechanics this may not be for you.
(Please use this at your own discretion we are not held liable for any damage you may cause to your automobile.)
1. Use Google or Youtube to locate where the starter may be in your vehicle.
2. Find a metal rod, broom stick or similar shaped tool that is long enough to reach the starter once it’s located.
3. While having one person in the vehicle try giving the starter a few hit’s with your tool. You do not have to give it all you got because you can damage the starter, just a few medium strength knocks should do the trick while the person in the car is cranking the key.
If the vehicle then starts you have a starter issue. I would recommend not killing the ignition again until you can drive it to your local mechanic to be changed if that is your intention.
3. Fuel Pump.
A fuel pump is another key component that can cause your vehicle to not start.
You can test this by simply by turning the key and listening to the sound the engine makes, once you have established that;
1. Battery is good.
2. Starter is functioning
3. Gas gauge is functioning and has enough gas in the tank to start.
A malfunctioning fuel pump will sound like the car has no gas in it. If you have ever been stuck on the side of the road thinking you can make it home without stopping you will know what this sounds like, if you have never been stuck without gas you can go on youtube just to hear what it may sound like or you can think of a horror film when the petrified young girl finds the abandoned truck in the farm and can’t seem to get it going before the crazy slasher gets to her! (Too dramatic?)
We usually see this issue with cars that don’t start when the vehicle has not been used for a substantial amount of time, 6 months to a year or more.
A fuel pump is one of those components that need to be functioning on a some what normal basis to continue operating properly.
If your vehicle is sounding like it’s out of gas and your positive it has gas in the tank a fuel pump might be the likely cause.
4. Blown Fuse/Electric Issue or Alarm System.
The good news about having a blown fuse, starter relay or some wiring issues is that they are mainly inexpensive quick fixes (most cases)
The Bad news is that they are sometimes not that easy to diagnose.
Checking the case that holds the fuses in your engine bay will give a diagram of which fuses use what function.
Some fuses control the initial starting functions of your vehicle. By checking the diagram you can see what fuses to try out.
Using Google or youtube and typing in your vehicle year, make and model you can get a idea of what fuses to change and test.
If you want to test a fuse or two that may be causing your vehicle to not start simply take out another fuse (FUSE MUST HAVE THE SAME NUMBER AS THE ONE YOUR TESTING.) For instance if the fuse your testing has a number 5 on it you should remove another fuse with the number 5 on it.
A starter relay switch is much like a fuse but is larger and looks kind of like a plug. Again simply use another relay with the same number and test it out by attempting to start the car.
Malfunctioning or poor wire connections can also cause a vehicle to not start. I will not recommend testing the wiring yourself because it’s not a simple thing to do and also a dangerous testing process for further damage to your car.
If there were aftermarket radio or speakers installed in your car a poor wiring job can cause a short in your vehicle.
Bringing your vehicle to a mechanic shop that specializes in electric repairs is your best bet unless you are familiar with this type of work yourself.
This article was meant to help people who are not mechanics and only know the basic functions of automobiles.
If you would like more detail about wiring, electric, fuse and relay switches your best off searching your year, model and make and the internet for more detailed information.
This is just a guideline to what may be causing your vehicle to not start.
Aftermarket alarm systems can serve many functions such as, remote start, shutting down the vehicle if someone attempts to steal it, tracking it’s location if stolen, among others.
Just like the radio and speaker situation sometimes they are just not installed correctly or a component with in the system fails.
Having a alarm system malfunction will sometimes trigger a cut off to your engine.
If your battery is connected with power and attempting to start it offers no clicking, cranking or turning of any kind but the dashboard lights are on, a faulty alarm system may be the culprit.
If you just purchased the vehicle in question it may have a safety feature with a toggle switch around the steering wheel or floorboard of the driver side or a certain safety function that needs to be triggered before starting the car
If you think this may be the case you can check under the hood and see if you can detect a alarm system, this usually has a brand name on it and a small horn or box that is used to create the sound.
Once again I would recommend going to a professional to have it disconnected.
Going to a car stereo and alarm center is your best bet, many of these shops have a outcall service and can come look at the vehicle at your place rather then having it towed back and forth.
They can easily detect what type of functions this certain alarm model has and also let you know if it’s working at all.
The option is yours if you want to disconnect the system or try and figure it out. Obviously if it’s not working removing it would be your best option.
5. Engine Failure
Finally the worst case scenario, a blown engine.
Not much to do in this situation but decide to either repair or sell/junk the vehicle for parts.
A blown engine can occur for a few different reasons, here are the most common.
1. Driving vehicle with no oil
2. Driving a car that is overheating
3. Simply too many miles and/or too old of a vehicle
4. Valve issues
5. Low or no oil pressure
6. Low or no compression
If you checked the above other 4 issues and your engine will still not turn over this may be the case.
If you are not sure your local mechanic can check it out for you and give you a diagnoses if your engine is completely gone.
Repairing a major function in your automobile is a slippery slope.
Too many times I deal with sellers who invested hundreds of dollars just to find out the problem requires additional work.
If your vehicle is older and getting up there in mileage further repair is most likely a bad investment.
Sometimes you just need to cut ties and move on.
That money you are investing can be used toward a new vehicle or at least a down payment.
In conclusion these are the top 5 most common reasons a car will not start.
Of course without saying they’re are more then these 5 reasons that a vehicle may not start and heading to your local reputable mechanic is always a good thing to do when your not sure.
This list was just the most common five we come across when sellers reach out to us.