What to do if your car won't start

Uh oh, your car won’t start? If this has never happened to you, consider yourself lucky; but it is only a matter of time until your luck fades. Everyone should know the proper steps to remedy this situation.

What Your Friends May Have Told You:

  • You just need a jump start
  • It’s probably a sensor or something
  • Your engine has major damage


The Truth

If your car won’t start then there is a chance that you would just need a jump start, but before you try that, make sure that your ‘security’ light is not flashing. If it is then your problem probably does not have anything to do with the battery or starter, it is most likely because your security system is not letting it start. If this is the case then you need to read your owners manual to see how to fix this or contact your dealer. Since all makes and models are different there is no universal way to turn off the security system.
If the security light is NOT flashing then you need to start checking the other things that can cause a no start.

What To Check If Your Car Won’t Turn Over

If your car will not turn over then there are several things to check. Always start with your battery. The most accurate way is to have it load tested. Most auto parts stores and many repair shops will do this for free.

If you can’t or don’t want to do this test you can also try turning on all of your accessories (Heater, radio, lights, etc.). After they are all on go out and see how bright the lights are. If they are dim this tells you that the battery is probably not as strong as it should be.

Another Easy Test

Another great test is for those that either have a voltmeter or are willing to buy a voltmeter. You can use it to do lots of diagnoses on your car.  It should have a minimum of 12.4 volts. A fully charged battery should actually have approx. 12.6 volts.

The next most common cause is the battery cables not being tight or they are too corroded. This is an easy thing to check…just try to wiggle them. If they move, then they are too loose. Also look for white or blue buildup on the connections. This is an indication that the cables are corroded.

Could it be the starter? Let’s hope not. Many times when the starter begins to fail you will hear clicking noises from your engine, sometimes it will take more than one try to get your car to start.

The best way to easily test your starter is to put the voltmeter leads on your battery and have someone try to start the vehicle. Read the voltage at this time. If the voltage drops below 9.6 volts then it is likely that your starter needs to be replaced

It is also possible that your ignition switch has gone bad. Chances are slim and to test this, I recommend you go see your local automotive professional.

What If My Car Does Turn Over?

If your car turns over but still won’t start things become a little trickier. Mainly because there are a myriad of different reasons your car isn’t starting at this point.

The most common causes for this type of problem are:

Fuel pressure, camshaft sensor, crankshaft sensor, ignition problems, etc.

Testing these components can get very technical so my recommendation is to take your car to a good repair shop. Many times people just start replacing parts, and end up spending a lot more money that it would have taken them to just take it to a professional to have it diagnosed.

Until next time!

This entry was posted in General by MACK HANSON. Bookmark the permalink.


Mack Hanson is a professional automotive tool specialist with National Tool Warehouse and Mechanics Tools Warehouse. He writes about Auto Repair, Auto Performance, Motorcycle Performance and General Maintenance.

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