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“My Car Won’t Start”: Exploring Reasons For Car Not Starting and How to Deal With It

The car consists of a complex system of parts that interact with one another to keep it running smoothly and safely. There’s no worse time than when you are raring to go to work and are ready to face the day’s challenges and then your car won’t start.

Knowing the causes of why your car won’t start and what to do about them will allow you to make the right decisions and act on them accordingly. You may be lucky to salvage your important day. It will also be a valuable learning experience for you.

Car won't start? Understanding the Common Reasons

car fails to start due to flooded engine

There’s a myriad of causes why a car won’t start, from the simple and obvious to the not-too-apparent and complicated. All point to the need to constantly care for and maintain your car’s optimal performance for trouble-free driving. Here are the most common reasons why your car might not start:

Dead car battery

A dead battery will have no current to supply to the car’s electrical system and therefore cannot make the vehicle start. A way to test whether the issue is a dead battery problem is to switch the headlights on. When the lights light up, there is no problem with the battery but something else. The usual solution to starting a car with a dead car battery is jumpstarting it using another vehicle’s battery.

Faulty starter motor

When you switch on your car and the engine won’t start despite you hearing a clicking sound and being able to power up the other electrical components, you most likely have a faulty starter. A broken or weakened starter may be fixed by replacing the contacts. More complicated starter problems may need replacement.

Fuel system issues

An obvious reason why your car won’t start is an empty fuel tank. This unfortunate incident usually happens when you drive very long distances and fail to top up.

If the fuel pump stops working, the flow of fuel to the car engine stops and the engine conks out suddenly and usually with few symptoms or without warning. The higher the mileage on the vehicle, the greater the likelihood of a pump failure. Fuel pumps have been known to last between 100,000 to 200,000 miles. It is more advantageous to replace a pump than to replace a major part of the fuel system nearby.

Ignition system problems

Failing spark plugs can cause the car’s engine to misfire or have trouble starting. Even one spark plug that fails to ignite the fuel-air mixture can cause the engine to halt, resulting in incomplete combustion, and damage to the catalytic converter of the car. Copper and nickel spark plugs should be changed every 30,000 to 50,000 miles; expect to change platinum and iridium spark plugs every 60,000 to 150,000 miles.

Ignition coil damage can also cause engine misfires. It is often caused by issues such as spark plug gapping, leaking valve covers, or moisture intrusion. Although coils can be repaired, refurbished, and replaced, it may be more cost-efficient to have a new unit.

Broken or worn-out timing belt

A broken or worn-out timing belt will not let your engine ignite or turn over properly although you may hear the motor engage. If the timing belt breaks when you are driving, your car will immediately stop. Modern-day timing belts usually last between 80,000 and 100,000 miles.

Faulty or bad alternator

A faulty alternator fails to keep your car’s battery consistently charged causing the fuel injectors not to fire and your engine to stall. A weak alternator can also lead to a wide range of electrical issues. Some parts of the alternator may be fixed such as bearings, and loose and broken wiring connections that can be soldered back together and repaired. Most alternators will last between 80,000 and 150,000 miles or about seven years.

Issues with the engine’s electronic control module (ECM)

Engine misfiring, stalling, and other performance issues may be attributed to a faulty engine control module. Responsible for making adjustments to your engine, ECMs may cause drastic changes in fuel efficiency, power, and acceleration. ECM repair is possible in a few situations like if there’s a problem with the power supply. It can be repaired by a skilled electrician by rectifying bad or short connections.

Failed crankshaft position sensor

The crankshaft position sensor is the most important of all engine management sensors. The engine will not run without it. With a failed crankshaft position sensor, your engine may stall unexpectedly, which can be dangerous while driving. are stalled engines. Also, the engine may not start at all after shutting off, run rough, misfire, or hesitate.

Problems with the immobiliser system

Some of the problems with the immobiliser system include the key not being programmed properly, the cloned chip such as in a replacement for one that is no longer working is not working either, or damaged, corroded, and worn out wires in the immobiliser control unit. Some immobiliser problems can be fixed simply by replacing the battery in the key fob. The problem with the wiring can be fixed if you replace the wiring and get it checked by professionals.

Malfunctioning ignition switch

A faulty or malfunctioning ignition switch is another common cause of a car not starting or stalling suddenly after it starts. In some instances, the ignition switch fails to activate in the “on” position. Fixing the ignition switch, if possible, is the solution to the problem, otherwise, it may need to be replaced.

Corroded or loose battery terminals

Sometimes, the battery’s terminal connection to the electrical cables becomes loose or corroded. Both these conditions will result in the absence of current to the electrical circuit and the failure of the car to start. If found corroded, they should be replaced with a new set of conductive terminals.  The battery’s terminal connection should be tightly secured and kept clean all the time.

Seized engine

Engine seizure means that the engine locks or freezes. It is usually caused by overheating or lack of lubrication. The repairs for a seized engine are expensive and time-consuming, plus another breakdown is likely. You may spend £2,000 to £4,000 for an engine repair and over £4,000 for a full replacement.

Defective fuel injectors

Defective fuel injectors may cause stalling after you have pressed the accelerator, struggling to accelerate, and poor fuel economy. The cause of these problems is an inadequate air-to-fuel ratio. Any delay in the repair or replacement of defective fuel injectors could lead to overheating and the engine could stall.

Bad fuel pressure regulator

Fuel pressure regulators regulate the pressure of the fuel that enters the injectors. Aside from a no-start condition, a bad fuel pressure regulator can also result in engine performance problems, black smoke emissions, an illuminated check engine light, and the presence of fuel in the regulator’s vacuum line. Fuel pressure regulators should be cleaned regularly and replaced when it experiences failure.

Clogged fuel filter

A clogged fuel filter causes several adverse effects – low fuel pressure that results in a lean fuel condition and engine misfire, poor fuel mileage, rough idling, and possibly inability of the engine to start. Gasoline passes through the fuel filter before reaching the engine and burning. A clean fuel filter is a must for clean fuel and smooth start and car operation. Your fuel filter should be cleaned every 10,000 to 15,000 miles.

Electronic security system interference

Modern cars have a security feature that prevents starting the vehicle and cranking the engine when the right protocol is not followed or there may be a fault in the anti-theft module, keyless entry system, or wiring. For example, using the wrong car key and chip won’t start the car.

What to Do When Engine Won’t Start

car wont start due to faulty battery

It can be really frustrating when you need to drive and your car won’t start (but has power). When your engine won’t turn over, there are several steps you can take to troubleshoot and potentially resolve the issue when your car won’t start. Here are a few things you can perform:

1. Ensure that your car is in “Park” or “Neutral” mode for automatic transmission or clutch is fully depressed for manual transmission. Check if the key is inserted properly into the ignition and turned to the “On” position.

2. Turn the key and listen for any unusual clicking or grinding noises. These sounds could indicate issues with the starter, battery, or other electrical components.

3. If the engine doesn’t crank at all or if the engine cranks very slowly after turning the key, the battery might be weak or dead. Try jump-starting the car with jumper cables from another vehicle, or use a portable jump starter if you have one.

4. Ensure you have enough fuel in the gas tank. Sometimes, the fuel gauge might be inaccurate, and the tank could be empty that’s why your car won’t start.

5. Check your dashboard for any warning lights that remain on after turning the key to the “On” position. These lights could provide clues about the nature of the problem.

6. If you have an A/T vehicle, try starting the car in neutral. Sometimes, the neutral safety switch can malfunction. 

7. If your car has an immobiliser or security system, make sure it’s not preventing the engine from starting.

8. Some vehicles require you to depress the brake pedal before starting. Try to do this with your automatic transmission car.

9. If you suspect a fuel-related problem, listen for the fuel pump priming when you turn the key to the “On” position. If you don’t hear it, there might be an issue with the pump or its related components.

10. Faulty ignition components, such as spark plugs, ignition coils, or ignition control modules, can prevent the engine from starting. Consider having these components checked by a mechanic.

If all else fails, it’s time to seek the help of an auto mechanic or technician from your trusted auto repair shop or garage. You may also choose to have your vehicle towed to a reputable mechanic for diagnosis and repair.

Wrapping It Up

car fails to start due to flat battery

By understanding how your car functions holistically and the interactions between and among parts in your auto system, you will not only appreciate the invaluable service the vehicle provides you but also enable you to care for and maintain it properly. You’ll avoid unnecessary disruptions to your everyday activities including a no-start condition. As most of the causes of car issues are technical, it becomes imperative that the professional service of expert mechanics be considered. 



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