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Why won’t my car start?

Why won’t my car start?

When your car fails to start, it could be because of several factors. Some are very mild and are easily rectified. First, check to make sure that the steering wheel is not locked. If that is not the problem, check the fuel as well. If you have checked these two parts and the car still won’t start, the problem could be from the following number of issues.

Your car battery is dead

This is the commonest cause of your car failing to start. You can check the state of your battery using a battery tester.

If your battery is dead, the best way to try and deal with it is to jumpstart it. To jump-start the car battery, you will require jumper wires and another functioning car battery.

The other battery can be from a different car if someone is willing to help you out. Inspect your battery before you attempt a jump-start. If you notice any signs of leakage from your battery, do not attempt to jump-start it.

You can follow the following steps to try and jump-start your car;

  • Get your jumper cables ready. Always have jumper cables at hand in case of emergencies like this one. If you do not have your own, you can borrow from the other car owner who is helping you.
  • Make sure that both of the cars are in neutral or park and that the ignition is turned off for both.
  • Find the positive terminal of your battery and attach one of the red clips.
  • Attach the other red clip to the positive terminal of the assisting car.
  • For the black clips, attach one to the negative terminal of the assisting car.
  • On your car, attach the black clip to the metal surface that is not painted. This surface should not be close to the battery. You can use one of the metal struts that keep the bonnet open.
  • Make sure that everything is well connected and then start your vehicle. If it does not start, the other car owner should first run their engine for about five minutes.

If your car still does not start after this, the damage to your battery is severe or the problem is not related.

Your car battery has suffered corrosion

Corrosion of your car battery can tamper with the connection. Check to make sure that your battery is clean. Once you have cleaned it, try to start your car to see if that was the problem.

If you are not sure about how the parts should be connected, have your mechanic check it out. Your mechanic will also direct you on how you should keep your battery clean.

Battery corrosion if not attended to can cause issues to the car’s air conditioning and the wiring of the electrical components.

If the problem with the startup is caused by corrosion, then it can be easy to spot. The terminals will have a covering that is white, blue or green.

The buildup increases resistance and can cause the battery to stop functioning. To get rid of corrosion, you can follow the following steps;

  • Disconnect the cables of your battery. If you do not do this, you could be electrocuted or suffer severe burns. While disconnecting, remove the negative cable before the positive.
  • Check to see if there is damage to the cables. Any fraying and signs of wear are a sign that you should replace them immediately.
  • Get rid of corrosion on the terminals and the battery. You can use cleaning agents or the baking soda method. Make sure that you research both of these methods if you are not sure of what they are.
  • Rinse the battery and dry. Make sure that the cleaning agents and the corrosive elements do not reach other engine components. You can even clean the engine away from the car.
  • Put corrosive pads when the engine is dry to prevent future corrosion.
  • Reconnect the battery to the car.

If corrosion was the problem, your car should be able to start.

The starter motor is damaged

The starter motor is responsible for making sure that the engine is fired. If your starter motor is the problem, you require a new one.

Every time you start your car, it is because the starter motor is fully operational. The starter on your car is positioned at the back end of the motor. The starter gear is aligned with the flywheel to start the ignition process.

The starter enables engine turn over so that fuel can get into the combustion chamber. The fuel is then ignited by the ignition system.

If the motor is damaged, the process is impossible and the car is, therefore, unable to start.

The starter motor gets worn out with time and its performance degenerates. The solenoid inside the starter is prone to failure. The role of the solenoid is to transfer an electrical signal to the starter motor to activate it.

If it fails, the entire start-up process fails as well. If your starter motor is damaged, you can have the components checked out to replace what is damaged.

It is however better to replace the starter motor entirely to prevent future issues.

When your starter motor is starting to fail, you may notice buzzing noises, loud clicking. Whirring and grinding noises.

If you notice buzzing when you turn the key, then it means that the motor is not actuating. The starter will have received electricity but not enough for it to operate as it should.

When you start to hear unusual noises, have an expert check it out.

The timing belt is faulty

Your car failing to start could be because you have a bad timing belt. The timing belt controls the intervals at which the valves open and close to ensure that the pistons do not make contact.

A faulty timing belt causes extensive damage to the engine if it is not fixed immediately.

If the timing belt is damaged, the engine in your car cannot be ignited. As you turn the key in the ignition, you may hear the starter motor engage but the car will fail to start.

The timing belt is responsible for operating the crankshaft and the camshaft. It will not turn over if it is dysfunctional.

If your timing belt is broken, then it could also lead to problems within the internal compartment of the engine.

Take your car to the mechanic for an extensive diagnosis. If your timing belt has a problem, then the supporting components need to be checked as well.

The crank bearings, the cylinder hardware and the oil pump are at risk if the timing belt is faulty. If a bad timing belt is discovered, all those components have to be inspected.

Your car may not start because of a bad timing belt because it can cause the engine to misfire. If the timing belt is not replaced, the damage to the engine gets worse. You need to replace your timing belt while you can still salvage the engine.

The distributor cap is broken or cracked

If the distributor cap is damaged, the car will not run. The distributor cap on your vehicle aids the distributing current from the engine. It is also the link between the engine and the spark plug.

Most of the issues that affect the distributor cap are mechanical problems. The distributor cap has a rotating shaft and therefore has many mechanical components.

The distributor cap plus the rotor separate the engine from the distributor. The cap and the rotor can handle high voltage and transfer it to the spark plugs.

Before your car fails to start because of a bad distributor cap, you may have noticed some signs of failure beforehand.

Do not ignore any signs of a bad distributor cap so that you do not get to the point where the car fails. Some of the signs that the distributor cap is failing include;

  • Yelling noises; if your car is producing squealing noises, have the distributor cap checked before it is completely dysfunctional.

If you cannot find another cause of noise from other parts, then it is likely to be the distributor cap. If it becomes dirty and greasy because of pollutants, the engine will produce yelling noises from air circulation.

  • The car becomes hard to start especially during cold weather.
  • A lot of shaking and vibration as you change gears.
  • Engine backfiring.
  • Difficulty in turning over.

If you have noticed any of the issues, have an expert check it out before the distributor cap is a real issue.

The ignition coil on your car is bad

The ignition coil is also known as the spark coil. Its role is to start the engine of the car. The ignition coil boosts the battery voltage.

It is essentially a transformer. The car requires thousands of voltages to engage the spark plug. The battery can only produce a few voltages, about 12V. it is therefore the role of the ignition coil to produce the voltage needed.

If the ignition coil, the spark plug cannot produce the spark required for combustion and therefore the car does not start.

It is therefore important that you know the possible signs of a bad ignition coil so that you replace them before your car fails.

Signs of a bad ignition coil include;

  • Misfiring of the engine. Engine stalling and misfiring while the car is idling or if you experience abrupt stops and accelerations, then your ignition coil might have a problem. When the engine misfires, you might notice sputtering sounds.
  • The fuel economy of your car declines.
  • You will notice your check engine light coming on.
  • The engine becomes hard to start.

All of those signs should not be ignored. Check it out immediately before the ignition coil fails.

Your fuel filter is clogged

If your fuel filter is clogged, there will not be enough supply of fuel within the engine. The fuel supply system is very essential for your car.

If the fuel filter is clogged, it can affect the entire fuel system. A bad fuel system means that your car might fail to start.

The role of the fuel filter is to sieve dirt, rust and any other contaminants out of fuel. The fuel filter is abrasive and therefore the particles that get into the filter when it is dirty can block it.

A blocked fuel filter leads to engine damages. You need to check the filters to stop the problem before it is too late. Know the signs and get to the problem early enough.

Signs of a clogged fuel filter include;

  • Poor engine performance. When you are carrying heavy loads, your car may delay starting or sputter. You will notice this especially if you are accelerating up a steep slope. The engine requires more fuel when accelerating, if the filter is clogged, there will be a deficiency.
  • A clogged filter causes hard starting. If you wait until the filter is totally blocked, then the engine will not start at all. You need to check your user manual for how often you need to change the fuel filter and change accordingly.
  • Engine stalling. The stalling will be noticeable depending on the level of clogging. If it is still mild, it may not be so noticeable. As the clogging increases so will the stalling. If you do not change your filter you will reach total start failure.
  • Failure of system parts. A clogged fuel filter will cause some parts of the fuel system to malfunction. For example, the fuel pump may stop functioning.


If your car fails to start, you can try to check for and fix the problem. If you do not have the skills to perform the fix or you are still unsure of the problem, seek expert help.

Attempting a fix when you do not know what you are doing could lead to a bigger problem.

Do not ignore any car faults because they could be signs of much bigger failure. Do not wait for your car to fail to start.



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March 2024