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Reasons why your car won't start and possible solutions

It is really frustrating when you’re trying to start your car and fail. As a rule, it will happen at the most inappropriate time. So, what are the most common reasons why a car won’t start and what are the possible ways out?

Why won’t my car start: possible and main causes

There are three main components needed to start an engine: air, fuel and a spark. Without them, ignition won’t be impossible.

The most common culprit is a dead battery. Most cars aren’t fitted with an electronic headlight control that switches off the headlights automatically when the ignition key is turned off. Leaving the lights on for a night is a very good chance to drain your battery completely.

If you’re sure that you did switch off the lights but when you turn the key nothing happens, you should check your battery posts and terminals. If they are corroded, you might have a loose connection or no connection at all.

Corrosion on battery terminal

The next step is to check whether you can turn on your headlights, radio, windscreen wipers. If you can do it, your battery isn’t the problem. Perhaps, you’ll have to deal with a defective ignition switch.

Ignition coils and spark plugs can ruin your plans as well especially if your car is quite old. If you can see soot deposits on your spark plugs you’ve found the one to blame.

Burnt out spark plug

If it is not one of the ignition system components, it could be a faulty starter. It is a small motor that draws electrical current from the battery to start the engine. The symptom is a clicking sound heard when you attempt to start your vehicle.

It might sound a bit stupid but did you check your fuel tank? More and more people nowadays live under constant stress and have so many things that require their attention that they simply forget to fuel their cars. Ait happens much more often than you might think.

In case your fuel tank is full, a fuel pump may be the root of the problem. If it doesn’t work properly, the fuel supply or pressure in the lines are insufficient. However, bad fuel supply might be due to worn-out or torn fuel hoses or clogged filter. If you’ve noticed that your car starts jerking at high speeds, loses power suddenly or your fuel consumption increased, it is a good idea to have your fuel system checked.

Fuel light on dashboard

A broken or cracked distributor cap might cause you trouble on a rainy day or after washing your car. Through the cracks in the cap, moisture gets inside leading to engine problems.

Distributor car

What do I do if my car won’t start: how to start a car, possible solutions

If you try to start your car and fail, the worst thing you can do is to panic. Breathe in and breathe out. The first you should do is to check the fuel level. If your fuel tank is empty, fill it.

Try to switch on the headlights. If you can’t do it, your battery might be dead. Try to jump start your car. It might be also a good idea to check your battery terminals and posts. If they are corroded or dirty, clean them with insulated tools. Perhaps, it might be necessary to tighten the screw to make the connection firmer.

In case you managed to switch on the headlights but still can’t start the car, the possible culprit is a bad ignition switch. It can be easily checked: monitor your dashboard lights. If you can hear your engine cranking but the lights on the dashboard don’t go off, you’re dealing with the faulty ignition switch. It is possible to jump-start your car as a temporary solution, but you’ll have to change it sooner or later. A faulty ignition coil and bad spark plugs have to be also replaced. You’ll need a multimeter to make sure that your ignition coil is no longer able to perform its functions properly. Visual inspection is enough to see that your spark plugs are the issue: they might have traces of soot deposits.

The symptom of a faulty starter is a clicking sound that can be heard when trying to start the engine. A starter comprises many different components but the most common for failure is the solenoid. Bushing and bearings may also become out of order. It is not possible to replace only the faulty component, you’ll need a new unit. However, it may not be the issue with the starter itself, check the wiring to and from the unit for a loose connection. Whenever the spare is, it has to be replaced.

Unfortunately, there is no possible way to make sure that your fuel pump or fuel lines without special equipment. With its help, you can have the fuel rail pressure checked at an automobile shop. If it is low, your fuel pump needs replacing. Low fuel rail pressure might be also caused by a clogged filter. It should be changed every 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres. If you haven’t replaced yours for a long time, consider swapping it.

If you have the problem only on wet rainy days, it highly likely that your distributor cap has cracks in it. If you suspect it, remove the cap and check it for dampness. If there is moisture under it, wipe it with a clean cloth. Buy an aerosol can of mechanic’s solvent and pour or spray it onto the bottom part of the cap. Sway the cap and then pour the solvent out. Never use fuel for that purpose as it might make your engine blow up. Wipe the residues of the mechanic’s solvent with a clean lint-free cloth. Put the cap back to its place.

If you can’t start your car, don’t get into a panic. Perhaps, the devil is not so black as he is painted. Unfortunately, engine-related problems are often difficult or impossible to diagnose and fix on your own. In order to be on the safe side, it is better to call the AA or your service station to ask for help.

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