Picture this: you’re running late for work and dash outside after grabbing breakfast on the go. You hurry into your car and turn the key — but nothing happens. Your car won’t start, and you have no idea why.
Knowing some of the common reasons a car won’t start could help you identify the problem in the future. Some problems even have simple solutions, so you can get back on the road quickly. Learn five common reasons your car won’t start and what you should do to fix the issue.
1. The Battery is Dead
A dead or damaged battery is the leading cause of a car not starting.
The engine probably won’t turn over at all if the battery is completely dead. If the battery is weak, but still has some juice left, you might hear your engine make some noise despite not actually starting the car.
Since your battery powers all of the electrical components of your car, you can usually tell if the battery is the issue by checking the lights or radio. The dashboard lights will probably be dim, and you may not be able to turn on the reading lights or radio if your battery is dead.
Car batteries get their power from the alternator, which charges the battery as you drive. Your battery might die for several reasons, including:
- The headlights were left on overnight.
- The battery has expired and needs to be replaced.
- There’s poor conductivity in the battery components.
- The battery wiring is loose.
- Corrosion has damaged the battery.
Jumper cables should get your car started and have you back on the road. After jumping your car, be sure to figure out why the battery was dead. If it was simply because you left the dome light on for too long, you shouldn’t expect another issue. If the battery died because of something else, consider visiting a mechanic to fix the issue.
2. The Starter is Broken
Your car’s starter is a motor that’s connected to the battery. When you turn the key in the ignition, the starter goes to work getting the engine cranking. Once the engine is turning and everything’s in motion, the starter is finished until you turn the car off and start it again.
A faulty starter might look a lot like a dead battery. Unlike a dead battery, however, jumpstarting your car won’t solve a broken starter. You might have a bad starter if your car still won’t turn over after jumping it.
Another way to tell if you have a bad starter is by the noises your car makes when you turn the key. A faulty starter often causes a clicking noise when you try to start the car, but the engine won’t turn over.
Get your car to your mechanic if you suspect a bad starter. They’ll need to replace the starter with a new one, which should fix the issue and allow your car to start.
3. You’re Out of Fuel
Did you forget to get gas on your way home yesterday, or did a family member borrow the car and forget to fill up?
It might seem like a no-brainer, but check your fuel gauge when you’re having problems starting your car. Low fuel levels can make it impossible for the fuel to combust, leaving your car stationary.
The good news is it’s easy to fix low fuel levels. You simply need to add gas to the vehicle so the car can start. Don’t worry if the car doesn’t start right after adding more fuel. You may have to wait a couple of minutes for the fuel to move through the system. Try these steps to help get your car started after refilling the tank:
- Pump the gas pedal a few times to get fuel flowing through the components.
- Turn the key all the way and hold it in place for a few seconds until you hear the engine turn over.
- If this doesn’t work, try the process a couple of times, then wait about an hour to try again.
4. Your Fuel Pump isn’t Working
If you have enough gas in the tank but your car still won’t start you might have fuel pump issues.
The fuel pump is the system that moves the fuel from your gas tank to the combustion chamber. If the pump isn’t working or is weak, the fuel may not be able to get from your tank to the engine.
The easiest way to tell if you have a problem with the fuel pump is to try to listen for the pump to start running before you start the car. With the key in the “on” position — before you turn it all the way to start the car — you should hear sounds of the pump starting. Although it can be difficult to hear if you don’t know what you’re listening to, you might have problems with your fuel pump if you don’t hear anything.
A a good repair shot will be able to tell you if you need to replace the fuel pump.
5. The Steering Wheel is Locked
Did you know most cars have an anti-theft system that locks the steering wheel after you put the car in park?
Like running out of gas, a locked steering wheel might leave you feeling a little silly, but it’s a common reason a car won’t start. After parking the car and taking out the key, the wheel locks. This can prevent the key from even turning in the ignition if the wheel is locked in just the right place.
If you put the key in and it won’t turn at all, you might have a locked steering wheel causing the problem. Try moving the wheel a little left or right as you turn the key. Usually, moving the wheel slightly will release the lock so you can turn the key and start your car.
What if It’s Something Else?
There are lots of reasons a car won’t start. If you think your car isn’t starting because of something else, your best bet is to get a tow to the nearest mechanic.
Having roadside assistance is an easy way to have access to the help you need if you find yourself stranded with a car that won’t start. Consider adding roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy today.