Mech Up

Mech Up! What to Do When You Car Won’t Start

Arrgh! We all know that feeling when you’re rushing somewhere but the car won’t start. It’s not the time to panic, though. Here’s what you should do.

Whether you’re on your way to a big meeting or getting ready to head out on a family vacation, when your car won’t start, it can certainly throw a wrench in your plans. 

You don’t want to pay those hefty mechanic fees if you can avoid it, and you definitely need to be able to get back on the road as soon as possible. 

In this post, we’ll fill you in on how to fix a car that won’t start on your own. You might be surprised to learn that it’s easier than you think. 

Plus, even if you’re unable to get your car to start, you’ll at least be able to clearly identify the issue when you take it into a professional. 

Read on to learn how to be your own mechanic. 

If Your Dashboard Lights Up

Your dashboard lights up when you turn the ignition key, so you know that the issue isn’t likely with your battery.

However, even though you have lights, your engine doesn’t make any noise when you’re ready to go.

First of all, check to make sure that the gear is in the neutral or park position. If your car starts up when you shift the gear into neutral, then you’re all set. (That was easy, right?)

If you’re still having issues, push your brake/clutch down and see if that makes a difference. 

If things still don’t work, then you’ve likely got a faulty starter motor on your hands. There could also be an issue with the cables that connect your ignition and starter. 

Before you call the mechanic, if you use a key fob to start your car, make sure that the issue isn’t simply that the fob battery is dead. Check out this post for tips on how to handle a key fob with a dead battery. 

Your Car Cranks But the Engine Doesn’t Run

Luckily, learning what to do if a car won’t start in this situation is fairly simple. 

In most cases, the issue is that you’re either very low on gas, or that you’ve already run out of it. Ask a family member or friend to bring you some, or get in touch with AAA or another car service. 

If you just refilled your tank or know that you’re not running low on fuel, you may have a flooded engine on your hands. Always get your vehicle serviced by a reputable shop. Lynch Nissan of Auburn is a good choice if you’re in the area.

This is especially common in cars with older, carbureted engines. Essentially, an excess of fuel in your engine soaks your spark plus so that they’re too wet to start. 

Luckily, this is a pretty easy fix. 

All you need to do is press down your gas pedal to the floor and crank up your engine to get the fuel out of the chamber. 

If that doesn’t work, you might be dealing with a blown fuse. 

Use the manual to locate the fuse box and replace the problem fuse. You should have a few extra fuses inside the box. 

A Crank But With Strange Noises

When your car cranks up, do you hear a kind of strange, grinding noise? 

If so, then the issue is likely a failure of the flywheel to properly engage with the starter. 

You can attempt to catch the flywheel by turning your key/fob on and off a few times in rapid succession. If it works, it doesn’t mean the problem is fixed, just that you’ll be able to make it to the mechanic. 

This grinding noise means that your flywheel has too many broken teeth to work properly. 

If you hear a spinning noise after the crank, call a mechanic immediately — this is serious.

It likely means that your engine’s pistons have lost resistance because there is no longer a connection between the upper and lower halves. 

This will teach you to make a habit out of having your timing belt regularly inspected and replaced when needed.  

You Turn the Key and Nothing Happens

If your car won’t start at all when you turn your key, you likely have an issue with the battery itself. 

Sometimes, the issue could be with the battery connection. 

If you’re able to turn your cables by hand, then you know that the connection is way too loose. You can take out the cables and wipe them with a rag. If the issue still persists, your battery is probably completely dead. 

You’ll have to jump-start your car, so call a friend or flag down another driver to help you.

If you suspect that the battery is dead, you should load testing batteries to be sure. Try to test your batteries once every thousand miles or so, especially if you have an older vehicle, to be on the safe side. 

You don’t want your battery to die when you’re on the way to an important meeting or in the middle of nowhere. 

You Know What to Do If Your Car Won’t Start

Now that you know exactly what you should do if your car won’t start, you can head out onto the road with confidence. 

The most important lesson here is to always take your car in for regular maintenance. In addition to helping you avoid the issues in this post, proper car care can extend the life of your vehicle. 

Need a few tips on how to take the best care of your car? 

Our blog is full of guides to help you make it happen. 

Keep checking back in with our posts to learn more about how to get the most out of your time on the road.