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Car Won't Start

key in ignition

by Aaron Turpen

There's nothing worse than turning the key and.. nothing. Even when you've known there was probably something going wrong with your car, the moment it stops working, it makes no difference - you now realize that your life is about to get complicated. Nobody enjoys vehicle problems and we enjoy paying towing and mechanic fees even less.

Here are a few things you should know that might save you time, money, and frustration.

Top 5 Reasons a Car Won't Start

Here are the five most common things that will make a car unable to start along with some simple things to check and do to verify that this is the problem and (hopefully) fix it quickly.

Battery - the battery on a vehicle can do dead for a variety of reasons. Even a new battery isn't immune from this. Check that the battery has power (use a meter or connect something that will run directly from it like a power inverter or look at your battery indicator on the dash, if you have one). Changes in weather, electronic problems causing a ground to drain the battery, a faulty alternator not charging properly, and more can all cause a bad battery. Luckily, if the battery is just dead, all you need is a jump start or recharge. Make sure to take the car in for start-system testing ñ most auto parts stores offer this free of charge.

Battery Connections - speaking of the battery, often the problem isn't the battery itself, but the connections to it. Try wiggling or separating and replacing the positive and negative terminal connections. Clean them with a light wire brush or terminal cleaner. It's not unusual for corrosion (which naturally occurs on the lead terminals) to interfere with power transfer. Also check the cables from the battery to be sure they are firmly connected and not frayed or broken.

Bad solenoid or starter - if the car ìclicksî but doesn't ìturn overî then the problem could be in the solenoid or starter. These are usually the same unit and are located where the engine meets the transmission at the transmission's bell housing. The starter is a large electric motor. For more information on starters and solenoids, see our Starter Repair page.

No fuel - often the problem is as simple as the car being out of gas. Ask any mechanic and he'll tell you that it's not unusual for someone to call in and have their car towed because it won't start only to find out, when the mechanic inspects it, that the gas tank is empty. This can be due to a fuel leak, but most often is due to a faulty fuel gauge reassuring the driver that there is gas in the tank, despite that not being the case. Adding a couple of gallons from a gas can doesn't cost much and might be all that's required to get your car going again. If it ìturns overî but doesn't start, this could be the issue.

Faulty security system - many modern cars have security systems installed, either at the factory or after-market. It's not unusual for these to have a security feature that keeps the vehicle from starting if the security system has not been disabled by the key fob or RFID device. Even if your security system appears to be operating normally (beeps on and off), it could have a blown fuse or problem in the relay that is keeping the ignition from completing its circuit to start the vehicle. How this is repaired will vary by security system, but usually the fuse/relay can be over-ridden temporarily or replaced to restore function.