There’s no worse feeling than getting in your car, turning the key, and nothing happens. We often take for granted that our vehicles fire up each time we need it, that when the opposite occurs it’s a huge letdown. After you deal with the shock and disbelief, you will need to start on the task of troubleshooting car starting problems.
The worst thing you can do is panic. Everyone at one point or another deals with a car that won’t start, and you will figure it out. If you’re short on money, know the problem could be stupidly simple, but panicking won’t help you solve it yourself. Here are some common causes of car starting problems.
Perhaps the most obvious and common reason for a car to not start is the battery has no charge. If you don’t hear anything when you turn the key, pop the hood and inspect the terminals on the battery. Remove any corrosion you see with a steel brush or anything else you might have on hand. That corrosion alone could be keeping the electricity from flowing to the engine.
Also check that the wires are clamped securely on the terminals, because any looseness can make it so the engine won’t start. If both those issues check out, you should have someone give your car a jump start. Always be extremely careful with jumper cables and follow the instructions included with them.
Other potential causes for engine starting problems when turning the key makes zero noise is that the starter has gone bad, or the smart key’s battery needs to be replaced.
When was the last time you swapped out the air intake filter? A clogged filter could choke off the flow of air enough to keep the engine from starting. Just by taking out the filter, you should be able to see immediately if it’s excessively dirty.
While you’re at it, check that all the connections in the air intake system are tight and that there’s no cracks in any of the pipes. Ironically, too much airflow can also keep your engine from starting.
Transmission in the Wrong Gear
Yet another potential cause for a car to not start is if the transmission is in the wrong gear.
If you have an automatic, there is the possibility a mechanical fault allows you to remove the key from the ignition without putting the transmission in park first.
This is especially difficult to detect if you have a steering column-mounted shifter, but it could happen with dash- or center console-mounted shifters as well. All you need to do is double-check that the transmission is in park, then try turning the key.
A little more advanced thing to check your engine for is proper compression.
If you have a compression gauge on hand, you just need to remove one of the spark plug wires from the engine and feed the tube portion of the gauge into the spark plug well. Have someone else crank the engine and not the pressure. If it’s above 100 psi, you probably are good on compression. Measure each cylinder’s compression in turn. A big difference in adjacent cylinders’ compression is definitely cause for concern.
You can still test for compression without a gauge. Just cover the spark plug well with your finger. If you can’t keep your finger in place when the engine is turned over, the compression level is probably good.
Troubleshooting Car Starting Problems: Other Causes
If you hear the electrical system firing, which can be a clicking sound, or the engine is struggling to start but won’t, there are a few causes you can look into. Your car could be out of gas, so turn the key enough for the gauges to turn on, and check the fuel level.
If that’s not the cause, a problem with the fuel filter, pump or other portion of the fuel system is possible and should be addressed by a mechanic.
Unfortunately, engine starting problems could be beyond your ability to diagnose or fix. That’s when calling a towing company and having your vehicle transported to an auto repair shop such as T3 Atlanta. We service Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, and Infiniti vehicles in the metro Atlanta area. If your car won’t start, give us a call! We’ll have your car running again in no time.