A Car Won’t Start: How to Troubleshoot and Fix Guide

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Edgar Moulton.

05.07.2021

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

Table of contents

There are only a few things worse than trying to start your car to get on your way to work in the morning, only to hear… nothing. If you’re having trouble starting your car, it could be any number of things, but in this article, we’ll talk about the most common causes. 

Three Electric Related Reasons Your Car Won't Start

If your car won't start, there could be one or more things wrong with it. Here are the top reasons your car is not starting.

  1. Dead battery. If you put the key in the ignition and turn it, but the engine won't turn over, it’s likely a dead battery. The battery powers the starter motor, so if the battery is dead, the starter motor can’t “turn” (literally turn the crankshaft) the engine. If you try it with a new battery, and it starts on the first try, it’s likely a dead battery. Before you go and swap the battery, it’s worth checking to see if the electronics are working because if they are, it’s likely not the battery. If the car won't turn over but has power (i.e., the electronics such as the dashboard, radio, windshield wipers, and headlights work), it’s likely something other than the battery. You can use jumper cables to jump-start the car, but that is only a temporary fix. 
  2. Starter motor problems. If the electronics (radio, headlights, windshield wipers, etc.) work but still the car won't turn over, it’s likely something other than the battery, like maybe the starter motor. If you open your hood and find your starter motor, have someone sit in the car and try to start the engine. If the starter motor clicks but isn’t turning over, it’s likely the starter won't turn over because it isn’t getting enough electricity from the battery. If there’s no clicking noise coming from the starter motor, it’s likely a dead battery.
  3. Ignition problems. If you turn the key and your lights come on but your car won't crank, it might be an issue with your ignition switch. If you turn the key and nothing happens, it could be a faulty ignition switch. 

Those are the three main electrical reasons your vehicle won’t start. To tell if it’s an old battery that needs to be replaced, use jumper cables to jump-start the car. If it starts, it’s likely a dead battery and not the starter motor or ignition. Maybe your battery died overnight because you accidentally left the headlights on, or perhaps it’s because the battery is old and is dying and will need to be replaced. That will be the case if you try to start the car, and you get no noise and nothing works (like the electronics).

The most accurate way to find out is to take your car to a mechanic and have them test the battery with a voltmeter. If that tests within the standard voltage range, ask them to look at the ignition and starter motor. 

Some Reasons Your Car Won't Crank

If your car isn’t starting and isn’t even cranking, it’s likely one of the above problems. 

Electricity from the battery is required to power the starting motor, which turns the crankshaft (which is what “cranking” means). If the battery is dead, the starter motor won’t have enough electricity to apply enough force to the crankshaft and make it turn. If the battery is fine and provides enough electricity (which can be tested with a voltmeter), but it still won’t turn over, it’s likely the starter motor or the ignition switch. If that’s the case, you’ll need to take it to a trusted mechanic to get either of them repaired or replaced. 

What Does It Mean If My Car Turns Over But Won’t Start?

If your car cranks but won’t start, it’s likely a fuel-related issue. A car that turns over but won’t start can be very frustrating, but there’s one thing that’s a very easy to fix. Unfortunately, the others aren’t so simple.

You’re out of gas

This is obviously a simple fix. Go fill up your gas tank! Fuel gauges aren’t always accurate, so even if it reads that you still have some gas, the reality might be that you’re out. This is a cause of when your car turns over but won't catch and continue running.

Bad spark plugs

When the engine cranks, it means the crankshaft is turning, which sets in motion the process of starting your engine. Once this is happening, however, there needs to be fuel and air in the cylinders along with a spark to ignite it. Hence, your spark plugs. If your spark plugs aren’t functioning properly and creating the necessary spark, your car will crank and crank and crank, but it won’t start. If this is the case, you will need to replace your spark plugs (which usually last around 100,000 miles). 

Lack of fuel delivery

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Along the lines of the first issue, your car needs gas (and air and a spark) in order to start. If you have gas in the tank, but still your engine won't start, it could mean there’s a problem with the fuel delivery system. It could be a clogged fuel filter or fuel injectors that aren’t spraying fuel into the cylinders. 

Low compression

If you have low compression, what’s happening is air inside the cylinder is escaping through the piston ring and not creating the internal compression required to crank the engine. You can get your compression tested by a mechanic to see if this is why your car is having trouble starting.

Why Won't My Car Start In The Cold?

Cold weather can have adverse effects on your car’s performance as well as its ability to start. So if you live in a region where winters are cold, you may find yourself googling, “Why won't my car start in the cold?”

  1. The first reason may be a dead battery. Even if your battery still had some life in it when the warmer temperatures were around, the simple fact is that a cold car battery doesn’t produce as much voltage as a warm battery does. If your car won't start with no sound, it may be a dead battery that needs to be replaced.
  2. The second reason is cold temperatures have a negative effect on the liquids inside your car. Even though most gasoline has a higher freezing temperature than what you would typically see in cold winter, it can change the viscosity of the fluids necessary for the car to start. Because fuel becomes “thicker” in cold temperatures, fuel that may have passed through the fuel injectors while warm may not pass as easily, resulting in an engine that’s having trouble starting. The same viscosity issues can be seen from your fuel. The best way to prevent this from happening is to make sure you use an oil suitable for cold weather temperatures (which can be found marked with a “W” for “winter” in its name).

Junkcarsus is a Reputable Junk Car Buyer Working for 12 Years

There are many reasons why a car won't start, and googling “How to fix a car that won't start?” might result in a lot of confusion and costly repairs. If you have trouble starting your car or have repeatedly had trouble starting your car, it may be time to sell it as a junk car. 

JunkCarsUs, with over 12 years in the junk car business, has become the number one among junk car buyers in the USA! We will take nearly any car — from a Toyota Corolla to a BMW 7 Series, with and even without title — in any condition even if it won’t start and will offer you top dollar for it. Sometimes it’s worth troubleshooting; other times, it’s worth calling the buyers of junk cars to scrap it. We are so confident in our cash offers that we offer a highest price guarantee out of any junk car buyer! 

Not only are we the highest paying company, we’re also the easiest to use! We have a simple three-step process that can have your car off your property with cash in hand on the same day.

  1. Call us at (855) 547-1550 and speak to one of our friendly customer service representatives. Give them the make, model, year, condition, and mileage on your car, and we’ll give you a cash offer on the spot.
  2. Accept your offer and arrange a convenient time for you for our tow truck driver to come to your location.
  3. Then have it towed away for FREE! That’s right. There are no hidden costs when you work with JunkCarsUS, including our free junk car pickup

But what about paperwork? Don’t worry. We have been buying junk cars for so long and have filled out so many forms; we know exactly what information goes where. That means we bring it already filled out and all you have to do is sign on the dotted line. 

So if you’re having trouble with a car that won’t start, and it’s going to cost you more than the car is even worth, call us at (855) 547-1550 or fill out an online application and see how you can change a costly repair bill into cash in your pocket! 

Edgar Moulton.

05.07.2021

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

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