The 5 Reasons Your Car Isn’t Starting


After a long weekend of enjoying yourself perhaps a little too much, the last thing you need on a Tuesday morning is for your car to turn over and over without actually starting. You pause for 30 seconds and try your car again only to find the same issue with no hope of getting to work on time.

There can be many reasons that a car will not start. The most common of which are:

  • Battery Needs Replacing
  • Alternator Is Bad

Other reasons your car may not be starting:

  • Clogged Fuel Filter
  • Empty Gas Tank
  • Deflective Ignition Switch

We will get into what the symptoms of both of these issues look like to help you diagnose what is actually going on with your car and how the car will need to be repaired (not to mention how much it will cost you). Before we get into these details, let’s first discuss how you can start your dead car and move it.

How To Start and Move A Dead Car

If you don’t want to take the time to diagnose your car yourself and you need to get it moved, the best thing to do is to get it started so that you can drive it to a mechanic. The mechanic will be able to tell you what is going on with the vehicle and how to get it properly working again.

You’ll generally want to have the entire electrical system looked at and the computer system read to see what error codes are coming up. You want both the charging system as well as the starting components inspected by the mechanic. First You need to get it there.

How To Jump A Car

Jumping a car is a safe and effective method for starting a dead car WHEN PROPER SAFETY MEASURES ARE TAKEN. Before you get started follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Read your owners manual
  2. Do not attempt to jump batteries that are damaged or corroded
  3. Do not jump batteries that are at abnormal temperatures like below freezing
  4. Never touch the clips together

What You Will Need:

  1. Jumper Cables
  2. Power source such as a battery bank or another car
how to jump your car using jumper cables

Standard Mechanical Battery Checks Should Cover

When you get the car to the mechanic there are a few things that every mechanic should be looking over. They include:

  • Fluid level inspections
  • Corrosion check for cables and terminals
  • Cable connectivity check
  • Electronic battery test

An electronic battery test is what you are really here for, though all of these other services should also be performed by your mechanic to verify the safety and integrity of the battery. An electronic battery test will measure the cold cranking amps and the voltage of the battery.

The mechanic will also check the alternator’s voltage and output as well. Something the mechanic will look for are signs of bad diodes. These are the components that convert the electrical current from an alternating current into a direct current. If the diodes are bad you will need to replace the alternator.

Diagnosing Your Vehicle’s Non-Start

As we discussed earlier, the reason that your vehicle isn’t starting is generally an electric issue though it can have to do with the car not getting enough fuel in some cases.

Bad Battery Symptoms

If the engine cranking sounds sluggish you likely have a bad battery. If you’ve noticed the progression of your car turning over more and more especially on cold mornings, or just inconsistent starts then your issue is usually your battery needing replacing. Other symptoms include no interior lights and no sound. In some cases it isn’t the battery but the connection to the battery can be loose or corroded which will give you the same no power symptoms.

A jump start will only work if it is the battery that is your issue, so if you’ve successfully jumped your car then you know what your problem is. Luckily replacing the battery isn’t terribly expensive as far as car fixes go.

A Video Example Of What A Bad Battery Sounds Like

Signs of a Bad Alternator

The other major issue that is common in vehicle that won’t start is the alternator. Signs of a bad alternator include starting issues (duh that’s why we’re here), stereo output issues and dimming lights. If you can start your car with a jump, but your car stalls out while you are driving, it is possible that the alternator is not functioning properly and the battery is not being charged.

Another sign to look out for is a squealing noise when you are using electronic components such as the heater or the radio. This symptom points to an issue with the alternator bearings.

If the car won’t start but the headlights and other electrical components are working then the problem is likely the starter or a fuel issue.

Defective Ignition Switch

If you’ve ruled out your battery and your alternator and your car isn’t turning over after your first few attempts, it’s likely that your issue is your ignition switch. Try turning on your headlights. Are they working? If your answer is yes then you almost definitely have a bad ignition switch. Before you rush to the mechanic or order the part online, rule out our final two causes involving the car’s fuel supply.

Empty Gas Tank

I’ve certainly done this where I’ve flipped out because my car won’t start only to realize I didn’t have enough gas in it. Whether your gas gauge isn’t giving an accurate reading or you made a silly mistake and forgot to check your fuel gauge last time you drove the vehicle, you won’t get a car to start that doesn’t have gasoline in it. The fix is simple here and inexpensive, add gas!

Clogged Fuel Filter

The fuel filter is located in the fuel line of your vehicle and is traditionally made of a carbonate plastic cartridge which is filled with filter paper. The fuel filter’s one and only job is to protect the integrity and purity of the fuel that enters into the combustion chambers of your engine. As the fuel filter does it’s job and filters the fuel, it becomes increasingly clogged.

If your car is reading that it has an adequate amount of gas in it, yet it will not start, your fuel filter could be so clogged that it is restricting the fuel flow to your vehicle prohibiting it from getting going. 

There are other reasons your car may not be starting from a dead battery, faulty spark plugs or a bad starter or alternator. You could also have a faulty fuel pump on your hands which as we discussed can be a symptom of a fuel filter that has failed entirely. If these components check out to be in well working condition you can pretty much guarantee that it is a clogged fuel filter that is preventing your car from starting. A mechanic will be able to diagnose your problem relatively quickly. 

Need Help Fixing Your Repairs?

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We hope this article has answered all of your questions regarding your car not starting and that you feel more prepared to take handle this vehicle issue both now and in the future. Consider protecting your vehicle with an extended warranty plan from Protect My Car. In addition to warranties, Protect My Car also offers insurance and maintenance plans and can negotiate the best prices on repairs with mechanics.

About Protect My Car

Protect My Car is an extended auto warranty company. Our goal here at Protect My Car is to eliminate your worry of being financially responsible for an expensive mechanical breakdown. With our extended auto warranty, you don’t have to worry about being fully burdened with the cost of a covered repair.