man checking under vehicle hoodWhen you put your key in the ignition and the car won’t start, it’s more than an inconvenience. Perhaps the engine turns over a bit or you see lights blinking on the dashboard, but the car never revs to life. Understand why this happens and what you can do to troubleshoot the problem.

Battery Issues

The primary reason a car won’t start up is a dead battery. If you accidentally left the lights on overnight or haven’t driven your car in a couple of weeks, the battery can lose juice. Because the alternator helps charge the battery, this part may also be worn out or damaged and needs to be replaced.

Aside from these factors, a car battery over five years old or with an electrical issue can die. Beyond the engine not starting up, you may be dealing with a dead car battery when the lights, radio and controls don’t work. At this stage, you have a few choices:

  • Get the battery charged
  • Check the battery cables for corrosion or connection issues
  • Jumpstart the battery

If none of these solutions work, bring your vehicle in to have the electrical connections checked and battery replaced.

Ignition or Starter Issue

If your battery seems to be working fine but the engine does not start, your car may have an ignition switch issue. A key sign is when the lights and radio turn on but the engine doesn’t rev up all the way.

Your car might also have a broken starter, the electric motor connected to the battery that powers the engine’s key parts to move. In this case, the ignition works but the starter won’t allow the pistons and crankshaft to get going. You may hear a clicking or other loud noise when you attempt to turn the car on but, just as with a broken ignition switch, the lights and radio continue to work.

Engine Issues

Considering the complex ignition process and how force is transferred from the transmission system to the wheels, not being able to start your car might come down to the engine:

  • The car may have run out of gas or there’s not enough to start up the car. This may simply be a result of not checking the gas gauge or could be a fuel pump relay issue. The engine might sound like it’s starting but then stall.
  • The engine may have an abundance of gas and the excess has dampened the spark plugs. At this stage, you’re advised to crank the engine to move the fuel out of the combustion chamber.
  • A blown fuse or electrical issue involving the ignition system may have occurred. At this point, you’ll need to have the fuse replaced.
  • The timing belt or chain may have broken, severing the connection between the engine’s halves and causing the pistons to move unevenly.

If you suspect an electrical issue, one strategy is to “shift” a connection within the transmission system. Move the lever into neutral and attempt to start the engine. If that doesn’t work, put it in “park” and try to start the car up again to improve the transmission range selector’s electrical contact.
If you’ve tried troubleshooting but your car still won’t start, schedule an assessment and repairs at DaSilva’s Auto Body today.