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Causes And Fixes Of A Car Not Starting

why wont my car start

There is nothing worse than your car not starting whatsoever. If its turning over but not firing or you turn the ignition and nothing happens, you will more than likely end up on this article for a quick fix.

There is a solution to every car related problem and its always better you fix it now before it gets worse. The fix to a car not starting will depend upon how far into the firing process you have gone i.e. If the car ignition will turn and you can turn it over.

After owning a mixture of classic and modern cars, there are usually common causes and fixes to a car that will not start and they are mentioned below.

In order to diagnose a car not starting, it’s important that you recognize certain functionalities whilst attempting to start it.

Below is a self diagnosis for non starting cars that will give you clear causes and fixes. Click on the red text to reveal the cause and fix of your car not starting.

Table of Contents

Car Not Starting Diagnosis

  • Can you turn the key within the ignition? No / Yes
  • Is the “Push To Start” button working? No / Yes
  • Do the lights turn on in the cluster or around the car? No / Yes
  • Does the check engine light appear? No / Yes
  • Does the car turn over but not start? No / Yes
  • Will it start from cold but not hot? No / Yes

Clicking on the answer link from the diagnosis of your car not starting will direct you to the cause and fix. If you have access to car diagnostic tool, you can plug it into the OBD2 port to view any error codes and try erase them.

Before you begin to self diagnose and stress out, try to cover some basics such as:

  • Does the car have fuel?
  • Is the car in “park” and not “neutral/drive”
  • Is the anti-theft system disabled
  • Is the battery connected properly

Sometimes you may find that the 4 points stated above are a simple solution. Otherwise, the most common causes and solutions for a car not starting is as followed:

Key Won’t Turn In Ignition

If the key is not turning within the ignition, you will have no chance of starting the car unless you know how to hot wire it. Before you are able to turn a key in the ignition, there are three factors that need to be achieved.

The three factors you need to consider beforehand is whether the steering lock is active, the car is the correct gear and that the car has enough battery and so does the key if its fobless or infrared.

The steering lock is usual if you have parked with the wheels turned or on a hill. Simply jiggle the steering wheel whilst trying to turn the key in the ignition.

If this doesn’t solve the issue, ensure that you are in “park” (for automatic cars) or have the clutch down (for manual cars).

A weak battery will also cause the ignition to be unpredictable and not register the key if its not the usual fob. Also, ensure that you key has enough battery (mostly modern cars) as the ignition will not be able to sync up with the key.

Of course, its important not to rule out basic wear and tear if your car is old or high mileage. The key can become worn down from its original shape and the components inside the ignition are prone to breaking eventually.

push to start button not working

Push To Start Button Not Working

The common reason is normally related to the battery within the key is completely drained. The key must be present within the vehicle to start the car and the best way your cars computer will realize this if you place the key right next to the button.

In automatic cars that have the Stop Start Technology, the brake pedal must be depressed in order to start the car.

However, a defective brake light switch can be unpredictable and not signify to the cars computer that the brake is currently depressed. However, this scenario is far less common that the number one cause, which is a weak battery.

To fix this issue, install a new battery to the key fob and charge your cars battery with a high quality battery charger. If this doesn’t solve the problem, try replacing the brake light switch or plug the car into a professional error code reader.

No Electrical Components Working

If you are turning the ignition and nothing is happening and other electrical components aren’t working, you have a battery issue. To test this, check to see if your headlights turn on and if they do, you know you have some power.

Sometimes the battery connection can be poor or not connected securely but if you have not touched the battery in a long time, this is very unlikely. If possible, you can try jump starting your car or if you are at home, use a fast battery charger to recharge the battery.

No Engine Management Light At Ignition Position 2

The engine management light is supposed to light up whilst in the ignition position 2 and if it does not, you may have issues with your ECU. Check for blown fuses or loose connectors but your best bet is to check for error codes.

Car Turns Over But Wont Start

If the car is turning over freely, the battery is in good health however, it still will not start. There are two critical factors that a car needs to start, fuel and a spark (or heat from a glow plug with diesel cars). The main tell tale sign to determine which is at fault is the distinctive smell of fuel.

When continuously turning over the car, you can accidentally “gas” the car up. This will pose as another problem and make the car harder to start. Try to leave a small amount of time before attempting to turn over the car.

Fuel Smell When Turning Over Car But No Start

The smell of fuel is a good sign for your fuel system (pump, injectors and lines) but bad for your ignition (sparks, coil and sensors). To confirm this, pull out one of the spark plug and have someone watch the spark plug as you quickly turn it over (less than 2 seconds).

The person watching the spark plug should check for a spark, if there is no spark, you should check your ignition setup. This varies massively from car to car but in short, you should check your ignition coil, health of the spark plug, distributor cap, camshaft and crankshaft sensor and more.

If the issue is not constant and some days it starts and some days it won’t, try a fuel injector cleaner additive with a tank of fuel. This will completely flush the fuel system of any carbon deposits and rule out issues with the fuel.

No Fuel Smell And Strong Spark But No Start

A strong smell means that your ignition system is healthy but your fuel system is not because it wont ignite the fuel. The problem could lie with poor fuel pressure coming from the fuel pump and this can be tested fairly easily.

Before the fuel reaches the combustion changer, it passes through various components. If you loosen a fuel pipe before these components i.e. fuel distributor, there should be fuel forcefully exiting. If there is no fuel being squirted out, the issue may lie with the fuel pump or fuel relay but its worth trying various fuel components.

A clever method to check that your fuel pump is getting power is to turn the key to position 2 and connect a professional car multimeter to the fuel pump connectors. The multimeter should be receiving values but if its not, the battery may be at fault but if it is and there is no pressure, the pump may be broken.

Car Will Not Start When Warm

A common problem is that a car will start perfectly when cold but as soon as you have been driving and got it up to temperature, it wont start. If you find that this is a common occurrence, check the crank position sensor, camshaft sensor and the temperature sensor.

These are the three most common reason for the car not starting once warm but there may be a range of other reasons mentioned above.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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