The Reasons A Car Wont Start
There are a number of different reasons your car wont start, from being out of fuel, to more complex issues like a fault with its electronics.
But some things are more common than others. Heres a rundown of some of the more typical reasons your car wont start.
When To Call For Help
Certain situations require roadside assistance. You might be well-versed in jump-starting a battery, but without cables or another person with a vehicle who can connect their battery to yours, it’s time to call a pro. Other technical reasons could be the root of a mechanical or electrical breakdown, in which case you would need your car towed to the closest qualified mechanic for repair. Here are a few mechanical/electrical issues that generally require a professional:
How About The Ignition Switch
If you confirmed that the fuses are in decent shape, then the most common issue could be the ignition switch.
It is important to clarify that the ignition switch is not the housing where you insert the key inside. It is an internal component within your starting system that your key touches to get the vehicle started.
Like many other vehicle components, the ignition switch can go bad at some point in time, although it’s not very common.
Luckily, when your ignition switch goes bad, your vehicle would tell you even before it gets bad. Here are some of the most common signs of a bad ignition switch:
- Your vehicle cannot start
- You will not hear any noise coming from the starter motor, indicating it is working
- Your vehicles dashboard will flicker
Suppose you confirmed it’s your ignition switch causing the problem. In that case, you need to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic and get the problem resolved as soon as possible to avoid more complications requiring high repair costs.
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Car Wont Start But Battery Is Good Repair #: Compression Loss
This is where it gets scary for your bank account. Compression loss is caused either by something not operating properly or damage to your engines internals. As mentioned, this includes bad piston rings, bad valves, a blown head gasket, and several other possible reasons.
The parts cost for most of these parts is not too expensive, but the labor cost is likely to be significantly higher than most other replacement jobs.
The reason is that these parts are the internals of your engine, and replacing them will require your mechanic to dismantle a significant portion of your engine. For example, to replace a blown head gasket, your mechanic will need to do the following:
- Remove a significant portion of your engine, including the camshafts, cylinder heads, and the broken head gasket itself.
- Clean the surface of the engine block and bolt holes.
- Fit in the new head gaskets, the cylinder heads, and everything else that was taken apart before.
- Set the camshafts and timing gears back to your cars exact orientation, making sure it runs smoothly as it should.
As you can see, its a long and tedious process that can take a couple of days or more to finish. This is why a head gasket replacement job can be as high as $2,000. While a head gasket set is usually no more than $500, the labor cost can be as high as $1,500.
Often times you will need an engine rebuild, which can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $4,000 depending on your vehicles make and model.
Can You Call The Rac Out Without Breakdown Cover
Yes. If your car breaks down but you dont have breakdown cover, you can still call the RAC for breakdown assistance.
and speak to one of our operators who will be able to set you up on any one of our breakdown cover policies immediately. Please note that for the first 24 hours of your policy you will be put on our Roadside Assistance Only policy.
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Ever Wonder Why Your Car Wont Start
One of the reasons may be a weak or dead battery. If you have a battery tester that can measure cranking amps, use it to see if the battery is weak. If you cant test the battery, try jump-starting. If the car starts right away, your problem is most likely a dead battery. Charge the battery and clean the terminals and cable connectors to ensure good contact. If your car does not start by jump-starting, you may have a problem with your starter, alternator, or another component of the electrical system. Be sure to read and follow all safety and handling instructions on the battery and this website.
Immobiliser Or Security System
Sometimes, its your cars own security system that stops the engine from starting if the immobiliser fails to recognise your key, then your engine wont start at all.
This may be a flat battery in the key fob which weakens the signal from the fob to the system. A tell-tale indicator of this is often when the central locking will not operate either. Try replacing the battery.
If battery replacement isn’t practical, try holding the fob up against the start button and pressing the start button at the same time. If there is no start button on your model, try holding the fob very close to the ignition switch whilst you turn the key.
If available, try a spare key, but if your engine fails to recognise that too, you may be able to reprogram it manually check your handbook for details. Failing that, you may need to contact your dealer for assistance.
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Car Wont Turn Over But Has Power: How To Fix It
If the issue can be traced back to a faulty battery or alternator, replacing them is the only measure. This diagnosis can be done by almost anyone and needs no specialized tools. You only need to have an inexpensive multimeter.
But if the problem lies with other areas of the engine like the fuel system, ignition system, or air intake, you will need a trained mechanic to go to the bottom of it. Yes, the basic diagnosis can help you narrow down the options. But, for a thorough diagnosis, a skilled pair of hands is indispensable.
But that being said, the preliminary diagnosis must be done before you approach a garage. This is more important if you are approaching an unknown mechanic. There are possibilities of them scamming unwary customers.
So, if you turn up at an unknown garage and go There is something wrong with my engine, they may pick that up as an opportunity to drain your wallet. Though you might find that your car insurance policy will cover assistance to get your car started and back on the road, its worth checking with them. So, do your homework and conduct basic troubleshooting to narrow down the possibilities.
It is always better to tell a mechanic that I suspect it is a problem with my fuel pump. Can you please check that for me? instead of being completely clueless. Not rocket science but can save you some valuable bucks.
Is Car Battery Dead If Lights Still Working
Well, as we mentioned before, working lights do not usually indicate a good battery. Some bad batteries can still maintain a small charge that is enough to start the lights but not strong enough to get the engine going.
Therefore, you can always give your battery a jump start and see if it can start the engine or not. If your battery fails to start the engine, you need to replace your cars battery assuming all connections are in good shape.
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No Engine Crank And No Lights
If your engine doesn’t crank, you cant start your car, and there are no lights or electric powered devices working, then your battery may or may not be at fault for why your car wont turn over but has power. As you know, the battery is in charge of powering all electrical accessories in your car if the alternator is not running.
However, if you realize that your car battery is working well but your car wont turn over, then the culprit could actually be a combination problem with the alternator. If the car does not crank or turn over, but the headlights turn on, this could be due to an alternator issue, mechanical problem, or engine deterioration. If this is the case, your battery might not be the reason behind why your car wont turn over but has power.
What About If The Lights Are On But The Car Wont Start
If your car wont start, but the dome light turns on, your battery is likely fully functional. However, there may be something preventing engine ignition, and often its a faulty ignition coil. If the coil isnt working as it should, it cant convert enough of the batterys voltage into the electric spark that ignites the fuel.
Erie Insurance notes that you can diagnose this within minutes by checking the strength of the current going through the ignition coil with a multimeter. This tool can take readings of the voltage, resistance, and electrical current going through the coil. However, you may not have the tool if youre not a mechanic.
Fortunately, changing an ignition coil is easy if you have one nearby. However, you must be careful handling the battery and wires connected to it otherwise, youll get electrocuted.
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How Much Does It Cost To Solve The Car’s Problem Wont Start But The Battery Is Working
When your car wont start, but the battery is good, many different problems could be causing the issues, as you noticed in the previous sections.
Therefore, when looking at the price to resolve this issue, the price varies by the problem source, and below are some rough estimates about how much to expect to resolve each problem:
- If the problem is related to the battery and you need to replace the entire part, expect to pay between $45 to $250, according to Kelly Blue Book.
- However, if the problem has to do with burnt fuses, you might need to pay between $110 and $140.
- To replace your vehicles starter, you need to pay between $344 to $562
- Replacing the ignition switch requires about $125 and $275
Remember, all these price ranges are just rough estimates, and the actual price depends heavily on your vehicles make, model, and year. Furthermore, the labor cost can increase the total bill significantly. Thats why you might see a big difference in some repairs when going to a dealership versus doing it yourself or having a small repair shop take care of the problem.
Car Wont Start But Battery Is Good Repair #: Starter Motor Replacement Cost
The cost to replace a cars starter motor will vary depending on your cars make and model. To give you a rough estimate, most cars will cost you around $180 $300 for a starter motor kit, excluding the labor cost.
Needless to say, if you have a luxury or exotic car it will cost you more. For example, a starter motor kit for some Mercedes-Benz models is anywhere between $400 $800. As for the labor cost, its usually between $50 $100 per hour.
Keep in mind that these are rough estimates and just for your starter motor. If your flywheel has been damaged, it can lead to more repairs and higher costs. Which could bring your total repair cost to around $1500, depending on your cars make and model.
This is why you shouldnt ignore grinding noises when you start the car, as they could damage your flywheel.
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What Does An Alternator Do
Alongside the battery, the alternator is one of the most important parts of a vehicles electrical system. When your car is turned off or when it needs to store any excess electricity, this is where the battery comes in. However, at some point, a cars battery would very quickly deplete if its kept running all the time. Thats why a vehicle should also feature an alternator. The alternator is essentially a generator, which is powered by the engine. It would then use this power to generate electricity, which it could then use to charge up the battery while the engine is running. While youre driving about or are idling, most of your cars electrical and electronic accessories are powered directly by the alternator, with the battery serving as a backup.
Check The Fuses Fusible Links And Ignition Switch
If the battery is in good shape, check for a blown fuse or fusible link. Check your car’s manual to find the location of the fuse box, then open it. With no power running in the vehicle, inspect the fuse for a metal wire. If the metal wire inside the plastic casing is severed or damaged, a blown fuse is preventing power from reaching the starter relay or solenoid.
You may need a fuse puller to remove the correct fuse and a light source to see its internal components.
If the fuses are in good shape, the car’s ignition switch is faulty. The ignition switch isn’t the mechanical part you put the car key into it’s the electrical switch that the mechanical part operates. In some situations, the ignition switch delivers power to the car’s electrical components but not the engine starter.
Diagnosing and fixing a broken ignition switch is more complicated than checking for a blown fuse. A good rule of thumb is that if the instrument panel and dashboard do not light up when the key ignition is moved to the second position , there may be a problem with the ignition switch.
If you have a manual transmission, a bad clutch pedal position sensor can prevent the engine from turning over while allowing the electronics to work fine. The purpose of the clutch position sensor is to allow the vehicle to start only when the clutch pedal is depressed, so if it fails, the car won’t go anywhere.
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Faulty Starter Fuel Filter/pump Timing Belt & More
If the car makes clicking noises when you’re trying to start it and the battery isn’t at fault, a faulty starter motor might be the culprit. Plenty of other parts can fail: the fuel filter, fuel pump, timing belt, spark plug, ignition switch, or cables to name a few. You’ll want to get your car into the shop as quickly as possible.
Modern vehicles are essentially computers on wheels. A number of mechanical problems such as a faulty temperature sensor or a malfunctioning alternator may confuse the onboard computing systems. A qualified mechanic can run diagnostics at the shop for you.
Timing Belt Needs Replacing
The timing belt is an internal engine component. Its a rubber strip that rotates the cam and crankshaft in your engine at the proper time.
If it fails, your cars engine wont function. You may hear the starter motor engage but not turn over or even hear a ticking sound from under the hood.
This is a lesser-known issue, but a timing belt can break while the cars engine is running, damaging the engine.
What can you do about it?
The only solution to fix a broken timing belt is to get a replacement done by a mechanic.
Note: Some cars come with a timing chain instead of a timing belt. It usually lasts longer than the rubber belt. However, if a timing chain breaks, youll still have to to get it fixed.
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Bad Spark Plug Or Broken Distributor Cap/rotor
Your car needs the right air-fuel ratio and the spark to initiate the combustion system.
If you have a good battery and enough fuel in the gas tank and your car still wont start, chances are you have a bad spark plug.
Why?A bad spark plug will prevent fuel ignition, and the vehicle wont move.
Heres how you can spot a bad spark plug:
- Notable reduction in fuel economy
- Acceleration issues
Additionally, your distributor cap or rotor might be broken.
What are they?A distributor is responsible for regulating electricity to spark plugs igniting the fuel. It directs high voltage current from the ignition coil to the spark plugs.
It has a rotor or rotating arm inside a distributor cap, which is the cover protecting the distributors internal parts. The cap also holds the contacts between the internal rotor and the spark plug wires.
Now, if the distributor cap isnt on tightly or the rotor doesnt operate properly, the spark wont travel.
What can you do about it?
Bad spark plug signs arent easy to spot and can often occur alongside issues with other vehicle components. Its best to have your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic to confirm if you have bad spark plugs, distributor caps, or even a damaged ignition coil.
What Happens When You Are Trying To Start The Engine
1. Can you turn the key in the ignition?No 2. When you turn the ignition ON: Do the lights come on in the instrument panel? No Does the “Security” or Key-shaped warning light stay on or blink repeatedly? YesDoes the “Check engine” light come on?No 3. What happens when you turn the ignition key to the “Start” position?The engine cranks progressively slower, then just clicks repeatedly.4. Does it help if you jiggle the key in the ignition while starting?YesThe engine cranks but won’t start »
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