Check These 3 Things Before Heading To The Mechanic
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If your car won’t start but the lights and radio work fine, it could be one of several problems. For example, your car battery could be dead. The reason why the radio, dash lights, headlights, and other electronics draw power while the engine doesn’t has to do with the amount of current each device draws and what may be interrupting the path.
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It Could Be A Ground Cable Wiring Problem
Also known as the negative battery cable, ground strap, or ground wire, the ground cable is a heavy black battery cable connecting the negative terminal of the car battery to its body.
This cable is the foundation of your vehicles entire electrical system, as almost every electrical component of your car flows through it.
If there is something wrong with the ground cable, your car cant start because it cuts off the power flow.
To check if your ground cable is faulty, check for the following signs:
- Defective fuel pump
- Clutch slipping in the AC compressor
- Damaged throttle or cables
- Electrical devices turning on and off
High And Low Temperatures
The first and foremost reason for a bad battery is the temperature. Inside the battery are the positive and negative plates. And as the temperature rises, the heat will promote the corrosions inside the plates, leading to battery corrosion.
At the same time, the cold weather conditions will reduce the battery life, making it more difficult to ignite the engines.
If this happens, you will need to take your car somewhere with a warm temperature and proceed with your starting attempts in order to tackle this issue.
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The Car Is Not In Park Or Neutral
Your car wont start if its in gear.
Check to make sure youre in a park or neutral position, and try starting the car.
If your car uses manual transmission, push down the clutch pedal.
Note that if your car normally starts in neutral and wont start in park and vice versaor it starts in gear, you could be having a bad neutral safety switch.
This is dangerous as it means you dont have enough control over your cars operation.
Consider getting help from a professional before driving the car.
The Ignition Switch Has A Problem
Also known as the start switch, the ignition switch is responsible for distributing power from the battery to the main electrical components of the car.
When there is an issue with the switch, there will be no power in the starter or ignition system, and your car wont start.
Ignition switch problems are not the most common because they are often confused with battery or starter problems.
As a result, here are a few symptoms to check:
- The keys wont turn in any direction
- There is no noise from the starter motor
- The vehicle wont start
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Is My Car Battery Dead If The Car Wont Start
Car starting problems happen at the most inopportune of times. Heres one that commonly occurs when people are ready to head out of the door: The car wont start.
This common car problem can be baffling, especially if your car started fine the day before. Whats causing this issue? Is your cars battery dead? Is it a bad alternator? Or is some other issue preventing your car from starting?
Most commonly, when a car doesnt start, a bad battery is the prime suspect. The battery plays a vital role in starting the engine. It powers the vehicles accessories, but more importantly, it powers the starter or cranking motor. The starter is what turns your engine over, and it draws a lot of power from the battery to do that. Therefore, when you have a bad car battery, the starter doesnt have enough ability to turn the engine over.
Think you might have a bad car battery? Or maybe your vehicle isnt starting?
Weve outlined some bad car battery symptoms, as well as other issues that can cause a car not to start to help you diagnose the problem.
Signs Your Car Is Completely Dead
There are certain signs that your car is dead or in the process of dying. By realizing these signs, you can prevent your car from not being able to run and function as they should. There are certain symptoms, like your engine cranking but the inability to start, your engine doesn’t crank, inconsistent starting and stopping, difficulty cold cranking, and repeated car jumping.
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Check If The Injectors Are Opening
Another common cause is the injectors are not opening and injecting fuel into the engine. A broken fuse/power wire is usually to be blamed, but in rare cases, it can also be produced by a bad engine control unit.You can measure the voltage with a multimeter to check if the injectors are opening. The injectors usually do have two pins, one 12+ power and one ground signal to the engine control unit. Make sure you have 12V on one of the wires while cranking and you can check if you get any ground signal with an LED light. More advanced troubleshooting of the injectors should be done with an oscilloscope.When the fuel injectors are opening, they are often making a small clicking sound which you can hear if you listen carefully. Let a friend crank the engine and check if the injectors are clicking. If they are clicking, the injectors shouldnt have a problem. You can also take a look at the spark plugs if the car is injecting fuel, they will be wet but produce no sparks.
Reasons Why Your Car Might Not Start On A Cold Morning
To prevent starting issues in cold weather, it can be helpful to know the reasons why cars often struggle when the temperature drops. Driving in cold weather can be hazardous as well as an issue for your car. Consult our winter driving tips guide on how to prepare for winter driving. Below, we list the four main reasons for winter starting problems:
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Help For A Breakdown At Home
If your car wont start at home, dont keep turning the key for a long period of time as this could cause damage. Its best to ask a mechanic for help.
With our At Home breakdown cover, well come right to your doorstep and try to get you going again.
*Based on data from 112,580 non-starting vehicle breakdowns carried out by AA Patrols between May to August 2020.
These figures differ from comparable 2019 data due to the effect of COVID-19 on AA workloads. For example, battery-related problems accounted for 45% of breakdowns carried out by AA Patrols on non-starting vehicles over the same date range in 2019.
More help with car problems
How To Test Alternator
The easiest way to test an alternator is by using a multimeter. Before you begin, ensure that the multimeter is set to DV volts, anywhere above 15. Now, locate the alternator and its positive and negative terminals. To begin testing, connect the multimeters positive and negative leads to the terminals, accordingly. Without the engine running, it should read around 12.6 volts. After youve affirmed this, start the engine, and check the reading again. Ideally, an alternator with the engine running should read between 14.2 to 14.7 volts or thereabouts. Beyond 14.7 volts, it means that your battery is being overcharged. Meanwhile, anything below 14.2 volts is a sign that the battery isnt being charged enough. With your cars accessories turned on, it shouldnt go below 13 volts.
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Poor Application And Installation
Sometimes, problems can happen if your battery is poorly engineered, either with a battery of wrong dimensions or the connections arent properly installed. Also, its not recommended to have many electrical accessories installed in one system, especially those that are not essential to the operations of your vehicles.
Broken Distributor Rotor And Cap
The job of the distributor cap is to channel electricity from the ignition coil to the spark plugs. When the rotor stops functioning or the cap is not tight, your car may refuse to start.
Also, if moisture gets trapped underneath the cap, your car may be affected significantly. So, before reinstalling it, wipe with a dry cloth.
Always ensure you replace damaged caps.
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When The Car Engine Wont Turn Over But Lights Work
- Bad ignition coil: When your dome light turns on but the engine doesnt start, that means your battery is working but your ignition may be at fault. The ignition coil transforms a batterys voltage into an electric spark. A damaged ignition coil means theres not enough juice to do that. Youll need a multimeter to test the strength of the current running through the coil.
If youve run into a problem you cant fix yourself , get in touch with a trustworthy auto mechanic to diagnose and repair the issue.
If your car wont start, Roadside Service coverage* can help. Roadside Service coverage from Erie Insurance pays for reasonable auto towing and required labor costs at the site of the breakdown to get you back on the road.** To learn more about this coverage, talk to your local ERIE agent.
*Roadside Service coverage is only available when comprehensive coverage has been purchased on the vehicle.
**Restrictions apply in North Carolina.
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.
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.
Reasons Why Your Car Wont Start
Its a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect. You slide into your car, ready to start your busy day, whenuh oh! your car wont start.
There are many reasons why your car wont turn over. Before calling for help, there are things you can check yourself. For starters, make sure the steering wheel isnt locked. If it is, you can fix this common issue by simply moving the steering wheel from side to side while turning the key in the ignition. This verifies the steering wheel lock isnt blocking the ignition from turning fully to the start position.
An empty gas tank is another simple reason why your car will crank but wont start. If you were low on fuel before , its possible youre just on E and have run out of gas.
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The Steering Wheel Is Locked
If your carâs steering wheel gets stuck in the locked position, it may not allow the car to start. Donât yank too hard on the wheel. Instead, use a side-to-side motion with the key in, or use a duplicate key if you can. Your current one may be worn and unable to communicate with the lock tumblers.
Check The Crankshaft/camshaft Sensors
The next step is to check the RPM signal from the crankshaft and the camshaft sensor. You can do this by checking your tachometer for any RPM readings on the dashboard. Even better is to check the value of the crankshaft RPM from the engine control unit with an OBD2 scanner. In most cases, you will get a trouble code on the crankshaft or camshaft sensor if there is a problem there.In more advanced troubleshooting you can also check the signals from the crankshaft and camshaft sensors with an oscilloscope to see if the signal looks good or not, but in most cases, you can only make corrections if you are getting any RPMs in the engine control unit and make sure there are no trouble codes stored.
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Engine Cranks But Car Doesn’t Start
If your engine cranks or turns over when you put the key in the ignition and turn the key, the most likely culprit is actually a dead battery. Although you have done the tests and determined the battery is not the culprit, most of the time, the battery is the cause of the issue if the engine cranks. However, there are some circumstances where the alternator could be the culprit. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to narrow down why your car is completely dead, but the battery is good.
To determine what is the cause of your car being completely dead, but the battery is good, you need to disconnect the cable from your engine and let the engine run for 30 minutes to see if the alternator can charge the battery and power the car.
Testing A Car Batterys Charge
If your car wont start, and you suspect a bad battery, there are tests and tools you can use to measure your batterys performance. Some of the most basic, you can do at home. Other tests would be best performed at an auto repair shop.
Visually inspect the battery. The battery should be clean, the connections should be free of corrosion, there should be no significant leaks, and the battery case should be free of bumps or cracks.
Test voltage with a multimeter. A multimeter is a primary automotive tool that has many uses. You can use a multimeter to measure the batterys voltage. A fully charged battery should register a minimum of 12.6 volts. When the engine is running, the voltage should be 13.7-14.7 volts.
Test the charge with a hydrometer. Automotive repair shops use advanced hydrometers to measure a batterys performance. This tool measures the level of a batterys charge, helping to understand if its undercharged or if cells have failed.
Conduct a battery load test. Load tests determine the condition of a battery. This test will show if your battery can be charged, needs replacing, or if service is necessary.
Ultimately, these tests will help you determine if the battery needs to be replaced, if it can be charged, or if the problem lies elsewhere. Often, if the battery is still in good condition, a 30-minute charge or jump is enough to get you back on the road.
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Try Tapping On The Battery Terminals
Theres no way to clean corroded battery terminals when youre stranded without tools. But you can try to move or at least jar the terminals enough to make better contact. Smack each battery terminal with the heel of a shoe to rotate it slightly around the battery post if the car will not start. Then try starting the engine.
Your Car Isnt In Park Or Neutral
If your car is in gear, it wont start. It has to be in park or neutral.
What can you do about it?Move the gear to neutral and see if your car starts.
You can also try pushing the brake pedal.
If you own a vehicle with a manual transmission, then push down the clutch pedal.Note: If your car starts even though its in drive gear, or it starts just in park and not in neutral or vice versa, it might indicate a bad neutral safety switch, which can be very dangerous.
You should seek professional auto repair help right away.
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