You’re already running late for work. You pull out your keys, hop in your car, turn the key and…nothing. Great. Now what? Before you call for help there are some things you can check yourself. Make sure the steering wheel isn’t locked. Check to see if you’re out of gas.
Before you call for help there are some things you can check yourself. Make sure the steering wheel isn’t locked. Check to see if you’re out of gas.
If it isn’t one of these really simple fixes, perhaps it’s one of the following:
- Dead battery.A dead battery is the most common reason why a car won’t start. If you have a battery tester, check your battery to see if it’s weak. If you don’t have one, try jumping your car with jumper cables.
- Battery corrosion. Corrosion on your battery can spell trouble. Check and clean your battery posts to make sure there is a clean, complete connection, then try to start your car again. An auto store employee can direct you to the right products and offer advice on how to clean your battery.
- Bad starter motor.The starter motor is responsible for turning the engine over and getting the engine to fire. If this is the issue, you’ll need a new one installed.
- Bad timing belt.The timing belt ensures the engine’s valves open and close at the proper interval so that the valves and the pistons never touch. The timing belt is the most important maintenance item in in your engine. A failed timing belt can cause engine damage requiring an engine replacement. Auto manufacturers specify when a timing belt should be changed. This is usually based on mileage; generally, the interval is every 60,000 miles or five years (whichever comes first).
- Broken or cracked distributor cap.The distribution cap routes voltage from the engine’s ignition coil to the spark plugs. If moisture gets under the cap, it can cause problems for your car. Wipe it out with a clean, dry cloth before reinstalling. Be sure to replace a damaged cap.
- Bad ignition coil.The ignition coil transforms a battery’s voltage into an electric spark. You’ll need a multimeter (a tool designed to measure electrical current, voltage and resistance) to test the strength of the current running through the coil.
- Clogged fuel filter.A clogged fuel filter will prevent enough fuel from reaching the engine. A replacement is usually needed if this is the problem.
If you can’t fix the problem yourself (or don’t feel comfortable diving under the hood), get in touch with a trustworthy auto mechanic.
If your car won’t start, roadside coverage can help.