Wondering why your car won’t start is one of life’s most common mysteries. You may have found yourself stalled in your driveway, stuck at work, or fuming at the side of the road looking for a reliable towing service. You’re not alone: 69 million other motorists are also wondering what’s going on with their vehicle.
Sometimes the only place your car drives you is crazy! The good news is that motorists in Maryland, North Virginia, and Washington, D.C., don’t have to accept being confused and stranded. There are a few usual suspects when a car won’t start, and this guide will tell you what they are, what drivers can do, and who to call for the best towing service around.
The Big 3 Sources of Car-Starting Issues
Cars are complex machines, with over 1,800 parts making up the whole. This represents a delicate interconnected balance, with each function often depending on several others to operate. Your car has many components that make it tick, but thankfully that number goes way down when it comes to answering why you’re going nowhere fast.
Typical no-start situations can be narrowed to a handful of common causes. One of these three categories is usually to blame when your car won’t start:
1. Power Problems
Your car is simultaneously relying on voltage, current, batteries, and sparks to ensure it starts moving when you turn that key. Wires, coils, alternators, and distributor caps combine to create an internal power network that can fizzle out without proper care.
2. Chemical Complications
Starting a car involves a chemical process as much as an electrical one. Sulfuric acid, water, and lead oxides are critical to maintaining the combustion process that gets you rolling every day. This sensitive balance can be easily disrupted to become the reason your car won’t start.
3. Internal Motion Issues
Starting your car triggers a flurry of motion under the hood involving pistons, gears, pumps, and timing belts. A problem with just one of these can bring the whole operation to a halt (if you even get moving at all).
These three base categories are the starting points for almost every no-start situation. The issues branch out from there into several more specific difficulties. Knowing which one is affecting you will, at the very least, help you remain calm and know what you can expect in terms of repair costs and waiting times.
The Top 10 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start
Stranded car owners should be grateful that only a few of those 1,800 vehicle parts can pose a startup problem. Some can be a relatively simple fix, while others will require more intricate and time-consuming repairs. One thing’s for sure in every instance – contacting a top-class towing team will help you out of any one of these 10 tight spots:
1. Dead Battery
A battery can lose its charge for various reasons, such as leaving your lights on for too long, forgetting to turn off a cabin light, or simply from getting old. Your battery turns on the engine, and the engine then maintains battery charge, meaning dead batteries don’t give enough electrical power to start your car. This common issue typically requires an emergency jump-start to solve.
2. Fuel Pump Problems
This mechanism sends fuel from the gas tank to the engine, allowing the spark plugs to ignite it and propel the car by internal combustion. Gas that isn’t getting from the tank to the engine won’t reach the spark plugs, which means no combustion. You may need to refuel as soon as possible or have an expert inspect your fuel pump to ensure that it didn’t malfunction.
3. Clogged Fuel Filter
This is another common problem to look for when your car won’t start. Issues such as fuel sediment, condensed moisture, or rust particles can block a filter and keep fuel from flowing. Filters are supposed to be replaced every 10,000 to 15,000 miles, so a blockage may mean it’s time for you to get a new one.
4. Broken Starter
Your starter motor is responsible for getting the vehicle’s engine on and forcing the pistons up and down to help kick off internal combustion. You’ll probably hear a clicking noise when you turn your key if it’s your starter. Other telltale signs of a broken starter are seeing/smelling smoke from the car, having active gauges on your dashboard but no forward motion, or having an engine that’s unresponsive to jump-starts.
5. Empty Tank
This one can happen to anyone, so don’t be embarrassed. Sometimes drivers forget to check the fuel gauge, or the gauge may be faulty. Both problems are a simple matter of just getting more gas, but the second issue also requires a mechanic’s attention to repair the gauge. Calling a reliable towing company to give you a lift to a gas station is a great way to escape being stranded by an empty tank.
6. Corroded Battery Terminals
Corrosion can prevent a car from starting, and it will show itself as blue, white, or green chemical gunk on or around the car battery and its connecting cables or posts. This creates electrical resistance that prevents the battery from sending power where it should. Drivers can clean corrosion, but it’s recommended to speak to a mechanic or get roadside assistance to stay as safe as possible.
7. Busted Timing Belt
Your car’s pistons and valves should never touch each other; the timing belt is the middleman that keeps this from happening. Timing belts should be replaced either every five years or at 60,000-mile intervals as a general rule – failure to do this could leave your engine seriously damaged and refusing to start.
8. Damaged Distributor Cap
Stubborn (or non-existent) car starts can often be traced to distributor cap issues which can sound like squeaking, squealing, clicking, or tapping and cause cars to stall or shake. Distributor caps deliver ignition coil voltage to the spark plugs, making them a key player in starting up. Dirty caps can be cleaned, but damaged ones should be immediately replaced.
9. Impacted Ignition Coil
The ignition coil switches the voltage from your car battery into power that ignites the spark plugs, which triggers internal combustion. A damaged coil may be the reason your car won’t start, which will require checking the strength of the current it’s conducting. This is another time when it’s safer to have a qualified mechanic examine the problem.
10. Clogged Air Filter
Many motorists forget that their car has to breathe. The air filter is the tool that lets this happen by keeping your vehicle’s intake clear of stuff like dust, dirt, grease, and other debris the road can throw at you. These filters may become blocked by one or more of those, which prevents internal combustion because the gas in your engine can’t light up without sufficient access to air.
Knowing what issue is causing a no-start is half the battle. Some basic know-how can help drivers stay calm when stalled, but a little knowledge can also be dangerous. Drivers must keep a cool head if they’re stranded and remember that impatience and inexperience can make auto problems worse.
Common Pitfalls of Trying to Fix a Non-Starting Car by Yourself
Small parts can be the reason your car won’t start, but the risks in addressing the problem can be more sizable. Popping the hood without thinking things through can be the first step toward issues much worse than being stuck in one spot, such as:
- Startup investigation and repair takes specialized knowledge, issue-specific tools, and the right replacement parts. Ask yourself honestly if you have all three of those. Proceeding without any of these can harm both you and your vehicle.
- Getting a stalled car to start often involves exposure to chemicals, fumes, and electricity. Tackling potentially hazardous issues is a job for either auto professionals or highly experienced motorists.
- Many drivers may succeed with a DIY fix, only to watch their newly activated car roll off down the driveway or into oncoming traffic. Failure to activate the handbrake before addressing starting issues can give you a repair headache.
- Investigating and repairing auto issues can leave you vulnerable to invalidating your warranty if you purchased from an unscrupulous dealer. The Federal Trade Commission helps make this matter easier to understand.
Raised blood pressure should be the only risk stranded drivers have to endure. Calling a reliable towing crew does more than get you where you need to go quickly and safely – the team you select may even be able to fix the startup issue right then and there.
Call the Towing Professionals to Get Started
Car breakdowns can be perplexing, infuriating, and even scary, leaving motorists lost about what to do next. The Geyers Towing and Transport team operates 24/7 to provide stress-free solutions to your towing service needs and much more.
Our drivers are professionally trained to deliver roadside assistance or tow your vehicle to a mechanic. We make sure you get home quickly and safely, no matter where you are. Contact Geyers Towing and Transport with your towing and transport services needs.