What To Do If Your Car Won’t Start

Woman on cell phone in front of broken down carOver the years, cars have become much more reliable. But with so many moving parts, even the most well maintained vehicles can still be temperamental. If your car won’t start, it’s important to note what’s happening when you turn the key. While a dead battery is a likely culprit of a car that won’t start, the sound the engine makes can give you more information about the cause of the problem. Assuming you’re not a mechanic, let’s take a look at the most common situations and how to deal with them.

You Turn the Key to Start the Car, But Nothing Happens.

Listen to your car. Even though it has betrayed you by not starting, it’s still considerate enough to give you hints as to why. If you turn the key and the engine doesn’t crank at all, things may not be all that bad (believe it or not).

If your car won’t start, the problem most likely lies with the battery, especially in cold weather. When your car responds with silence or clicking:

  • Turn on the car lights. If they’re dim, you may have poor battery connections or a dead battery. Did you leave your headlights on last night or keep an interior light on? It happens to the best of us.
  • Tighten and clean the battery connections and try again. They could just be corroded or loose.
  • Jump start the car.
  • If this works, immediately have the battery tested, especially if it’s old. An auto parts store will often test your battery for free and can replace it if you need a new one.
  • Things could still be worse — such as a bad starter or alternator. At this point, you’ll need a tow truck.

Car Cranks But Won’t Start. Now What?

If the starter turns, but the engine won’t start, the problem can be much harder to diagnose. One common problem is a frozen fuel line. In the winter, be sure to always keep your fuel tank half full. If water accumulates in your fuel line, the condensation will freeze and your car won’t start. If you’ve been driving in wet conditions or deep snow, wet spark plugs or other engine components can prevent your car from starting.

At this point, you’ll probably want to leave it in the hands of your trusty mechanic. If you have GEICO’s 24-hour Emergency Roadside Service, you can call for a tow anytime. It’s also easy to access GEICO’s emergency services through our award-winning mobile app, which includes additional features like where to find the nearest auto mechanic and fill-up on gas.

Preventative maintenance and preparedness can be the difference between a car that starts versus one that becomes the world’s biggest paperweight.

By Nathan Erb

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  1. Anthony j Reyes says

    Having a can of Fix-A-Flat on deck in your trunk during warm weather can help in an emergency with a low tire or flat awesome with some older cars the linkage in the shift steering column occurs sometime where it doesn’t catch it could be in park or in Drive with your foot on the brake at a red light and it cuts off and won’t start

  2. Jennifer Hendricks says

    My car is trying to crank but it won’t turn over. I don’t know anything about cars. And i want to drive an 18 wheeler.?

    • Julia Robertson says

      Of have a ford focus most off the time my car won’t start first time around.. Tune the key all lights etc will come on some times it will say engine warring light will go on.. Sometimes it goes off other times it doesn’t.. After pressing the opening door on the key and trying a few time it will start this can be anything between 2 “minutes to 45 or having to call the Aaa out… If stopped and get bk in after a few minutes it normally starts straight away… Plz. Help

  3. Melissa Pennington says

    On 11/9/17 my car wouldn’t start. I had it jumped off, nothing. So I went and got a starter thinking that was the problem. It wasn’t. So I got a new battery. That wasn’t the problem either. And it’s not the alternator. When I turn the key, there is no sound at all. Could it be the ignition switch? I am trying not to have it put on a computer, but I don’t know what else to do.

  4. Bongani says

    My car cranks but won’t start the fuel and oil was low so I poured two bottles of oil and 4l petrol it still doesn’t start what can I do

    • Lorraine Mukli says

      When I try start my Car it won’t turn over at all , No sound of starter. I have power. Starts with a boost only. What could be the problem?

  5. reatile says

    i packed my car with no problem, so in the morning when i try to start, it won’t but spak and fuel comes with a good pressure so i wonder why?