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Troubleshooting a Car That Won’t Start

Car won’t start? We hear you. Wherever and whenever, there’s nothing more annoying. There are loads of reasons why this can happen, so understanding what’s going on is half the battle.

To help you get to the bottom of why your car is refusing to start, we’re here with our guide on how to troubleshoot common non-starter problems. From flat batteries to bad spark plugs, we’ll show you the signs to look for and how to put them right.

Car clicks and doesn’t start when I turn the ignition

Hear a clicking sound from the engine when you turn the ignition? You probably have a flat battery. Look at your dashboard and you’ll see that the battery light is illuminated as you turn the key.

Flat batteries are often caused by electrics being left on while the car is parked, such as the radio or sidelights. In some cases, it could be that the battery is old and not holding its charge properly, which means you’ll need to replace it.

If the battery is flat, you’ll need to jump-start the engine or use a battery charger. If you’re not familiar with jump-starting or have any doubt, contact your breakdown provider.

Car starts but then dies

If you find that your car dies straight away after starting up, there are a couple of things that could be wrong.

First, there could be a problem with the fuel system. If one of the injectors is misfiring due to a fault or blockage, this can cause the engine to splutter and stall immediately after igniting.

Next, there may be an issue with the alternator – the component responsible for charging the battery and powering the electrics in normal driving conditions. If it can’t sustain a steady supply of electric charge to the battery, the engine will stall.

Another issue to check for is a bad spark plug. When these fail, the engine can stutter because the fuel-air mix in the combustion chamber isn’t igniting as it should.

In any case, if your engine starts but then splutters to a stop, you’ll need to get a professional mechanic to take a look.

Nothing happens when I turn the ignition

If you’re turning the key to be met by absolute silence from the engine, with no lights on the dashboard, this indicates that the battery is either disconnected or completely depleted of charge. This is common in older cars, when corrosion on the battery terminals leads to a poor and intermittent connection.

To check for this, take a look at the battery and make sure that the connections are secure and free from corrosion. You can use an insulated screwdriver to test the connection and find out if the battery is still holding charge.

In some cases, you’re looking at a new battery if the terminals are badly corroded. A replacement is advisable as opposed to just recharging it, as you could encounter similar issues in the future.

Engine turns over but doesn’t start

Does the engine try to start but doesn’t quite get going? There may be a problem with the electrics or fuel supply, and not necessarily the battery.

Start by checking the air filter to make sure it’s not clogged, as this can cause the engine to choke before starting. There are some spray products out there that you can apply to the air intake to make it easier for the engine to ignite.

If it’s an electrical issue, the problem may lie with the spark plugs, coil or alternator. Check all the connections carefully and call a mechanic to help diagnose the specific problem safely.

Another common problem which can cause the engine to turn over but not start is a faulty fuel pump or blocked fuel filter. It’s difficult to maintain and repair such problems at home yourself, so always get professional help if you suspect a fuel issue.

Car doesn’t start when it’s cold

Does your car regularly struggle to start on cold mornings? It’s a common problem, and many motorists dread winter because of it.

There are a few reasons why cars struggle to start when it’s cold. For one, batteries produce less current, so less power goes to the combustion chamber. Elsewhere, engine oil thickens when it’s cold, meaning it doesn’t flow as well as it should. This ultimately puts more strain on the already depleted battery, which needs to work harder to get the engine going.

While diesel engines are more susceptible to cold weather than petrol, all car engines can find winter conditions difficult. The best way to prevent a non-starter in the winter is to stay on top of your car’s maintenance, upkeep and service schedule. That way, when the cold weather hits, you know your car is protected and ready for whatever winter throws its way.

Tired of putting up with starter problems from your old car? Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade. At Brindley, we stock a huge range of new and used cars, so you’re sure to find out that won’t let you down. For more information and our complete range, visit the homepage.

Added: 22 May 2020

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