Common Ways to Diagnose a Car That Won’t Start

If you’ve been on the road for any number of years, getting in the car and switching on the ignition seems like an almost unconscious habit. So during those unfortunate times where you turn the key and nothing happens, the experience can be quite jarring. Within this article, I am going to go over the most popular reasons for why such an event would occur. Take note that this is not a resource for DIY work, more so is it ammunition for you to use during your trips to the mechanic. If you can appear to know what you’re talking about, then the likelihood of mechanics trying to cheat you goes down. So here are the three most popular reasons on why your engine is failing to start.

Spark Plugs

car spark plugs auto tips

Spark testers are a relatively inexpensive method to see if your spark plugs are working in order and they are available at any car store. All you need to do is hold it next to the spark plug wire – if you see the little neon lamp flash while someone attempts to start the car, then you’re fine and you should move on to the next potential cause which I will cover next.  However, if there is no spark, or perhaps a very weak one, a repair manual is in order depending on the make of your car. Best to leave it to the professionals for this.

Fuel Injector

You are going to need a buddy for this test. First step is to go to open the gas cap. Have your friend start the car and listen for the fuel pump. Having a fuel pressure gauge might not be a bad idea either as sometimes it can be difficult to hear the fuel pump at work. Consult the gauge when the vehicle is being started, if the pressure is zero, then the wiring of the fuel pump will need to be checked out to ensure there is power being distributed to the pump.

Dead Battery

dead battery

Probably the most common reason for why the engine fails. It doesn’t mean that you will need to go out and buy a brand spanking new battery, but it does mean you’ll need to get a jump. If you don’t know how to jump-start a car, then it can seem a bit overwhelming, but in actuality it’s not all that difficult. The key thing to remember is to attach the positive and negative charged cables to the correct ends of the batteries (the jumper and the jumpee). Crossing those charges could mean for sparks and potentially explosions, no bueno. Also, if you touch the battery to anything metal and allow that metal to come into contact with other metal, you will be conducting electricity and will be in for quite the shock.

You have two feasible options here. You can either use a battery booster or you can use another car’s battery to recharge your dead one. The former can be a bit pricey, but hey, you’ll need no additional intervention. As for jumper cables, everyone should have a set in their own cars – just in case.

First thing is first: Connect the red cable (+) to each of the car’s positive terminals first. Then connect the black cable (-) to the negative terminal of the good battery. NOTE: You will not be connecting the last black cable to the any terminal, instead you will clamp it to a metal bracket or the engine block within the dead car. You might see a spark or two, and if there’s a big one your battery might have shorted out.

After you connected the batteries, try and start the dead car and it should start. Let it idle for a couple of minutes to recharge. After you’re done, remove the positive cables first and close the hoods.

There could be a plethora of reasons for why your car isn’t starting, these are merely the most popular ones. I know I said before that this wasn’t going to be a DIY guide, but you don’t need to be a mechanic to jump-start a car. And once you’ve done it, it’s kind of like riding a bike – you’ll never forget.