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Car Won’t Start? 10 Tips You Need to Fix It Now

last updated September 18, 2018 by

Are you worried about missing your best friend’s wedding because the car won’t start? You don’t want to hire an Uber because the wedding gifts and your personal luggage might get lost. Plus, it’s too expensive to move from one venue to another.

If you’re a first-time car owner, don’t panic. The good news is that you can fix several car problems at home and avoid getting late for important events. Today, we’ll teach you some of the common reasons why your car won’t start and how to fix them like a pro!

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1. Car won’t start in cold weather

1. Dense motor oil

Motor oil needs to be vicious in order to circulate inside the engine efficiently. During winter, the chilly temperatures cause motor oil to get so dense that it almost becomes solid. If you remember about temperatures and viscosities in your high school Chemistry, then you understand how this works.  Low temperature makes oil molecules less mobile and this is why it gets heavy during winter.

When this happens, your engine cranks but won’t start. Why? Because motor oil facilitates movements of important engine parts. Without motion, there’s no internal combustion to start the car. Your solution is taking the car to a mechanic to drain out the oil.

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How to avoid this problem

  • Park your car indoors – You need to maintain a warm temperature around your car at all times. Park your car in an indoor garage during winter to avoid exposing your motor oil to freezing temperatures.
  • Check your manual to find out the right winter motor oil – Have you ever heard about winter motor oil? Its density is almost half the regular one however, it still possesses the same effectiveness.
  • Change your motor oil in good time – Auto mechanics recommend getting winter oil at least two weeks before winter. This period is enough to drain out regular motor oil, clean the entire engine, and fill it up with winter motor oil.
  • Warm up your engine if yours has a carburetor – Carburetors draw in oxygen then combine it with droplets of fuel in order to make vaporized gas for internal combustion. During winter, the low temperatures affect this important process. However, if you warm the engine after an overnight parking, you increase the fuel-to-oxygen ratio in the carburetor. Doing this improves the chances of internal combustion.

2. Inactive battery

This problem occurs because of parking your car outside when temperatures fall below 10 degrees. Does your engine produce a faint sound when you try to start the car? Is your air conditioner not radio working? These are clear indicators of an inert car battery.

Just like motor oil, car batteries require a warm temperature at all times. Exposing them to cold temperatures affects the electrolyte’s ability to generate current.

The second reason why your car might have a dead battery is due to lumpy motor oil that’s not suited for winter. Why? Because the engine uses up extra energy to circulate the lumpy oil through components.

Car battery winter tips

  • Get your batteries tested by a mechanic – Visit a certified mechanic to inspect your car battery before winter. Check the level of your electrolyte and leaks.
  • Get the right winter oil – Using the wrong motor oil forces your car to use up more energy to keep your engine lubricated. You’ll get more value from your car battery by buying good winter motor oil.
  • Keep your jumper cables close – If you happen to park your car overnight and the battery gets inactive, fix this problem by jumpstarting your car. The flow of current activates your battery’s electrolyte and keeps it highly viscous.
  • Park your car indoors – Your car battery operates best within the manufacturers recommended temperature range. Look for a secure indoor garage or parking lot to protect your car battery.

3. Moisture in the carburetor

Cold temperatures affect the fuel-to-air ratio required to keep your engine moving. Sometimes it can get so cold that moisture droplets form in the carburetor. Is this a bad thing? Yes, it is because the moisture puts out sparks that initiate internal combustion when it comes into contact with vaporized car fuel. Without internal combustion, it’s impossible to start the car.

Moisture in the carburetor also affects fuel consumption. Your engine uses up a lot of energy to counter the cold temperatures affecting internal combustion. This causes wastage because, on an ordinary day, the same amount of fuel would last you much longer.

Can I fix this problem?

Yes, you can. First, turn the ignition switch to ON. Then, gently press the gas pedal four times. Doing this increases the fuel-to-air ratio to boost internal combustion. Press it halfway inside then release because you don’t want to flood the carburetor.  If the car doesn’t start, wait for at least half a minute then repeat the method above.

When you’ve attempted this procedure but your car still won’t start, you have excess moisture in your carburetor. If you know your way around engines, you’ll need a set of screwdrivers to dismantle it then lay it out in the sun to dry for a few hours.

4. Moisture in the fuel lines

How secure is your fuel tank? A bad fuel cap allows moisture to get to the fuel lines when it’s damp outside. Raindrops can trickle inside because the faulty cap has loose fitting threads. Moisture in the fuel lines affects the production of sufficient gas-to-oxygen ratio to start the engine.

You’ll notice some indicators of moisture before your car refuses to start. One of them is an increased rate of fuel consumption because the engine has to use up a lot of fuel to counter the moisture affecting internal combustion.

How to fix this problem

  • Drain out the fuel – If you have a bad fuel cap and you parked the car outside during the rain, fuel becomes unusable. It’s painful to watch your gas go down the drain however this method prevents your fuel tank from rusting. Draining your fuel also prevents moisture from accumulating in the carburetor.
  • Dry out the fuel tank – One way of drying your tank is by removing the fuel cap and let your car sit in the sun for several hours. Make sure there are no open flames around because fumes coming from the tank can cause an explosion. If you know how to dismantle fuel tanks, you can remove it so that it has a better exposure to the sun.
  • Buy a fuel additive – Fuel additives can help you eliminate moisture inside your gas tank. Before purchasing, consult with your mechanic because additives are suitable when there’s low moisture content in your fuel tank. It won’t help you if you recently drove your car through flooded water.

5. Car won’t start after the rain

If you own a car that doesn’t have a computerized engine, then your car uses a distributor to circulate electrical current. It’s located near the air filter and has a circular black covering. This is where you’ll find your car’s spark plugs.

If the car has a damaged hood, raindrops come into contact with the coil connecting the distributor with your ignition. This creates a short circuit whenever you try to start the car.  That’s why your car won’t start but has power.

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How to fix a car that won’t start after the rain

  • Let the car dry – Park your car somewhere warm and dry for a couple of hours. You’ll need a dry cotton cloth to wipe off raindrops from your distributor to prevent short circuits.
  • Check whether there’s water in your oil – Your motor oil pump cannot function when there’s high water content in the oil. If your car doesn’t start after drying the distributor, remove the oil dipstick to check for any moisture. If you find the presence of water, you’ll have to drain out the bad oil immediately.
  • Remove the spark plugs – If water got inside your distributor, you can get rid of it and get your engine running within a short time. First, open your distributor and remove all the spark plugs. Then, ask a friend to start the engine and you’ll see water sputtering out of the spark plug tube holds.

2. Anti-theft system won’t let my car start

Let’s look at some of the common reasons that make antitheft systems render your car immobile for no good reason.

1.  Damaged car key

When a thief attempts to gain entry inside your car using a fake key, the antitheft system immobilizes your engine to prevent theft. Sometimes, children tend to get curious and try to see if they can gain entry by inserting sticks or wires inside your door lock. Unfortunately, your antitheft system interprets this as attempts of forced entry.

Did your car key recently fall inside water? Car keys contain special chips that enable antitheft systems to detect owners. Water affects this chips and this makes it hard or impossible for an anti-theft system to distinguish you as the car owner.

If you have a bad car key, get a replacement from the auto manufacturer.

2. Issues with the car ignition

The antitheft system also has special sensors in a car’s ignition switch that helps it to identify car owners. If a child inserted matchsticks or straws, your engine becomes inactive because the antitheft system believes someone is trying to steal your car.

You can fix this problem by inserting your car key then turn on the engine. Let the key remain in this position for at least 10 minutes. This allows your antitheft system to read and authenticate the chip in your car key.

3.  Faulty programming

Some auto manufacturers outsource the creation of antitheft systems to software development companies due to a couple of reasons. It’s cost-effective because the auto manufacturer doesn’t hire any software programmers. Second, software developers have the right experience and resources to create digital antitheft systems.

Outsourcing doesn’t always produce the best products. Sometimes, the antitheft system might contain software bugs that immobilize your engine for no reason. You can fix this temporarily by disconnecting your car battery for 15 minutes in order to reset the computerized engine.

After your car starts, drive to the nearest auto manufacturer dealership. The mechanic will either disable your antitheft system or upgrade it to a better one.

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3. Damaged fuel pump

The fuel pump draws gas from the fuel tank and circulates it to your engine. You can tell whether your car has a bad pump if the engine cranks but won’t start. Your car might surge forward unexpectedly while driving. This happens because the fuel pump sputters gas rather than delivering a consistent smooth flow to your engine.

After a while, the car tends to overheat and stalls frequently. You’ll also notice the fuel gauge getting inaccurate due to the inconsistent delivery of gas from your pump.

How to fix a damaged fuel pump

  • Check the fuel pump fuses – You’ll find the fuse box inside the engine. Use your car manual because each model has its own engine design. If it’s a blown fuse, you can easily fix it at home.
  • Inspect the pump’s wires – Remove the backseat and inspect wires leading to the fuel pump for any damages
  • Find out whether there’s gas flowing to your engine – Use a fuel pressure gauge checker available at local auto accessories shops. Turn off the car. Screw the fuel pressure gauge checker on the Fuel test pressure port. Start the engine and have someone check whether there’s any reading on the pressure gauge checker.

If you suspect a damaged fuel tank, you’ll have to go to a qualified mechanic.

4. Faulty starter

Are you worried because your car won’t start but the lights come on? You’ve probably heard an audible buzz or loud click when your car key is in the START position. Buzzing occurs because the solenoid cannot engage the flywheel with sufficient force due to low current.

A breach in the starter causes lights to work but the electric current cannot activate the engine. The loud click occurs when electric current attempts to activate a bad motor.

How to test

Turn the engine on, pop the hood, and use a jumpstart pack to see if there’s power in your car battery. Connect the clips to the battery terminals and observe. Make sure they’re dry. Check whether there’s electric current coming from your starter. Remove the air intake and place a test light on the wire linking to the starter solenoid. You need a friend to check the test light while you start the engine.

If you know how to dismantle engines, you can buy another starter then replace the damaged one at your home garage.

5. Worn out spark plugs

Spark plugs initiate combustion by converting electric energy transmitted from the ignition coil into a spark. This ignites with vaporized gas mixed with oxygen to activate and keep the engine running. How often should you check your spark plugs? After every 50,000 miles.

The engine misfires because wires connecting your starter to the ignition might get damaged. This causes a waste in fuel consumption because your engine doesn’t burn all the vaporized fuel mixed with oxygen. Slow acceleration because the spark plug converts a lower amount of electric current into sparks for burning the fuel.

How to inspect worn out spark plugs

  • Inspect the gap – Check the gap where the spark appears. It should be within your auto manufacturer’s recommended range. Always remove the spark plugs when your engine is cold. Like the morning after an overnight parking. Dismantling an engine while it’s hot can cause you to break wires accidentally.
  • Are the spark plug wires okay? – Check for scorch marks or dripping oil on the spark plug wires.
  • Get rid of damaged plugs – Replace bad spark plugs with those made from Iridium. If you recently had a replacement, check whether there’s oil or any form of lubrication. Wipe them dry because it causes unnecessary movement that makes it hard to produce sparks consistently.

Don’t forget to check whether they’re screwed tightly. If not, use a wrench.

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6. Car battery issues

You can tell a car battery is out if it was okay but the following morning, the engine cranks and you see dim headlights. You’ll also see the low battery light on your dashboard.

Have you jumpstarted your battery at least three times this week?  If you’ve used your car battery for more than three years, the battery is past it’s prime. You’ll need to get a new battery. Very easy to remove the old and put in a new one.

How to detect battery problems

If you own an old model car that doesn’t have a computerized system, you’ll need a test light to see if there’s a power leak. Switch off your car to avoid electrocution then remove the negative terminal. Connect one end of the test light and place the pointed side on your battery. A light indicates a battery drain.

For modern cars, you need to create an improvised switch using crocodile clips and a 1-OHM 10 Watt resistor. Connect the wires with a pair of crocodile clips to opposite ends of the 1-OHM resistor in order to build a circuit. Unplug your car battery then connect your improvised circuit. Connect a voltmeter near the resistor and check its reading. If you see a current of more than 3.6 volts, the battery is definitely losing power. Open the fuse box and pick out fuses one by one while observing the readings on your voltmeter. If it drops below 3.6 volts, you’ll identify the component causing this power drain.

Do you suspect a leaking battery acid? Switch off your car then use a pair of work gloves to remove the battery. The gloves prevent any leaking acid from corroding your fingers when lifting and inspecting the car battery.  See if you’ll find any cracks or bulges on the casing. If you do, buy a new car battery.

New battery car won’t start?

  • Check your starter.
  • Check wires leading to your distributor.
  • Inspect your spark plugs.

7. Contaminated gas

A faulty fuel cap allows water to get inside your fuel tank when it rains or inside a moving car wash. When it mixes with fuel, it deteriorates the quality of gas. How? this mixture cannot vaporize at the same temperature as ordinary fuel. So, your car engine requires more fuel than necessary to compensate for this deficiency.

Foreign particles inside the fuel tank also hinder the fuel pump from effectively distributing gas to the carburetor. They clog pipes whenever a driver drives a car on very low fuel.

8. A faulty ignition switch

The ignition activates your engine and other electronics by distributing electric current when you start the car. When you have a bad ignition switch, your car stalls immediately after starting due to an inconsistent power supply. It can also occur while driving.

How can you detect a faulty ignition switch? Use a cop probe tester to see if a current is flowing from the distributor to the spark plugs. It resembles a fly swatter. Next, turn the engine on and your headlights. Start the car to observe whether the lights go dim or off briefly. If they don’t, get a new ignition switch.

9. A bad rebuilt title car

A rebuilt title car is a vehicle that’s been renovated after losing more than 50% of its value in an accident or natural disaster such as floods. Repaired engines consist of both new and aged parts and this brings about incompatibility issues. Owning a repaired title car is stressful because it seems to develop different mechanical problems every day.

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10. Are you ready to fix your car?

If you own a car or plan to purchase one, it’s advisable to take a basic auto repair course. The practical knowledge you gain will help you to do plenty of engine component replacements successfully at home. Also, have a fully equipped toolbox to enable you to diagnose problems accurately without requiring a mechanic.