9 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start

car won't start

It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect. You slide into your car, ready to start your busy day, when—uh oh!— your car won’t start.

There are many reasons why your car won’t start. Before calling for help, there are things you can check yourself. For starters, make sure the steering wheel isn’t locked.

An empty gas tank is another simple reason why your car won’t start. If you were low on fuel before (or your gauge is broken), it’s possible you’re just on “E.”

Car still won’t start?

If your car won’t start even after you check the steering wheel and make sure you have gas, it could be due to one of the following:

  • Dead battery. A dead battery is the most common reason why a car won’t start. If you have a battery tester, check your battery to see if it’s weak. If you don’t have one, try jumping your car with jumper cables.
  • Battery corrosion. Corrosion on your battery can spell trouble. Check and clean your battery posts to make sure there is a clean, complete connection, then try to start your car again. An auto store employee can direct you to the right products and offer advice on how to clean your battery.
  • Bad starter motor. The starter motor is responsible for physically turning the engine over and getting the engine to fire. If this is the issue, you’ll need a new one installed.
  • Bad timing belt. The timing belt ensures the engine’s valves open and close at the proper interval so that the valves and the pistons never touch. The timing belt is the most important maintenance item in in your engine. A failed timing belt can cause catastrophic engine damage requiring an engine replacement. Auto manufacturers specify when a timing belt should be changed. This is usually based on mileage; generally, the interval is every 60,000 miles or five years (whichever comes first).
  • Broken or cracked distributor cap. The distribution cap routes voltage from the engine’s ignition coil to the spark plugs. If moisture gets under the cap, it can cause problems for your car. Wipe it out with a clean, dry cloth before reinstalling. Be sure to replace a damaged cap.
  • Bad ignition coil. The ignition coil transforms a battery’s voltage into an electric spark. A damaged ignition coil means there’s not enough juice to do that. You’ll need a multimeter (a tool designed to measure electrical current, voltage and resistance) to test the strength of the current running through the coil.
  • Clogged fuel filter. A clogged fuel filter will prevent enough fuel from reaching the engine. A replacement is usually needed if this is the problem.

If you can’t fix the problem yourself (or don’t feel comfortable diving under the hood), get in touch with a trustworthy auto mechanic.

If your car won’t start, roadside coverage can help. Roadside coverage from Erie Insurance pays for reasonable auto towing and required labor costs at the site of the breakdown.* To learn more about this coverage, talk to an Erie Insurance Agent in your community.

*Restrictions apply in North Carolina.

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