What to do if your car won’t start and you have to be somewhere

February 5, 2014

When the car won’t start and you're already running late, it can be easy to lose your cool. Here are some reasons why and possible solutions that could get you on the road again soon.

What to do if your car won’t start and you have to be somewhere

It’s a horrible feeling, isn’t it? You’re behind schedule as you make your way out to the car; you sit down behind the wheel, and then – nothing. You try again to turn it over, but the result is the same. You make sure the car transmission is in the "Park" position (most automatic cars won't start otherwise), and you jiggle the steering wheel a few times. It still won’t start. It’s time to call your car association and get the car to a mechanic – or is there something you can first try?

Finding out why the car won’t start

In some instances, a car mechanic will be able to take a quick look and get your car back on the road within minutes. Or, it could be one of many different things that can affect your car’s ignition system.

Scenario 1: weak or dead battery

Sometimes the car won’t turn over at all, not even enough to make a cough-cough sound.

  • If it goes click-click-click instead, it could mean the battery is dead or doesn’t have enough charge to produce a spark in the engine.
  • You may just need a jumpstart or a boost. Your mechanic will be able to help you get the car moving right away.
  • Calling a tow-truck driver to give you a jumpstart is also an option.
  • Taxis will also sometimes provide the same jumpstart service for a fee.

Cold weather can be a major factor when the car won’t start.

  • If the engine starts but quickly dies after a second or two, your alternator could be the culprit, especially if the car is an older model.

Scenario 2: faulty wiring

If the key turns in the ignition but no sound at all results, you may want to have the mechanic check the wires leading to and from the battery.

  • It could be that the wires or terminal cable are corroded. Have the mechanic clean or change the wires or cables, or replace the battery altogether.

Scenario 3: moisture under the distributor cap

If the car won’t start on rainy or misty days, have your mechanic check under the distributor cap for moisture.

  • If the car won’t start in wet weather, it could also be a problem with the wiring. Have the mechanic apply a solvent to remove moisture and keep it off.

Scenario 4: check the fuel

If the car cranks over but won’t catch, it may have to do with the fuel supply to your engine. Make sure there is gas in the tank, and then try again.

  • On cold days, the fuel line could be frozen, especially if the fuel tank is close to empty.

Whatever the problem is, your local car mechanic will be able to look at it and tell you exactly why the car won’t start.

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