All drivers dread that moment when they get in the car, start the engine, and hear…nothing.
Sometimes there’s no engine noise. Sometimes it’s just a click or a cough. That’s the moment
you start wondering about the last time you had your car into the shop for maintenance. Getting
stranded at any time of year is no fun, but it can be especially dangerous in winter weather.
While you can’t turn back time, there are several common reasons for why an engine won’t
start, and getting familiar with these reasons will make troubleshooting faster. The more
information you can provide the shop, the faster they’ll be able to help you.
If you hear a click or nothing at all, you may have a dead battery. Car batteries
have a shelf life, and yours may have expired. A battery tester will check the charge and see
where you stand. The best shops check your battery’s life at every service. You can try starting
the car with jumper cables. If it starts, it’s likely the battery was discharged, and you’ll want to
have the entire system assessed.
Cranking vs. Starting.
Saying “my car doesn’t start” often doesn’t provide enough information
for a shop. Your vehicle could be suffering from a few different conditions. A “crank/no-start”
condition means the starter is working to turn the engine over, but it simply isn’t firing. This can
be due to a whole host of issues, and your vehicle will likely need to be towed to the shop. A
“no-crank/no-start” condition could be a battery issue or a bad starter. Knowing the difference
between each condition will help the shop find the problem more quickly.
Worn-out spark plugs.
Just as in a relationship, when the spark is gone, it’s dead. If your spark
plugs are old and no longer emit a spark, your engine may crank but won’t start. You need that
electricity to ignite the gas/air mixture in the combustion chamber. Spark plugs can wear out or
corrode over time. Vehicles today can go longer in between critical maintenance services, so
replacing spark plugs is often overlooked or forgotten. Make sure they’re being replaced when
the manufacturer recommends it.
Of course, you could just be out of gas. Did you fill up yesterday?
The best way to avoid the unexpected inconvenience of an engine that won’t start is to take
your vehicle in regularly for check-ups. Regular maintenance not only reduces the probability of
these annoyances occurring, but it also helps keep you safe on the road.