It’s happened to all of us. We get in our cars, turn the key – and nothing happens. Or something does happen – something really awful sounding, but not at all what we expected. All car noises (or lack thereof) do not indicate a major problem so vehicle owners shouldn’t panic just yet. There are a few easy troubleshooters that vehicle owners can do themselves that will point them to simple problems with their vehicles that are easily – and inexpensively – fixed. Here are some of the ways to troubleshoot your vehicle’s starting system.
Problem: Engine doesn’t turn over when you turn the key or makes a “clicking” sound.
If the engine makes no attempt to start when you turn the key, the battery is the likely culprit. First, check to assure that the battery cables – one red and one black, attached to the posts on the battery – are not loose or corroded. A poor cable connection can prevent the car from starting. If the cables seem fine, try having someone else jump start your vehicle with theirs. Sometimes headlights are left on, doors left ajar, or interior lights left on – all of which can drain your battery. If, after attempting to jumpstart, the vehicle still does not respond, remove the battery and have it tested. It could need to be replaced.
Problem: Engine does turn over when you turn the key, but sounds weak and/or will not start.
If the engine does make an effort to turn over when the key is turned, but sounds weak and/or will not start, the problem still could lie with the battery. Performing the aforementioned troubleshooting steps would be a good idea in this situation as well. Another issue your vehicle may be having is a loose or faulty spark plug wire. If there is a breakdown in the connection between the wire and the spark plug itself, the engine’s firing system will be compromised. Check to see that all spark plug wires are in good condition, free of splits, cracks, or dry rot. Ensure that all the wires are pressed firmly into position, with the boots being directly on the spark plugs themselves. If none of these troubleshooters prove helpful, have your vehicle looked at by a qualified mechanic. The problem still may be a simple one, so there is no need to panic just yet.
Problem: Engine starts, but immediately sputters, chokes down, and stalls.
Sputtering engines are a tell tale sign of fuel and/or emissions problems. When something causes the engine not to receive sufficient fuel for operating, the result will be “choking” symptoms. Problems that cause the vehicle’s emissions system to clog up will produce the same result because the engine is not able to get rid of the byproducts produced by the fuel. In a situation like these, the first thing to check is the obvious one: Is there gas in the tank? If there is, check the vehicle’s air filter for debris and dirt. A clogged air filter will cause a vehicle to choke down and die, due to a build up of emissions not being filtered away from the engine. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the location of you air filter. It is very easy to check and change and usually no tools are required.
Problem: Engine makes a “spinning” sound, but does not turn over or start.
If your vehicle only makes a “spinning” sound when you turn the key, it’s time to have your starter checked. Starters can be difficult to locate on some vechiles and even harder to replace, due to their proximity to other engine components. If you are expiriencing this issue with your car, having it checked out by a qualified mechanic is the best option.