Top 16 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start | Car Won’t Turn Over

Everyone wants a smooth and quick start of their car. However, sometimes, the car won’t turn over instead of having enough power. There can be several reasons why your car won’t start.

Car Won’t Start

One of the major reasons for a car won’t turn over is often a depleted battery, which could result from various factors, like leaving the lights on for a prolonged period or even a defective battery that cannot retain its charge. This write-up delves into the various possibilities that might be preventing your car from starting. This article explains the different reasons why your car won’t start.

Reasons Why My Car Won’t Start

A car most commonly won’t start due to a dead battery, a faulty alternator, bad alternator, faulty ignition switch, a bad fuel injector, a bad spark plug, a blown fuse, a clogged fuel filter, a bad timing belt, or an issue with the main computer.

The following are the major reasons why your car won’t turn over:

1) Bad or Dead Battery

Dead Battery

A dead battery is one of the primary reasons why your car won’t start. Despite vehicles being powered by fuel, they all need electric power to operate effectively. The starter motor of your vehicle needs electrical power to initiate the engine; hence without a working battery, your engine won’t kick-start.

Chilly weather can worsen battery issues and make winter repairs particularly challenging without access to a garage.

The silver lining with battery issues is that they can be addressed without needing professional assistance. Performing a jump-start on a vehicle battery is a task manageable by anyone with basic knowledge.

However, bear in mind that jump-starts offer a temporary fix, and a new battery can be costly, so it’s crucial to maintain your battery health.

2) Bad Alternator

Faulty Alternator, reasons why a car won't start

The alternator is responsible for recharging the battery and maintaining the operation of the electrical systems once the vehicle has started.

If the alternator malfunctions, it could hinder your car from starting as it won’t be able to recharge the battery, causing the battery to drain its stored power, ultimately leading to its demise.

If the alternator is unable to recharge the battery, the electrical accessories of your vehicle will begin to utilize power straight from the battery. This action may entirely deplete the battery, rendering it incapable of providing the substantial electricity needed to engage the starter motor and initiate the engine. Consequently, even if the vehicle possesses power, it won’t start.

Read More: Bad Alternator Symptoms and Causes

3) Bad Starter Motor

bad Starter that causes a car wont turn over

However, a dead battery or faulty alternator is not the sole factor that can prevent your vehicle from working. If there’s an issue with the starter motor, your car won’t start. The starter motor receives the electrical signal to trigger the engine.

Read More: Bad Starter Motor Symptoms and Causes

4) Bad Battery Connections

Battery Connections

If the issue isn’t related to the battery, the next step would be to examine the battery connections of your vehicle. In the event these connections appear damaged or loosely connected, the vehicle may not be able to draw the necessary electricity to initiate the engine.

Another potential issue could be the corroded connections. If you notice an unusual amount of green, blue, white, or brown discharge around the battery connectors, it will need to be cleaned.

5) Car Isn’t In Park Or Neutral

Parking Brake

If your car won’t turn over, it might not be properly set in neutral or park mode but rather still in gear. For proper parking, you need to press the brake pedal and shift your vehicle into park mode. If your car is already in motion, shift it to neutral mode before trying to restart the engine.

If you find that you’re able to turn the ignition switch while the vehicle is in drive, it’s advised to consult a mechanic immediately for rectification.

6) Blown Fuse

car Fuse

The fuse of your vehicle serves as a protective barrier for the vehicle’s electrical system. A blown fuse is one of the major reasons for a car won’t start.

A faulty fuse can interrupt the supply of electrical energy to the starter relay, which is crucial for generating the spark, igniting the fuel-air mixture, and providing power to propel the car. If the ignition fuse is blown, a simple fuse change might be all it takes to restore your car’s functionality.

7) Bad Fuel Pump Relay

Fuel Pump Relay, reasons why a car won't turn over

if your car won’t turn over, you should consider inspecting the fuel pump relay. This electrical component, usually located in the fuse box, is responsible for transmitting the necessary power to pump the correct volume of fuel through the fuel pump into the engine cylinder.

Read More: Bad Fuel Sending Unit Symptoms and Causes

8) Jammed or Locked Steering Wheel

Jammed Steering Wheel, a car won't start

If you’re unable to turn the ignition key, it’s likely that your steering wheel is jammed or locked. This feature serves as an anti-theft mechanism. It activates a steering lock when someone attempts to rotate the steering wheel of your vehicle while the vehicle is off.

To disengage a steering lock, gently shake the steering wheel while carefully trying to turn the key once more. When the vehicle is switched on, the steering wheel will unlock. This procedure won’t harm your car, and it should operate normally afterward.

9) Dead Key Fob Battery

Key Fob Battery

A dead key fob battery is one of the major causes for a car won’t start. The key fob battery is most commonly found in modern vehicles that use it to ignite the engine.  

In some cases, your car might fail to identify the fob if its battery is dead. This is a problem that traditional key-operated vehicles don’t face. To resolve this issue, you need to change the key fob battery before restarting your vehicle.

10) Faulty Ignition Switch

Ignition Switch, car not starting

The ignition switch is also one of the major components to start the vehicle. When it goes bad, it may prevent your vehicle from starting.

To identify potential issues with the ignition switch, look out for erratic dashboard lights or other electrical irregularities. Another sign could be difficulty in turning the ignition key. You might also notice the absence of the usual sound of the starter motor engaging the engine.

When you face such an issue, immediately contact a professional to fix it.

11) Bad Spark Plug

faulty Spark Plug

A bad spark plug is often one of the major causes of why a car won’t start. A spark plug is responsible for providing a proper spark to ignite the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber.

Malfunctioning spark plugs may lead to engine misfires, poor fuel economy, and other automotive issues.

If your vehicle exhibits unusual behavior before it stops starting altogether, this might suggest a problem with the spark plug. If your vehicle engine cranks and you notice a clicking noise, but the engine fails to start, it could indicate faulty spark plugs.

12) Damaged Distributor Cap

Distributor Cap

However, issues with starting your car aren’t always due to problems with the battery or starter motor. In some cases, a damaged distributor cap could be the root cause. The distributor cap channels electricity back to the spark plug after ignition. Even if your vehicle turns on, it’s still possible to have a faulty distributor cap.

If you experience engine misfires, see the check engine light on, or notice strange sounds, it’s advisable to consult a professional to inspect the distributor cap and all other components involved in starting your car.

13) Bad Timing Belt

bad Timing Belt

The timing belt is one of the most important parts of your engine. It is a rubber belt responsible for synchronously rotating the crankshaft and camshaft in the engine.

When the timing belt becomes damaged, the engine will cease to operate. In such conditions, you might notice the starter attempting to engage but won’t start or even detect a ticking noise from underneath the hood. Although this is a less commonly known problem, a timing belt may snap while the engine is operating, causing damage to the engine.

14) Clogged Fuel Filter

fuel filter

The fuel filter plays a pivotal role in filtering out contaminants from the fuel, ensuring the delivery of clean fuel from the fuel tank to the fuel injectors. Given its role in preventing impurities from entering the engine, it’s expected that a fuel filter will eventually become clogged.

If the fuel filter is partially blocked, your car may still operate. However, a fully blocked fuel filter will prevent your vehicle from starting.

The same scenario could occur if the fuel injector nozzle becomes blocked with impurities. In these situations, your engine will fail to get fuel from the tank due to decreased fuel pressure.

15) Empty Fuel Tank

Fuel Tank, reasons why a car not starting

Running out of fuel may seem like a noticeable issue, but if your alternator, spark plug, and battery are all functioning well, it’s worth checking the fuel level in the fuel tank.

An empty fuel tank is one of the common reasons a car won’t start. Make sure to refuel your tank sufficiently before embarking on a trip, and avoid letting your fuel tank level get too low frequently.

During winter, your car could also experience frozen fuel line issues. An empty gas tank allows more room for water vapor to generate and freeze within the fuel lines of your vehicle.

Furthermore, if you frequently run out of gas to the point where your car won’t turn over, it’s advisable to have your fuel gauge inspected. It may be possible that your gauge is malfunctioning and not providing accurate readings when necessary. A mechanic can also identify any other potential issues with your fuel system.

16) Bad Fuel Injector

Fuel Injector

The faulty fuel injectors can be a potential reason why a car won’t start. These injectors are small parts that supply fuel to the engine. If all four of them in a car with a four-cylinder engine are not working, it might prevent the car from starting, though this is rare.

Use a screwdriver to check the fuel injectors yourself. Press the screwdriver against each injector and listen carefully while trying to start the engine. If you hear a clicking sound, that means the fuel injector is probably working fine. If you don’t hear any clicking, it might be a sign of a problem with that injector.

FAQ Section

How to jump start your car?

If your car won’t start and you suspect the battery is discharged, a jump start may provide a temporary solution. This process involves using jumper cables to link your battery to another vehicle’s fully operational battery. But it’s advisable to first consult with a professional if your vehicle fails to respond to a jump start.

Why won’t my car start but the radio and lights work?

There are various potential issues if your car won’t start, but the lights and radio are functioning, which are mainly identified by the sounds you hear while attempting to turn on the engine. If there is no noise, silence could signify issues with the starter solenoid, the ignition fuse and ignition switch, or poor electrical systems within your vehicle, among others.

Why is my car not starting but it has power?

If your car doesn’t crank and yet the dashboard lights up during ignition, this suggests a probable problem with the car’s battery. It may be a corroded or deteriorated battery terminal preventing the engine from cranking when you fully turn the key.

Is it my battery or starter?

Does a clicking sound accompany your attempts to start the car, but it won’t crank? This is a potential positive sign. If a jump start gets the engine running but fails to crank it over upon shutting off, it is likely you have a dead battery.

How long should a car battery last?

Battery lifespan varies from vehicle to vehicle. Some may need a replacement after only two years, while others could last up to 5 or 6 years. On average, expect to replace your car’s battery every 3 to 4 years.

Why car won’t start right after turning off?

If your car won’t start right after turning off, there may be various problems such as a bad alternator, faulty spark plug, clogged fuel filter, clogged fuel injector, electrical issues, empty gas tank, or a bad battery.  

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