Auto Repair Tips
Why won’t my car start? Find what are the common reasons a car won’t start and what to do to get your car up and running again.
As a rough guideline, problems with the battery, alternator and starter are the most common causes of a car or truck failing to start.
As a professional mechanic, I have diagnosed and fixed hundreds of vehicle that were unable to start up. I have listed solutions to the most common problems I have seen below, as well as the most popular questions that I get from my visitors on this topic.
If you still have any unresolved vehicle problems or questions, you can ask an auto mechanic online. For expert answers specific to your vehicle’s make and model, I recommend JustAnswer Car. They have a large pool of certified mechanics to answer your questions for a small fee and you can also browse their answers to other users for free.
Top Reasons a Car Won’t Start
To troubleshoot, repair and maintain your vehicle, you’ll need diagnostic and repair information that is specific to your car or truck. For this I personally use and recommend ALLDATAdiy. With full manuals for over 30,000 vehicles online, you will find an exact match for your vehicle’s year, make and model.
Besides being cheaper than a factory manual, they also offer step by step repair instructions and detailed diagrams beyond what is found in most printed manuals.
Car Won’t Start, Clicking Noise
My 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 6 cyl will not start after sitting more than 4 hours. Before I even put the key into the ignition I hear a clicking noise on the right side may be under hood may be under the dash.
Battery is drained to nothing (no lights inside car or out) once I put a charge on it, it will start, clicking noise goes away. I drive it and then when I park it and shut it off for 4 or more hours the same thing happens again. Battery tested good, as did alternator. Seems as though whatever is making the clicking noise while car is not even on is draining the battery in a matter of 4 hours.
Answer: The most likely reason your car won’t start is due to a bad relay. This clicking noise is most likely one of your relays turning on and off. When it is on it is using battery power and this is probably what is running your battery down.
Look for the fuse relay block under your hood. You should be looking for a small black box. The one that is clicking is the one that is most likely bad. You should be able to just buy a new one and replace it.
Car Cranks But Won’t Start
I have a 1991 Toyota Camry 4 cyl california emmisions that is getting no spark. Battery seems good, the engines cranks but car won’t start. Removed #1 plug wire, installed plug in wire and grounded threads to valve cover and saw no spark when engine was cranked. Timing belt replaced last year, remanufactured distributer installed 4 months ago along with new plugs, plug wires, distributer cap and rotor.
Have measured 12 VDC at coil, so far no problems with fuses or relays evident. Checked diagnostic port and received error from chk engine light 2 short blinks then a pause and then 4 short blinks (ECU failure). Replaced ignitor (ECU) with a used identical replacement. After changing ignitor (ECU) and checking diagnostic port the chk engine light would blink steady at a quick rate indicating no trouble.
Still no spark and my car won’t start, please help.
Answer: For your car, code 24 indicates a problem in the Intake Air Temperature Sensor circuit. This could be the IAT sensor itself, it could be your car’s ECU, or it could even be a problem in the wiring between the ECU and the IAT.
The most likely cause is a bad sensor, but it is possible that the ECU is bad as well. You mentioned that you replaced the Ignitor. This is not the ECU. Your car’s computer is located behind the center of your instrument panel. Most likely it is fine, but it is possible that it is bad.
There are a couple of things that cause no starts that you might want to have tested or replaced. They are the Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP) and the Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP). These sensors are what the computer uses to calculate timing, spark and fuel injector pulse width. If one of theses sensors were bad it could cause a no start.
Car Won’t Start But Turns Over
I have a 1993 Ford Mustang convertible. It seems as if the gas isn’t quite getting to the engine. Everything is turning over, but my car won’t start. There is enough gas in the tank.
Answer: The first thing you need to do is determine if it is a fuel problem or a spark problem. If you don’t have one you will need to buy an inline spark tester and a fuel pressure tester that will fit your car.
Test the fuel pressure and see if there is spark. After you know which of those you don’t have, you will know whether to start checking fuel system related items or to look at the ignition system.
In your case, the most common reason your car won’t start is probably due to a fuel related problem such as a bad fuel pump.
Car Won’t Start Sometimes, No Lights, No Radio
I just replaced the starter, battery, and alternator on my 1994 Nissan Sentra. Now my car won’t start sometimes, and the dome light, radio and seat belt will not work. Please help
Answer: The most likely cause of your problem is a bad connection somewhere or even a new defective battery.
You should re-check all of your connections, especially your battery cable connections. Be sure they are clean and tight. If they are not it could cause this problem. Also check all of your other connections to be sure they are clean and tight.
You might even want to check all of the fuses. If the wrong wires touched you could just have a fuse blown.
Car Won’t Start After Jump Start
My car won’t start one day so I jump started it and then it started making a loud clicking noise while I was driving it and while the engine idled.
Next day car started okay with no clicking noise, but the next time I tried to start it that day, it would not start. Again I tried to jump it, but it would not start. When turning the key in the ignition while trying to jump the car, there was a clicking noise.
Do you think this is a starter problem or could it be a broken timing belt? (1998 Mazda Millenia 2.5L)
Answer: The first thing you need to do is have your electrical system checked out. Your alternator might not be charging your battery the way it should or you could have a faulty battery.
Most auto parts stores will test the alternator and battery for free. Be sure to have them do a load test on your battery. Load testing is more accurate than just checking voltage as it shows how good the battery is when there is an electrical load put on it.
The clicking noise you are hearing is most likely from one or more relays turning on and off. Relays will do this when there is not enough voltage in the electrical system to keep them turned on. It is a classic symptom of a low voltage situation.
It is possible that this is a starter problem, but since you have relays that are clicking on and off it is probably not the starter. You could also have a problem with the starter solenoid, but that is also unlikely.
I think once you have your battery and alternator checked, you will find your problem. Keep in mind that you need to check your battery cables for corrosion and tightness. They need to be clean and tight in order for the alternator to be able to charge the battery.
Car Won’t Start, No Crank
My Jeep has a 4 liter engine and when I turn the key on I can hear the fuel pump come on but when I try to crank it nothing happens except the parking brake light in the dash comes on for as long as the key is in the start position.
This is the second time this has happened, and both times I started the jeep to move it out of the way and when I tried to start it again nothing happened. The first time it did this I let it sit for about 10 hours and every thing was fine. The second time it sat over night and still nothing happens when I try to start it. I hope it isn’t too confusing and any info will help. Thanks. (1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee)
Answer: This sounds like some type of electrical problem. The first thing I would check is your battery cable connections. Be sure they are clean and tight. Then have your battery and alternator tested to be sure that they are working correctly and are not faulty. Most auto parts stores will provide this car won’t start help for free.
After all of that is done, you need to see why it is not turning over by checking for power at the starter. Check for battery voltage at the large post on the starter solenoid at all times, then see if there is battery voltage at the small ignition terminal with the key in the start position.
If there is power at both of these terminals then you simply have a starter or solenoid problem. If you suspect this you can try giving the starter a couple good blows with a hammer when it won’t turn over. Sometimes this will jar it free.
Battery is Good But Car Won’t Start
I have a 1996 Cadillac Deville V8 with a 4.6L engine. My car won’t start and I thought it was my battery so I bought a new one. Someone told me that it could be my starter or my ignition. How do i know what is the reason my car won’t start and how do I fix it?
Answer: Your starting problem could indeed be caused by your starter or your ignition switch. If the engine turns over good, then it is not a problem with either of those things.
If it does not turn over (I’m assuming it does not), then the first thing to check is that your battery cables are clean and tight. I’m guessing that you have already done this since you replaced your battery, but you should re-check them just to be sure.
The next thing to check is to see if your dash lights come on when you turn your key on. If they do then most likely your ignition switch is just fine (but it still could be bad, it’s just not likely). If they don’t come on, then you either have a problem with your ignition switch or a wiring problem that is not letting power get to the ignition switch and starter.
Engine Won’t Crank, No Lights, No Radio
I have a 1995 Chevy S10 with a 4.3L that I am having problems with. Two days ago the truck died and nothing would work. It wouldn’t crank, the lights and radio won’t work, nothing.
I took the alternator and had it checked, it was ok, when I put it back in it started right up again. I drove it home and then the next time I drove it the same thing happen. Someone told me the “ignition control module” may be bad. I am just looking for other suggestions.
Answer: This sounds more like a battery problem or maybe even a problem with your battery cables. The fact that nothing would come on tells me that there was something preventing any power from getting to the fuse block and the rest of the car.
The first thing I would to is check your battery cables. I would even clean them and then make sure they are tight. After that I would take it to an auto parts store to have them load test the battery. This will tell you if it is being caused by the battery.
I think you will find your problem in one of those areas. I really doubt that your ignition control module is bad because that would have nothing to do with the lights and radio not working. It is possible that it is an ignition switch problem, but that is not likely.
Car Won’t Start After Stalling
I have a 1993 Dodge Dakota 4×4 3.9l V6. It stalled and won’t start. I replaced the fuel pump and fuel filter, replaced pump relay and auto shut down relay (ASD Relay) with new relays. Checked wiring from relay block on left wheel well also replaced cap and rotor and spark plugs what else should I check? Thanks
Answer: The first thing you need to do is determine whether your truck is not getting fuel, not getting spark or has bad compression. Usually random stalling is not caused by a compression problem but it is possible.
You will need a few tools to do this testing. You should start with a compression test. Be sure that all of the spark plugs are out, then disable the ignition system. Using a compression tester kit, check each cylinder to see if there are any that are low on compression.
The next thing you will need to do is get a fuel pressure tester for your fuel system. Be sure to get one that will work for your truck. Then simply hook into the fuel system and see what the pressure is.
To check spark, you will an inline spark tester. This type of tester hooks in between the spark plug wire and the spark plug. Then you just try to start the engine and see if the tester lights.
After all of these tests have been done you will have narrowed the problem down to one system instead of three. After you get it narrowed down, you can start looking at each component of the problematic system.
Keep in mind that there is a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) for the distributor drive bushing wearing out. This could be the source of your problem as well. Also, ignition coils and the ignition pickup inside the distributor are common problems with these trucks.
Car Won’t Start, Clicking Noise, Battery Works
I have a 2006 Ford Explorer. The battery is fully charged and my car won’t start. When I take the key out of the ignition there is a clicking sound coming from the run/start relay. What could be the problem?
Answer: To figure out why your car won’t start, there are several things to check. The first is to see if your battery cables are clean and tight. It is very important that they are as just a little corrosion or a little looseness can cause this type of problem.
The next thing to do is have your battery load tested. Even though it is fully charged it can still be bad under a high load, like when you try to start it.
The next thing that could be causing it is your starter, relay or solenoid. Sometimes a relay will go bad and cause this type of problem. You can try to switch the relay that was doing the clicking with another relay to see if that will get it to start. If it does then you know that the relay was bad.
It is possible that you have a bad ignition switch as well but that is not as likely. I think you will find your problem with your battery, cables, connections or relays.
Car Won’t Start After Replacing O2 Sensors
I have a 1994 Camaro v6 and after replacing the top two o2 sensors I was able to drive it home just fine but when I went to start it up again it would only turn over for a second or two and die. Any suggestions?
Answer: If it did not do this before you replaced the O2 sensors, then you must have either forgotten to plug something back in or you might have hit something. The first thing to do is re-check everything that you might had removed or disconnected to do this job. Most likely there is something that just was not hooked back up.
If that is not the problem, then the next thing to do is put the old O2 sensors in and see if you have the same problem. While O2 sensors aren’t the usual culprits if your car won’t start, but it’s best to confirm.
Car Won’t Start, No Spark
1994 Chevy Camaro V6 3.4L. It quit running while driving. I checked all fuses in car and under the hood. When you turn the key, you can hear fuel pump build up pressure like it should. When you try to start it turns over fine. I pulled one spark plug wire and had it in close to body bolt to see if I could get a spark and I did not get anything so my question is where should I start my troubleshooting?
Answer: Since your car wont’t start and there is no spark, you need to first check the spark plugs and wires. It is not likely that these are the problem but it is possible. The next thing you need to check is to see if the distributor is getting power and if the coil is sending spark to the plugs.
Some of the most likely causes of this problem are the coil, ignition control module and crankshaft sensor.
Car Won’t Start After Short Drive
My 2005 Equinox LT bgean with a simple problem. The car would start up fine in the morning and after sitting a long time but if I ran in the store or to pick up kids, my car won’t start – I’d have to let it sit for a minute or two – it kinda seemed like the engine was flooded.
Well, just the other day, after an 8 hr day at work, I went to start it and nothing clicked/started no sound whatsoever. Then I tried it again, and it started up fine, no lag or strange sound. I thought it was a fluke until I went to pick up my son (5 min drive) and came back to find my car wouldn’t start, no sound again. Even after trying to jump it for 5 min, the lights would come on but wouldn’t start.
My husband thought it was the battery, so he took it out and tested the voltage. It was fine. He put a new battery in and it didn’t start. He put the old battery back in and the car started. Thoughts?
Answer: This sounds like a frustrating problem. I know you’re looking for car won’t start help, but unfortunately I cannot be of much service.
The main problem is that there are many things that can lead to this type of problem. It could be one of your engine sensors, it could be one of several computers on your car, it could be a wiring problem, an ignition switch problem or even and anti-theft problem.
You mentioned that putting the old battery in made it start again, so you might try cleaning and tightening the battery cables. If they are clean and tight, you might try wiggling them while someone tries to start it to see if that will get it to start.
Other than that the best advice I can give you is to take it to a repair shop that you trust to diagnose it. This is something that the dealer might have to diagnose, but some really good independent repair shops could probably do it too.
Car Won’t Start, Starter Works, Alternator Works, Battery Works
I have a 2000 Ford Windstar. One day it just won’t start. We got it jumped and it worked. Something had drained the battery. We had the starter, alternator and battery tested. All were good.
They also said there was no drain but if we left our battery connected overnight it would be dead the within a day. We just disconnected the battery at night and all seemed fine until one day we went somewhere and when we got in the van would not start.
We tried to get it jumped and it still would not start. We were told it was the starter so we replaced the starter and it turned on. The next day we went somewhere again and it wouldn’t restart once again. We tried to jump it once again and it did not work. It clicked a couple of times and then just wouldn’t even click anymore.
A mechanic hit the starter to get it to turn over. He told us the starter that we had just put in was bad. He tested the cable and said the power was going to the starter. We took the starter out and back to the store to get tested and were told it was working fine. We put the starter back in and it has worked for the day.
It did take a lot of cranking when we started it this morning. Any ideas what exactly could be going on?
Answer: Hi Misty. I think you’ll need to find a mechanic who is great at diagnosing electrical problems.
Specifically, they need to know how to do what is called a “voltage drop” test. This is a test that can tell you exactly what is bad in any electrical circuit. Believe it or not, there are plenty of mechanics out there who do not know how to carry out this test. If you can find a repair shop that specializes in electrical systems they will probably have someone that will know how to do it.
As to your question, there are any number of things why your car won’t start. I have seen starters that test just fine, but when you get them installed they don’t work. They can be worn out inside and not work when they are installed, but then they can be taken off of the car, get bumped around and test just fine.
I have also seen these type of problems be caused simply by loose battery cables. It is surprising how many times I have seen major problems caused by such a simple thing.
Another thing it could be is your ignition switch. If it is bad it might not be sending the right amount of voltage to the starter in order to get it turning.
As you can see, there are many things that can cause this type of problem. If I had to guess I would say it is a starter problem, but to really find out you need to take it to a really good electrical mechanic.
Car Won’t Start, Turn Overs Then Dies
Just got the brakes fixed on my 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 and noticed that it was hard to start and the battery indicator said batt was low (left it sitting for three weeks while out of town), so jumped it and took it to the shop for brakes.
Just got the truck back and again it seemed hard to start, so figuring it just needed to charge I was going to let it sit but IT WONT START! I tried jumping thinking the battery was still low and nothing. There is no light on the dash and when I turn the key it says ‘wait to start’ as always but when I go to turn it on it tries to turn over but then just dies. What could be happening?
Answer: It sounds like the jumper cables might not have had a good enough connection. My guess is that your battery is weak so it keeps losing its charge. If it sat around with a low battery for very long, then it is most likely bad.
You can have them tested at most auto parts stores for free. Be sure to have them do a load test. This test puts a load on the battery to see if it is good and is much more accurate than any other test.
You should also check your battery cables and connections. If there is any corrosion or if they are loose they can cause this very problem. You can use a mix of baking soda and water to clean them up.
Car Won’t Start, Clicking Noise, Won’t Turn Over
My car won’t start. What does it mean when your car is making a loud fast clicking noise and the engine doesn’t turn over? (1994 Mazda B4000 2WD Truck)
Answer: Thanks for submitting your question. The most likely cause of your problem is not enough voltage is getting to the starter.
There are several common causes of this condition. The first and most likely is that you have a bad battery. You can have it tested at any good auto parts store. If it is not fully charged or faulty, it might send the right amount of voltage to your starter… thus causing the clicking noise.
It could also be a starter or starter solenoid problem. If it is faulty, it can cause this type of clicking noise.If the battery tests good then you probably need a new starter.
It is also possible that you have some type of wiring problem in the ignition circuit. You could also just have loose or corroded battery cables.
Car Won’t Start on First Try
When my 2006 Cobalt LT 2.2 liter sits for over a few hrs, it will not start on the first try but it has always started the second try. This problem just started a few days ago. I can tell that the ignition is working fine but it sounds like it isn’t getting gas or something.
I just replaced the fuel filter last night to see if that was the cause but then again this morning it took two times to try and start. Does anyone have any idea what this could be? I think it is a problem with something in the fuel system but am not sure why my car won’t start on first attempt. Please help! Thanks, David G.
Answer: The first thing you need to do is find out whether this is a spark problem or a fuel problem.
In order to do this you will need a fuel pressure tester and an inline spark tester. Test the fuel pressure when it won’t start and test the spark when it won’t start. If the fuel pressure is low then you are looking at a fuel pump, or regulator problem most likely.
If there is no spark when car won’t start, then you are most likely looking at a problem with things like the ignition control module, coils, ignition switch etc.
Car Cranks But Won’t Start, Smoke Exhaust
I have an 1988 Buick Century 3.8 it will crank but not start. It’s getting fire and gas to the fuel rail. Smoke comes out of the air filter? HELP PLEASE.
Answer: There are several possible reasons why your car won’t start. Since you are getting fuel (and I’m assuming that you are getting the right fuel pressure as well) and you are getting spark, this helps me narrow the possibilities.
Three main things are needed for your car to start: spark, fuel and compression. Timing is required as well. Since you already have spark and fuel, we should be able to safely say that the problem is likely related to compression and/or timing.
The first thing you should do is check the compression of your engine. Make sure that the cylinders have the necessary compression to ignite the incoming fuel and air mixture.
Next, you need to check timing. If there is fuel and spark but the timing is not correct it will not start. One of the best ways to do this is to bring the #1 cylinder up to top dead center compression then remove the distributor cap and see if the rotor is pointing to the #1 cylinder. You can be sure it is on TDC on the compression stroke by removing a valve cover and checking to make sure the rocker arms are a little loose.
If the rotor is not pointing to the right spark plug wire, then you might have a timing belt/chain problem. Sometimes they will slip or the gears or belt will wear and cause the timing to become misadjusted.
Another easy check you can do is a vacuum check. If the vacuum is low then you might have a plugged catalytic converter or a vacuum leak.
Be sure that all of your ignition components (spark plugs, wires, cap, rotor, etc.) are in good condition.
Some of these 3.8L engines had a problem with the wiring that goes to the distributor. To check this, you can have someone wiggle these wires while you crank the engine to see if it will start. If it does then you have probably found your problem.
Fuel Pump Works But Car Won’t Start
My truck died on the way work. I got it to start again after work and drove it home. I got it started again to drive it closer to my home and it died again after a few seconds.
Now I can’t seem to get it to start again unless I use starting fluid. Since I could run it on starting fluid, I knew I had spark. I had a new high pressure pump replaced a couple of months before. I know I am getting fuel to the high pressure pump and to the fuel pressure regulator.
I changed the fuel pressure regulator with no success. I then changed the ignition module with no effect. I am at the end of my rope here with no ride to work. Please any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, James B. (1988 Ford F-150 4.9L 6 Cylinder)
Answer: It sounds like you are right in saying that you have good spark and probably good fuel pressure. This helps us narrow down the possible causes for your fuel system problem.
The first thing that comes to mind is that you should check your fuel pressure just to make sure it is not dropping out. This is a very easy thing to check with a fuel pressure gauge.
It sounds like the computer might not be telling the fuel injectors to turn on. Your truck’s computer gets information from the crankshaft and camshaft sensors (as well as a few others) to determine when to fire the injectors and for how long.
What you need to do is get a noid light and plug it into the injector harness. Then crank your engine like you are trying to start it. If the computer is telling the injectors to come on, then the light will blink. This is one of the best ways to tell if they are working.
You can also use a long screwdriver and put one end on the injector and the other on your ear and see if you can hear a “pulse”. This is much harder because there are so many other noises that sound similar.
Once you determine whether or not the computer is turning on your injectors you will be able to further narrow it down. If the injectors are coming on then you need to look at timing, exhaust backpressure (possible plugged exhaust), etc. If they are not coming on then you need to look at crankshaft and camshaft sensors, wiring etc.
Car Won’t Start, Cranks But Engine Won’t Turn
I have a 2000 Ford Contour SE 4 cylinder engine. 2.0 L. I have had many problems with this car since I bought it. I had the fuel tank and pump replaced last year. If I do not put Gumout in my gas tank every time I fill up the car, the car starts to sputter while driving from 50 mph-60 mph.
Recently every once in a while the car would start and stall, but it would always fire up on the second try. Yesterday, the car started fine and I drove it for a few errands, then when I got home I turned off the car, ran inside the house and came back out and my car won’t start! It cranks, but the engine will not turn.
It does have gas, but I checked the oil and the dip stick showed that it was bone dry (this annoys me because I just got the oil changed 2 months ago).
I have checked all of my fuses and none of them are bad. I started to check the spark plug wires and they look fine, but when pull it off of the spark plug it has oil at the tip of it. I do not have tool to get the spark plug out, but I can tell there is oil down there. I have only checked in one terminal. What could be the potential problems?
Answer: The first thing that needs to be done is to see if you have spark and fuel pressure. You will need an inline spark tester and a fuel pressure tester for your car.
Once you determine whether you are lacking spark or fuel pressure, then you can start narrowing down the possibilities.
If you don’t have spark then you are looking at an ignition component. Things like the coil, ignition control module, etc. If you don’t have good fuel pressure then you are looking at things like the fuel pump, fuel filter, fuel pressure regulator. Even though the fuel pump has been changed it could still be bad. Many fuel pumps even new are not reliable.
Even though the dipstick shows that there is no oil, there is probably oil in the oil pan… just not enough to show on the dipstick. While you should add oil as soon as possible, this problem will not cause it to not start. If your engine truly didn’t have any oil in it then there would be a light on the instrument panel and probably an audible warning of low oil pressure.
The oil on the spark plugs is most likely caused by a bad valve cover gasket, but also shouldn’t be a reason your car won’t start.
Car Won’t Start Sometimes Unless Brake is Pressed
My car won’t start sometimes when I turn the key. I have to depress the brake and she will turn over. I’ve never had to press the brake before. Please help. (2000 Toyota 4Runner)
Answer: All cars with an automatic transmission have a safety feature that will not let the key turn over unless the car is in park or neutral. This neutral safety switch will not send power to the starter until the gear shifter is in park or neutral.
There is also a feature that will not let the gear shifter move out of park until you put your foot on the brake. Sometimes these two things are part of one assembly. If these parts get worn it might cause the problem that you are having.
The most likely cause of your problem is this neutral safety switch that is not working correctly. I’m guessing that when you step on your brake it causes the neutral safety switch contacts to move just a little and send power to your starter like it should.
I think if you have your neutral safety switch replaced it should fix your problem of your car not starting.