If you bring your car, truck or SUV to Mountain View Automotive in Thornton, our experienced technicians can look at common reasons why your car won’t start and get you back behind the wheel. We know that your car not starting when you need it the most can be frustrating. We’ll look at the typical culprits that fall into one of two categories, when the engine won’t crank (or it cranks very slowly) and when the engine cranks but doesn’t run.
Category 1: The engine doesn’t crank or it cranks slowly
If the engine cranks slowly or won’t crank at all it could be the battery, alternator or starter.
We’ve all experienced the dead battery or the almost dead battery that is very weak and almost dead. It’s one of the most common reasons why your car won’t start. When it happens, the starter will crank slowly. It will make the “rrrr” groaning sound. When the voltage gets even weaker you may hear that dreaded “kkkk” sound. If the battery is dead, there won’t be any sound. Even the instrument panel lights will dim or not go on when you try to start the car.
Your first inclination may be to jump so that you can bring your car into our mechanics at Mountain View Automotive. However, first make sure the clamps on snugly on the battery terminals. Just tightening loose clamps may fix the problem, but if the clamps were already tight then the battery probably needs a jump.
Now, every driver should know how to jump-start a car. If you don’t do it right, it will create sparks and could damage either of the vehicles hooked up for the jump. This includes knowing in what order to connect and disconnect the cables as well as where to attach the clamps. They even make jumper cables that let you know, often with lights, if you are connecting them properly. Choose a set of heavy gauge cables to make sure it can carry the electrical current.
Sometimes a dead battery doesn’t need to be replaced but instead needs to be charged and the battery terminals and clamps cleaned. The corrosion on the battery can create resistance to starting and have trouble charging when the car is running.
The problem could also be bad positive battery cable connections at the power distribution center which is normally the fuse block under the hood or a bad negative cable connection to a bolt on the engine or body. The cables will need to be removed and the connectors cleaned.
Our mechanics can test the battery’s condition and the charging and starting systems. You may need a new battery. If you do, we can make sure it is the right one for your vehicle.
If your alternator isn’t working then the battery won’t be charged while you drive. It could also be a worn out or slipping drive belt. A warning light should light up if the alternator fails or the belt breaks. There may be no warning light if it’s just a poor output from the charging system. The gauge on the instrument panel should show about 14 volts.
The alternator may not be recharging the battery during short trips, especially if the headlights, wipers, heater, radio, rear window defroster and heated seats are on. So, if you normally only take short trips, you should take a longer trip every now and then to make sure the alternator is recharging the battery.
Sometimes what may seem like a weak battery is actually a bad starter because the starter is drawing more current than the battery can supply. The slowly spinning starter draws excessive power and sometimes that “grrr-grr” sound of the starter can be mistaken for a weak battery. The starter drive gear or the engine’s flywheel may have damaged teeth, causing a grinding sound also. If the starter can’t even turn, it may mean there is a bad relay, solenoid or ignition switch. We’ll check out the entire system and take care of any issues we come across.
When it comes to common reasons why your car won’t start, this one might seem silly, but it happens. So, if your car won’t start because the key can’t turn in the ignition switch, it could be just your car’s anti-theft feature which locks the steering wheel when the key is removed. Every now and then the wheel moves back against the locking pawl and stops the key from turning. All you have to do to unlock it is move the steering wheel a little as you turn the key.
Category 2: The engine cranks but doesn’t run
The second situation is when the engine’s starter cranks like normal but the engine refuses to run. In this case, it is probably not the battery, starter, or alternator but something else instead. Let’s look at these common reasons why your car won’t start.
Always check the most obvious first. Could your car be out of gas? Take a look just to rule it out – the problem could be just that straightforward.
Despite having a full tank of gas, a bad fuel pump or fuel pump relay could prevent the fuel from reaching the engine.
Frozen fuel line
It is possible that your fuel line could be frozen. Always try to keep your gas tank at least half-full during cold weather.
You may need new spark plugs. Don’t forget to replace them when they are scheduled to be replaced during factory scheduled maintenance.
Sometimes new electronics of a car’s security system prevent it from starting. If you put the wrong key in the car’s ignition it could mean a 20-minute delay to starting the car.
When you think about it, common reasons why your car won’t start are plentiful and vary quite a bit. Regular maintenance at Mountain View Automotive in Thornton can protect against most of them but for those unexpected reasons that leave you stranded, our ASE-certified master technicians can get you right in and fix it for you.