It is a sinking feeling when you get in your car, turn the key and your car does not start. There are various reasons a car that started and ran yesterday will not start today. It is very important to listen when you turn the key, as it gives you a clue as to what may be wrong. Some things are simple and you can handle yourself, others are signs that you need to get your vehicle to a mechanic, either driven or on a tow truck.
Owning a vehicle is not just starting it and driving it, you need to be in tune with your car and know when something is wrong so it does not lead to additional damage and repairs to the vehicle. A vehicle that does not start can be caused by anything from a loose battery cable to a seized engine, so it is important to know what to do when you turn the key and the car does not start.
No sound when you turn the key
What you hear and see, or do not hear and see when you turn the key can give you clues to what the problem may be, as well as if it is something you can take care of or you just need to call a tow truck. If you turn the key and hear nothing at all, and none of your dash lights come on, you need to open the hood and check your battery. Make sure the cables are connected properly, then try to jump start the car. If you get the car started, great, you solved your problem, if not, there may be some type of electrical or wiring problem and you will probably need to call a tow truck. If you turn the key and hear nothing, but your dash lights come one, you might have not put the vehicle completely in park gear. If you have an automatic transmission and the vehicle is not completely in park, it has a safety mechanism that will not allow the vehicle to start. With your foot on the brake, switch the vehicle to neutral then back to park and try starting it again. If you have a manual transmission, make sure the vehicle is in neutral, depress the clutch all the way to the floor and try starting again. If in either one of these situations, it still will not start, there is a good chance it is an electrical problem involving the ignition switch or neutral safety switch, and the vehicle will need to be towed. In most cases, hearing no sound when you try to start your car is better than hearing something; usually no sound means it’s a problem you may be able to handle yourself.
Sound when you turn the key
If you turn the key and hear a clicking sound, but you have lights on the dash, this is an indicator that your battery is low. A low battery can occur due to an old battery that is wearing out, or a sign of an alternator problem. You should have no problem jump starting the car, but as soon as you get it started, your first trip should be to your mechanic to get it checked. If you turn the key and hear a clunk, it is a sign of a bad starter, or at the worst, a seized engine. Turn you headlights on and try to start the car again, if they dim when you try to start the car it is more than likely a bad starter, if they do not dim, you might have a seized engine, either way, you will need to have the vehicle towed to your mechanic. If you turn the key and hear a grinding or scraping sound, this is an indication of a bad starter as well. Try to start the vehicle no more than twice, if it starts, take it to your mechanic immediately, if it does not start you will need to have it towed and repaired. No matter what sound it is you hear, it is likely to be a problem that requires a mechanic, and if not repaired will lead to further damage to your vehicle.
Being able to assess a problem with your car is very important for any driver. A vehicle not starting is a common problem, but if you know what to listen and look for, you can save yourself a tow bill, or save yourself from causing more damage to your vehicle. No matter what reason the car does not start, if you get it started the first time but it does not start again, take it to your mechanic. A small repair when the problem starts can eliminate large expensive repairs in the future.