Emergencies and Breakdowns

Car won't Start

With today's computer controlled cars, the possibility of a vehicle not starting when you turn the key is less likely then ever before. But it does happen, and when it does, it would help if you knew some basic tests and procedures that could allow you to determine the cause and often fix the problem yourself instead of relying on your local repair shop to bail you out.

If your car won't start try following the steps below

- Can you turn the key in the ignition? (Yes No)
- Does the "Security" or Key-shaped light flashes on the dashboard when you turn the ignition ON? (Yes No)
- When you switch the ignition ON before starting the car, does the "Check engine" light come on? (Yes No )

What better describes your situation when you turn the ignition key to "Start" position:
- Nothing happens, the starter won't crank.
- There is a click but the starter won't crank.
- The starter cranks very slowly.
- The starter cranks normally, but the engine doesn't start.

The key won't turn in the ignition

If the key won't turn in the ignition, it could be for a couple of reasons:

Often this happens when the steering is locked by the ignition lock with the front wheels turned aside (e.g when parking on a hill) or when one of the front wheels is pushed against something (e.g curb stone). In this case, try turning the steering wheel left and right while gently jiggling the ignition key - this might help.

Another possibility is that there is a problem with the ignition lock or the key itself. This happens, the key and the lock mechanism wear over time. Try to use a spare key. If nothing works, your local dealer is the best place to call.

"Security" or Key-shaped light flashes on the dashboard.

Many cars these days are equipped with an immobilizer. (you can find more information about the immobilizer in your owner's manual). The immobilizer allows the engine to run only if the correct key is used. If your car has an immobilizer, you probable see a "Security" or Key-shaped light coming on on the dashboard every time you turn the ignition ON. If this light is flashing when you turn the ignition ON, it could mean that there is some problem with an immobilizer or the system does not recognize the key

If the immobilizer doesn't recognize the key, the engine wold not start at all, or would start and then die in few seconds. You can try a spare key, if it won't work, your dealer is the place to call. Sometimes, the key is just need to be reprogrammed. On some cars you can find the information how to reprogram the key in the owner's manual.

The "check engine" light does not come on

When you turn the ignition ON before starting the car, the "Check engine" light is supposed to come on indicating that the engine computer (also could be called ECM, PCM, or ECU) is powered on. If the "Check engine" light does not come with the ignition ON, it's possible that there is no power coming to the engine computer (e.g, due to a broken wire, faulty relay, burnt fuse, etc.) or that there is a problem with the engine computer itself.

The starter won't crank

If nothing happens when you turn the ignition key to "Start" position, means that the starter motor doesn't turn over the engine. Most commonly this could be caused by a dead battery; here is How to check the battery.

However, if the battery is OK, but the starter still won't crank, there could be a number of possible reasons. Here are some of them:
- The ignition switch could be at fault - it's a common problem.
- The starter motor itself is common to fail.
- Starter motor control wire could have bad connection.
- Cars with an automatic transmission have a Neutral Safety Switch that allows the starter to be operated only when the transmission is in "Park" or "Neutral" position. When this switch isn't functioning properly, or for example, when the shifter is not fully engaged in "Park" or "Neutral" position, the starter also won't crank.
- Similarly, cars with manual transmission have a switch installed at the clutch pedal that only allow the car to be started when the clutch pedal is depressed. The problem with this clutch pedal switch could also prevent the starter from operating
- A problem with vehicle's security system or some other electronic control module (e.g, PCM, BCM) may also prevent the starter from operating.

I can hear a click, but the starter won't crank

- If you can hear a click (quite loud) from the engine compartment, but the starter won't crank, this also could be caused by discharged battery; here is How to check the battery.

If the battery is OK, the starter solenoid, starter cables or the starter motor itself could be a problem.

The starter cranks very slowly, the engine won't start

- This also might be caused by weak or discharged battery; here is How to check the battery

If the battery is OK, starter cables could have bad connection or the starter motor itself could have a problem. Another reason, the engine could have an internal problem (e.g, lack of oil, very old engine oil, etc.)

The starter cranks normally, but the engine won't start

- At least you know that the starter is working.

If the starter cranks but the engine won't start, there could be wide range of problems. Here are some of the most common:
- Problems with fuel delivery system (e.g bad fuel pump, fuel pump relay, clogged fuel screen, etc.). For more information on fuel problems have a look below
- Problem with engine electronics (e.g crank sensor, cam sensor, air flow sensor, power relay, engine computer, etc.)
- Ignition system problems, especially on older vehicles with the distributor (e.g bad ignition coil, commutator, rotor, distributor cap, etc.)
- Defective ignition switch
- Problems with vehicle security system
- Internal engine problems (e.g broken timing belt or gear, low compression, etc.)

Fuel Problems

Note: Check your most recent fuel receipt in case the wrong fuel has been added. If you have put the wrong fuel into your car, don't turn on the ignition or start the engine – get professional advice immediately.

If the engine fires for a second or so, but then dies. After a couple of attempts at starting, then engine won't fire at all, then the most probable fault is:

No fuel getting to the engine.

Simple symptoms to look for:

1. No smell of petrol from the engine.

Possible cause:

Safety switch tripped, low fuel level, incorrect fuel type

Self help tips:

Many modern cars have a safety switch (sometimes called an 'inertia switch'), which turns the fuel pump off if the car is involved in an accident. Check the manufacturer's handbook for the location and how to reset it or seek professional advice.

Fuel injection systems often need a minimum amount of fuel in the tank to start the engine, so if the fuel level is low, there may not be enough to start the car, even though it drove to the location. Try adding at least 5 litres of the right fuel. Warning: Fuel must be purchased in a properly designed, labelled and sealed container.

Always refill the fuel tank with the correct fuel for the vehicle before it gets very low.