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I sometimes think cars can tell if you love them or not, at least for me, I have noticed that the more you hate your car the more it will breakdown on you. Nevertheless, there is always one problem that most of us have or will face when it comes to running a car. The Car won’t start. If your car has been running fine, then suddenly it refuses to turn on, there are some basic starter advice that might just save you a few hours. Car Advice’s Advice of the week: My Car Won’t Start

Before we get into the most common problems as to why your car isn’t starting, lets have a look at what your car actually needs in order to start:

  1. A battery with enough power to turn the engine over fast enough to start. Even if your lights turn on and your radio turns on, it doesn’t mean your battery is charged.
  2. A good starter strong enough to turn the engine over fast enough to start. If when you turn the ignition it just clicks, your starter could be dead.
  3. A engine in good mechanical shape with the correct valve timing and compression. In other words, an engine that works
  4. Proper fuel air mixture delivered to engine by the carburettor or fuel injection system. As long as you don’t have a leak somewhere or some serious engine problems this one is easy.
  5. Proper spark of high enough voltage across good spark plugs. This spark must happen at the correct time. If you haven’t replaced your spark plugs in the last 5 years, thats a bad thing.

The most common problems :

Faulty Battery

Problem: Starter turns engine slowly: dim lights , radio probably still works

Diagnosis: Dying battery. Hardly anyone takes notice of their battery, myself included. Hence it always catches you at the worse time.

Solution: You can try to push start a manual car (won’t work for an auto obviously). You can try to recharge the battery, this works if all the battery water hasn’t evaporated or if the battery hasn’t died completely. You can check the battery cables and make sure that they are not loose, alternatively, the cable heads can be sanded down to get rid of all the dirt and grease that is stopping proper conduction.

You can get RACQ (or your equivalent Road Side Service) to come out and give you a quick charge, which might fix the battery once it has been filled with distilled water, or at least get it started so you can get home or to the mechanic to fix it later.

Dead Battery

Problem: Starter doesn’t operate; no sound from engine, lights and radio don’t work at all.

Diagnosis: Your battery is dead

Solution: Yep, you know what todo. RACQ will be able to swap the battery for you and this is the quickest solution. If you don’t want to pay the extra $30-40 or so for a battery from RACQ and can wait. Then you can swap the battery yourself. This is a relatively easy job, just make sure you don’t let the wires touch, you don’t want to cause more problems.

Stater Motor Problems

Problem: Clicking noise when ignition key is turned to start position. Starter does not operate but lights and radio still works.

Diagnosis: Starter motor problem

Solution: This is not the best of problems when you need to be at work in 30 mins. Usually you have to get the starter motor replaced, although sometimes (rarely) there can be a stuck gear in the starter. So you can try (in a manual car) to rock the car a little in top gear with the handbrake off. Alternatively if you can locate the starter motor, you can try tapping it with a spanner, a bit draconian I know, but it might also help. Most likely though, you will need to call a mechanic.

Faulty Ignition Switch

Problem: No sound from the engine, while the radio and lights still work.

Diagnosis: Faulty Ignition switch, wiring, solenoid or starter motor.

Solution: Unless you want to find the solenoid and make sure its got no loose connections, your best of calling a mechanic or getting the car towed.

Starter Motor Turns Engine but Engine doesn’t start

Problem: You can hear the starter motor turning the engine but the bloody engine wont actually start!

Diagnosis: Most often, you are out of fuel! Yep, that sucks doesn’t it? But hey at least its a cheap fix, sortof. Maybe your not out of fuel? Maybe your fuel hose is broken. However somtimes, in older cars you can have Moisture or disconnected/loose wires in the ignition system.

Solution: Open the fuel tank and shake the car, if you can’t hear any fuel at all, and if the fuel gauge says your empty. Then yes, you need fuel. However if you are sure you got fuel in the car, you can try disconnecting the spark plug leads wipe them dry cloth or paper towel. clean the top of each spark plug before putting it back in place. Nevertheless, unless your desperate and don’t value your clothes, I would recommend calling RACQ.

Engine Flooded with Fuel

Problem: You can hear the starter motor turning the engine but nothing happens and after a while, you can smell the petrol in the air

Diagnosis: The engine is flooded with Fuel, mostly happens to old cars without Electronic Fuel Injection.

Solution: You can wait and let the petrol evaporate (watch your money evaporate) and try again, but most likely, you will need to call a mechanic.

Engine won’t start when its wet or damp

Problem: Car won’t start in damp or rainy conditions, or you drove through a puddle and the engine died on you

Diagnosis: Could be a faulty distributor cap or bad spark plug wires. Could also be that the inside of the distributor cap is wet you can open it up and dry it.

Solution: If the cap or the wires are faulty you will need to replace them.

Engine won’t start when its really cold

Problem: Engine won’t start when its really cold. Though it probably never gets THAT cold here in Australia, this might still happen

Diagnosis: Possible fuel injection problem: Electornic Fuel Injection (EFI) system needs to be looked at by a mechanic. Could also be a problem with the cold start injector or Coolant Temp Sensor.

Solution: Need to call a mechanic for this.

Engine won’t start when its hot

Problem: Engine won’t start when its hot.

Diagnosis: Possible fuel injection problem: Electornic Fuel Injection (EFI) system needs to be looked at by a mechanic. Could also be a problem with the cold start injector or Coolant Temp Sensor. Could also be a vapour lock or a problem with the injection module or EFI overheating

Solution: Need to call a mechanic for this, who will need to replace the parts. Alternatively you can open the hood and let the car cool down for a while then try again.

Engine turns over slowly when its hot/warm

Problem: Engine starting very slowly when its hot or warm

Diagnosis: Problem can be that you have fuel in your oil or your oil is too thin. Can be a battery problem (weak / dead / loose cables) or starter motor

Solution: If it is the oil, you will need a new oil filter and new oil! If its a battery you will need to have that fixed, or jump start the car and if its a starter motor, you will need a new one.

Well that’s it for now, if you notice any faults or have any more to add please do so by leaving a comment.


  • quincy

    i love this could u like send me more info on 4e, 4a engines …….i would love that….

  • Tom Alexander

    battery fine 13v, lights work fine etc, turn ignition key to start, one load click, all electrics dead, battery now 0 volts on multimeter. whats the problem?
    (toyota camry)

    • Seb

      Loose earth wire or power wire to starter

      • towie

        On the one hand, a pertinent data-base can be a wonderful thing.
        On the other hand, this post is almost two and a half years old, and my guess is that Tom Alexander may well be on his way already.

        But now we are here,
        I think it was a V40 Volvo?
        Electrics kind of on but wouldn’t start.
        Reason – decorative plastic handle bit had broken off key.
        Decorative plastic handle bit with proximity jigger that had to be sticky taped onto steering column so the car would start/go.

    • Ryan Lockhart

      Did this solution work Tom? I have the EXACT same problem on my 1999 toyota corolla. I have replaced the starter, ends of cables look fine, can’t find any lose ground connections… PLease help!

  • Bennopia

    The last one I had when I had a few problems with my electrics:
    * Wiring wasn’t attached properly – tightening a couple of screws after sanding away a bit of tarnish fixed this one.
    * Regulator needed replacement.

  • Kristen

    I was driving my car yesterday and i stopped for 20min left my stereo running. then i went to start my car and you could hear it wanting to turn over but wouldnt start first thought it was the battery because it was raining. turned out it wasnt that. had lube mobile come out but they couldnt find a problem with it they think it might be the immobiliser but it’s not that either. does anyone have any tips for me on this. my car is a 1997 lancer.

    • Jono

      I’ve got a 2001 Mitsubishi Lancer and the battery was at 12.67v when I tried to start it. All the electronics work but when I tried to start it you could hear it trying to start but the noise slowed down and sounder like it was dieing. A couple of days before, I unplugged on of the clips on the ECU and reattached it. The engine would not start so I disconnected the positive on the battery (+) and waited 20 seconds. I reconnected it and the engine started. That was the immobiliser preventing you from hotwireing the engine. But for some reason I can’t get it to start now.

  • Paul

    ^

    Well its hard to say really… could be the distributor? (Im assuming the Lancer isnt distributorless). Maybe water got into it because of the rain, as a result no spark for the engine to get going. First thoughts though would have been battery related given you kept your stereo on for 20mins which is a while for the battery to solely be operating it, but Im sure the Lube guy knew what he was doing!

    But yeah best see a mechanic I think or get a Lube Mobile guy to check spark, fuel and compression and determine your prob from their. Its hard to disagnose over the net because the problems vary alot, one time I had issues where in the cold with a battery that wasnt quite in its prime it wouldnt start (as in the cold there is less conductivity, in the heat it was fine MOST of the time)! Turned out it was the terminals, which once I fiddled with the car would eventually start… corrosion has taken its toll.

    On the article, another issue I had with a no start condition was the intake!!! In my particular car, there is a rubber pipe as there is in many cars from the air filter to the throttle body… a hole about an inch in radias was found after alot of worrying on the underside of the tube (my car died while going home of all things as the senors picked up not enough air was coming in!) Of all things it was the last I would have expected… luckily the bit of rubber that came loose didnt go into the engine as well! But yeah its how tricky some of these no start things can be.

  • amanda peters

    yesturday my hyundai coupe 96 model wouldnt start at all theres nothing when i turn it over we rolled it down the hill and it started but nothing today at all just wanting to know what might be wrong with it

  • Bill

    my honda accord 1993 doesn’t start. It seems no gas is getting to the engine i just put in a new fuel pump and that wasn’t the answer

  • Teri

    My 2000 Focus wouldn’t start. Clicks when I try to turn the key. Lights, radio, come on. Battery is ok. Today I try to start it again and it started right up on the first try. Afraid to go anywhere in it. Help!

  • Jason

    amanda peters, dead battery. Bill, could be anything, if it’s injected (which I assume it is) could be the ECU or the injectors (mechanic job). Teri, faulty starter motor solenoid or bad battery terminal contacts.

    Hope this helps

  • kristy

    i have a vt ss series 2 2001. it is turning over and trying to start but just wont? I go bogged and it stalled while idling. Was pulled out and car still wont start?

  • sean

    i have a 97 hyundai 1.6l coupe. over past few months its been playing up. sometimes it just wont start at all, wont even turn over. i replaced the battery and the battery leads, but i still have the same problem, it just seems to work when it wants too. anyone have any ideas???????????

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Luke

    As I am a mechanic, I am not here to ask questions, but to provide help. If I am able to, then I need as much info as possible to assist you. I mean even a brief log on how many times it has occurred and when, night, day, morning, evening, cold, hot. Also, a brief vegicle history, is it regularly serviced, has it just had work done before problem occurred. etc etc
    Any info would be appreciated, so that I may help with any enquiry.
    There are always going to be model specific problems, but mostly always there are common issues that can be easily overlooked.

    • Jennifer

      Hi, I have a 2003 Chevy Cavelier. I drove it home last night and had no problems. Tonight I tried to leave and it kept stalling. After I had to restart it about 8 times to get it back in my driveway. I went inside for a minute to grab a flashlight and when I came out to try and start it again it won’t start at all. The lights and all that work fine. I live in eastern carlolina and it has been hot and humid. It did rain today so I didn’t know if maybe the moisture would have something to do with it. After looking online it seems like a fuel pump, just wondering if it might be something else.

    • James

      Hello, i have a x-trail 2.0 sport i have been having problems starting it mostly in the morn and it floodsso i have to remove the plugs dry them out and then it will start. The car has full service history its a 02 plate. I thought it was the HT things that go on the top of the plugs so i got new ones but it hasnt made any difference. could the problem be the automatic choke is sticking?

    • Iris

      Luke – Hi :)

      I have an auto 1979 Toyota Hiace camper that has been converted to run on gas.

      It’s my first vehicle, and I am learning to drive – I would like to learn the best way to start it and keep her in good spirits :)
      She doesn’t start, sometimes, lights and radio on, but no turnover, and I worry that I have flooded the engine, trying.

      Startup in park, start in petrol, always? > neutral > gas
      Does it differ if the van is cold and resting, or warm and cruising here and there on missions with the occasional stop?

      Thank you!

  • GinKumo

    -05 subaru impreza gx wagon (ggd) (pig nose)
    -bought from auction (hail damaged) on the 14/10/10
    -Needed a jump start when first driven.
    -didn’t start at 5pm on the 31/10/10 near the harbour. It was 25 degrees Celsius.
    -same symptoms as the “starter motor problems” thing.
    -jump started car. Ran fine. Started again whenever I needed to since then.

    If this was the case then how come I was able to jump start it? Aren’t dead batteries

  • GinKumo

    Accidentally pressed publish… -_-”

    Aren’t dead batteries the only problem that need jump starting?

    If it’s really my starter, then how much am I looking at spending for a new one?

  • Tye

    Hey guys, here’s hoping you can help…
    I have a 97 lancer, started fine this morning to go to work, wouldn’t start this arvo, nothing except dash lights and then turning lights on would kill the battery again. Had the spark plugs replaced a month or so ago, brand new battery… Jump started it and the engine died again 5 km down the road cuz I had to slow down… Alternator?

    • chief

      check your distributor its most likely the symptoms of your car troubles.

  • Bill

    I have a 2009 SRT8 Dodge Challenger and when the outside temp get about 95 degrees or higer and the car has been shut up it won’t reconize my wireless fob. I have to pop out the starter button out of the dash and insert the fob into the dash then it will start. After I drive a few miles and the car cools down I pop the wireless button back in and it works fine. I have had it to the dealer several times trying to get it fixed. They have replaced the fob’s and the wireless button in the dash but the problem is still there. The dealer had another SRT8 come in with the same problem that they couldn’t fix.
    Dodge is working on the problem but no word on a fix yet. Does anybody have any input for this problem.

  • M.Rod

    I have a problem sometimes with my car.About a month ago or so,sometimes when i turn on the car it doesn’t start all the way , just the lights and radio.Then i have to either wait a bit for it to start normal again when i put the key in or I have to turn the key more back when i put it in,which I try not to do.I did have my car parked for a couple of years and just started driving it about six months ago,but I dont know if that has anything to do with it. Its a 2002 pontiac grand prix,and like i said before.It only happens sometimes,maybe once a week.

  • jan

    My falcon ute 06 model dedicated gas suddenly wont start, makes fast clicking buzzing noise then when ignition is turned off keeps clicking more slowly about the speed and sound of the hazard lights operating and nothing else works
    The diagnostic warning light comes up not to start the car
    Has oil and water and gas battery is 2 years old
    Any ideas?

  • Dennis

    I have a 95 chevy astro van that won’t start, had the battery
    checked. The battery is fully charged and is good, just recently
    Put on a new starter less than a year, just had a fuel pump
    Put in a month ago, it was starting up just fine. I notice
    one day when tried to start it it kind of dragged a little
    but did eventually started, was able to drive it a few days
    it started up fine, then one morning after sitting a couple
    Of days tried to start it, it did nothing no cranking sound
    Or anything, lights, radio, heater horn everything works.

    Took the battery to auto zone battery was good. Needed
    A little charge had it charged. No corrosion on the battery
    cables…. All I hear is a slight wining sound but it don’t
    seem to be coming from the starter, the slight wining
    sound seems to be coming from under the hood, but don’t know
    where, I can hear the fuel pump engaging. One other thing
    is when I replaced the starter did not replace the solenoid
    ….. Have no idea what it could be

  • Matthew

    Hello, the car in askin about is a 1999 fairlane wagon

    One Time I ran it outta petrol completely so I swapped to LPG and now my car doesn’t run on petrol anymore, it will run but it won’t idle, only if I keep the revs up, as soon as I drop the revs, it just conks out

    Can u tell me what’s wrong n how to fix it please

  • Fmtiger10

    i drove my car threw a puddle last night and my car stalled when i try to start it i hear a clicking sound but it wont start. all of the interior stuff comes on though like lights, radio and heat.

    • Fmtiger10

      please help !!!!!!

      • Holliday_robert3g

        having the same issue did you find out what it was?  i need help please.

  • Steph

    Hi, I have a 99 holden vt… My dash lights in the car wont turn off, radio works and so does my lights BUT my car wont start… It doesnt even attempt to turn over… Even without the keys in the ignition the dash is all lite up as it would normally when the car is on… Please help!!! Thanks.
    Kind Regards
    Steph

  • Srayfie

    I have a Mercury Mystique and My car wouldn’t start after I didn’t start it for a week and it snowed. It also had about a half a tank of gas in it.However the car still turns on. Do I need a new battery? Or what is wrong with my car?

  • glenn

    Reco Holden 186 engine with a clutch.Engine recently fitted with Yella Terra head and 350 Holley. Compression probably high but starter spins the engine ok.
    I have a starter moter that drops out, as though the engine has fired. Ive disabled the engine from starting and still the starter drops out after perhaps one revolution of the engine.Ive had the starter out and is working fine. The teeth on the cog show no signs of wear nor are the teeth burred in any way. Anyone would call it a good starter. Took it to a auto elec for a second opionion. Its fine.We agreed it was a good idea to shave off three milimeters from the end of the starter to alow the cog to enter into the ring gear ferther.This done and refitted it still drops out before the engine has a chance to fire.Cover plate removed from clutch and inspected ring gear. A few fine burrs or rather a sharp edge on the ring gear was found. Dident think it would affect the starter but filed off the sharp edge and carefully inspected (and checked with a file) each tooth TWICE!Starter still throws out before the engine fires. Still drops out after about one revolution of the engine.

  • Prescient

    I recently had an oil test performed by roktex.
    The results came back with high copper indicative of a damaged thrust washer. What is a thrust washer?

  • Cathy

    HI, I have a 2006 santa fe. This problem isnt new  but we had it checked by a Hdearler and they said they couldnt find anything. The problem  is the car drives well and then i park lock it get back in and the lights go on and everything looks like it is starting up well then it just doesn’t kick over and makes that clicking sound and nothing and looks like it is draining the battery. The battery is only 6months old.  The car does start up again about an hour or so later. Left it over night and started up straight away. Is our car haunted?lol

    • Rockhard1

      IT SOUNDS LIKE THE STARTER MOTER IS “POLLING OUT” SHORTING OUT. DEPENDS  WHERE IT RESTS HENCE DOES IT SOMETIMES AND NOT OTHER.

  • Alietsohail

    My prado 1997 won’t start after disconnecting the battery and it make loud noise .what do I do?

  • Channy_11

    hey i have a holden astra 89 starts fine but when drive it for awhile and try start it back up it doesnt start got battery checked and alternator and there fine what else could it be. Lights and radio work but thats it. Jump start it and works

  • Sue

    2002 chevy cavalier, turned the ignition off while car was in drive, had to get a jump start, after that most times I went to start the car the ignition would click a few times before the car started, now the car won’t start at all, what is the problem, and how do I fix it. Is it the starter or the battery?

  • Adam

    I have a 96 lancer that has been running just fine but 2 days ago it just won’t start. The motor is turning over just fine but it won’t start. I have good spark and the fuel pump is fine. It does seem like there is no fuel, but there is plenty. Can anyone help plz. 

    • Pinchespecks

      Your battery

  • Martina Hunter

    hi ive a Nissan almera 01 car wont start turns over but when u take key out lights are stayin on dash and when u lock door with key it unlocks itself and u have to lock it manually do u no what this could be

  • Noima

    Hi I have a Holden commodore 2001 and I left the lights on and car got flat I jumpstarted it and it worked but battery was still bit flat it lasted two days then I Brock down again and it was wanting to start but didn’t I was out of gas I got gas then we got it going I drove it home turns it of tried starting again and nothing tried jump starting and nothing tried charging battery said it was charged but still nothing it’s making that clicking noise now the egnition lights are all going but clicking and not Turing over could it b the battery still and statermoter I don’t no could u give me some advice please I rang a michanics but its going to be expensive

  • Iris

    How about:
    Starting on petrol/gas van?!

    Always start in petrol, right?
    - what is the best advice for starting your petrol/gas van;
    Start in petrol
    cruise along,
    switch to neutral to clear the line, until it chugs –
    THEN switch to gas…

    In order for start-up to be always good, should I switch back to petrol before I park?

    - appreciate the advice!

  • Johnny Cannon

    new battery, fuses r fine, car wont crank! radio, lights, horn all work great, please help me!!!!

    johnny cannon

  • manny

    What’s the EFI

  • miss stressed

    I have a Mitsubishi Magna ls it will start one min and if you turn it off and try again it won’t start again, but it you turn the key just a bit and then put your lights on which they go dim and then bright again and then turn it off and then start the car it starts again would you have any advise on what this could mean. Thank you

  • Jerry

    My car does not have power at all I think there’s a problem with my throttle body now it won’t start at all what do I do?

  • vicki

    My mom’s 96 ranger won’t start engine won’t make a noise and radio don’t work has headlights and interior lights just no dash lights

  • kelly

    My car has recently had a new battery as the previous one was completely dead since the new battery change the engine turns over but won’t fire to start. It has 3 quarters of a tank of petrol in it, has been running perfect until battery change, aa have been out could not find fault checked fuses al fine said possibly a key fault only one key for the car

  • ryno

    My car runs fine when it’s running. After it sits over night it doesn’t start. It just clicks all lights and radio work. I then jump it and it runs fine. Then after sitting again. The same problem is back again. Thinking it’s a bad alternator.

  • m

    it is like -10 outside car wouldn’t start and battery went dead should I wait till morn to jump it or tonight?

  • Nic

    my car proton gti wont start, engine immobilizer

  • Alesia Vance

    Ok my 2001 Grand Caravan starts but it keeps trying to start even after its turned off. Had to remove the battery terminal. Has anyone else had this problem?

  • Narendra

    I have car Toyota hilux d4d 4×4. Yesterday I removed my car battery for emergency purpose. Today I connect battery to my car car won’t start. If we start the car. The key is on position engine is on engine is also on with 5 sec stop the engine motor kindly help how to solve the proplem? I concerned local mechanic he told system problem

  • docn4

    My 2007 Honda Accord will not hold a charge … change alternator new battery and disconectted corrsion unit sit over night will not start without jump

  • Swirley

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU…you know what you’re doing…I have had car into two different mechanics in two weeks and I still have problems…I have more ideas from your ‘car doesn’t start/engine doesn’t start’ then they do! and I’ll probably need to push things based on your tips (they should look at the diagnostics!) but basically its a 2006 Toyota Corolla Ascent – its just running really fast, using TERRIBLE amounts of petrol and most recently sometimes doesn’t want to turn on or hesitates to, upon the turn of the key, every second time..I’m thinking fuel injection but I don’t know…could be alternator? it not wanting to turn on seems random now (not just after a break).

  • jann

    I have a Ford Fiesta 2009 1.6L and the main problem is it won’t start! When you turn the key in the ignition, it justs clicks repeatedly and the engine won’t turn over. This is a very recent thing (up until now this car has been perfect, no problems), it was jump started and ran ok for a couple of 30 mins uo the highway, the engine was turned off and then when we went to re-start it, it wouldn’t and just started this clicking noise.

    When you turn on the ignition all the lights on the panel flash really quickly – in time with the clicks, if that makes sense.

    any ideas??

    Thanks in advance

  • Keenan

    Hi, I have a 2002 polo classic 1.6. When I try to start it sounds like wants to start but something prevents it from starting. Also push starting it doesn’t help much. What could this be?

  • excellent.spirit

    hey need help guys, petrol was up and i added some,when did the fuel level level didn’t rise and engine isn’t starting.

  • Sheryl Jordan Batson

    2006 grand prix wont start, no crank when it is raining or moisture in the air. When it is dry or cool air then it is fine.” If you could help that would be great!!!

  • Tracey

    Hi can anyone help was driving my car it started making a funny noise for about 5 mins then it just stopped all lights on dash came on someone has told me that it sounds as if I have blown my engine could that be right
    Thanks

  • Sharlene Little

    Hello, we have a mitsubishi magna 1999 and my hubby just put a new motor in it, and gearbox, the motor turned when it wasn’t in the car, now he has finished and put it all back together it won’t turn, it’s like it’s jammed, it’s an auto, so he is thinking it’s the gearbox, he will have to pull it out and change it, is this right, l was hoping there was an easier solution, these front well drives would have to be the biggest nightmares to work on l have ever seen.