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Why is My Car Not Starting?

Updated: Jan 25, 2021


It's always good to check the battery when your vehicle won't start. Also check your battery cables to make sure a one of the terminals did not come loose. If the starter motor doesn't crank and your lights are dim or don't come on at all, the battery is dead or weak. A jump start will help temporarily but you will want to keep jumper cables handy if the battery is not replaced right away.


If the lights and horn work and the starter motor won't crank, the starter most likely needs replaced. Another indication of a bad starter is a clicking or grinding noise when trying to start the vehicle.


A worn-out alternator or a broken or loose accessory drive belt can also keep the battery from charging properly. The belt drives the alternator, which recharges the battery. If it’s loose or worn, the alternator may not be able to recharge the battery so it can start the engine next time around.

Empty Gas Tank

This is an obvious answer to why the vehicle may not be starting. Without fuel, meaning gas in your fuel tank your vehicle will crank and sputter but it will certainly not start. Always keep an eye on the fuel gauge to make sure the vehicle doesn't run out of gas. Sometime the tank is so low on gas that the fuel pickup can’t deliver gas to the engine. This can happen when your car is parked on a steep incline.

Transmission Not in Park

With your foot on the brake, move the shift lever to the neutral position and try starting the engine. If that doesn’t work, move it back to “Park” and try it again. Moving the shifter sometimes reestablishes electrical contact inside the transmission range selector (also known as the neutral safety switch). There could also be an issue with your shift cable or linkage.

Fuel Pump

If the lights and accessories work and the starter motor cranks, then the fuel pump may be the cause of the vehicle not starting. If the fuel pump is melted, corroded, or just weak it may have difficulty bringing the fuel to the vehicle’s engine in a timely manner. And as we have learned throughout this journey, where there is no fuel there is no starting car.

Fuel Filter

A bad fuel filter or clogged gas line is a less common cause for a no start. This usually means there is so much clutter and debris in the fuel filter that it won’t let enough fuel through to provide a full combustion.

Ignition Switch

The ignition switch isn’t the mechanical part that you put the car key into; it's the electrical switch that the mechanical part operates. In some situations, the ignition switch delivers power to the car's electrical components but not the engine starter.

Diagnosing and fixing a broken ignition switch is more complicated than checking for a blown fuse. A good rule of thumb, though, is that if the instrument panel and dashboard do not light up when the key ignition is moved to the second position (between off and on), then there may be a problem with the ignition switch.

If you have a manual transmission, a bad clutch pedal position sensor can prevent the engine from turning over while allowing the electronics to work fine. The purpose of the clutch position sensor is to allow the vehicle to start only when the clutch pedal is depressed, so if it fails the car won't go anywhere.

Timing Belt

If the starting, charging and fuel systems are working, the problem could be inside the engine. A broken timing belt, timing chain or timing gear means you can crank the engine until you drain the battery, and it still won’t start. Likewise, a bad crankshaft position sensor won’t send the right signals to the engine computer to allow the engine to start.


On newer vehicles with “smart” keys, the key fob transmits a signal that tells the engine that the driver is in the car and allows the engine to be started with a push button instead of a traditional key. If the battery inside the fob has died or the transmitter stops working, there’s no signal, and your car won’t start. There is often a warning light that reads “Key Not Detected. If the key fob battery is testing good, the key fob needs to be replaced. Call or stop by Cave Springs Conoco to have your key fob battery tested or your key fob replaced.

Having starting issues? Call Cave Springs Conoco to have your vehicle towed, diagnosed, and repaired. 636-447-9410

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