What Do I Do When My Car Won't Start?

winter breakdown

We take for granted the simple act of our cars starting the first time, every time.  That can’t always happen though, for various reasons.  The old guideline that a car needs proper amounts of air, fuel and spark to run is being somewhat redefined by electrics and hybrids.  Still, there are some simple things to do when your car won’t start.

Take it easy.  If you haven’t spent time in a service garage, here’s a little secret: technicians don’t fix cars by hitting them, shaking the steering wheel or yelling at them.  There’s zero reason you should, either.  Yes, it is frustrating.  Yes, it only happens at the least convenient time possible.  Still, you’ll only waste time and possibly damage the car if you don’t keep a cool head.

Diagnose.  You can’t find a solution without finding the cause when your car won’t start.  If the engine turns slowly or you only hear clicks, it’s probably your battery.  If you seem to have adequate battery power but the engine won’t turn at all, it could be a mechanical issue like a neutral safety switch.  If the engine turns fine but simply won’t fire, it’s probably a fuel issue.  And while this is in no way all-inclusive, it should give you a few ideas.

Correct if possible.  A jump start, especially in the dead of winter, can remedy a car that won’t run.  A mechanical issue like a neutral safety switch may not be something easily corrected on the spot.  If you’re lucky, you can wiggle the gearshift a little on an automatic or make sure the clutch is fully to the floor on a manual-equipped car and get the faulty switch to cooperate, though it will need to addressed quickly.

Call for help.  If you’ve tried everything within your ken, the next thing to do when your car won’t start is call for help.  It’s never a proud moment, but it will probably save you further wasted time and frustration in the long run.  The sooner you can have it checked out, the sooner you’ll be back on the road.

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