Auto Repair Help
Auto Repair Help – Quick Fix Tutorial Series

Auto Expert John MoskoCar Will Not Start — Normal Sounds
by John Mosko

General Description of Problem:
You turn the ignition key to the start position and the vehicle cranks and turns over but the car does not actually start.

Probable Explanation:
This situation has a wealth of possible explanations including a number that are not possible to simply diagnose. That said, we can take a look at some of the common causes like poor fuel or spark and rule those out initially before consulting a mechanic for further diagnosis.

1. Confirm that you have gas in the vehicle. Generally speaking, a car that turns over and will not start is missing “Fuel or Fire” and if you have no gas, that is the simplest reason it might not start.

2. If their is gas in the car, and you have a carbuerated engine, determine if you have “Flooded” the vehicle or thrown the Fuel/Air mixture off. If you “pump” a gas pedal too many times and put too much gasoline into an engine the balance of fuel to air may be off and not allow the gasoline to ignite. In a carbuerated engine, you can clear a flood by depressing the gas and holding it. This will open the choke and as you crank the engine allow the vehicle to clear the “flood” of gas from your engine. If your car is fuel injected, the flood clearing process is likely automatic and this wouldn’t be a typical concern.

3. If you have determined you have gas, and you haven’t flooded the engine, now it is time to take a look at our plugs and wires. Old or worn plug wires can cause a vehicle not to start and a quick inspection of the wires and distributor cap will provide some clues. If you notice any moisture or carbon around the wires or cap, this could be your culprit, if things look good we are getting into trickier territory.

4. If you have checked for fuel and the plug wires look up to spec, you may choose to test the individual wires for spark, or decide it is time for a trip to the mechanic. To test for spark, you’ll need a helper and can disconnect the wires one at a time from the plug and place them close to a metal surface on the engine. Once you have set the wire down, and can observe the location, ask your helper to crank the engine briefly. If you notice a spark, or hear a crackling sound, you have “Fire.” 9Make sure you are not holding the wire when your partner cranks the engine or you could receive a shock.)

5. If after testing for fuel and fire you still haven’t found the root of the problem you likely need to see a mechanic. The cause could be anything from bad compression, to a bad timing belt, or even a bad engine.

As always, anytime you start a vehicle from a “dead” or discharged battery, allow the vehicle to run a minimum of 20 minutes before turning it off so it can “recharge” the battery and eliminate the need for a boost the next time you start the car.

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