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5 Quick Diagnostic Tests to Determine Why Your Car Won’t Start

Picture this: it’s a quarter to Eight and you’re running late. Maybe not to work, but still to an appointment or other matter. A missed alarm, a longer shower, a lost wallet have all added up to a rush to get inside the car. You fumble with the keys and drop them. The brisk Vancouver breeze from the Columbia river is not helping. Your breath hangs in the air as you pick them back up. Finally the door unlocks, you enter, set everything down, insert the key into the ignition switch and… nothing.

Why Won’t My Vehicle Start?

We’ve all been there, letting out a groan that ruptures the still of morning because our vehicle will not start. Whether by neglect or something we always forget, we must enter troubleshooting mode to determine exactly what has stopped our vehicle from starting. It is a moment that every owner dreads, but the sense of relief when you have finally discovered the issue is priceless.

Ron’s Auto and RV has five quick diagnostic tests to determine why your car won’t start. Make sure to have your vehicle owner’s manual handy to check where any of the parts mentioned may be in your car. If you don’t have access to a manual, online resources or car experts can help you locate these parts.

Test #1: Check the Battery

Luckily, the most common reason an automobile won’t start is also the easiest one to solve: a dead battery (or weak battery for that matter). Batteries can die from leaving certain systems on for an extended period of time, such as headlights, radio or heating and air conditioning. If you have a car alarm system, ensure that it is armed or turned off. Your automobile is essentially an energy-sucking machine that needs to be fed and can quickly drain the battery’s power when left unchecked leading to electrical issues.

Eventually any battery becomes a bad battery. Check that your battery cables are clean and tight to ensure a good connection from the battery to the vehicle. Make sure you have a battery charger for these situations so you can plug it in and start without having to rely on the kindness of strangers. With a battery charger on hand, the power is back in your hands.

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Test #2: Check the Alternator and Starter

If the vehicle still won’t start, the alternator might not provide enough power to start the car. The alternator converts fuel into electricity to help the battery supply power to the aforementioned systems. An alternator is also responsible for charging your battery during ignition. You should hear the starter crank every time you turn the key and then the alternator will begin charging as soon as the motor roar to life. As a matter of maintenance, do not crank the ignition more than once per key turn.

Instead, it’s time to pop open the hood. Check your battery’s connection to the alternator, as well as the tension in the serpentine belt, to make sure that they are in good condition. Make sure also that the battery terminals are clean and free from corrosion. If you have a bad alternator or your alternator looks to be the problem, you will need to take it to your nearest ASE certified auto repair shop so they can perform repair service.

Test #3: Check the Car Spark Plugs

Spark plugs might be the issue when the car won’t crank over to start. There are several common symptoms to look for such as: sputtering or misfiring, irregular idling, rough idle, poor acceleration or hesitation. The ignition system is the heart of your car and it relies on spark plugs to ignite the fuel. A loose connection can lead to engine failure.

These concerns can usually be solved by changing the plugs, or readjusting them. You should find the spark plugs located on the engine’s cylinder heads, otherwise, refer to your owner’s manual to find them. If the plugs are damaged, don’t worry, they are easy to replace and can be bought at any local auto parts store.

Test #4: Check the Fuel Injection System

The fuel injection system works to deliver fuel to the engine, injecting fuel as a mist into the intake manifold inside your engine to start the internal combustion process. If the automobile won’t start, fuel injection issues can be diagnosed by checking fuel pressure or if the fuel filter is clogged.

A clogged filter means the gas tank cannot deliver fuel to the engine. To check the fuel filter you will need to consult your manual for the location of both the filter and fuel pump fuse. You will need to disconnect the fuse while the engine is off. Bare in the mind that a bad fuel pump or blown fuse can also stop the car from running properly. Once done, turn the engine on and wait for the fuel line pressure to go down–it should happen quickly. Now you can disconnect the filter from the fuel line and replace it. Fuel filters, like spark plugs, can be bought from your local auto parts store and come with instructions for correct installation.

Test #5: Check the Fuel Tank Levels

auto repair shop vancouver waIt may seem silly but it happens! You car won’t start if it isn’t getting any gas. Make sure that the fuel tank is at least a quarter full. If it is, check that the fuel pump is on and the fuel lines are clear of any debris, and if you can, check to see if the fuel pump fuse is connected. If you need fuel delivered, most roadside assistance and tow truck services can deliver the type and quantity of fuel you need for a cost.

I Checked All of These Potential Issues and My Car Still Won’t Start!

If the automobile simply won’t start, it’s time to tow your vehicle to the licensed technicians at an automotive repair shop because something more serious is afoot. While simple automotive diagnostics are easy for the owner, it’s time to find an ASE certified technicians if they reveal a more complex problem that goes beyond just simple maintenance. Mechanics most likely can repair the problem with more specific tools while also handling larger issues like engine failure or transmission malfunction. You will most likely see a dashboard indicator like a check engine light illuminated.

Need Auto Repair In Vancouver? Ron’s Auto & RV is Here to Help

So you’re stuck in the Vancouver area with wheels that just won’t turn. You’ve already checked the easy-to-replace parts and they all seem to be in good condition, but your car still sits idle. That could mean that there is a problem with one of the more complicated or expensive parts. Give Ron’s Auto & RV a call for a full service inspection so our team can diagnose what might be going on under the hood. We handles auto repair services in Vancouver for all makes and models of cars, semi-trucks and RVs. Trust in our quality service to get you back in motion today!


Posted on by Ron's Auto & RV
5 Quick Diagnostic Tests to Determine Why Your Car Won’t Start

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