It can be frustrating and stressful if you get in your car and it won’t start, particularly if you’re out and about. There are various reasons why your car might be struggling to start and it can be hard to determine which issue you’re dealing with.
Our advice will help you identify what’s causing your car to fail on you and if there’s anything you can do to get your vehicle going again.
Why won’t my car start? How do you diagnose a car that won’t start?
There are a number of different reasons your car won’t start, from being out of fuel, to more complex issues such as electrical problems. But some causes are more common than others and some are easier to identify.
Engine turns over, but doesn’t start
Low fuel level
We don’t want to sound obvious, but if your car doesn’t start it could just be out of fuel. If a fuel tank is nearly empty, even though the engine may have been running fine before you stopped, it could later refuse to start, particularly if you’ve parked on a hill (the slope could cause the fuel to run away from the pick-up pipe inside the tank).
What to do – If your fuel gauge is showing as nearly empty, add some fuel to the tank, but be aware that you may need to try starting your car for some time before the fuel reaches the engine.
If you think your fuel gauge could be broken, you might need to book your car into a local garage for a vehicle diagnostic – otherwise you could end up being surprised by an empty fuel tank more often than you’d like!
An engine immobiliser is an anti-theft system built into your car’s computer. It stops the engine from starting without using the vehicle’s authorised key. Sometimes, it’s your car’s own security system that stops the engine from starting – if the immobiliser fails to recognise your key, then your engine won’t start at all. On some cars fitted with an immobiliser, the car will appear completely ‘dead’, on others the engine will turn over but not start.
What to do – Try locking and unlocking the car with your key fob, or manually with the key itself, before trying to start the engine again.
If this doesn’t work, we’re here to help you get to the root of the problem. Starting problems can be annoying and stressful, so at Fixter we want to make it as hassle-free as possible for you to get your car fixed. Our experienced mechanics can help diagnose your vehicle’s issues with a car diagnostic. With our seamless, end-to-end service your car will be collected and delivered by our fully-insured drivers and you’ll be kept up-to-date from start to finish.
If you have a petrol engine, your car may be struggling to start if there’s too much fuel in the engine, also known as a flooded engine. This can sometimes happen if you’ve started the car from cold and then stopped it again almost immediately, however sometimes it can happen for no apparent reason at all! The engine may sound slightly different when you turn the key, perhaps turning over faster than usual.
What to do – Most cars have a built-in cure for this – press the accelerator pedal fully to the floor and hold it there. Then turn the key in the ignition for 20 seconds or so. If your car starts, don’t stop again before you’ve driven the car 2-3 miles to make sure that any access fuel is burnt off.
Faulty spark plugs
If your spark plugs are damaged or faulty, your car can fail to start. If this is the issue, when you turn your key your engine may turn over or make a clicking sound, but your car won’t start. If your spark plugs are bad, the fuel is not being lit when you turn the ignition therefore your engine won’t manage to start up.
What to do – If not all the spark plugs are faulty (each cylinder in the engine has its own spark plug), sometimes you may be able to get the car to start by turning the ignition on and off a few times, for 4-5 seconds, before trying to start. If your car still won’t start, you may need to book your car in for a spark plug replacement.
If your spark plugs are old or damaged, replacing them may solve your starting problems. You should get