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HomeDriver's Resources10 Reasons & Tricks to Try When Your Car Won’t Start

While there are many reasons why a car may not start, the harsh winter weather in Canada can certainly exacerbate some issues. Here are 10 reasons specific to the Canadian climate that could prevent your car from starting:

  1. Frozen Fuel Line: Extremely cold weather can freeze the moisture in your car’s fuel line, blocking the flow of fuel to the engine.
  2. Dead Battery: Cold weather is tough on car batteries. In sub-zero temperatures, a car’s battery loses a significant portion of its electrical capacity, which can result in a dead battery.
  3. Thickened Oil: As the temperature drops, motor oil can thicken and lose its viscosity. This can prevent the engine from turning over smoothly, making it harder for the car to start.
  4. Spark Plug Issues: Cold weather can make spark plugs more prone to failure. A bad spark plug makes it hard for the car to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the engine.
  5. Alternator Problems: The alternator recharges the battery and powers the electrical system while your car is running. Cold weather can lead to alternator issues, causing the battery to drain faster.
  6. Blocked Exhaust Pipe: Snow and ice can block the exhaust pipe, which can cause problems when trying to start the car. It’s important to check and clear the exhaust pipe before starting the vehicle.
  7. Frozen Coolant: If the coolant freezes, it can lead to overheating and engine damage. This is typically the result of not having the correct ratio of antifreeze to water in your car’s radiator.
  8. Worn Out Ignition Switch: The ignition switch starts the engine when you turn the key or push the start button. Over time, the switch can wear out, and cold weather can exacerbate this issue.
  9. Broken Starter Motor: In colder climates, the starter motor has to work harder, which can lead to premature wear and tear. If the starter motor fails, the car won’t start.
  10. Poor Electrical Connections: Cold and moisture can lead to corrosion and poor electrical connections in various parts of the car, including battery terminals and cables. This can lead to issues with starting the car.

It’s worth noting that regular maintenance and using products designed for colder climates can help mitigate these problems. For example, using a block heater can help keep the engine warm, and switching to a winter-grade oil can prevent it from thickening. Using an appropriate antifreeze mix in the radiator can prevent the coolant from freezing.

10 Tricks to Try When Your Car Won’t Start

If your car won’t start, there are a few tricks you can try before calling for professional help. However, it’s important to remember that these are not guaranteed solutions, and certain situations may require a mechanic’s expertise.

  1. Check the Battery Connections: Loose or corroded connections can prevent your car from starting. Clean the battery terminals and make sure the cables are tightly attached.
  2. Jump-Start the Car: If your battery is dead, jump-starting the car can provide enough power to get it started. Always follow safety guidelines when jump-starting a car to prevent electrical damage or personal injury.
  3. Test the Ignition Switch: If your car isn’t starting, the issue could be the ignition switch. Turn the key to the ‘on’ position and see if the red warning lights on your dashboard come on. If they light up, the ignition switch is working; if not, the switch is likely faulty.
  4. Push-Start the Car: If you have a manual transmission car, you can try push-starting it. Have someone push the car while it’s in second gear, and once it gets moving, quickly release the clutch. This can jolt the engine into starting.
  5. Swap Out the Spark Plugs: If your car’s spark plugs are worn out or fouled, they may not ignite the fuel-air mixture in the cylinders. Replacing the spark plugs could solve the problem.
  6. Check the Fuel Pump: If your car isn’t getting fuel, it won’t start. Listen for a humming noise coming from the fuel tank when you turn the ignition to the ‘on’ position. If you don’t hear anything, the fuel pump may be to blame.
  7. Thaw Frozen Parts: If you’re in a cold climate and suspect that frozen fuel lines or a frozen battery are the issue, you can try to gently warm them. Use a hairdryer (if you have a long enough extension cord), or simply move the vehicle to a warmer location, if possible.
  8. Shift into Neutral: Sometimes, a faulty neutral safety switch can prevent your car from starting. Try shifting into neutral and then starting the car.
  9. Check the Starter: If you hear a clicking noise when you turn the key, the starter motor might be broken. Tapping it gently with a tool can sometimes free it up, but it will likely need to be replaced.
  10. Bypass the Clutch: Some cars have a clutch switch that prevents the car from starting without the clutch engaged. If this switch is faulty, you can try bypassing it by connecting the two terminals together.

Remember that these are only potential solutions and may not work in all cases. If you’re uncomfortable performing any of these steps or if they don’t solve the problem, it’s best to get professional help.

What does it mean when the brake pedal is hard and car wont start?

If your brake pedal feels hard and the car won’t start, it could indicate a problem with your car’s brake booster. The brake booster is a device that uses vacuum pressure to take the hard work out of applying enough force to the master cylinder for it to effectively stop the car. If the brake booster fails, you might notice the brake pedal is very hard to press.

However, the brake booster being faulty wouldn’t typically prevent your car from starting. If your car isn’t starting, it’s likely due to another issue such as a dead battery, a faulty ignition switch, a failed starter motor, or other electrical or fuel system problems.

If both problems occur together, it might be coincidental, or there could be a broader issue, like a major vacuum leak, which could potentially affect both the brake booster operation (which relies on engine vacuum) and engine performance.

It’s crucial to have your vehicle inspected by a professional when you encounter such issues. A hard brake pedal makes it more difficult to stop the vehicle, which can be dangerous, and if your car isn’t starting, the problem could potentially cause further damage if not resolved.

Why is my car making a clicking sound and not starting?

If your car is making a clicking sound when you try to start it but the engine doesn’t turn over, it’s typically a sign of a problem with the starting system. Here are the most common reasons:

  1. Dead or Dying Battery: This is the most common cause of your car not starting and making a clicking sound. The battery doesn’t have enough charge to turn the starter motor. The clicking noise you hear is the starter solenoid trying to engage, but it can’t because the battery charge is too low.
  2. Bad Starter Motor: If your battery is good but you still hear a clicking sound, it could be a problem with your starter motor or the solenoid. The solenoid is a switch that controls a high-power current to the starter motor, and it can produce a clicking sound when it’s malfunctioning.
  3. Poor Electrical Connections: If the electrical connections, particularly those to the starter motor or the battery, are corroded or loose, they might not carry enough current. This can result in the clicking noise you’re hearing when you try to start the car.
  4. Faulty Alternator: If the alternator isn’t working correctly, it won’t be able to charge the battery adequately. This can result in a weak battery and the subsequent clicking sound.
  5. Ignition Switch Issue: Less commonly, a problem with the ignition switch can also cause a clicking sound.

In any case, it’s best to have a mechanic diagnose and fix the problem to avoid causing any further damage to the vehicle.

Why is my battery at 100% but my car won’t start?

If your car battery is showing a full charge (about 12.6 volts or more) but the car still won’t start, the problem is likely elsewhere. Here are some potential issues:

  1. Faulty Starter Motor: The starter motor is responsible for cranking the engine. If it’s faulty, the engine won’t turn over even if your battery is fully charged.
  2. Bad Ignition Switch: If the ignition switch isn’t working properly, it may not send the signal to the starter to crank the engine, even if your battery is fully charged.
  3. Fuel Delivery Issue: Problems with the fuel system, such as a clogged fuel filter or a faulty fuel pump, could prevent your car from starting.
  4. Faulty Spark Plugs or Ignition Coils: If your spark plugs or ignition coils are bad, they may not ignite the air-fuel mixture in the engine’s cylinders, preventing the car from starting.
  5. Engine Timing Issues: If the engine’s timing is off, it might not start even though the battery is fully charged.
  6. Security System Issues: Sometimes, a problem with your car’s anti-theft system can prevent the car from starting. This could be due to a malfunctioning immobilizer or a problem with the key fob.
  7. Transmission Range Sensor: If you have an automatic car and the sensor does not detect the car is in ‘park’ or ‘neutral’, it will prevent the car from starting.

Just because a battery shows a full charge doesn’t necessarily mean it’s capable of delivering enough current to start the engine. It could have a bad cell or other internal problems that limit its power output. If your car isn’t starting and you’ve ruled out the battery, it’s likely time to seek help from a professional mechanic.

What does it mean when your car won t start but the lights come on?

If your car won’t start but the lights come on, it can indicate several possible issues. This suggests that your battery is providing some power, but possibly not enough to crank the engine, or the problem lies elsewhere. Here are a few possible causes:

  1. Weak Battery: Your battery might have enough power to light up the dashboard and headlights, but not enough to turn the starter motor. The starter requires a lot more power than the lights.
  2. Faulty Starter Motor: The starter motor could be the problem. It’s possible for the starter motor or the solenoid that activates it to fail while the rest of the electrical system is still working fine.
  3. Bad Ignition Switch: The ignition switch is what your key turns to start the car. If it’s faulty, it might not send the signal to the starter to crank the engine, even though it’s still turning on the lights.
  4. Fuel Delivery Issue: If there’s a problem with the fuel system, like a faulty fuel pump or clogged fuel filter, the engine might not be getting the fuel it needs to start, even though the electrical system is working.
  5. Engine Timing Issues: Problems with engine timing can prevent the car from starting while not affecting the electrical system.
  6. Faulty Ignition Coils or Spark Plugs: If these components are faulty, they may not ignite the fuel in the cylinders, preventing the car from starting.
  7. Security System Malfunction: Some cars have an immobilizer system that prevents the car from starting if it detects a problem with the key or if the system itself malfunctions.

In any case, if your car isn’t starting but the lights are coming on, it’s likely time to consult with a professional mechanic to diagnose and fix the issue.

About the Author: Valerie D. Hahn

Valerie is an insurance editor, journalist, and business professional at RateLab. She has more than 15 years of experience in personal financial products. She strives to educate readers and ensure that they are properly protected.

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