We’ve all experienced a morning (or some point in our day) where our vehicle simply won’t start. And it’s usually at the most inopportune time. We’re going to tackle this common annoyance in two parts – in this first installment, we’ll discuss the scenario of “the engine won’t crank (or turn over) and won’t start”. If these tips are something you can check yourself – great! If you have to call AAA, you could even give this checklist to the person who comes out to your location on the service call and/or eventually your mechanic. Just remember – while your intentions may be good and trying to be helpful, be courteous and patient when “sharing this information” with a professional…
1). Low battery. Be sure to check the battery voltage. The battery may have enough juice to power the lights, radio, etc., but not enough to actually start the car. To get you going, you could jump start the car with the help of another vehicle or a portable battery charger. If you have the chance, recharge the battery if the voltage reads low.
2). Loose or corroded battery cables. This can be a very common scenario. Inspect, clean and tighten both ends of both battery cables, if possible. Be sure to wash your hands afterwards.
3). Bad starter relay, wiring connections, or ground connection. OK – we’re digging a little deeper here. Inspect, clean, and/or tighten any wiring connections. It could also be a bad starter relay/solenoid. Check the voltage at the relay, (which is usually in a black plastic box marked “Relay” under the hood). If the relay has voltage but there is no “click” when the key is turned to start – replace the relay.
4). Bad starter. Your roadside assistance technician (if AAA or whomever is called) may be able to perform this service. Jump the battery voltage directly to the starter to see if it spins.
5). Bad ignition switch. Check to see if any voltage reaches the starter relay/solenoid when the key is turned to start. If not, check for an open P/N (Park/Neutral) switch. Replace the ignition switch if it’s defective.
6). An open P/N safety switch, an open Brake Pedal Safety Switch (automatic transmission) or an open Clutch Pedal Switch (manual transmission). Now we’re getting a little more technical. This may very well be “your local mechanic” territory. Bypass the switch with a jumper wire to see if engine cranks, or use a test light or voltmeter to check for voltage passing through the switch when the ignition is turned to start.
7). The engine is hydrolocked due to coolant leak from a leaky head gasket. Remove the spark plugs to see if coolant comes out or if the engine can not be cranked with plugs out.