Car Not Starting? Detailed Guide On Symptoms, Causes & Fixes

A car that refuses to start can be a frustrating experience, leaving you stranded and unsure of the cause. But fear not! This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge to troubleshoot common car starting problems and get your vehicle back up and running.

We list a range of symptoms, potential causes for petrol and diesel cars, and solutions you can try to get your car started. Here are various symptoms, causes and fixes for cars:

Symptom: Engine Cranks But Doesn’t Start

Cause: Weak Battery 

  • The battery lacks the power to crank the engine effectively.
  • Fix: Try jump-starting the car using jumper cables and another car (if possible). If successful, consider replacing the battery to avoid future issues.

Cause: Clogged Fuel Filter 

  • A clogged filter restricts fuel flow to the engine.
  • Fix: Consult your owner’s manual for recommended replacement intervals and have a mechanic replace it if needed.

Cause (Petrol Specific): Faulty Spark Plugs

  • Worn spark plugs can prevent proper ignition.
  • Fix: Refer to your owner’s manual for spark plug replacement intervals and consider replacing them if your car experiences starting troubles.

Cause (Diesel Specific): Glow Plug Issues

  • Faulty glow plugs hinder starting, especially in cold weather.
  • Fix: Consult your owner’s manual and a mechanic for diagnosis and potential replacement.

Problems with the fuel system or ignition system might also cause this symptom. Consult a mechanic if the above solutions don’t resolve the issue. Get a complete inspection of your vehicle from DubiCars. Our partner AutoHub evaluates the car with over 240 checkpoints and provides a comprehensive report on the condition of the car.

Symptom: Not Cranking At All

Cause: Dead Battery

  • The battery has completely depleted and has no power.
  • Fix: Jump-starting won’t work in this case. You’ll need to replace the battery.

Cause: Corroded Battery Terminals

  • Corrosion prevents a good connection between the battery and the electrical system.
  • Fix: Clean the corrosion using a baking soda and water solution.

Cause: Starter Motor Problems

  • A malfunctioning starter motor won’t crank the engine properly.
  • Fix: This typically requires a qualified mechanic for repairs.

Cause: Ignition Switch Issues

  • A faulty switch might not send the electrical signal to start the engine.
  • Fix: This also falls under repairs best handled by a mechanic.

Symptom: Clicking Sound When Starting

Cause: Weak Battery 

  • The battery might not have enough power to crank the engine efficiently.
  • Fix: Try jump-starting the car. If successful, replace the battery to avoid future issues.

Cause: Starter Motor Problems

  • A failing starter motor might produce clicking sounds during starting attempts.
  • Fix: Consult a mechanic for starter motor inspection and repairs.

Symptom: Engine Cranks Slowly

Cause: Weak Battery

  • The battery lacks sufficient power to crank the engine at a normal speed.
  • Fix: Try jump-starting the car. If successful, replace the battery to avoid future issues.

Cause: Starter Motor Problems

  • In some cases, starter motor issues can also cause slow cranking.
  • Fix: If the battery seems okay, consult a mechanic for a starter motor inspection.

Cause: Engine Oil Viscosity Issues

  • Engine oil thickens in cold weather, making it harder to crank the engine.
  • Fix: If you suspect this might be the issue due to cold weather conditions, consult your owner’s manual for recommended oil viscosity grades for your car. Consider using a thinner oil grade suitable for colder temperatures.

Symptom: Strong Smell Of Fuel

Cause: Flooded Engine 

  • Excessive cranking attempts can flood the engine with fuel, preventing it from starting.
  • Fix: Don’t crank the engine. Turn it off and consult a mechanic to diagnose and address the flooded engine.

Cause: Fuel System Leaks 

  • A leak can also cause a strong fuel smell.
  • Fix: This is a fire hazard. Do not attempt to fix yourself. Call a tow truck and have a mechanic diagnose and repair the fuel system leak.

Other Uncommon Symptoms

Engine Sputters or Coughs When Starting

  • Cause: The problem could lie within the fuel system, ignition system, or dirty sensors.
  • Fix: Consult a mechanic to diagnose the specific problem

Smoke Coming From Under the Hood

  • Cause: This is a serious sign and could indicate various issues, such as electrical problems, engine overheating, or a burning component.
  • Fix: Do not attempt to fix yourself. Turn off the engine immediately and call a tow truck to have the vehicle safely transported to a mechanic for diagnosis and repair.

Warning Lights On The Dashboard

  • Cause: Varies Depending On The Specific Light
  • Fix: Consult your car’s owner’s manual to decipher the meaning of the warning light and recommended course of action. This might involve simple checks or professional attention.

Dimming Lights On The Dashboard

  • Cause: Due to a weak battery is struggling to provide enough power, causing the lights to dim.
  • Fix: Jump start the car (if possible) or replace the battery.

Additional Tips

Consult Your Owner’s Manual: 

Your car’s manual is a valuable resource. It might have specific troubleshooting steps for your car model related to starting problems and may also indicate recommended service intervals for components like spark plugs and fuel filters.

Preventative Maintenance: 

Regular maintenance can help prevent car starting problems. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule, which might include checking and replacing the battery, spark plugs (petrol cars), glow plugs (diesel cars), and fuel filters at specific intervals. Here are 10 car care and maintenance tips.

By understanding these common car starting problems, their symptoms, and potential solutions, you’ll be better equipped to diagnose basic issues and get your car back on the road. Remember, when in doubt, a mechanic’s expertise is invaluable.

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