Here’s Why Your Car Doesn’t Start

You get into your car, ready to head off to your next adventure. Instead of hitting the road, you’re greeted with the frustrating sound of your car not starting. 

It’s happened to many of us, sometimes more than once: Your car won’t start.
If you find yourself with a stalled vehicle, here are 10 of the most common reasons your car won’t start and what you could do to get back on the road.

1. Your car battery is dead.

One of the top reasons your car won’t start is because your car battery is dead. 

If your lights won’t come on or the battery light on your car dashboard shows there might be an issue, these are pretty good indications your car battery needs some more juice. Your car battery can run into problems if you leave your lights on overnight or if there’s a misplaced wire. If you think your car battery might be the issue, try jump-starting your car. If your vehicle remains stalled after you try a jump, you may need a new car battery.

2. The alternator is shot.

If your car ends up starting but continues to stall later, the battery may not be the problem. Instead, your car alternator may be shot. If you hear a high-pitched sound while trying to turn on the car, it could be the alternator. 
Unfortunately, if your car won’t start because of an alternator problem, you’ll need to chat with a car mechanic or other professional.

3. You have a faulty ignition switch.

If you’re trying to turn on your car but can’t seem to turn the keys to make it start, you may have a faulty ignition switch.

You can troubleshoot this issue by checking your headlights. If you can turn on your headlights, that’s a clue that you may not have a car battery issue, as the battery powers your light and dashboards. 

If the lights are on, but you can’t start the car, a faulty ignition switch could be the cause. Additionally, if your ignition button doesn’t work, your ignition might be the source of your concerns. 

If your ignition is faulty, you may want to consider heading to the mechanic to get it looked at and fixed.

4. You have a damaged starter.

Your car starter connects to your car battery to turn on the engine and ignition and gets you going on the road. Unfortunately, if you have a damaged starter, the whole process of starting your car is out of sync and won’t work easily.  

One telltale sign of a damaged starter is if you end up hearing clicking sounds as you attempt to turn on the car. 

If you have a damaged starter, you’ll want to take your vehicle to the mechanic and get it fixed.

5. Your fuel filter is blocked.

Your fuel filter could end up blocked or congested. When your fuel filter is blocked, the gasoline in your car won’t be able to make its way to the engine effectively. 

If that’s the case, look into getting a new fuel filter. Next, consider changing your fuel filter every 60,000 miles or so, as regular car maintenance can help prevent this from being an issue in the future. 

6. The gas tank is on E.

Another reason your car won’t start is if you have an empty gas tank. Your car needs fuel to power the engine and run and needs regular fill-ups.

You’ll typically know your gas tank is empty when you see the “E” button or indicator on your dashboard’s gas tank display. The good news is that this solution is easy: You can fill up at the closest gas station or get some fuel with roadside assistance.

7. You’re not in park gear.

If your car isn’t in park gear, it won’t start. Checking your gears can help you understand if you need to switch gears.

8. Your key fob no longer functions.

Many newer cars have push buttons where you simply press “start” to go on your way. Your vehicle starts after it receives a signal from your car key fob. If your system doesn’t get a signal, it won’t tell your vehicle to get started.

If you suspect your key fob is the issue, consider getting a new fob or fob battery. 

You may also want to see if there is a physical key option or another way that you can get the car started as a backup option.

9. Your distributor cap is broken.

The distributor cap in your car fuels the electricity to the spark plugs in your vehicle. Moisture on the distributor cap can be an issue. If the cap isn’t tight enough, it won’t send the signal. 

Make sure you wipe off any moisture from your cap and keep it tightly sealed. You can incorporate this routine into your regular car maintenance to help prevent any issues later.

10. You’re dealing with battery corrosion.

Battery corrosion occurs when there’s a mix of hydrogen released from the acid of the battery. This mixture can lead to corrosion or deterioration of your car battery. 

Take a look at your car battery to review its condition. Your battery may have corroded if you see different colors, such as white, green, or brown. 

Make sure your car battery is clean and put to work regularly. If battery corrosion is the issue, you can go to an automotive store to get products to help clean and fix your car battery.

The bottom line

It’s never a great time for your car to break down or stall. Fortunately, you can take some easy steps to diagnose the issue and whether you might need some more advanced or technical support at a car repair shop.

A good way to help make driving or being a car owner less stressful is to have the right auto insurance coverage for your lifestyle.

Metromile provides pay-how-you-drive auto insurance, which considers how you drive to set your rates. Roadside assistance coverage is available as an affordable add-on, which can help you get back on the road if your car won’t start or you have any other issues.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.