by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 27, 2011)
There are a few things you should check if your car won't start. If you are not driving an electric car and you don't hear a "cranking" sound when you turn the key, there is a problem getting power to the starter.
Try the headlights. If they seem dim or don't work at all, the battery might be weak or dead. While this is a problem that usually occurs in winter, it can happen at any time of the year. If the battery is weak but not completely dead, you might be able to start a car that has a manual transmission by push-starting it in second gear. (If your car is equipped with an electronic engine-management system, it should never be push-started.) Depress the clutch and put the car into second gear, keeping the clutch down. Release the handbrake. Get someone to push the car, and when it has picked up some speed, let out the clutch quickly. This will force the engine to "turn over" and it might catch and start the car.
If you do hear a cranking sound when you try to start the car, you should make sure that the car is in neutral or park. (Most cars with automatic transmissions won't engage the starter unless the car is in neutral or park.)
Check the gas gauge and see if there is fuel. If you do have fuel, you could have a blocked fuel line or you might have a faulty fuel pump and the fuel isn't reaching the engine. These are not quick fixes—if you don't feel comfortable making the repairs yourself, you should visit a trusted auto repair shop.
Your car could be flooded. (This happens frequently with older models of vehicles.) This means that the carburetor has too much fuel and it cannot vaporize properly to ignite in the engine. When a car is flooded, you'll often be able to smell the fuel if you raise the engine hood. If you suspect this is the problem, wait five to ten minutes and then try to start the car again. Don't pump the accelerator; that will only flood the engine again. Instead, hold the pedal all the way to the floorboard as you try to start the engine.
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