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Complete Auto Repair & Maintenance in Fort Collins Colorado
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How to Troubleshoot a Car that Won’t Start

How to Troubleshoot a Car that Won’t StartIf you’re stranded because your car won’t start, don’t call for a tow truck just yet. With these simple troubleshooting tips, you might be able to get your car started again.

Note: These tricks don’t fix the underlying problem, so if you’re able to bring your dead engine back to life, head straight to Scott’s Fort Collins Auto to have your car fixed. If you can’t get your vehicle started, call us at 970-682-4202, and we’ll send a tow truck to your location right away!

Symptom: The Starter Clicks

When you hear the starter click, but the car won’t start, this could be a sign of a weak battery, dirty battery terminals, worn starter motor, or stuck solenoid. To work around these problems, follow these steps:

Cycle the Key

This trick works if the battery is weak. First, turn on an interior light and keep your eye on it as you attempt to start the engine. If the light flickers or goes out, you need to heat up the battery, terminals, and starter by cycling the key. This involves turning the key in and out of the start position about 10 times in the row. Then wait five minutes and try starting the engine again.

However, if the interior light remains bright when you attempt to start the engine, the battery is fine, and you should move on to the next trick.

Tap the Battery Terminals

When you’re stranded without tools, there’s no way to clean corroded battery terminals. However, you can shift the terminals slightly to help them make better contact. To do this without tools, smack each battery terminal with the heel of your shoe. Then, try starting the engine again.

Whack the Starter

If the starter motor is accessible in your vehicle, try whacking it with your car jack’s tire iron. This helps to free any electrical contacts that have gotten stuck.

Symptom: No Sound When You Turn the Key

It’s also possible for your car to make no noise at all when you try to start it. When this happens, try this trick:

Move the Gear Shifter

If any electrical contacts have become disconnected, moving the gear shifter sometimes reestablishes the connection. Keeping your foot on the brake, move the shifter to the neutral position. Try starting the engine from here. If you get nothing, move the shifter back to the park position and try again.

Symptom: Engine Turns Over, but Won’t Start

When the engine cranks but fails to start, several things could be wrong. Follow these steps to narrow down the issue and hopefully get your car started:

Swap the Relays

Turn off the radio and listen carefully for a two-second buzzing noise when you turn the key to the run position. This is the sound of the fuel pump priming the injection system. If you don’t hear the sound, the fuel pump relay may be bad, so you need to swap it out with a different one.

First, check your vehicle owner’s manual or the legend on the fuse box cover (located beneath the steering wheel) to find the location of the fuel pump relay. Then, identify another relay with the same part number so you can swap them out.

With the relays switched, try starting the engine again. If it still doesn’t fire, beat the fuel tank with your shoe as a last-ditch effort to jar the fuel pump motor.

Press the Accelerator Halfway

When the engine is cold, a vacuum leak or malfunctioning temperature sensor could cause an incorrect air-to-fuel ratio, preventing the car from starting. Press the accelerator down halfway to trick the computer into adding more fuel so the engine will hopefully start.

Push the Accelerator to the Floor

Do you smell gasoline when the engine turns over? The engine may be flooded. To unflood it, floor the accelerator and hold the pedal there while you crank the engine.

Have Your Car Fixed at Scott’s Fort Collins Auto

Even if you get your car to start with these troubleshooting tricks, the problem isn’t fixed. To prevent getting stranded again, bring your vehicle to Scott’s in Fort Collins for a diagnosis and repair. We’ll go over what we find and offer a quote before we begin working so you can make the best decision for your car and your budget.

Rest assured that we provide towing service if your attempts to start your car fail. If you’re still stranded, or you need more advice when your car won’t start, call Scott’s at 970-682-4202!

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