There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when your car won’t start. It inevitably happens at the least convenient of times, such as the day you’re running late for an important job interview. After doing whatever is necessary to get yourself to your destination on time, you need to establish exactly why your car has let you down.
Most times the problem with a car not starting is down to one of two things: the battery or the starter. There is a chance that it could be the alternator. However, explore the battery and starter first.
For those on a budget, the best-case scenario is that something is wrong with the battery. It is the easiest to replace and costs less than a starter.
Here are some easy tips to run your own diagnosis:
Is it the battery? Look out for the following signs and symptoms:
If you’ve had problems starting your car and have resorted to the kindness of another car owner for jumpstarting, it’s likely your battery is the problem. The battery is meant to charge as you drive. The repeated need to jumpstart means your battery isn’t charging. This indicates the need to replace it.
Has your car been giving you a hard time when you try to start it over the last month or so? This includes making whining sounds when you attempt to get it going. Have you had your current battery for four years or more? If the answer to either question is yes, prepare yourself to buy a new battery.
If your car won’t crank when you turn the key and the lights don’t come on, your battery has reached the end of the road. The car might crank but refuse to start. This is also an indication that the battery is flat.
When the battery light appears on your dashboard display, there’s a problem with electrical supply in the car. In most cases, it’s the battery. However, it could also be the alternator.
Is it the starter? Look out for the following signs and symptoms:
In the movies, that click might indicate a car bomb. Luckily, in the real world, it’s a sign that the starter motor is not working. The car makes a click when you turn the key in the ignition and won’t start. The starter isn’t engaging with the crankshaft.
When you turn the key in the ignition, the dashboard lights come on, but the engine doesn’t start. The two power sources, the battery and the alternator, are working. But something in the starter is worn out, damaged, or faulty.
Put the car in park and try to jumpstart it. If the engine doesn’t turn over during the jumpstarting process, the problem is not with the battery, it’s with the starter. In a manual car, a successful push start means there’s something wrong with the starter, not the battery.
Before you take any action, get a second opinion from a mechanic or someone with some knowledge of the inner workings of a car.