5 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start

Few things are worse in the morning than your car not starting. Here are the possible reasons why—and tips for getting it going again.

You’re out of gas

Maybe you were really lost in that riveting podcast on your way home and didn’t notice your fuel level dropping. Just make sure that—if your car won’t start—the first thing you check is your gas gauge. Slightly embarrassing, yes, but this is the least expensive and easiest fix for a car that won’t start.

The battery clamps are loose

Your battery may not be dead after all: When your car won’t start, pop the hood and check that the battery clamps are secure—and free of battery acid build up. If not, tighten them up and try again to turn the ignition.

The battery terminals are dirty

If you see some nasty looking whitish, greenish crud around your battery posts, the connection might be weak. Carefully undo the clamps (the crud is acidic) and clean the posts with the proper tool (like this terminal cleaning brush). If you don’t have that on hand, try tapping on each terminal to jar some of the gunk loose to get you going again.

The battery is dead

So the terminals are tight and clean and still nothing? You probably have a dead battery. If you have jumper cables, you might be able to find another motorist to give your battery the jolt it needs to start up. Better yet, keep a handy-dandy jumper battery like this one in your car for these situations. Next, check with your mechanic to see if you need a new battery.

The starter stops

When you put in the key and turn your ignition (or, in newer cars, push the button), an electrical motor (the appropriately named starter) connected to the car’s battery cranks your engine to get it started. If it will fail to respond, just clicks, or emits a horrible grinding sound, it’s time to call the mechanic

The fuel pump relay has run its last race

When your car sputters and dies—or if it chugs a little when you start it and then quits—you could be looking at a faulty fuel pump—or fuel pump relay, You’ll need a mechanic’s help to get this car back on the road again.