My Car Won’t Start, What’s Next?

If your car won’t start, you know exactly how scary that feeling is. Moreover, if you’re an enthusiast and that latest depreciated sports car won’t start, you know a level of terror that will affect everything from your car’s safety to your wallet. Thankfully, there’s a few things you can do to help your poor steed. With some simple precautions and a little mechanical know-how it’s possible to save yourself a bundle of cash.

What if your car won’t start?

Two mechanics peer into the engine bay of a car in for repairs
Diagnosing problems on an Audi | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert via Getty Images

I’m sure you know the feeling. It starts off as a normal day. Maybe you’re on the way to work, or going out for a Sunday drive. Then, nothing happens when you turn the key. Now, your car won’t start. What’s next? Well, first off, you’ll want to stop and cool off. I’ve damaged many an engine in anger. But that’s more life advice than consumer advice. If your ride won’t get going, the first thing you’ll want to do is give it one more shot, and only one. If it was a fluke, great, but if not the real work starts.

Having some tools laying around is always nice, as you can start diagnosing the issue yourself. It helps to start at, well, what starts. Did the lights come on? Did the engine sputter a bit before quitting? Just those two questions can help you sort out why your car won’t start. It’s always a good idea to locate both your battery and your coil packs. Knowing where those two things are can help you sort out two of the most common reasons.

Know thy car, know thyself

The engine of a Ferrari Testarossa
An engine bay can be intimidating to even the most knowledgable of car nerds | Sjoerd van der Wal via Getty Images

Generally, your car’s battery will be somewhere in the engine bay closest to the driver’s seat, or the passenger seat. Sometimes, it’ll be in the trunk. Carefully check each of the connections by moving the rubber part of the wires. Don’t go zapping yourself. If you don’t have means to check the voltage, call a tow truck. However, the next potential culprit can require a little more work.

Often, your car isn’t starting because the engine isn’t getting a spark into the cylinder to burn that gas you paid for. Your spark plugs and the coil packs that cover them are located on the top of your engine 99% of the time. Again, check those wires. It could be something is simply loose or broken in either the battery connection or your spark plugs and coil packs.

Don’t panic!

The engine bay of a Porsche 993 Carrera RS
Compact engine bays can appear even more complex | Daniel Pullen via Getty Images

Unfortunatley, odds are the issue is a little more than that. If your car won’t start and the issue isn’t immediately apparent and obvious, you’ll need a tow to a shop. More often than not, your insurance provider will cover the cost of a tow. You’ll also want to know how to choose a quality mechanic to make sure that whole no-starting thing is the only issue your car has.

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