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Tips, Tricks & Trends

Top 5 Reasons Your Car Isn’t Starting

Car problems are one of those feelings that are universal to all car owners. Whether it’s the rhythmic thumping of a flat tire or the *click click click* of a refusal to start, most of us have had that sense of dread and frustration. It can certainly serve to ruin your day, but some problems …

Car problems are one of those feelings that are universal to all car owners. Whether it’s the rhythmic thumping of a flat tire or the *click click click* of a refusal to start, most of us have had that sense of dread and frustration. It can certainly serve to ruin your day, but some problems can be a part of your life for weeks or even months. Many car problems can be avoided by regular maintenance; that being said, stuff happens. 

Although cars are complicated beasts, most people experience many of the same handful of problems. This can be handy information for any car owner to know and anticipate the most likely car problems to be prepared to deal with them. 

Be prepared with a small list of items

The Drive notes, it is handy to keep a few items in your car at all times to help deal with any common problems that may come up. You don’t need to be a mechanic or cart around a trunk full of tools to be prepared for some common issues. 

A few handy tools and items to keep in the vehicle at times:

  • A small set of flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Wire brush
  • Shop rag
  • Jumper cables
  • Gas siphon 
  • Adjustable wrench 

This list certainly can be added to, according to what you may need specifically, but it is a strong start to have a few essentials for being prepared for these five most common issues.

A dead remote battery is an increasingly common car issue

Dead car key batteries can create car issues
Key fob Dmitry RogulinTASS via Getty Images

Be able to lock, unlock, start, and many other things from afar is a super handy feature that has become commonplace for modern cars. Many cars don’t even use keys for the ignition anymore. If the battery dies or is on its way out, this may create issues for starting your car. More times than not, the fix is a simple remote battery change. Knowing this is possible, and keeping a spare battery in your car can change a high-stress situation into nothing more than a 30-second fix with no stress. 

Your car’s battery is the source of the most common car issue 

Draining a car battery is an easy mistake to make. Leaving an interior light on or forgetting your headlights has led to many non-starting cars throughout the years. These days, many cars have safeguards for those mistakes, but we still figure out how to kill our batteries. 

A pair of roadside emergency kit jumper cables are attached to battery terminals.
Jumper cables are essential in roadside emergency kits | Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

All you need here is our handy jumper cables and a friendly motorist who will lend you their open hood for a few minutes. The most novice driver can fix this issue easily. If you look at your battery, two metal posts are sticking up. One will likely have a black lead cable (usually, this will be the negative terminal), and the other will be red (positive). You’ll notice the same is true for your jumper cables. 

There is electricity here, so safety is key. Make sure the live car is off and attach the red cable to the live car’s red battery terminal and then the red cable to the dead car’s red terminal. Continue with both black leads just as you did the red ones. Once both batteries are connected, fire up the live car and let it run for a few minutes before trying the dead car. Once the dead car fires up, remove cables in the reverse order; black then red. 

Corroded battery terminals 

Sometimes it may seem like your car’s battery is dead, but that isn’t always the case. Battery terminals can corrode and get covered in a green or sometimes white ash-like substance that keeps the terminals from conducting electricity. This will cause the car not to start. If you pop the hood and see this corrosion, all you need to do is disconnect your battery cables and grab your handy wire brush. Scrub the terminals until all you see is bare metal and reattach your battery cables. 

Clogged fuel filter

Fuel systems are sensitive and require a clean and consistent stream of fuel. If a fuel filter catches too much stuff like dust, rust, dirt, or poorly refined fuel, this will keep a car from running properly or running at all. This can also be a simple task to change out the filter, but even if you don’t feel comfortable doing the work yourself, knowing this issue may help to keep car breakdowns a little less stressful. 

Spark plugs can lose their spark

Spark plugs are a key piece to keeping a car running. A sparkplug is what ignites the fuel to make our cars move. If even one spark plug goes bad, this will dramatically affect the way your car runs. Changing spark plugs is easy, but it does require special tools like a spark plug socket wrench and, of course, a replacement spark plug. Again knowing that this is common can lower stress levels when your car doesn’t start. 

A new platinum spark plug vs. an older conventional plug
Archie Stevens holds a new platinum spark plug and an older conventional plug that was installed in Tux Turkel’s VW Jetta | Jack Milton/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

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Car issues suck but it can be less stressful if you know what’s going on

Car issues can really mess up our plans and cause financial stress, but they are all but guaranteed. Arming yourself with a few tools and a little information can make these stressful times a little less stressful even if you don’t feel comfortable working on your own car; knowing the common smaller issues can save you from worry and panic.