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7 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start

It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect. You slide into your car, ready to start your busy day, when — oops! — your car won’t start.

There are many reasons why your car may not roll over. Before calling for help, there are things you can check yourself. To begin with, make sure the steering wheel is not locked. If it is, you can fix this common problem by simply moving the steering wheel from side to side while turning the key in the ignition. This verifies that the steering wheel lock is not blocking the ignition from turning all the way to the start position.

An empty gas tank is another simple reason why your car starts but won̵

7;t start. If you ran out of fuel before (or your gauge is broken) it’s possible you’re only on “E” and out of gas.


If your car won’t start even after checking the steering wheel and making sure you have gas, it could be due to one of the following common culprits:

When you turn the key and the engine does not start

  • Dead car battery: A dead battery is the most common reason a car won’t start. If you have a battery tester, check your battery to see if it is weak. If you don’t have one, try jump-starting the car. After a jump start, let the car run for a few minutes to give the alternator time to charge the battery.
  • Battery Corrosion: Corrosion on your battery can also cause problems, and it can prevent your car from starting, even with a jump start. Check and wipe your battery terminals to make sure there is a clean, complete connection, then try to start the engine again. An auto shop employee can direct you to the right products and advise you on how to clean your battery.

When the car won’t start, just click

  • Bad starter motor: If you hear a single click when you turn the key, but the engine does not start, this may indicate a problem with the electrical system. The starter motor is responsible for physically turning the engine and getting the engine to start. If this is the problem, you need to install a new one. (Keep in mind that starter motors typically need to be replaced every 30,000 to 200,000 miles.)

When the car cranks but won’t start

  • Clogged fuel filter: The fuel filter prevents debris from entering your car’s fuel system. When this filter is clogged, it can prevent enough fuel from reaching the engine. A replacement is usually needed if this is the problem. And to prevent your fuel filter from clogging in the future, try to change it every two years or 30,000 miles (whichever comes first).
  • Failed fuel pump: This could be as simple as a relay or fuse which you should check first based on your owner’s manual. It can also be caused by a broken or damaged pump. This needs to be fixed by a professional.
  • Bad timing belt: The timing belt ensures that the engine’s valves open and close at the correct intervals so that the valves and pistons never touch. The timing belt is the most important maintenance in your engine. A broken timing belt can cause catastrophic engine damage requiring engine replacement. Car manufacturers indicate when a timing belt should be replaced. This is usually based on mileage; generally, the interval is every 60,000 miles or every five years (whichever comes first).

When the car engine does not turn over but the lights work

  • Bad ignition coil: When your dome light comes on but the engine does not start, it means the battery is working but the ignition may be faulty. The ignition coil converts a battery’s voltage into an electric spark. A damaged ignition coil means there isn’t enough juice to make it. You need a multimeter (a tool designed to measure electrical current, voltage, and resistance) to test the strength of the current passing through the coil.

If you’ve encountered a problem that you can’t fix yourself (or if you don’t feel comfortable diving under the hood), contact a trusted auto mechanic to diagnose and repair the problem.

If your car won’t start, Roadside Service Cover* can help. Roadside service coverage from Erie Insurance pays for reasonable car towing and necessary labor costs at the scene of the breakdown to get you back on the road.** Contact us today to learn more about this coverage.

*Roadside service coverage is only available when comprehensive coverage has been purchased on the vehicle.

**Restrictions apply in North Carolina.

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