7 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start

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

There are many reasons why your car may not turn over. Before you ask for help, there are things you can do on your own. First, make sure that the steering wheel is not blocked. If so, you can fix this issue by simply moving the steering wheel from side to side while turning the key in the ignition. This ensures that the steering lock does not prevent the ignition from turning all the way to the starting point.

An empty fuel tank is another simple reason why your car will crank but not start. If you were low on fuel before (or your gauge is broken), it is possible that you are only on “E” and ran 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 reasons:

When You Turn The Key And The Engine Will Not Run

  • 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 driving your car with jump ropes. After starting the jump, let the car run for a few minutes to give the alternator time to recharge the battery.
  • Battery damage: A dead battery can also mean a problem, and it can prevent your car from starting, even with a jump start. Check and wipe your battery contacts to make sure there is a clean, tight connection, then try to restart the engine. An auto shop employee can guide you to the right parts and give you instructions on how to clean your battery.

When the Car Won’t Start, Just Click

  • Bad start: If you hear a click when you turn the key, but the engine does not start, it may mean that there is a problem with the electrical system. The engine starter is responsible for turning the engine over and getting the engine to fire. If this is the problem, you need a new one. (Remember that starters need to be changed every 30,000 to 200,000 miles.)

When the Car Cranks But Won’t Start

  • Clogged fuel filter: An oil filter prevents debris from entering your vehicle’s oil. When the filter becomes clogged, it can prevent enough oil from getting into the engine. In fact, they are often needed if this is a problem. And to prevent your oil filter from clogging in the future, try to change it every two years or 30,000 miles (whichever comes first).
  • Fuel pump failure: This could be as simple as a connector or fuse that you should check first by referring to the owner’s manual. It could also be due to a failed or damaged pump. This will need to be fixed by a professional.
  • Bad time: The timing belt ensures that the engine’s valves open and close at the correct intervals so that the valves and pistons do not touch each other. The timing belt is the most important part of your engine maintenance. A failed timing belt can cause engine damage that requires replacement. Car manufacturers specify when the timing belt should be changed. This usually depends on distance; typically, that interval is every 60,000 miles or five years (whichever comes first).

When The Car Engine Doesn’t Turn Over But The Electrics Work

  • A badly burned coil: When your dome light comes on but the engine won’t start, it means your battery is working but your ignition may be at fault. The ignition coil converts the battery’s energy into an electric spark. A damaged ignition coil means there isn’t enough water to do that. You need a multimeter (a device that measures voltage, current and resistance) to measure the current flowing through the coil.

If you encounter a problem you can’t fix yourself (or if you don’t feel comfortable diving under the hood), ask a trusted auto technician to diagnose and fix the problem.

If your car won’t start, Access to Roadside Service* can help. Roadside Service coverage from Erie Insurance covers eligible towing and towing costs to get you back on the road.** For more information, tell us today.

*Access to Roadside Service is only available if the vehicle is purchased in full.

**Restrictions apply in North Carolina.