It is always annoying when the car stops running or just shuts down during the journey. That the car does not start is not, in principle, a reason to panic. It is very likely that only a small defect is treated. Finding the correct causes, however, requires in-depth knowledge of how a car works. In this article we will explain everything that can cause a vehicle breakdown and what is useful in such cases, when the car does not start.
What does a vehicle need to circulate?
A vehicle with a combustion engine needs six things to move. These are the following:
- Fuel: gasoline, diesel or gas
- Steering mechanism: to control the movement of moving parts
- Power: electric current to activate the starter motor
- Air: to prepare the mixture
- Oil: to lubricate moving parts
- Water: to cool the engine
If only one of these systems, the engine also fails. Depending on the system in question, it is possible to fix the engine right away or just with a very complex repair.
Engine no longer starts – Fuel system fault
If the car won’t start or shuts down, the first suspect is usually the fuel supply. If the engine does not start, even if the choke tries, the car may have run out of fuel. If the fuel gauge still shows a remaining amount, the fuel level sensor may be stuck in the tank. This can be checked by adding some fuel and trying to start again. This requires a bit of patience as a completely empty fuel system has to first vent itself.
If the tank empties strangely quickly, you should watch out for a gasoline smell. Possibly a fuel hose is leaking. Finally, it is also possible that the fuel pump has stopped working.
Vehicle Fails Often – Transmission System Problem
A failure in the transmission system generally has serious consequences. When the timing belt or chain is torn, the engine shuts down immediately and no longer starts. In this case, the interior of the motor is usually heavily damaged and the repair is very expensive. This can be checked by taking a look at the timing belt or timing chain housing. If the transmission elements are loose, the cause has been found. The repair does not consist of the replacement of the belt or chain. The motor must be completely disassembled.
Car compression does not start – Power supply failure
When the car won’t start, the most common cause is usually a power failure. Current is generated in the electrical generator, accumulates in the battery and is transmitted through the ignition coil and distributor to the spark plugs in the engine compartment. Electricity must always flow in circuits. If the electrical circuit is interrupted, electricity is no longer transmitted. returning to the electric generator through the body. Therefore, the electric generator and the battery must always be grounded, that is, they must be connected to the bodywork.
Corrosion can form between this power cable and the bodywork. If this is not detected, the starting of the car worsens until at some point it no longer works. The solution to the problem is very simple . The ground wires are unscrewed, polished until clean, and covered with terminal grease. They are then screwed back in and the problem is gone.
The ignition coil transforms the 24-volt electricity provided by the electric generator into a powerful 10,000-volt ignition current. From the coil leads a cable to the distributor. In older vehicles it can happen that this cable comes loose . This would be the simplest cause, if the car no longer starts . You just have to put the cable back in the correct position and that’s it. However, if the cable is in place and sparks fly when you start, then the insulation layer is damaged and the cause could be a rodent bite. As a temporary measure, the ignition cable should be wrapped in electrical tape.
If the car later starts, the entire engine compartment should be checked for any further rodent bites. If the coolant hose is also damaged, it can lead to complete engine failure.
A problem related to the electrical supply can also be the starter motor. This is composed of an electric motor and an electromagnetic declutch device. The starter motor can wear out over time and the contacts can corrode. A faulty stater is manifested by a shrill sound. In this case, the electromagnet no longer fully disengages the gear from the stater, while the electric motor continues to rotate it. Hopefully this defect can be fixed. But usually only the damaged part can be replaced.
If the electric generator fails, the battery is no longer charged, which is generally signaled by a constantly glowing indicator light on the dashboard. If it is ignored for too long, the ignition coil will stop receiving electricity at some point. In this case the battery should be recharged first and then the electric generator checked. Most of the defects that affect the generator are generally very small; Either the drive belt is damaged or the carbon brushes have worn out. Both damages can be fixed with a little money and a couple of steps.
The car no longer starts suddenly – Failure in the air supply
Although theoretically possible, it is very rare for an engine to fail due to a problem with the air supply. When a foreign body gets stuck in the intake system or the air filter is completely dirty, the engine no longer receives the amount of oxygen necessary to prepare the mixture. This fault is usually announced by an increase in fuel consumption and a hot engine. In this case it is enough to change the air filter and check the intake system to restore the functionality of the car.
Car won’t start – Oil and water supply failure
If the cooling or lubricating water supply fails, the engine can be seriously damaged. The known seizure of the piston is a consequence of the lack of one of these substances. If this problem appears, the car can no longer be maintained with home remedies but requires a thorough engine overhaul. Therefore, the following applies: As soon as the engine indicator light or the cooling water or oil pressure warning lights come on, turn off the engine immediately!
How to proceed when the engine does not start
With this list you can easily define the cause of a car that has been dumped:
Has the car stopped during the journey?
- The fuel has run out.
- Defective ignition contacts.
- Engine failure
Does the car then no longer start?
Starter motor turns: engine adjustment OK, fuel tank empty or ignition cable loose
- Check fuel gauge
- When fuel gauge is empty: add fuel
- When fuel gauge is sufficient: check ignition wiring
- Lead ignition
- cable loose: plug it back in – Ignition cable sparks when starting: insulation layer damaged, wrap with electrical tape and replace as soon as possible.
- If the ignition cable is OK, add fuel.
- If the car does not start despite the fuel, push it.
- If the car gets pushed, check the electric generator, the ground wire and the ignition coil.
- If the car will not be pushed, check the ignition contacts.
The car does not start cold
- The car does not react, no light bulb is lit even slightly: the battery is completely discharged. Start the engine with an external power source.
- In this case the battery should generally be replaced ) – The choke works when using an external power supply, but the car does not start: check the fuel supply, air supply and the ignition wiring.
- The starter motor does not turn: defective stater or engine failure. Try to tow the vehicle ( Attention: Diesel vehicles cannot be towed in cold condition! )
- The car will not start despite being towed and the wheels lock up: engine failure, high repair needs
- The starter motor does not work: engine fault, engine blocked
If all these measures are unsuccessful, there is only one option left before heading to the workshop: check all the fuses, especially in diesel vehicles. The heater fuse can be blown. If everything is fine here too, then the car must be taken to the workshop or you might need to look for buying a new or used engine.
Dmitry Petrov is an engineer who specializes in materials science, and has a deep passion for all things related to automotive technology. He is a true motorhead at heart, and spends much of his free time tinkering with engines and studying vehicular dynamics.