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    Ask This When My Car Won't Start

    You get in your car, turn the key and -- the engine doesn't start. What does this mean? It's never a good thing when your car won't start, but there's no reason to panic without knowing the extent of the problem. Several things can cause a car to not start properly, and some of the root causes are easy to fix. Even if you're not able to diagnose the problem yourself, asking yourself the following questions can give your mechanic a much better idea of what the problem might be. For all you know, the only problem may be a dead battery, which you could probably replace yourself (and save a ton of money in the process) if you could just find a ride to the store.

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    Is there a click when you turn the key?
    If there's no click when you turn the key -- but your lights work and your car appears to have power -- then the problem could be your starter or the car's onboard computer. If the problem is the starter, you could try starting your engine with the gear in neutral (with your foot on the brake). If you drive an automatic, you could then move the gear back to "parked" and try starting it again. Sometimes, changing gears will reestablish electrical contacts that allow the tarter to work as planned.
    Does the engine crank but not fire up?
    If the engine cranks but won't start, the problems could be with your vehicle's computer or ignition switch, both of which would eventually require help from a mechanic to fix. However, you can sometimes trick your computer by pressing the accelerator down halfway while trying to start your car. If you do this, be sure your car is in neutral and that your other foot is on the brake.
    Could I get a jump?
    A dead battery is the simplest solution for a car that won't start. Most of the time, a dying battery won't show any symptoms of going bad until suddenly your engine won't turn over. Or, your battery may be fine, but you may have left your lights on, draining your battery of power. In either case, you can ask someone to jump your car, which means they use cables to hook their battery to your battery, which should give your vehicle enough of a charge to start up again. If you're able to start your car with help from a jump, then you probably just need a new battery, or you may just need to drive around for awhile and let your battery recharge.
    Are the battery posts covered in corrosion?
    Look at the battery posts where the cables connect to your battery. Are they covered with corrosion, or are they clean? If they're covered with gunk, then this could be preventing the cables from drawing adequate power from the battery. This is a problem with older cars, especially during colder weather. If this seems like it could be a problem, a trick is to strike each battery post a few times with the heal of a shoe, and then try to twist the battery connectors a bit by pulling on the cables. You might be able to re-establish a more clean connection that conducts the needed amount of power from your battery.
    Does the car smell like gasoline?
    If you've been trying without success to start your car for awhile, you may have flooded the engine. If you can smell gasoline, then there's a good chance the engine is flooded. Wait about five minutes before you try starting it up again.
    Is the alternator the problem?
    Your vehicle's alternator is what continually recharges the battery while in use. If the alternator goes bad, there's no way for your vehicle to hold any kind of a charge. If jumping your car fails to work, then there's a good chance a bad alternator could be the problem. You can confirm this by having your car's battery tested by a mechanic to see whether it should still be usable. If your battery is good but your car doesn't have any power, then the alternator is likely to blame.