A common problem that every driver encounters at least once in his life is his car not starting. It is not likely to be anything serious but it is a nuisance and a waste of our time. When this happens it is important that we are able to locate the cause of the problem so we can put it right as quickly as possible.
A vehicle’s charging circuit is made up of the battery (which powers the starter engine and activates other electrical elements such as the radio, the lights…); the alternator (which charges the battery when the engine is running and has a controller that regulates power and adjusts the energy flow to the vehicle’s needs); and the starter engine (which starts off the engine until this is working on its own).
If the car is not starting the most likely reason is a problem with the battery. It could be the case that we left the headlights on overnight by accident and the battery is depleted as a result. The easiest solution is to get a pair of jump leads, connect our battery to that of another car and recharge it in this manner. If we cannot get hold of a set of jump leads we would have to call a tow truck and let our usual garage deal with the problem.
If we attempt to re-charge the battery with the jump leads and we observe that this is not working it means that our battery has come to the end of its useful life and we will have to purchase a new one. If you know a bit of mechanics and have the right tools you might be able to change it yourself, otherwise better let the garage do it.
The battery’s terminals
Another common reason for the car not starting is that the battery’s terminals are dirty or corroded thus impeding a proper connexion. These can be cleaned but it is common for them to affect other components of the starting system and this is harder to investigate by yourself. A failure in the contact itself can also be caused by the battery. Turn the key to start the car and if the warning lights on the dashboard fail to light up (after checking that the terminals are not the problem), the starter switch is to blame.
The spark plugs
Then there are the spark plugs, which produce the spark that ignites the mixture of fuel and oxygen in the cylinders. These could be dirty or worn in which case they would need replacing. There are also fuses connected to the starter motor. A broken or burnt out fuse is likely to indicate a bigger fault. The best thing to do in this case is to go to the garage.
These types of faults are generally not too expensive but it is always a nuisance having to take the car to the garage. The best way to avoid any of these things happening is to give your vehicle regular check-ups.