Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Car won’t start

What to do when your car won’t start in cold weather

Before we talk about how to deal with a car won’t start issue, let’s get some of these terms defined so we’re all talking the same language.

Here are the many terms people use to say their car won’t start:

Car won’t start—This term is totally unhelpful. DON’T use it because it doesn’t contain any useful information to help the other person. It doesn’t tell if you’re getting any response when you turn the key, or whether the starter is turning the engine but the engine isn’t firing up, or whether it tries to fire up but won’t stay running

Car won’t crank means you turn the key and either nothing happens or you get a single click. The starter doesn’t rotate the engine.

Car cranks but won’t start/won’t fire up. This means you the starter engages and you hear the engine rotating but it doesn’t fire up.

Car cranks and tries to fire but won’t stay running

Car cranks slowly and won’t fire up.

Car won’t start when cold

Car won’t start when warm

Car won’t start, makes multiple rapid-fire clicking sounds when turning key—The clicking is all you hear; the engine isn’t rotating

Is the starter engaging and rotating the engine?

The starter’s only job is move a drive gear outward so it meshes with the teeth on the engine flywheel and then rotate the engine at a fast enough rate to start. If you hear nothing when you turn the key, a single click or multiple rapid fire clicks, you’ve got an electrical problem, not a fuel issue. See this post to help you diagnose and fix a car won’t start issue that’s caused by the starter. 

Starter engages and rotates engine but car won’t start

This is where things get tricky. To start a cold engine you need all the right signals from the engine sensors so the computer can determine the right air/fuel mixture for the temperature of the outside air and the temperature of the engine. The fuel must be at the right pressure and you must have good spark plugs. The starter must rotate the engine at the right speed, which means you must have the right viscosity oil in the crankcase. To troubleshoot a starter engages and rotates engine but car won’t start symptom, read this post.


For more information, see these posts:

How to test your alternator

Replace a battery terminal

How to buy a car battery

How to install a new car battery and not lose critical memory data

Additional no start no cranks tips

©, 2018 Rick Muscoplat




Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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