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5 Reasons Your Car Won't Turn Over

Getting into your vehicle only to discover that the engine won't turn over is an inconvenience that drivers are likely to experience at some point in their lifetime. And as frustrating as it may be, the reason why a car won't turn over is often fairly simple to diagnose. This post covers five of the most common reasons your car won't start.

Engine start button being pressed by finger.

1. You've Got a Bad Battery

One of the most common reasons your car won't turn over is due to a failing or depleted car battery. An internal combustion engine requires an electrical signal to start, and the battery serves this role when a driver goes to start their vehicle. If the battery is depleted, the vehicle won't start.

The good news is that a failing battery is fairly easy to identify. If the dash lights are dim, the vehicle electronics aren't functioning properly, or your car starts and then immediately dies, it's likely a sign you need a new battery. Most auto repair shops will offer free battery checks during oil changes, so you can be proactive with this important component. Keep in mind that age is another sign of a failing battery. Most car batteries will only last three to five years.

If your battery dies, jump-starting your vehicle can get it running again, so you can get it to the repair shop for service.

2. You Have a Bad Alternator

While the battery provides the electric signal to start your vehicle, it's the alternator that works to send this electricity to the different components of your car. Aside from delivering electricity to components like the stereo system and the vehicle's headlights, the alternator also works to recharge the battery once the vehicle has started and is running. The bottom line is that a bad alternator is eventually going to impact the battery.

Like a failing battery, there are some signs to look out for when it comes to a bad alternator. For instance, dimming lights as you accelerate and decelerate is often a result of the battery not staying fully charged while the vehicle is running.

3. Something Is Wrong with Your Starter

Engine won't turn over but the battery and alternator are checking out fine? The next most common culprit is likely to be your starter. The starter component is critical to making the vehicle start. It aids combustion by receiving the electrical signal to crank the engine.

Again, there are some signs to watch out for that could indicate a failing starter motor. The most common sign of a failing starter is if the lights come on when the car is cranking, but the car doesn't start. The starter may to blame if the car won't turn over but has power. This is a big differentiator from battery or alternator issues, as the vehicle is likely not to have any power in the event that these components have failed.

4. Worn or Faulty Components

From spark plugs to timing belts to distributor caps, there are a number of components that play a role in a vehicle's engine turning over.

  • Old, dirty or worn spark plugs can cause engine misfires or difficulty starting your vehicle.
  • A worn timing belt can cause engine cylinders to misfire.
  • A damaged distributor cap can lead to engine misfires.
  • A clogged fuel filter can prevent fuel from reaching your engine and lead to trouble starting the vehicle.

5. You're Out of Gas

Next to a bad battery or alternator, having no fuel in the tank is the most common issue if you can't get your car to start. And while it can be frustrating to be running on empty, the good news about a depleted fuel tank is that all you need to do is add fuel to get your car up and running again.


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