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Non-starting Car: The Basics

Non-starting Car: The Basics

Many of us have experienced that sinking feeling as we turn on our ignition and... nothing happens. Typically, that usually happens when you need to be somewhere, and fast. As with all emergencies, especially driving ones, it pays to keep calm and use your head. Knowing some of the most common faults can help you to identify the issue and get it fixed, either by yourself, your local garage, or roadside recovery.

Here's a rundown of the most common reasons why your car won’t start, and what you can do about it.

Low on fuel

Possibly the most embarrassing reason for breaking down, running out of fuel is surprisingly common – and very easy to do for someone who is busy or distracted. Luckily, it’s a simple fix – grab your fuel can and get to the local petrol station for a top up. If you don’t have a fuel can, you can buy one there. Fuel gauge broken? Get it fixed at your local garage to avoid this becoming a regular occurrence.

Jammed ignition

If you can get your key in but it won’t turn, or your steering wheel won’t turn, it could be because your front tyre is turned hard, or stuck against a kerb. Gently jiggle your steering wheel and the situation should be fixed.


Other than tyres, your battery is the element that is subject to the most wear and tear and which will need replacing most often. Which is why a flat battery is usually the first thing you should check if your car won’t start, especially if you know it is on the older side, you have left a light or radio on, or you take lots of short journeys with the radio, lights, heating, demisters, or air con on (these all take a lot of power from your battery and a short journey doesn’t give the battery opportunity to recharge properly). If you have jump leads and another vehicle nearby, you can try a jump start; once this is done, you will need to drive around for at least half an hour to get the charge back up.

Security immobiliser

A downside of our vehicles becoming more intelligent is that there are more elements that can go wrong. Vehicle security has advanced to a level where you don’t only need a key of some sort, but the immobiliser needs to recognise that key. It could be as simple as a flat battery in your key fob; if your central locking is sluggish or doesn’t work, then that is most likely the case. For keyless ignition, try holding your keys close to the start button. Try a spare set if possible, and get your battery replaced as soon as possible.

As you can see, the most common reasons for a non-starting car are fairly easy to identify and fix. However if you can’t work out what the problem is – or how to fix it – call your local garage who will be able to provide or recommend a recovery service. For more tips and advice, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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