Car Won’t Always Start First Time? (Check These Things)

While owning a car brings convenience, it can be frustrating when you are ready to go to work or run errands, and your car refuses to start immediately.

It makes you wonder when it won’t start at all!

There are many reasons your car might refuse to start for the first time. Understanding them can help you figure out the culprit and rectify the issue.

Common reasons a car will not start the first time

The main reason a car will not start the first time is that your car battery is weak or the battery terminals are loose. The issue could also be a bad starter, but if it cranks up but doesn’t start, this could be caused by a clogged fuel filter or faulty spark plug.

You might also experience a car that won’t start after driving for a while. Check this article for info on that.

11 Reasons Your Car Won’t Start

Let us dive into the common reason a car can refuse to start.

Your Battery is Faulty, Dead, or Flat

In most cases, the battery is the main culprit when a car refuses to start. The car battery powers the whole car, including electrical components like the radio and light.

But if it has not been charged, then your vehicle will not start.

Some of the causes of a dead or faulty battery include:

  • You left the lights on for too long
  • The battery lifespan has expired
  • You have a loose wire

If you have a jump starter kit in your car, you can get some life into your battery and get where you are going.

However, if the battery is not dead, but your car is not starting, check whether the terminals are corroded or loose. The clamps must be secure and tight. And if there is corrosion, then the connection is likely to be affected.

Fortunately, a solution of water and baking soda can easily clean the terminals. But to prevent this from happening another time, clean your battery terminals often and check that the connections are tight and secure.

We have a good article here to help you if your car won’t start though the battery is working.

Another reason your battery may die is if you have a faulty alternator.

This vital component is supposed to charge the battery as you continue driving around. But when it fails, then your battery will not be charged.

A dying alternator might give you a few signs like:

  • Dim interior lights
  • Overly bright or dim headlights
  • Growling noises
  • The smell of hot wire or rubber burning

Even if you replace a dead battery but do not address the issue of a faulty alternator, you will still experience the issue of your car not starting.

The Starter Is Broken

Though the car may not start even though the starter works, you need to check the starter.

Just like the name indicates, a starter starts the engine when you use a key fob or insert the key. But when it is faulty, it can prevent your car from starting.

The engine will not crank when you try to turn the ignition key.

A trick to identifying whether the issue is the starter is by tapping it with a long stick as another person tries tuning on the ignition switch to start the engine. If the engine starts, then your problem could be a bad starter motor.

The solution is to call a mechanic and have your starter replaced.

Your Ignition Switch Has a Problem

An ignition switch transports power from the car’s battery to other components.

If you are on lights, but the car is not turning, it means your battery is okay. So the issue could be the ignition switch, and that is why you are stuck.

When the ignition switch is a problem, let a professional mechanic come in and fix it. Trying to DIY can make the problem worse.

Also, try not to have too many keys on your keychain that also holds the car keys. That is because a heavy keychain tends to put some stress on the ignition switch every time you insert your key, hence leading to damage.

The Car Isn’t in Park

If your vehicle is in gear, it will not start. Check the gear shift to ensure it is either in park or neutral.

If the car does not start when in park but starts in neutral, or the other way round, the problem could be the neutral safety switch.

Bring in a professional to fix the issue.

A Clogged Fuel Filter

A fuel filter is a huge component in a vehicle’s fuel delivery system. It filters contaminants and debris that would otherwise damage the engine and injectors.

With time, the fuel filter will get clogged with all the contaminants it has been filtering. And when this happens, it hinders the flow of fuel, which leaves the engine without enough fuel needed for combustion.

This can cause your car not to start.

Ideally, fuel filters need to be replaced every 9,000 to 12,000 miles. So, the next time you have your car serviced, have your fuel filters changed.

Your Timing Belt Needs Replacing

The role of the timing belt is to ensure that the camshaft’s movements synchronize with the crankshaft’s movement. If this rubber strip fails, your engine will not run. You might hear something like a ticking sound under the car’s hood.

However, this problem is not common because, in most cases, the timing belt only fails as the engine is running, and this can be very dangerous.

Note that a timing belt needs to be replaced every five years or 60,000 miles. Whichever comes first.

You might also notice that instead of a timing belt, some cars have timing chains. These ones usually last longer but will also need a mechanic if broken.

You’ve Ran Out of Gas

Your car requires fuel to run. If you do not have any, then it will not start. You may be wondering how one forgets to refuel your car, but it happens more often than you think. With many things going on around us, this can slip your mind.

Modern cars have fuel gauges showing you the amount of gas left in the tank. This allows you to be prepared and refuel in time.

Also, never allow your gas to go below a quarter of the tank, as this can cause premature damage to the pump.

But with that said, if you have noticed that your car uses all the fuel without alerting you to a point where the car will not start, you may want to have the fuel reading gauge inspected.

It is possible that the gauge is broken and so it does not give you the correct reading. A mechanic can also check if there are other issues with your fuel system.

Malfunctioning Fuel Pump

And talking of the fuel pump, it could also be the reason your car will not start. Its function is to deliver gas to the engine. But if it is faulty, it will not pump gas, meaning the combustion process will not happen.

A fuel pump needs to supply the correct amount of gas at an exact pressure to accommodate speed and performance. It usually starts functioning when you start the car by sending gas to the engine.

But when it is faulty, it will not do that, causing the engine to fail.

There are certain signs you should watch out for before your fuel pump malfunctions. They include

  • Car hiccups when you press the accelerator
  • Car misfires due to low fuel pressure caused by the fuel pump
  • Low fuel efficiency
  • Power loss when driving up steep terrain

These are just some of the signs your faulty pump can have an issue. Addressing them on time can prevent your car from not starting due to a broken fuel pump.

The Distributor Cap Is cracked or Broken

The distribution cap routes electricity or voltage to spark plugs, hence igniting the fuel. If the cap is not tightly screwed and moisture manages to get under it, the sparks will not travel.

Simply wipe out the moisture and reinstall the cap. However, if it is damaged, it has to be replaced.

The Key Fob Battery is Dead

The latest vehicles come equipped with the latest technology, such as a keyless entry system. If you press the start button in your car, but the engine crank fails, then the issue could be the key fob.

The button will not receive signals from the key fob if the battery is dead, and hence your car will not start.

However, the solution is simple as you only need to replace the fob battery. Get a small screwdriver or coin and open the battery cover. The battery looks like a silver button. Remove it and place a new one.

A Wiring Problem With the Ground Cable

The ground cable connects the car’s body and the negative terminal to the battery. It is also referred to as the ground strap or the negative battery cable.

Most electrical components in the car flow through this cable, but if there is an issue with it, your car will not start because the flow of power has been cut off. Signs that your ground cable has an issue include:

  • Dead battery
  • Hard starting
  • Sporadic sensor failure
  • Electrical components turning on and off
  • Defective fuel pump

You can open the hood and inspect the cable for damage. If it shows signs of wear and tear, have it replaced.


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