One of the worst moments as a car owner is when you get in your car, ready to head to work, and when you put your key in the ignition… it won’t start. Sound familiar? Your first instinct is, no doubt, to grab your jumper cables, call a neighbor, and give it a jump. But what happens when you try to jumpstart your car and it still won’t start? (Hint: it might not be your battery!) Here are a few things you can check.
Don’t Assume It’s the Battery
Most people assume that when their car won’t start, the battery is to blame. Of course, if your battery is 3-5 years old and/or your battery light is on, the battery might be the culprit for your dead vehicle and simply need replacing. Stephen Fogel at RepairPal.com, however, says there are many things that could be to blame besides a dead battery, but two of the most common are the starter and the alternator.
- Check the starter
“The starter gets your engine going with energy from the battery,” Stephen says. “When your starter stops working, it can’t “crank” the engine to get it started. Clicking or grinding sounds are clues that your starter might be the reason your car won’t start after a jump. Your mechanic can determine if your starter is bad when you take your car to the repair shop.”
- Check the alternator
“If your car still won’t work, even after a jump, the alternator could be the culprit,” Stephen says. “The alternator is responsible for sending energy back to the battery, replacing what the battery loses from starting the car and performing other functions. The warning signs of a bad alternator are similar to those of a dying battery. If you’ve noticed your lights dimming or the battery light coming on, have your mechanic check the condition of the alternator, before you invest in a new battery.”
Call a Tow Truck
If you can’t get your car to start (even after a jump), you might need to call a tow truck to take it to a professional. At this point, you’ve already tried to fix it on your own, and it’s best not to keep messing with your vehicle. Simply get it to a car mechanic as soon as possible. A mechanic can run all of the necessary tests to determine what the problem is and fix the problem with as little troubleshooting as possible.
Regular Maintenance Can Prevent Breakdowns
One of the best ways to avoid a jumpstart in the first place is to regularly maintain your vehicle. Keeping your vehicle running smoothly means doing the following maintenance on a regular basis:
- Check/change fluids (oil, windshield wipers, etc.)
- Check/change tires
- Inspect belts, hoses, and filters
- Check your battery for corrosion and dirt
In addition to performing the above maintenance, make sure you make repairs to your vehicle in a timely manner. Putting off fixing things that are broken on your car can cost you more money and time in the long run. Additionally, set calendar reminders on your phone or in your planner so that you don’t forget to perform regular maintenance checks on your car.