Most every car owner experiences starting trouble at some point. It's almost inevitable that, one day, you're going to go out to your car, turn the key and get either no response or insufficient response to start the engine. Before you panic or call a tow truck, there are a few things you should know about what could be causing the problem. Here are a few things that can keep your car from starting and tips for checking them.
Check the Electrical System
The first thing to check is if the car's electrical system is to blame. One common source of starting trouble is a dead battery. You can try jump-starting the car, and if it works, that means your problem is the battery. While you're at it, check the condition of the battery posts. There should be no signs of corrosion or damage on the posts. If there is visible wear and corrosion, try cleaning the posts, then reconnect the battery and try again. If that doesn't work, you may need to replace the battery.
In addition, you can check all of the fuses in the fuse panel for any signs of a burnt-out fuse that's preventing communication through the electrical system. If there's a fuse that's visibly burnt out, replace it and try again. If the dash lights don't come on when you turn the key and you've confirmed that the battery is fine, it may be a faulty ignition switch.
Examine the Ignition System
If you've ruled out anything related to the electrical system as the source of the problem, it may be a problem in the ignition system. Start by checking underneath the distributor cap for any signs of moisture. Any moisture at all can interfere with its function. In addition, if the cap is cracked, you'll need to replace it. If there are no problems with the distributor cap itself, you'll need to have a mechanic test the ignition coil and the coil wire.
Consider the Fuel System
If you have to take your car to the mechanic to assess the ignition system, you should also have them check the fuel pump, relay and fuel filter. If the fuel pump is faulty, it won't engage when you turn the key. With no fuel getting to the engine, there's no combustion, so the engine won't run. While you can listen for the fuel pump to engage, the mechanic can test it in the garage. In addition, your mechanic will evaluate the condition of the fuel pump relay and the filter to ensure that neither are the source of your issue.
No matter what the source of your starting trouble, you'll want to address it right away. With the information here, you can eliminate the easily accessible issues on your own before having to call your mechanic for repair.