Car Won’t Start? Here’s What You Should Do

Whether you break down on the highway or can’t get the car out of your garage, there’s never a good time for your vehicle to not start. If it happens to you, follow these tips on how to stay safe and get the help you need. 

Common Reasons Your Car Isn’t Starting


Sometimes cars won’t start simply because there’s no gas left in the fuel tank. Usually, people just forget to fill up, but there’s a chance your car’s fuel gauge could be broken, tricking you into thinking you have more gas than you actually do. 

Warning signs: You hear cranking noises but the engine won’t fire. 

What to do: If you’re able to, you could walk to a nearby gas station and fill up an empty fuel can, otherwise you’ll need to phone a friend or roadside assistance for help. 


The battery is typically the main culprit behind startup problems. In most cases, drivers leave an electrical system on and end up draining the battery, but it could also go flat or die if you haven’t driven your car for a long time.

Warning signs: There’s no sound and no lights when you attempt to start the car. 

What to do: If you have cables and someone there to help, you can try to jump start your car by connecting it to the other car’s battery. This will get you going, but you may need to replace the battery once you’ve made it to a mechanic. 


In some cases, the starter motor itself is the reason your car won’t start. Drawing power from your car battery, the starter is responsible for starting up the engine when you turn your key. 

Warning signs: Your battery is fully charged, but you hear a loud clicking noise when you turn your key or press the start button. 

What to do: Your car isn’t going anywhere with a faulty starter, so you’ll likely have to call for roadside assistance or a tow truck.

Who Do You Call?

Diagnosing car problems can be tricky, if not possible, for those who aren’t experienced mechanics, so the best first step is to call a roadside assistance provider, whose services typically include jump-starting, flat tire changes, fuel delivery, and more. 

But what do you do if you don’t have roadside assistance coverage as part of your insurance policy? In most cases, providers will allow you to call to get immediate coverage and assistance. This is your most reliable, albeit expensive, option. You could also contact a local car garage, but they might not always be available outside of standard business hours.

Tips to Stay Safe When Your Car Won’t Start


You never know where you could break down, and it pays to be prepared. Create a safety kit with the items you would want with you if you were stuck indefinitely, such as water, a flashlight, a blanket, a cell phone charger, and roadside assistance information.


If you’re on the highway and feel like your car is about to break down, you need to get off the road as soon as possible. Without making sudden movements, pull onto the hard shoulder or, if there isn’t one, as far to the left as you can. If you’re stuck in the middle of the travel lane, keep your seatbelt on, turn on your hazards, and call emergency services. 


Being stuck with a car that won’t start probably isn’t the best time to try your hand at auto repair. To avoid doing further damage to yourself or the vehicle, wait until the experts are able to come and resolve the issue. 


With proper car maintenance, you can mitigate the chances of your vehicle not starting. Always take your car in for scheduled maintenance, including brake, oil, and fluid checks. If your car is acting unusual or you see your engine light come one, don’t wait to see a mechanic. 

Want more tips on how you can stay safe on the road? Register for a Stop and Go Driver’s Education course and get the skills you need to drive safely and confidently.