Things that make you go ARGH!!! (Or, reasons why your car won’t start)

We’ve all been there… The key’s in the ignition. The car’s cranking, but simply won’t take. Or if it does, it quickly dies. Most frustrating, there just isn’t any action at all. After mumbling some choice words, you gather your car-smarts and summarize this: the car won’t start. I’ve been there myself—more times than I care to mention.

Dead car batteryTake the time we took our son for his junior-prom tuxedo fitting last spring. The car ignition kept stalling. The hubby leaned over and said to watch the dashboard. We noticed the warning lights weren’t turning on. “Looks like it might be ignition switch replacement time,” he deduced. “Warning lights being off are a sign of a bad ignition switch?” I asked. “Generally, yes,” he responded, “might be a short in the electrical system.” So I stopped (didn’t want to drain the battery) and we called for a tow. Our mechanic later confirmed my husband’s ignition switch replacement diagnosis.

A few…ahem, years earlier, back in my college days, friends and I headed for a coastal road trip. Halfway there, the car decides to undergo a midlife crisis. All we got was just a feeble click-click with each turn of the key in the ignition. “I was just with Dad when he bought this new battery! Now it’s a dead car battery,” Kelly groaned. “Then this isn’t a dead car battery problem,” I said.

Best I was able to figure out—with my Dad, thanks to the payphone—was that it still might be a power source problem, like maybe an alternator issue, since that’s what recharges the battery with power from the engine. As Dad predicted, that was all it needed. We pitched in for that alternator replacement, and though it left us with less cash for partying, looking back, it gave me the gumption to delve further into our vehicles.

Another cause for a car not starting? Bad ignition relay. That’ll cause a car to start momentarily then stop right away. In this case, this “middleman” (or “solenoid”) is incapable of relaying a low-amp electrical volt to switch a high-amp circuit that supplies power to the various electrical parts throughout the car. I’ve been the victim of this slippery middleman myself. But now, I always win since I know what to look out for.

Before I get back to dinner and homework duty, I’d like to leave you with this parting thought: alternator replacement and ignition switch replacement are probably going to be inevitable, if you plan on keeping your car a while. You will also most likely deal with a bad ignition relay at some point, and for sure, a dead car battery. Not to worry, you can handle it—I did!

Editor’s note: You can help prevent instances like these by doing simple maintenance and checkups yourself. Rely on Advance Auto Parts for a vast selection of car batteries and other electrical system essentials.