Where To Start When Your Car Won't Start

(Photo Credit: ChrisFix/YouTube)
(Photo Credit: ChrisFix/YouTube)

Getting into your car, turning the key and hearing... nothing is one of the biggest bummers of automobile ownership. Here are some tips on what to do if it happens to you.

YouTubing Mechanic Chris Fix had this happen on his Mazda pickup truck (also known as a Ford Ranger) and took the opportunity to walk us through how you diagnose what’s keeping your car from starting, and what to do if the starter’s bad.


Fix reminds us the main issues that might be keeping your car from cranking are a dead battery, a malfunctioning anti-theft device, a blown fuse or a neutral safety switch.

If your lights and radio are working, it’s probably not the battery. If you can throw a multimeter on it, that will let you know for sure.

If your car has an immobilizer chip in its key, you can apparently check if that’s working by watching the “theft” light on your car’s dash. If it goes out with the key in the run position, there’s no issue there.

Fuses will be located under the hood or below the steering wheel, and the ones relevant to starting will be labeled things like “ignition” and “starter.” Replace ones that have popped but be wary– a blown fuse is often a symptom of a deeper problem.

Anyway, the main theme of this particular video is the starter itself, which you can whack with a hammer while somebody’s cranking the car if you need to get it going in a pinch.

On most vehicles, the starter is a pretty easy component for the DIY mechanic to replace, even though they tend to be big and bulky.


They sit right where the engine meets the transmission, and if you can’t identify that easily you might want to go ahead and have a professional mechanic handle this job.

Otherwise, it’s just a few bolts, one of which will inevitably be rusty and get stripped and cause you boundless aggravation, disconnect some electrical wires, and pull the starter out.


Don’t forget to bring it with you to the auto parts store for testing. You also save a couple bucks on replacement when you trade in your dead unit. Fix includes a few other tips about reinstalling your new starter; like using silicon paste on the electrical connections to keep water away and using thread locker on the bolts.

If you took your time and didn’t strip any bolts, your car should be starting again in short order.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles



Or it could be set way back and require 18-24 inches of extensions with the upper bolt impinged upon by a starter boss protruding in such a way that normal sockets won’t fit it. Instead, you find yourself with a cheap set of sockets, slowly grinding down the sides of a 17mm with a bench grinder until you create something that fits the gap. The labor becomes tedious as what should be a sub-two hour job stretches on for five hours. Finally after grinding it for the ump-teenth time it fits and you pray it has enough grip and won’t crack a sidewall when torqued. Finally with bolts removed the starter is snaked under the intake manifold, through power steering hoses and by the grace of God out of the engine bay.

And in their infinite wisdom, BMW realized what a pain in the arse this job was and updated the starter design to be smaller and easier to mount. Of course that was after almost ten years of production on the M30 big six engines.

-My experiences with a 1986 635Csi.