When you put the key in the ignition and turn it, you expect your car to crank. This doesn't always occur, though. There are times when a car may fail to start after turning the key. When this occurs, you might feel compelled to call AAA or a similar roadside assistance service. Before doing so, consider the following tips to see if you can get your car cranked without any assistance.
Check the Battery
First, pop the hood and check your battery to ensure the terminals are properly connected. If your battery's posts aren't connected to the positive and negative cable terminals, it won't be able to provide power to your car, thereby preventing it from starting. You can typically tighten terminals using a socket wrench. If they are already loose, you may be able to tighten them by hand. Make sure your battery is properly connected to the terminals if your car won't start.
Cycle the Key
Assuming your battery is properly connected, try cycling the key in the ignition. This involves placing the key in the ignition and turning it from the "off" to "on" position about 10 times. Cycling the key activates your car's battery and starter. Even if these components are worn, it may provide just enough juice to start your car.
Reconnect the Battery
If your car's computer, also known as an engine control unit (ECU), has detected a fault, it may alter the engine's performance or even prevent it from it starting altogether. A temporary solution that may work is to disconnect and reconnect the battery. This resets your car's ECU, essentially wiping any previously stored faults from its database.
Check the Gas
I know this probably sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised to learn how many drivers unknowingly run out of gas. If your car's gas tank is completely eliminated, it may not start when you turn the key in the ignition. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to tell if you have gas because most gas gauges are activated upon startup. And if you can't start your car, it won't read the right gas level of your tank. If you believe an empty gas tank is preventing you from starting your car, pick up a few gallons from a nearby gas station to see if it does the trick.
If you're still unable to start your car, you may have to call for a tow. A professional mechanic can help diagnose any problems with the ECU, battery, fuel lines or other components that could otherwise prevent your car from starting.