Safety Center

What To Do When Your Car Won't Start

If you turn the key in the ignition or hit the push-start button and your car doesn't start, here are some of the most common causes and what you can do to troubleshoot the problem.

The car engine doesn't crank at all

  • A dead battery is the most common reason a vehicle won't start
    • Check that battery cable connections are tight
    • Try to start the vehicle
    • It that's not successful, you'll need to jump start your car
    • If the jump start works, run your car for 30 minutes so the battery can fully charge
    • If the jump start doesn't work, you'll need to call roadside assistance
  • Alternator is bad
    • Signs include interior light dimming and "check engine" light on
    • You'll need to have your vehicle towed to your mechanic
  • The car is in gear
    • Move the gear shift to park
  • A fuse is bad
    • Check your owner's manual for the fuse box and look for a blown fuse or wire damage
    • You'll need to have your vehicle towed to your mechanic
  • The key fob battery is dead
    • The push-start button will not receive a fob signal to start the car
    • You'll need to have your vehicle towed unless you can get to an auto parts store or car dealer to get a replacement battery
  • Starter is bad
    • Signs include a clicking noise when starting; dashboard lights work, but the engine doesn't crank, and the car doesn't turn over after a jump start

A clicking sound, but the engine doesn't turn over

  • Turn on your car's dome light; if it's dim, the battery may be weak when you try to start the engine and need a jump

  • Check and clean battery terminals if they show signs of corrosion, and make sure battery cable connections are tight

  • Depress the push-start button without applying the brake or turn the key to the start position, repeating each process several times; wait several minutes to start the car

  • See above "Starter is bad"

The engine cranks but won't start

  • Clogged fuel filter
  • Failed fuel pump
  • Bad timing belt
  • Need to replace spark plugs
  • The car is out of gas

Many auto parts stores and service centers offer a free diagnostic test — checking the alternator, battery charge, starter, and electrical cable connections — that can identify potential problems before they occur.

Calling roadside assistance when you encounter auto trouble is always an option if you're not comfortable troubleshooting the problem.

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NJM’s enduring commitment to safety can be traced back to our earliest days — with a focus that has expanded from improving conditions in manufacturing facilities to helping keep customers safe on the roads and at home. NJM is a leader in personal and commercial auto, homeowners, and workers’ compensation insurance.


  1. “Car Won’t Start — Battery, Alternator, or Starter?,”

  2. Jeff Bogle, “15 Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start,”, (Updated: June 22, 2022).

  3. Jake Rossen, “12 Common Reasons Your Car Won’t Start,”, (January 29, 2021).

Our Safety Center pages are filled with tips related to the safety and maintenance of your home and autos. The information contained in these articles should not be construed as professional advice, and is not intended to replace official sources. Other resources linked from these pages are maintained by independent providers; therefore, NJM cannot guarantee their accuracy.