Car won't start in SA? 5 things you should check

Cyril Klopper
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 SAVE YOURSELF FROM A HEFTY REPAIR BILL: Be sure to check your vehicle's fluid levels to avoid a nasty repair bill. Image: News24 ~ News24

Cape Town - Oh, that sinking feeling when you’re well into an epic road trip and your car won’t start. It feels doubly worse on Sunday morning or when you’re far from a service centre.

We have a series of quick checks you can perform on your car before calling for a tow truck.

You’ll be surprised at how often the solution is a simple one. Please note that you’ll require a basic toolkit or at least a small shifting spanner and a screwdriver.

Here are five things for you to check and deal with:

1 The problem: After turning the key, absolutely nothing happens. Not even the lights on the dashboard come on.
Possible cause: It’s probably a loose battery cable or a corroded battery terminal.
Solution: Open the bonnet and find the battery. Using only one hand, wiggle the thick cables that attach to the battery one by one. Don’t touch both terminals simultaneously or you’ll get a shock you won’t soon forget. If there is play in the cables, tighten them. If there is blue or green deposit on the terminals, whack it off with your shoe.



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2 After turning key, you hear a clicking noise from the engine but the car won’t start.
Possible cause: Your car’s battery is completely flat. Did you leave the lights on last night? It’s either that or the battery cables are loose.
Solution: If it’s a loose cable, you’re in luck! If the cables are secure you’ll need to find someone with a running car and hope they’ll be willing or able to jump-start your car.

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No. I am not currently laughing. #deadbattery #iforgot #oops

A photo posted by Sara Marie Michael Schaubhut (@saramichael18) on


3 The starter motor cranks over hesitantly or slowly and the engine won’t start up
Possible cause: It’s probably a flat battery or a faulty starter motor.
Solution: Again, find someone who is willing to jump-start your car with theirs. If the problem lies with the starter motor it will have to be replaced or reconditioned by a professional.

Pom Moms to the rescue! #jump #deadbattery #nothingyogacantcure #pommoms #momssupportingmoms

A photo posted by Pomegranate Yoga & Parenting (@pomyoga) on


WATCH: How to check your vehicle's fluid levels

4. The starter motor cranks over briskly but the engine won’t start.
Possible cause: You’ve run out of fuel, or worse, the spark plugs won’t ignite the fuel.
Solution: If you’ve run out of fuel, proceed to slap your own wrist. If the fuel level is fine then the spark plugs may be at fault. Unless you have plug spanners and know how to check for spark, you’ll have to make that call to the AA, sorry.



5 The engine starts up but cuts out a few seconds later
Possible cause: There are several possible causes for this: There may be a problem with the battery grounding that causes fuel pump or ignition relays to cut out. If you have an old model car equipped with a carburettor, the choke may be stuck in the closed position. If you drive a newer car with fuel injection, the problem is likely beyond your ability to fix on the side of the road.

Solution: Find the wire that runs from the battery’s negative terminal (black) to the car’s body. Unbolt it, clean both ends as best you can, and reattach it. If your car is equipped with a carburettor, check if the choke is pulled out. If you drive a newer car with fuel injection: Make that call.