Ford F-150 won’t start – causes and how to fix it

Ford F-150 is a reliable road companion, but its a machine with hundreds of interconnected parts, and like any other machine it sometimes fail to deliver normal operation. In this article we go through most common causes of F-150 breakdown and how you can fix the problem.

Ford F-150 – (photo by Ford)

The most common causes that hinders normal starting operation of your Ford F-150 are dead key fob battery, dead 12v battery, corrosion on battery terminals, bad alternator, clogged fuel filter, broken starter, blown fuse, empty gas tank, immobilizer error or any fault in the electrical system.


1. Weak Battery

If your F-150’s engine won’t crank or cranks very slowly, then the most likely culprit is weak or dead 12v battery. Investigating more closely and doing a battery voltage test will clarify whether the starting problem is due to the battery. A test can be done to measure the voltage between the battery poles, check the acid level and assess the condition of the starter battery.

If a new car battery has been installed, the battery may not have yet reached its full capacity. There is nothing to worry about. A new battery only develops its full capacity over time.

Location of 12v battery on Ford F-150

Test 12v battery

The voltage of the battery on your Ford F-150 can be measured precisely with a multimeter. Before the test, the multimeter is set to the voltage range of the battery and connected to its plus and minus poles. Successful testing of the car battery, i.e. checking the voltage, usually results in values ​​of approx. 12 to 13 volts. Values ​​above 14 or below 11.5 volts require an expert assessment of the condition of the car battery. Because the battery may have a defect with these measured values ​​and must be replaced.

Jump start Ford F-150

If dead battery is the reason for the breakdown of your F-150, you can easily jump start it using jumper cables and a healthy battery from another vehicle, or using a battery booster if available.

First connect red cable to the positive terminal of your F-150’s dead battery, then to the positive terminal of donor battery. Next connect black cable to the negative terminal of donor battery, then to the bare metal in the engine bay of your F-150. Start the donor vehicle and then your F-150. Remove the cables in reverse order.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is how-to-jump-start-car-illustration.png
Illustration for jump starting procedure

2. Corrosion on battery

Corrosion on the contacts of your car battery leads to loss of contact and reduced current flow, which means that your engine can no longer start properly.


To know if your F-150’s starting problems are from dirty battery contacts, you need to investigate them. If you lift the rubber covers over the two battery terminals, you can check the terminals for corrosion. If you discover white deposits or silvery-green deposits, but no further cracks or damage, you do not have to replace the battery, just clean it.

Corrosion on battery terminal

Clean battery corrosion

To clean the battery on your Ford F-150, you have to remove the pole cables first, which requires no special knowledge, just a little concentration, as the order is very important. First remove the black cable from the negative pole. If the pole clamp is very tight, you can open it with pliers. We advise against using metal pliers, but if you use them, you must make sure that you do not touch any other parts of the body. Next you can unplug the red positive pole cable. Once the battery has been removed from the circuit, you can start cleaning the corroded battery. After cleaning, reconnect the terminals.

3. Weak key fob battery

If your F-150 has push start/stop button, then its possible that your vehicle may not start due to weak key fob battery. Don’t worry, you can still start your vehicle – the battery is only used to send the signal for locking/unlocking. If the key fob battery is empty, the door no longer locks or unlocks at the push of a button. The doors must then be opened manually. The immobilizer is controlled by a passive transponder. Passive means, among other things, that the transponder in the key does not need its own power source.

How to start Ford F-150 with dead key fob battery

If you have a model of F-150 which only has a key fob with start/stop button and no place to insert a key, then you need to follow these steps to start the vehicle if key fob battery is dead. There is a hidden compartment in every F-150 vehicle where you can place key fob and it will start your vehicle, it does not matter it has dead battery or even if there is no battery inside. You just have to place the original key inside this secret location.

Location for dead key fob in 13th gen F-150.

After placing the key in the small compartment at the bottom of the cup holder in the center console, continue to press the push start button. The vehicle should then start without any problems. There is a little sensor installed by the manufacturer at this location for this exact purpose, placing the key here helps the vehicle detect the key by sending the signals through it.

Tip: You can try starting your F-150 with its second key. It will also rule out any other problem with the first key, for example, water damage.

4. Broken starter motor

A starter is a motor for starting the engine of your F-150. The average life of a starter motor is about 100,000 to 150,000 miles, and the life will be shortened if the engine is started more frequently. In any case, since the starter motor also has a limited life, it will break down after using the car for a long time, and if the starter motor breaks down, the engine will not start.

Symptom: When you turn the key to start the engine of your F-150, you will hear a clicking sound, which is the sound of a bad starter motor. And if the starter motor does not work with a healthy battery, suspect a malfunction of the starter.


If the starter fails, it usually needs to be replaced with a new one.

Temporary fix for starter

If the engine does not start due to the starter, the engine may start if you turn the key while hitting the starter motor with something like a stick or metal tool. This workaround is effective when the parts inside the starter are stuck together or the gears are slightly out of alignment.

However, it is possible that the starter is nearing the end of its life, so it is recommended that you have it inspected at a dealer or maintenance shop.

5. Defective alternator

An alternator is a generator that produces electricity. If your F-150’s alternator fails, it will not be able to produce electricity and the battery will not be able to charge. Therefore, even if you think that the cause of the engine not starting is a battery failure and replace the battery, the battery will soon run out and the engine will not start.

Alternators rarely break down. In particular, modern cars have improved performance, so it is said that they will last 200,000 to 300,000 miles. Still, it can break down depending on how you use it, and in the case of a used car, the alternator may be quite old. Don’t let your guard down.

If the alternator breaks down, it must be replaced with a new alternator.

6. Clogged fuel filter

The fuel filter of your F-150 does not wear out like a mechanical part, but it gets clogged by dirt and airborne particles and clogs over time. The permeability of the filter drops, and so does the fuel pressure. To a certain extent this doesn’t matter, but if the fuel filter is too dirty, the engine will no longer perform at full capacity and in some instance may not start at all. Cleaning is not possible, you can only change the filter.

7. Fuel pump failure

If your F-150’s fuel pump fails, then the engine won’t start. The pump normally ensures that the necessary amount of fuel is passed from the tank to the injection system of the engine with sufficient pressure.

Before your fuel pump stops working, it usually becomes noticeable: if your car’s engine breaks down from time to time, the car is difficult to start, the engine jerks a little or the engine performance drops, you should have your pump checked.

Wear or contamination of the pump can be the reason for this. If the pump is leaking, a power contact is broken, a line or a pump lever is broken, the fuel pump is usually also noticeable before failure. You can have a defective fuel pump replaced in your workshop.

8. Blown fuse

In rare cases, a blown fuse could also be the culprit in the breakdown of your F-150. Check all fuses in the fuse box essential for starting the engine. But, be careful when lending a hand yourself to the fuse box! The box is under power and repairs or tests should always be done in a workshop.

9. Defective spark plugs

Without functioning spark plugs, the engine will not start. The spark plugs themselves are often not affected by a defect. Instead, plug connections on the ignition system come loose. If only one plug is actually loose, you can fix the problem yourself on site. If a spark plug has failed, it must be replaced in the workshop.

10. Rodent damage

Rodent damage can be another reason why your Ford F-150 won’t start. The animals crawl under the vehicle and bite through cables and wires. In principle, this can affect all vehicle systems such as the fuel supply, the oil supply or the power supply.

The rodent damage can usually be seen quickly by looking into the engine compartment. The damage caused by the rodent bite can be repaired in the workshop. Be prepared for relatively high costs here.

11. Engine failure

Although very rare, but it can also be the cause of the breakdown of your F-150. If a vehicle has an engine failure, then nothing works anymore. It is not uncommon for the driver of a vehicle to be responsible for such damage. Typical causes include tearing of the timing belt, incorrect fueling, insufficient oil, hydrolock, overheating of the engine, or continuous driving in an excessive speed range.

Only an experienced mechanic can diagnose engine failure in a workshop.

Use OBD2 scanner for diagnosis

Since Ford F-150 is equipped with on-board diagnostics (OBD), a fault diagnosis can provide initial indications of where the malfunction is located.

To begin troubleshooting, you must first connect the diagnostic tool to your F-150. The OBDII connector is usually located under the dashboard. With the wire connected, you should turn the ignition on. But be careful not to start the engine. Most diagnostic devices then ask for some information about the vehicle. It is important that you enter this 100% correctly, otherwise the result of the search may be falsified. In addition to the vehicle manufacturer and model, you usually also have to type in the engine and vehicle ID number. For exact troubleshooting, always check whether the information is correct.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why your F-150 may not start. When looking for the trigger, you should always start with the most obvious cause, the empty battery.

In any case, it is advisable for laypersons to call a breakdown service or a workshop. In the event of a defect, the latter can directly initiate the repair.

Author: Nabeel K
Email: nabeel@wheelsjoint.com



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Jon Wood
Jon Wood
5 months ago

Nothing in this article addressed the question asked, “why won’t the F-150 start in freezing weather?” The battery is new the gas tank is full, the starter cranks at proper rpms but the truck will not crank until temps turns above freezing.

Wade
Wade
1 month ago

Please forgive me if I’m in the wrong place, or wrong room but I’m having an issue that I have been dealing with since September of last year, I own a 2006 F150 FX4 with the 5.4L, 3v Groton engine. I bought the truck knowing it needed a complete timing job but what I was able to buy the truck for was a worthwhile investment. Anyways, I bought the truck and actually drove it a little just to learn the truck and its ways. It was certainly having some issues and I’m pretty sure not all of it related to the timing issues, it was so strange, one minute it was weak and didn’t wanna go, next minute it was wound up and ready to go the chains would foam on the front cover and it had that power stroke sound,typical phaser issue, So in August I broke it down and replaced all of the timing components and installed a Smelling HV oil pump, Got it back together, it fired right up and was very quiet accept for the loud exhaust system. Upon test driving it the truck was still weak and just didn’t wanna go, I drove it the 12 mikes into town to gas it up and hoping some drive time might help it, it was again up and down, however after putting gas in it, the AC shut down, the truck began to run like scrap and on my way home it got weaker and weaker until it just died!! It was as if it had ran outta gas..but I had just put gas in it, I had it picked up and dropped at my house and began trying to locate the issue. Since then I have replaced the fpdm, fuel pump, Throttle body, MAF sensor..twice..I even replaced the PCM.. and still it won’t start.. I can spray fuel into the TB and it will run but other than that..nothing..I finally found that the injectors are not pulsing, I have12 volts to the hot side of the injectors, It has a good strong spark, I replaced the crank sensor recently and the Ambient temp sensor, all fuses and relays are good, I checked and c!earned all the grounds I could locate. I noticed recently that my compass and outside temp wasn’t showing in the cluster LCD, I found the fuse that run it was blown, and after replacing it all of that is now working again, I located and cleaned the two fuse box grounds that had corrosion and the two grounds on the driver side kick oanel, I realised the small one is the cluster and gauge ground, it was corroded along with the big double ground on the driver side, seems like after cleaning those the cluster is working better. I just can’t seem to locate the reason the injectors aren’t pulsing, I did do an ohm test on my injectors and they all ohm out at around 12.2, one did ohm out at 12.7 but that’s still within the 11 – 18 ohms, I pulled the cable off of the PCM ( C175B ) and located pin number 33 and checked it for power, it has power there, I was told that if there is power at Pin #33 and the injectors aren’t pulsing In have a break in that Ted wire between the PCM and the injector harness. That’s where I’m at now, does that particular Red wire go from the PCM directly to the Injector harness to provide the ground signal needed to pulse the injectors? Can that entire wire harness be replaced? I have searched for one but found no entire injector/coil harnesses for the 06 5.4 Triton, plenty for the 6.0 diesel engines, I did find some rough wires going down by the right front tire behind a bracket of some type, the wires going to the oil temp sensor was the worst, I repaired them and checked the wires going to the. Crank Sensor their old but look ok, I did have to remove the covering from the crank sensor wires, I plan on tears point them this week, After repairing those it still wouldn’t start…So, everything seems to be working was it should, the PATS system is not flashing rapidly, I did replace the PCM, and had two new keys programmed, Upon installing the new, well rebuilt PCM the new keys programmed to the truck without any issues, I’m just not getting a ground signal to the injectors via the PCM, or the signal just isn’t making it to the injectors… As I said I’m getting the 12 volts to the injectors, got good fuel pressure, stays up around 56psi and jumps up to over 70psi when turning the starter. The crazy thing is most times when I try cranking it I get the stong smell of gas but the injectors aren’t pulsing?? Wth is going on with this truck..never in my life have I encountered such an issue with any engine I have worked on, this is my first Triton..but I’m no stranger to mechanic work, I came up up a big Cotton and peanut farm here in Pulaski County Georgia and working on rather large equipment was a way of life, My father and I did mechanic work on the weekends for locals, anything from tune ups, to major overhauls, engunes, transmissions..I was also a GSE Mechanic on Robins Air Force Base for years!! I’m gonna be honest with you, this one has beat me up from head to toe.. Like I said, I have been fighting with this truck and it’s crank no start since September 07, 2021!! I bought it this month will be a year ago and haven’t put 200 miles on it..I actually love the truck, it looks fabulous, drives better than my neighbors 2020 F150 and when its running even half way right it sounds mean like the 1990 Mustang GT I had with a nice Flow master exhaust system!! Its… Read more »

Brock
Brock
1 month ago
Reply to  Wade

I read your wall of text, lol. You have some patience with this truck with all those issues. I would have just taken it to a mechanic.

Ellen hutson
Ellen hutson
1 month ago

I have an F-150 4.2 liter v6 engine. I have put a new fuel pump, starter. Dealership reset my computer. It turn over but won’t start. A mechanic said it sounds like plastic piece on valve cover.