It’s frustrating when the car does not start. You turn the key and nothing happens. Almost all car owners have experienced it. There are a lot of things that can be wrong with your car, but no need to worry, there is a solution for almost any malfunction.
Of course, you can call your local mechanic or towing service and have your car towed to a local repair shop, but if you want to know why it won’t start, read on.
There are a few steps in the process from when you put the key in the ignition until the engine is running. Once you know what stage things go wrong, you’ll have a better understanding of why your car won’t start and what to do.
What to check first
If the car does not start, first check the basic things:
- Is the battery in good condition?
- If the car does not start with the automatic transmission in “Park”, does it start in “Neutral”? Sometimes a car does not start in “Park” but starts in “Neutral” because of a problem with a safety switch in neutral.
- Are the battery cables tight and not corroded?
- Do you think there is enough fuel in the tank? This is a common situation when the fuel gauge is not functioning properly and the car is low on fuel and the fuel gauge indicates that there is fuel left. There is no way to check the fuel level other than the fuel gauge. But you can estimate how long you’ve been driving since the last refueling.
- Does the “Security” or key-shaped indicator light on the instrument panel stay on or flash?
- Does your car have an anti-theft system which, for some reason, does not allow the car to be started.
How to check the battery
A dead or dead battery is one of the possible reasons a car won’t start. Sometimes we just forget to turn off the overhead light or something, or it could be a faulty component in the vehicle’s electrical system draining the battery. Sometimes if the battery is old it can die one day, even if it was OK the day before. In either case, if the battery is low on charge, it will not have enough power to run the engine: you may hear clicking clicking or the starter will spin very slowly when it tries to start the engine.
Here’s a simple way to check if the battery is dead:
Turn on the wipers. If they are moving very slowly, much slower than usual, the battery is probably low on charge. Look at the ceiling light. If it gets very dark when you start the engine or when you turn on the wipers, the battery is most likely dead.
If the battery is relatively new, it can be recharged. One way to do this is to start your car and let the engine run for a while to recharge the battery. One thing to know: if the battery is over 4-5 years old, it may be completely dead, so it will not recharge and the car will not restart after you turn it off. In this case, you may need a new battery. A problem with the vehicle’s charging system can also prevent the battery from recharging.
The ignition key does not turn
If the ignition key does not turn, this may be for several reasons: This is often the case when the steering is locked by the ignition lock and the front wheels are turned to the side (for example when parking on a slope) or when one of the front wheels is pushed against something (for example, a curb stone). In this case, try turning the steering wheel left and right while gently shaking the ignition key – this might help release the steering lock.
Another possibility is that there is a problem with the ignition lock or the key itself. It happens; the key and the locking mechanism wear out over time. Try to use a spare key.
No lights on the dashboard
If you switch on the ignition and no indicator lights on the instrument panel, it means that there is no power coming from the battery. It could be a dead battery or often a bad ignition switch. If the headlights come on, if they work, it means that the battery has power, so the problem could be with the ignition switch or the wiring between the ignition switch and the battery.
If no light comes on in the dashboard and no other electrical consumer is working, the battery could be completely dead or there is no connection between the battery and the vehicle’s electrical system. Check if the battery terminals are tight.
A “security” or “car + lock” warning light remains on or flashes on the instrument panel
Mazda3 is equipped with an immobilizer or security system that allows the engine to start only if the correct key is used. More information about the immobilizer system can be found in your owner’s manual.
Basically it means that an ignition key has a chip inside with the security code. When you insert it into the ignition, a sensor for the security system reads the code. Normally, when you turn on the ignition, a security light will light up for a short time and then go out. This means that the ignition key code is correct and the car is allowed to start.
If when you turn on the ignition, the “Security” light stays on or flashes, it means that your car’s security system does not recognize the key or that there is a problem with some parts of the security system itself.
Sometimes the key just needs to be reprogrammed. You can find information on how to reprogram the key in your user manual or simply on Google. In some cases, there is a simple procedure to relearn the key that fixes this problem. You can also try the aftermarket key and if nothing works, your dealer is the place to call. Your dealer can check your immobilizer system and reprogram the ignition keys if necessary.
Engine light does not come on
When you switch on the ignition before starting the car, the engine warning light should come on to indicate that the on-board computer is on. If the engine light does not come on when the ignition is switched on, there is a possibility that the on-board computer is not receiving power (for example due to a broken wire, a faulty main relay, or a blown fuse.
Starter does not start
If nothing happens when you turn the ignition key to the “Start” position, the starter motor is not cranking the engine. Most often, this could be caused by a dead battery.
If the battery is OK, but the starter still won’t start, there could be a number of possible reasons. Here are a few:
- The ignition switch could be faulty – this is a common problem. An ignition switch is an electrical switch installed on the rear of the ignition lock mechanism. If shaking the key in the ignition switch helps to start the car, you should check the ignition switch first.
- The starter solenoid control wire may have a bad connection.
- The starter itself or a starter solenoid may be faulty.
- A problem with a neutral safety switch. If a car does not start with the transmission parked, but starts in neutral, it may be due to a problem with a neutral safety switch or the shift lever cable.
- A problem with the vehicle’s security system or other electronic control module can also prevent the starter from operating.
I hear a clicking noise, but the engine doesn’t turn
This is a very common problem: you turn the key to the “Start” position, but the engine does not start; you only hear a single click or repeated clicks coming from the engine compartment. Very often this can be due to a low battery or a bad connection to the battery terminals. Sometimes a battery cable can corrode inside and cause the same problem. In some cases, a bad connection between the negative battery cable and the motor (bad ground) can cause the same symptoms.
Of course, there could be other reasons, but more often it happens when there is not enough electric current for the starter to turn the engine.