What causes the engine not to start

The car won't start - why is it and what can you do?

PACE tip: If you usually drive short distances in autumn and winter, connect the charger to your car every now and then overnight. We can recommend the jump starter power pack from our gadget article.

The power supply to your car may be interrupted. Whether because of sharp marten teeth or because of an oxidized earth cable, that needs to be found out.


  • Take a look under the hood and see if you can see any damage to the cables and wires.

  • If no damage can be seen, you can perhaps restore the power supply yourself: Unscrew the earth cables, grind them bare and apply a little pole grease *.

  • Screw the cables back on.

Our emergency tip for the starter does not prevent you from going to a workshop anyway. At best, you can still drive to the workshop yourself and don't have to have your car towed.


  • Find the starter (hidden deep in the engine compartment between the gearbox and the engine), ideally with a lift.

  • Lightly tap the starter with a hammer to get the little electric motor going again.

This is about the worst that can happen to your car - not because of the damage to the vehicle or the fact that your car won't start, but because of the great damage to the environment. The reasons for the gasoline leak can be varied: leaking connections, cracked hoses, oxidized fuel filters. Incidentally, fines of 50 to 100,000 euros are imposed for introducing mineral oil (in the form of gasoline or diesel) into the groundwater.


  • Absorb the spilled fuel with binders or sawdust
  • Call your workshop. Work on fuel lines should only be done by professionals.

A poorly set pump can result in the fuel being delayed or injected in the wrong quantity. We have a little guide for Diesel owners with some previous experience.


  • Open the hood.
  • Remove all lines from the pump and loosen the nuts.
  • Find the top dead center of the first piston. You can recognize this by the marking on the gear wheels on the front of the motor
  • Rotate the pump to a position fifteen degrees before TDC.
  • To check, you can now remove the line for the first cylinder on the pump and turn the motor.
  • If the first drop of diesel comes out as soon as the piston is fifteen degrees from TDC, you've done it right.

Repair injection pump

If the problems persist even though the injection pump has been stopped, it could simply be defective. In this case, you should go to a workshop.

The following symptoms indicate a defective ignition lock: If you turn the ignition key, nothing happens. It doesn't “click”, the car doesn't start, the engine only reacts very briefly when you turn the key back.


  • We would not recommend repairing your ignition lock yourself. Therefore: If you suspect a defective ignition, please go to the workshop!
  • Electrical fault in the car
  • Defective alternator
  • The fuel pump has failed
  • Gasoline filters or lines are clogged
  • The carburetor is flooded
  • The ignition coils are broken
  • The fuel pump is broken or not properly powered

If our first aid list couldn't help you, you will likely need to go to the workshop. We hope it is not bad and we wish your car a speedy recovery.

* All links marked with asterisk are promotional affiliate links. Image rights:
Panoha [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], from Wikimedia Commons