Ten Tests To Try For a Cranky Engine That Won’t Start

Has this happened to you? You put your key in the ignition, turn it on, you hear the spin, but nothing starts. Maybe it coughs and snorts a time or two. Or maybe it even ran for a minute – teasing you – but then nothing!Sounds like you’ve got a problem! What do you do?1. Check the easy stuff first! Look at the gas gauge if it shows fuel in the tank. If it’s empty, hit yourself in the head for being a dolt!2. Then check the fuel line and fuel filter. It may just be a plugged fuel filter. If there is no gas in the line, it may be a lying fuel gauge.3. If you have an older vehicle that has a distributor, check the coil wire. It may be off loose or broken.4. Next check to see if there is fire to the plugs. A timing light is good for this and eliminates the accidental shocks you can get using other methods. Just hook up the timing light and see if it flashes when the engine spins. If it flashes you have fire to the plug.5. Next examine the plug wires closely. Are there any cracks in the insulation or has moisture collected on them? If either or both conditions are present, the condition can easily keep your vehicle from starting. The solution is replacement plug wires if the insulation is cracked.6. If you still haven’t found the cause at this point, it may be a more serious internal problem (Gasp!).7. The next step is to check the ignition timing with your timing light. If the ignition timing is good, you may have bad spark plugs.8. Remove one of the plugs and examine it. If it’s wet, you may have carburetor or fuel injection issues.9. If you are unable to locate the timing mark with the timing light, it may mean your valve timing is off. This is usually caused by a bad timing chain or belt and in some vehicles, bad timing gear. This varies with make and model of vehicle.10. Run a compression test. If you have compression tester, hook it up to a cylinder that is easy to access and check the compression. Run both a dry compression check and a wet compression check (See the instructions with your compression testor). If both are very low or there is no compression, you probably have timing chain/belt issues.If your problem appears to be valve timing and you are an experienced do-it-yourself mechanic, you have your next weekend project. If not, then make an appointment with the tow truck and your local mechanic to get your vehicle repaired.

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