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Problems STARTING ISSUES + FOGGED-UP

WINDOWS + BACK-PROBING
Starting Up?
DON'T GO OUT AND BUY A NEW BATTERY
JUST BECAUSE YOUR CAR WON'T START.

Twist the key. Your car cranks for a second or


two, springs to life, and then quickly settles down
into a fast idle while it warms up. At least that's
DIY AUTO
SATURDAY MECHANIC
how it's supposed to work. This morning, no dice.
It's dead, and there's no obvious reason why.
Here's how to figure out why your car won't run.
0 0 DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY/// EASY

The best approach to finding a solution is to remain


methodical. This is classic systems analysis. Just fol- generic, but it should resolve the
low the decision tree on the next page, and you'll majority of failure-to-start scenarios.
find and cure the problem. Our decision tree is The only real diagnostic tool you'll
require is a decent multimeter. A fuel-
pressure gauge and a nciid light, for
testing fuel injectors, might be handy
once you've ruled out the starter

~ H OTO G RAPHS BY DENNIS KLEIMAN P 0 P U LA R M E C H A N I C S C 0 M I FE B R U A R Y 2 0 0 9 89


PM DIYAUT0 /1/ CAR WOS'T S-:-..!.R T? step4 step5 step6

Is the secu-
step 1 ep3
rity system
activating? If so,

Ch eck the
x"ttery clamps
r
NO
troubleshoot or
deactivate it.

and cables.
Go to step 2.
I
NO
Check the De,-::- ,.
Is it chargee_ Is there spark?
Cha rge it to ::.2..5 Use a spark-gap
YES tester to confirm Check ignition
volts. use system per
j umper cab.: - spark at the plug.
service manual.
YES, but
they are YES

r
really 7
Turn the
key: Do the
dash lights
dim.

YES
YES

NO ~ Does the engine


crank?
1 ~ ~ ~
come on?

1
Return to
step 2 and check Check the battery
battery, cables voltage while
NO
I YES,
but
and clamps. Bat-
tery should be
fully charged.
cranking. Is it
below 9 volts?

1
slowly.
Do you hear a
:n=ing or clicking
-oise underhood?
YES

1
Check e :ba-_._e,:-, Low voltage to
and da ps.. -:- - th e solenoid
on e key, arc m akes it click.
t he lights or ra eck t he battery.
Wiggle and tap - it charged? Go Replace battery.
t he battery co to step 2.
nec::io 1 e
lights co eo ,
go to step 3.

motor and batte ry. You - 5-= :: ~:


need a battery charger to b~ -5:--:: ::=::-
tery to a full state of charge. ::c.::- ~:--::
engine is cranking, because.:_ -::=:: _:::_ a j ump in the pa rking lot at mid- your vehicle has been in storage for
a ful ly charged battery w ::: :::-:: := - 5:1t in a blowing snowstorm. Let's years, there should be at least a little
t hese diagnostics. ::-_ : he fi rst few stages of the Aow - juice left in t he battery, enough to
One po int: If the beL:::-_ :: ::::::: .:.-:: -::, hen you're on your ow n. dimly illum inate the instrument-pa nel
because you left the lig- ::: ::- :- _ :_ lights. Yo ur first step is to check the
cranked AC/DC all nigt: :-; ==~-'"':: :=e~ing Started batte ry posts and cab les. I'd bet a
to actually ch arge the :;::::::-_ =:- : :'::. :::1 tu rn the key and not hing hap- good w hack with your shoe might re-
just jumpsta rt your 'e-::: =-: -=.:: :::-s. ada. No lights on the dash, no establish the connection and put you
the poor alternator cc: :: :-=:: =-=~ -: :::: Jnderhood, just the sound of on the road. Tip: Leave the key on and
ing at t he same tirre :::.-::: ::: :-_ -5:---: _ : _ : :m muttered curs ing from the t he radio up loud. If you're poking
supply the curren ~c ;:::-::- ~ -=-=- .=. :~ :: s seat. You've got an electrical around underhood and it starts ro ckin',
know, I know, t hat'"=--::::::-=. s::_:: ::1d odds are it 's an open ci rcu it the prob lem is t he last w ire you
when some kindly s:::-5::- := ~ _ =: :- :: ::attery posts or cables. Unless touch ed. Or, another branch of t he

90 F E 8 R U A R Y 2 : : :;; :::S.COM
step7 stcp8 step9 step 1 0 step 11 step 12

Check fuel pump Get out the scan


fuse, relay and tool and factory
wiring. Unfortu- service manual.
nately, the fuel
------7 pump is iJ:lside
NO the tank on most
vehicles.
Listen for fuel
ump. Does the
el pump run for
a few seconds
fter the key is
turned on?
YES
T
YES
T
NO Depress Schrader
Check injector
with noid light or
Get out the scan
tool and factory
valve in fuel rail. Is YES ~ voltmeter. Is the service manual.
Are the spark there pressure? injector firing?
wet with
Pull one or
If possible, check
fuel pressure with
NO NO T
and inspect
electrodes.

YES
a gauge.
l Pinch off return l
NO

Check engine-
computer-power
line to tank. Is fuse. Is the fuse

l there pressure
now? NO ~
blown?

Dry out or YES YES


replace
the plugs.
l l Replace fuse.
Check fora Replace fuel-
crimped or pressure
blocked fuel line. regulator.
If it's fine, replace
the fuel pump.

decision tree: The dash lights come on problems from the top down, and you'll tie, the computer won't inJect any fuel,
but go off when you try to start the find each, one at a time. That's the way and a few seconds of pumping air
engine. Could be either a discharged mechanics are taught, and that's the through the engine, w ithout fuel, will
battery or corroded cables or clamps. way that the car manufacturers expect dry off the plugs.
So, time for step 3: Clean up the a repair to proceed if they're going to Following this chart should get
cables. Don't crank the engine for pay for it under warranty. 95 percent of all cars started . If
more than 15 seconds without a you've worked your way to the right
60-second pause or you may overheat Flooded side of the chart, and the car still
the starter motor. Let me say this If you've discovered that you have hasn't started, your last recourse
again-follow the decision tree. There's wet spark plugs (rare on fuel-injected might be to haul out the factory ser-
one thing I learned working on cars engines), you may not need to remove vice manual, some tools and a scan
many years ago. It's not uncommon to them to dry them out. Injected engines tool to dig deeper into your car's black
see multiple problems with intersect- alm ost always have a Clear Flood box. Different fuel-injection architec-
symptoms. And if you try diagnos- mode: Depress the throttle to the tures call for different diagnostics; the
that problem intuitively, you'll floor, and then crank the engine. As factory manual will have those spe-
ickly make yourself crazy. Try solving long as you hold the pedal at full throt- cific to your c;ar. PM

P 0 P U LA R M E C H A N I C S . C 0 M I FE B R U A R Y 2 0 0 9 91