Car Starting Problems

Imagine you waking up early, getting ready, and planning to go to work or an outing with the family, and you car doesn’t start. It’s sure to be the start of a bad day. People use cars for traveling to and fro. In their busy lives, there is no time for car starting problems. Car ignition problems can be very frustrating, which can result in you being late for office, cancel or delay your picnic plans, or put you in a state where you need to borrow someone’s car or ask for a lift. There are many reasons for a car to not start, which need to be diagnosed. The problems may vary from the battery to sensor. There are some tests that need to be performed for diagnosing the problem, some are very simple but some need a car mechanic. The car not starting can be a common problem in cold winters when the engine gets so cold.

Things Needed for the Engine to Start

The starter motor turns the engine on, which needs a decently charged battery, a starter motor and a starter circuit in working condition. Fuel mixed with air is a necessary constituent for the engine to start. There also must be an effective spark to ignite the fuel and air mixture. The valves of the engine should be able to open and close at the correct time. There should be a proper compression in the cylinders. A normal compression needed to start the car is 120-170 psi. The engine won’t start if it is any lower than 70-80 psi. If the car doesn’t start, one or more of the above mentioned things are missing.

Conditions of a No-start Engine

The Starter doesn’t Crank
If there is no crank from the engine when you turn the ignition key, there is a problem in the starter motor which is unable to start the engine. A dead or low battery could be a possible reason for this. But if you are sure that the battery is fine, and the car is not cranking still, there could be many reasons for that. The most common problem is of the ignition switch which may be problematic. There can be a wrong or bad connection with the wires which control the starter motor. There is a ‘neutral safety switch’ installed in automatic transmission cars that allows the starter to operate only when the transmission is in ‘park’ or ‘neutral’ position. When the switch is faulty or shifter is not in the needed position, the starter won’t crank. Cars that have manual transmission have a switch at the clutch pedal that allows the car to start only when the pedal is pressed. If there is an issue with the clutch pedal switch, the starter won’t function.

Starter Click but no Crank
A discharged or low battery can be a reason when you only hear a normal click sound from the starter but no crank. If the battery is good, there can be defects in the starter solenoid, cables, or the starter motor.

Crank but the Engine doesn’t Start
There can be various issues if the engine doesn’t start after you hear a crank. This means your starter doesn’t have any problem. There can be issues with the fuel system like a bad fuel pump, fuel pump relay, or a clogged fuel screen. The engine’s electronic system also can be at fault with problems in the crank sensor, cam sensor, air flow sensor, power relay, or engine computer. There can be some ignition system defects such as a defunct ignition coil, switch, commutator, rotor, or distributor cap. There is also a slight chance of problems that include a broken timing belt or gear and low compression.

For preventing such car starting problems, one should ensure that there is enough fuel in the tank, a well-charged battery installed, and enough engine oil. Periodic servicing and checking of the car should also be done by an authorized professional mechanic.

Fuel Pressure Regulator Problems

A fuel pressure regulator is a device located between the fuel source and the engine. It can be found by simply following the fuel line or rail which carries fuel to the engine. A problem in the regulator can result into no supply of fuel to the engine, which in turn can lead to a breakdown. Mentioned below are some tests that you can carry out yourself to gage any issues with the fuel pressure regulator.

Test 1

You can test the regulator to check the symptoms of a problem with the help of a fuel pressure gauge.

– Insert the gauge along the system line in a testing port provided in the assembly.
– In case the testing port is absent, use a fuel filter hose to bypass the line by inserting the gauge along the arrangement.
– Check the reading of the fuel pressure.
– If the reading is between 45 p.s.i. to 55 p.s.i. for the injection mechanism and 14 p.s.i. to 18 p.s.i. in the throttle bottle injection assembly, your regulator is fine.
– A large deviation from the above mentioned ranges can be a sign of a potential problem.

Test 2

– Sharply strike the pressure gauge which is connected to the throttle arrangement.
– For a normal functioning pump, the pressure reading should rise by 5 p.s.i. approximately.
– A drop in the reading indicates a flaw in the regulator. This may be due to a faulty pump or clogging of the filter with some impurity.
– Remove the pump from the system and clean or replace it by a new one. Make sure that you retest the system on reinstalling the setup.

Test 3

Another test involves the regulator and fuel pump. To conduct the test,

– Start the engine and after allowing it to idle, carefully notice the vacuum line being displaced by the gauge.
– The reading should rise to show about 5 p.s.i. to 10 p.s.i.
– If it does not show any change, the regulator has a problem, specifically with the vacuum line.
– The regulation can be brought back to normal functioning by changing the regulator and by testing the new one for usability.

Minor car problems are usually a result of an abnormal pressure conditions in the fuel system. A high reading can result in heavy emissions. The problems arising out of this can be misfiring, clogging of system, racing and so on. On the other hand, a low pressure in the fuel regulator may cause a delayed or no start, misfiring and abrupt ignition.

Regulator problems are easy to detect. It is very essential to keep fuel pressure in the proper operating region for a longer and smooth engine life. So, the next time you sense a slight glitch or hiccup with the working of the engine, it is time for thorough checkup of the vehicle.

Car Alternator Problems

Modern cars, trucks and caravans are well-equipped with every comfort one can imagine. All these appliances and the engine need loads of electric power to operate. Where does all this power come from? This requirement is satisfied by a very simple gadget, known as the ‘Alternator’. It is short for ‘Alternating Current Generator’. The efficiency of these devices is around 50 – 60%. Through the use of the alternator, which is a dynamo, your car generates its own electrical power and stores it in a rechargeable car battery. Ergo, it’s absolutely essential that you keep a check on the working of the alternator or you may be left high and dry with no power to drive your car!
How Does the Car Alternator Work?
The alternator creates electricity by exploiting a fundamental law of electromagnetism which is – ‘Changing magnetic field creates an electric field’. There are two important parts of the alternator – stator and the rotor. The rotor is essentially a set of three pairs of electromagnets with opposite poles facing each other, placed on a cylindrical disc. They are 120 degrees out of phase from each other. Stator is the stationary part placed at the center of the rotor disc.The rotor is attached to engine crankshaft, by a belt. Thus, an important part of this assembly is the alternator belt, which transfers engine torque to the rotor. When the engine is operational, crankshaft rotation makes the rotor go around. The revolving rotor creates a changing magnetic field. This field induces a three phase current in the central stator. A current is generated 120 degrees out of phase, by each of the magnet pairs. There are output terminals attached to the stator with separate windings for every phase.However, this output current is AC (Alternating Current) but the car accessories require DC (Direct Current) for operation. Therefore, AC to DC conversion is achieved by connecting the output current from stator to a double bridge rectifying diode circuit, which effectively does the job. So, one car alternator with such three sets of magnets generates a threefold current which is 120 degrees out of phase. The total voltage output of the alternator is around 14 V typically.

The DC output from the rectifier is fed to the battery which gets charged and it effectively ‘stores’ the generated electricity. For operating the electromagnets in the alternator, a voltage needs to be supplied from the battery at the start which is called ‘exciter’ voltage. The whole alternator assembly is supported by bearings for smooth rotation. Thus, chemical energy of the gasoline in your tank is converted into electrical energy, by an alternator.

Troubleshooting Car Alternator Problems
Any piece of electromechanical equipment is bound to breakdown at some point, if not maintained properly, due to the constant frictional forces. The car’s alternator is no exception to this. Keeping a tab on the performance of your car alternator and maintaining it is a simple job. Here’s an essential guide to troubleshooting alternator problems effectively. If your car’s headlights go dim often and electrical accessories experience problems, it’s but natural to suspect alternator issues. Here’s how you can go about diagnosing and solving problems.
– Check the ‘ALT’ Light
Observe the front panel of your car and see if a light marked as ‘ALT’ is glowing on the dashboard. If this LED is glowing, it’s a direct indication that the alternator output voltage has dropped substantially. It’s imperative that you test the alternator immediately.
– Testing the Alternator
The alternator has three operating stages, with each providing a certain voltage output. Therefore even if one stage or two stages fail, you may not notice, as some amount of voltage output is still charging the battery. Also, if you are not putting a lot of load on the battery, and all three stages have failed, still the car can operate on the reserve charge in the battery. This makes it difficult to diagnose whether source of the problem is the alternator.
The way to check out this problem and take care of it is quite simple. Set the engine on idling mode and check the voltage between the output terminals of the alternator by using a digital multimeter set on the voltage mode. If it has fallen below the maximum of 14 V, then there may be a stage failure. In case it’s indeed maximum at 14 V, check if it remains stable after you apply more load like the air conditioning. If it’s not remaining stable, you can be assured that the alternator is in need of repair. Test the battery output voltage too, as sometimes it’s a dead battery that’s the culprit.
– Check the Functioning of Electromagnets
Check if the electromagnets are operational by seeing if metal objects get attracted towards the alternator. Then check for unusual rumbling noise from the alternator. It may indicate that the bearings are wearing out. In that case, you may need to replace them soon. Check the rotor belt as it may slip or break. Replacements are easily available at your neighborhood car accessories store.
– Observe the Alternator Belt
A worn out or slackened alternator belt may be the reason for the alternator’s low voltage output. Open the hood and observe the alternator belt’s condition, along with its tension. If it’s worn out, get it replaced. In case it has lost tension, get your car to the nearest car repair center to get the belt tension adjusted precisely.
– Check For Loose Connections
A very common reason for problems in the working of most electrical devices is ‘Loose Wiring’. Check for loose connections that might be hampering the functioning of the alternator. Fixing them might restore functionality to normalcy.
Last but not the least, have a tried and trusted mechanic by your side for expert advice in case the symptoms of the problem go beyond your understanding. Always try to understand the solution of a car problem if it crops up, even if the mechanic solves it for you. Trust me it always helps and comes to your aid, when you are on your own.