Troubleshooting Car Problems

Overcome car starting problems with this troubleshooting guide.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as a car that won't start, especially when you don't have a clue of what to do about it. Of course, sometimes the problem is a major one that will require serious attention. Often times, though, the problem can be easily solved. Here is a 17 point fault finding check list that will help you to identify and correct the possible causes of your frustration.

(1) If the starter drive is jammed the engine won't turn over, put the car in gear and rock backwards and forwards.

(2) If the battery is defective or flat it will have to be recharged. Make sure the connections are clean and tight.

(3) Check the solenoid electrical connections. Clean and tighten if necessary.

(4) If the car slowly turns over but does not fire, check whether the starter motor is faulty. If so, it will need to be repaired or replaced.

(5) Check the spark plugs. Adjust or replace the contact breaker points. Wipe dry the Ht leads and distributor cap interior.

(6) Check inside the distributor cap. Spray the inside with a water repellent, then wipe it dry with a clean cloth.

(7) Check the ballast resistor and ignition feed for faulty connections.

(8) Fuel may not be reaching the carburettor as the result of a blockage or a faulty fuel pump. Disconnect the fuel pipe from the carburettor and check to see if this is the case. If there is a blockage try tapping the pipe. Blow through the pipe to clear any blockage.

(9) There may be a blockage in the carburettor itself. Strip the carburettor and clean up the fuel jets.

(10) The cylinders may be flooded with petrol. Hold the accelerator pedal hard to the floor and turn the engine over without using the choke. If the engine doesn't fire take out the spark plugs, dry them, then refit them and try to start the car again.

(11) If the engine backfires, the ignition timing is incorrect. Adjust the timing.

(12) Check that the air filter is not excessively blocked. If it is clean it and try starting the car.

(13) In a fixed-jet carburettor, the idle jet may be blocked. Remove the idle-jet and blow it clear.

(14) If there is a loud screeching sound when you start the engine, the fan belt or the power steering drive belt may be loose or worn. Adjust the belt tension.

(15) If the engine stalls while it is cold, the idling speed is too low. Adjust the idle speed screw or the choke fast idle screw on the carburettor until the speed is correct.

(16) If the engine stalls while it is hot, the choke may not be opening completely. Check that the choke cable is returning fully and that the choke flap is opening.

(17) Check to see if there is an air leak in the inlet manifold. Look out for a hissing noise at the inlet manifold joints. If so, check and tighten the manifold nuts.

With a little luck, you will have your engine firing well before you reach the end of this check list. If not it may pay to make one final check - is there petrol in the fuel tank?

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