When the starter says no! (Monday, March 9, 2015) page 20



It is 6 a.m. on a Monday in February, and the sun is playing hide and seek in the cloudy sky.
Joyce entered her car but as she did to start her vehicle, it wouldn’t start.


Ama has a meeting at 7.30 a.m. and conscious of Accra’s notorious traffic congestion during rush hour, she decided to leave home as early as possible.

One, two, three, four, five ...25 minutes, the car refused to start.

Given her limited knowledge under the hood and her mechanic’s specialisation in half-truths, she began to perspire although the weather remained cosy. It would take the mechanic at least 30 minutes to reach her house, a time she could not afford to spare.

In the end, she abandoned the vehicle and took a taxi that cost her more than she planned for.
If you turn your car key and get nothing, or get anything less than an engine roaring to life, you might be in for a bad day. Starting problems can be very frustrating because there are so many things under the hood that can keep a car from starting. The truth is almost everything under the hood can keep the car from starting.

According to Auto Specialist Michael Datsomor, checking an ignition problem starts from the battery.
“Some tests for a no-start problem are simple; others are a pain in the neck and a technical nightmare. Nonetheless, you need to figure out why the car won't start.”

Here are tips from the specialist’s workshop but this requires that you know your way around your car’s hood. Let’s go…

Electrical No-Start Problems
•    Check Your Fuses: Few cars have a fuse associated with the starting system, but before you go touching anything, check your fuses to be sure it is not the problem.

•    Battery corrosion: Over time, your battery connections can become dirty, or corroded. This corrosion breaks the connection your battery has with the rest of the car, and it won't start. Try cleaning your battery posts and try to start the car again.

•    Dead battery: The most common reason your car won't start is a dead battery. If you have a battery tester that can measure cranking amps, test your battery to see if it's weak. If you can't test it yourself, you can test the battery indirectly by jump-starting the car. If it starts right away, your problem is most likely a dead battery. Replace the battery, and clean the battery connections to ensure good contact.

•    Bad ignition switch: If your battery checks out, but the starter is still silent, it may be a faulty ignition switch. Turn the key to the on position (not all the way to start). If the red warning lights on your dashboard does not light up (and your battery connections are clean), the ignition switch is bad.

 If they do light up, turn the key to the start position. The dashboard warning lights should turn off at this key position (most cars). If you're not sure, turn on the headlights. When you try to start the car, the lights should either dim (a lot) or turn off completely. If they do, your ignition switch should be ok. If not, the switch will need replacement.

•    Bad starter connection: Corrosion cannot only keep your battery from connecting, it can affect any electrical component, especially the ones exposed to the elements like the starter.

If you have a helper, you can test the connection by holding a circuit tester lead on the wire that engages the starter. This is the smaller of the two wires connected to the starter. Be sure no part of your body is near the moving parts of the engine - it could still start at any time! Have a friend turn the key and check the current. If you're getting current to the starter but it is not spinning, it needs replacement.

Good luck. If Ama had this knowledge, she would have saved herself the stress and a few cedis. Please be careful when jump starting, if it is not handled well, you could get injured.

“Some tests for a no-start problem are simple; others are a pain in the neck and a technical nightmare. Nonetheless, you need to figure out why the car won't start.”

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