It sounds like a nightmare scenario. You are miles from the nearest town, in the middle of nowhere. You pull over to take a photo, send a text, or go to the bathroom. Once it’s time to hit the road once more, you turn your keys, but the car resolutely refuses to start.
What do you do? What could the problem be? And how on earth will you get help in the middle of nowhere?
Firstly, don’t panic. No matter how remote you are, hope is not lost. The problem can be fixed if you work logically to diagnose the problem. Even if it can’t be, staying clear-headed will help you make good decisions and get through the crisis.
You turn the key and there is no sound or lights? The source of the problem is most likely the vehicle’s battery. Open the bonnet and find the battery. Check if all the cables leading from the battery are firmly connected. If they aren’t, take them off, clean them with a rag and reattach them (you might need a wrench). If they are, the problem is likely a dead battery.
The good news is that a dead battery is a very easy fix. The bad news is that in the middle of nowhere, the chances of finding another vehicle any time soon might be slim, and the chances of that vehicle having jump start cables are even slimmer.
Prepare for this eventuality by keeping a lithium ion jump start in your vehicle. Read reviews and shop around to find the right jump start for your needs.
Out of Gas?
You turn the key and hear the electric starter kick in, but the engine won’t start? You may be out of gas. Being stranded without gas is a pain, but the next car that passes should be able to help. It is time to sit tight and wait it out.
If you turn the key and the starter doesn’t fire but you still have lights, indicating the battery is working, it could be an issue with the electrical contact inside the transmission range.
Try and re-establish contact by moving the car to neutral, then back to park and try to start the vehicle again. This can sometimes re-establish contact inside the neutral safety switch and rectify the problem.
Still No Luck?
If after moving the car to neutral and back to park it still won’t start, it might be a blown fuse. If you spot that a metal strip has broken and there is some dark residue around it, then the fuse has blown on the fuel pump or ignition circuit.
Go to the vehicle owner’s manual and find the section on the fuse box location and the location of any spare fuse. It should also offer instructions of how to change the fuse, allowing you to fix the issue and be on your way.
By systematically working through these steps, you can establish the source of the problem and take measures to rectify the issue. Even if nothing is working, the situation is never so bleak that you need to panic. Staying calm is always the best way to solve any issue and should be a priority in any breakdown scenario.