Exploring Automotive Electrical Faults

Two Worst-Case Scenarios For Engines That Won't Start

In most cases, a car that won't start has electrical or fuel problems. For example, your car may fail to start if it isn't getting the right voltage from the battery. However, in the worst case scenarios, your car may also fail to start due to catastrophic engine damages. Here are two prime examples of such serious engine issues:

Seized Engine

When critical engine components get damaged, and the moving parts of the engine can't work at all, the engine is said to be seized. Low oil pressure is a common cause of an engine seize. Without adequate lubrication, friction between the moving parts of the engine shoots up, and they also heat up pretty quickly. Examples of engine parts whose failures can lead to an engine seize include the bearings and pistons.

Mechanical problems can also cause an engine to seize. A good example of such a mechanical problem is breakage of the timing belt. If the chain breaks, the pistons they normally control will move in a chaotic manner and crash the valves, making the crankshaft unable to turn.

A good way of finding out if an engine has seized is to remove the spark plugs and try rotating the engine. You can use your hands (for small engines) or breaker bar (for larger engines); if the crankshaft won't turn, then the engine is probably seized. If you don't have the skills or tools to do this, contact a mechanic for a professional diagnosis.

Hydrolocked Engine

An engine gets hydrolocked when a liquid floods its combustion cylinder. Apart from the fact that the offending liquid may not be combustible, hydrolock is bad because engines work by compressing the gas above the cylinder as the piston moves up. Unfortunately, liquids do not get compressed like gasses, so the piston in a hydrolocked engine will not move.

Any fluid in the cylinder can cause a hydrolock, but the common ones include these three:

  • Water; for example, your engine may be flooded after driving through a flood.
  • Coolant; for example, internal coolant leak may reach cylinders.
  • Fuel; for example, damage to the fuel injection mechanism can introduce liquid fuel to the cylinder.

A hydrolock can damage other parts of the engine. For example, the piston may get twisted out of shape as it tries to compress the incompressible liquid.

Therefore, if your car has failed to start and you have ruled out the obvious ones, you should start thinking about engine issues. If you have the relevant skills and tools, you can carry out further diagnosis on the car. Otherwise, consult a professional mechanic or auto repair shop, such as Doc Able's Auto Clinic Inc, for help.