Last Updated on February 23, 2023 by Bernard Juchli
You’d be wondering why your car has trouble starting after being driven. Well, this could result from many causes. However, this publication points out the most common reasons it is difficult for your vehicle to start after driving it for a while.
Normally, after driving your car, you should not have difficulties starting it again. Hard starting under cold temperatures is even reasonable, but not when you just recently parked the car. A warm engine that gives trouble to start indeed indicates trouble you need to fix.
You may be able to fix some issues yourself. However, if you can’t diagnose or troubleshoot does not present the problem, you the services of a professional. You also need a mechanic if the problem you suspect is technical. So let’s look at common reasons a car has trouble starting after being driven.
Top Reasons a Car has trouble starting after being driven
When your car gives trouble starting after you just drove it, the following are the possible causes and fixes.
Tank filled with contaminated gas
One of the major reason car has trouble starting after being driven is a tank filled with contaminated gas. Bad gas in your car tank will cause starting problems after driving. You probably saw pump stickers explaining that the gas may contain ethanol. Generally, ethanol is a cleaner fuel than gas and can help to reduce emissions when mixed with gasoline.
However, if gasoline sits in your car for a long time, it will draw in water vapor, which will corrode the tank and fuel system, giving you trouble starting the car after driving it.
How to fix
You can rely on good-quality gas from your local gas station. However, you need to store the gas properly and keep it contaminant or water-free. Do not also buy cheap gasoline – you can harm your engine.
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A flooded car engine is another reason a car has trouble starting after being driven. But this is no longer common since modern cars use fuel injection systems. If your engine is flooded, it means you have excessive fuel and insufficient air. This problem is common when your engine is cold.
You’d notice that driving the car just a few meters and turning it off will give trouble starting the next time. For example, if you move the vehicle from your garage to a parking spot, it does not come on again or has lots of difficulties.
How to fix
If you believe the car you just drove had trouble starting after being driven due to a flooded engine, match the accelerator pedal and briefly try starting the engine for some seconds.
You risk damaging the starter motor or flattening the battery if you try starting the car for over a few seconds. When the car starts, let it idle for some minutes. Don’t leave the running engine unattended.
Faulty head gasket
The head gasket is responsible for the seal between the engine block and cylinder head. It prevents engine oil or coolant from leaking into the cylinders by sealing the combustion gases within the cylinders. This is another major reason a car has trouble starting after being driven.
Thus, if you have a blown head gasket, you will experience a hard start after driving your car. Apart from causing smoke from the tailpipe, which overheats the engine, a faulty head gasket makes it hard to start your car.
How to fix
Since the head gasket stops the coolant and engine oil from mixing and keeps them from the combustion chambers, you need to replace it to prevent water or oil from getting side. A mechanic will have to check and remove any existing water or oil mixture before the replacement (if the head gasket is the problem).
Dirty or clogged engine air filter
The engine air filter is a rectangular pleated air filter in the cold air collector box near the front of the engine compartment. Its purpose is to trap particles such as bugs, dirt, and other air debris before flowing into the engine.
If clogged or dirty, your engine will not get clean air, which will cause it to have trouble starting after being driven.
How to fix
The simple fix is to clean your engine air filter to get rid of dead bugs and dirt. You want the filter to be able to send clean air to the engine, so keep it regularly clean.
Bad engine starter
Bad engine starter is another major reason a car has trouble starting after being driven. You start a car by turning the key. Now, this key instructs the battery to power an electric starter motor that turns over the engine for it to start running on its own.
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Your starter could be faulty, so the car won’t start even after driving it. Moreover, you may now be getting a click sound, which is quite different from what you usually hear when turning the ignition key. If you hear a click, it could be a battery or starter problem. In other cases, you will get a loud screech or other noise other than the usual sound when the engine is cranking over.
How to fix
The solution is to have a professional mechanic check the starter. If faulty, the starter needs to be replaced to resolve the issue and get your car to start again.
A bad battery will not allow your car after driving. Besides, a faulty battery is one of the reasons why a car won’t start. Normally, an automotive battery will last for a long time, but it can go bad, requiring a replacement.
When the car battery is the culprit, you will either hear little or nothing when turning the vehicle ignition key. You may just hear a click or the engine will sound so sluggish.
How to fix
To take the car to the mechanic, a jumpstart will do. Ensure to inspect your jump cable before using it. Do not make it a long-term habit to use a jump starter whenever you have to start your car. If the battery is faulty, consider getting a replacement.
Bad fuel pump
It is quite common for a bad fuel pump to be the reason your engine has trouble starting after being driven. This could particularly be the case if your car sat for a period.
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Modern fuel injection systems work under high pressure that requires maintenance. So, a bad fuel pump will not properly maintain the required pressure for the fuel system. Thus, your car has trouble starting after you just drove it because fuel pressure dropped while the car was being parked. Also, a bad fuel pump may let air inside the fuel lines, causing starting difficulties.
How to fix
Replacing a bad fuel pump will fix the problem. If you’re handy with tools, you can have the fuel pump replaced yourself. You’d have to follow an online resource for your specific car model and model year.
Jammed ignition lock or stuck wheel
The steering lock of your vehicle may be jammed if the ignition key won’t turn. This could result from one front tire sticking hard against a curb.
How to fix
Free the car by turning the wheel slightly from side to side while turning the key back and forth gently at the same time till the lock is free.
If the wheel won’t move, depress the brake and release the handbrake gently for the car to roll slightly away from the curb. Now, apply the handbrake and try again.
In conclusion, there are many things that could cause a car to have trouble starting after being driven. It could be the battery, the starter, the spark plugs, the fuel injectors, or something else. If the car is hard to start, it’s important to have a qualified auto technician look at it to find out what’s wrong and fix it if necessary.