Your Car Won't Start. What's Next?

Broken down car

There’s never a convenient time to have a broken-down vehicle, and it usually seems to happen right when you need to get somewhere quickly. Fortunately, there are things you can do to hurry along the process of turning "my car won't start" into "whew . . . my car is back on the road."
First, call or text a friend with your current location. Whether it's to push your car out of the way of oncoming traffic or to keep you company as you wait for a tow truck, friends make great roadside assistance!

If you can't handle a certain car-related task such as changing a tire or jumping a battery, your friend may come in handy for this as well. Sometimes that person with greater physical strength (or one who isn't panicking about car troubles, like you might be) can make a world of difference.

Perhaps your friend belongs to an auto club that has transferable free road side assistance. Or, he or she can give you a ride after your car has been towed away, if that's the outcome.

If your car has a manual transmission, maybe you can push start.

Here's another situation where a friend can be helpful because it’s impossible to push start on your own. First, make sure your car’s inability to start up is the result of a faulty starter. When you turn on your engine, you should hear a “clicking” sound. If you hear a revved up sort of roar, then a push start may not work with your car.

If this is an option for you, then put your transmission in second gear before turning on the ignition. Put your foot on the clutch and then ask your friend to push the car, or vice versa, to hopefully get it started.

If none of these help, call a tow truck or perhaps the police.

It may seem like you’re overreacting if you call the police as a result of a dead battery, but you may need to if you're alone and stranded without a functioning vehicle. A police officer can help get your car out of a dangerous lane of traffic, help you push start your car or offer other types of assistance.

Finally, you can call for a tow truck to take your car to a garage/repair facility. Verify where they are taking your vehicle before they drive off. Some tow yards are not as close as you may think.

What about the pros and cons of hitchhiking?

Some consider hitchhiking to be a viable option when their car won’t start or road side assistance is not available. Here are some thoughts about the pros and cons of hitchhiking.

One pro is that you might get where you need to go. Another is you may meet interesting people on your journey. That’s pretty much it. The rest of hitchhiking history shows plenty of “cons,” including people who have been injured or even killed. There is also no guarantee your drivers will go where they say or that you can protect yourself from being robbed or having your identity stolen once you are in a stranger’s vehicle.

That said, if you are a frequent hitchhiker or find yourself in a situation where you feel you have no other choice, then follow these guidelines.

If you insist on hitchhiking:

  • Always carry ID with you, but conceal it well.
  • Have your hand on your cell phone at all times in case of emergency.
  • Approach people at gas stations or stores rather than sitting on the side of the road.
  • Try to select a car with a family or other combination of individuals that appears to be safer than a single person or a more suspicious combination.


Editor's note: Fixing your car is always a better option than hitchhiking. Count on Advance Auto Parts to all of your DIY needs, and save!

Last updated June 6, 2018