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What to Do When the Car Struggles to Start

What to Do When the Car Struggles to Start

When the car struggles to start, you automatically assume the worst: tow trucks, mechanics, road side assistance, calling your boss to tell them you will be late. The first step is to stay calm. The second is to prepare a list of logical ways to resolve the unfortunate situation.

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Sometimes life throws us curveballs out of left field when we least expect them. You’re on top of the world, you haven’t had a major incident or unexpected bill for months, and that’s when it happens… the car struggles to start.

In a worst-case scenario, the car struggles to start at the worst possible moment, when you are already rolling low on funds. 

You just paid off some dental work, and a small medical bill, you’re almost in the clear. Then, out of nowhere, the engine struggles to start on a cold Chicago morning (your worst nightmare). 

Either way, do not panic. 

A car that struggles to start needs attention, but this isn’t the end of the world. In fact, you will have many options to consider once you get your head wrapped around the situation.

Signs and Symptoms that a Car Struggles to Start

Perhaps you’re not sure what just happened: Did your car struggle to start? It isn’t normal for that to happen…

The signs and symptoms of a car that struggles to start requires some knowledge of the car. 

If you are talking about your own car here, then it’s pretty clear what are the most obvious signs that the engine struggled to start: it sounded slow, there was more shaking than normal, you had to push the pedal on the gas to get it going.

A good mechanic would know if a car was struggling to start just by the sound of it. 

The rhythm is off, and that means one thing: the engine might not turn. ugh-ugh- and then it sounds like somebody deflated the soul of the car. 

Even if the engine starts, the struggle to do so still remains cause for concern. However, some older cars always struggle a little. You will have to be the judge of what is normal or abnormal for your particular car’s year, make, and model. 

Another issue: lights, radios, and power windows may fail.

If you’re not sure if your car is struggling to start, you might ask a friend, family member, or coworker who knows a thing or two about cars to check things out under the hood. 

What you should do, however, is also talk to a licensed or certified mechanic. 

You can’t take your buddy’s word as the final matter unless he is actually a mechanic or perhaps a certain type of engineer. 

Issues that Cause a Car to Struggle to Start

What are the issues that cause a car to struggle to start? From icy or frigid conditions to near mechanical failure, there really could be a lot going on.

The most familiar and normal struggle occurs on a very cold day. Engines are designed to withstand certain temperature conditions and adjust automatically to weather changes. 

However, subzero temperatures can cause even newer cars to struggle to start. You might want to check on the car battery and carry jumpers in your trunk if this a regular occurrence. 

Car Struggles to Start: What Will it Cost Me to Fix?

When the car struggles to start, many people’s minds automatically go into panic mode, thinking about the time it will take to fix this problem, the unfair nature of karma to cause this problem to you here and now, and ultimately, how much this whole ordeal is going to cost.

There are many happenings in life that are just plain unexpected. Issues with friends and family spring up from nowhere as do questions of security, money, and car problems. The important thing to do in such a situation is to weigh the costs and benefits of each action.

For example, maybe you drive an older car. The question of what is this going to cost to me should be followed by “Is this investment worth it?”  It doesn’t make sense to do a serious repair on a car that is only worth a couple of hundred bucks.

Unfortunately, cars that aren’t worth a lot of money often have the type of engine trouble that would cause them to struggle to start, perhaps on a cold day (or because of some other issue like the battery going bad).

An old car isn’t a lot of fun when it struggles to start on a daily basis, or on the coldest days of the year – the days you rely on the mode of transportation most. Nobody wants to be out at the bus stop when there are subzero temps.

Beyond money, the problem costs you time and energy.

How Much Does It Cost at the Mechanic when Car Struggles to Start?

The cause of the problem is the best predictor of price when the car struggles to start.

The most common causes of a struggling engine would be a dead battery, loose/corroded connection cables, or an alternator gone bad. Figuring out the cause will help you identify solutions and the approximate price of the anticipated repairs. 

If the battery goes bad, you’ll know because the cranking be slow. This is the sound of a car not wanting to turn over on a cold morning – if you have never experienced the problem yourself, you’re lucky. You may have heard it in a movie or on television. It is the sound of mechanical death.

A new battery costs between $50 and $250.

It could be a problem of juice or corrosion. If it’s low on power, you might get some help from a friend with a car battery ready to give the engine a boost to get going. This is often common in large communities where people help each other out. 

Sometimes a mechanic or roadside assistance must be called to give the car a jump.  

Today, you can buy a special battery jump pack to keep in your trunk. You just load it up and save it for the unlucky moment you need to a jumpstart. 

The invention is helpful because you don’t have to rely on anybody to help you – you just have to remember to keep that handy piece of equipment adequately charged.

Some auto parts retailers will be able to check your battery for free. They can tell if you need to buy a new one – you probably will.

You can tell the power is going when lights and the radio begin to flicker or cut in and out. That isn’t normal in cars. You have an electrical issue; it could be the alternator.

The alternator costs roughly $300-$500 to fix.

Are you Hearing Interference on the Radio or Driving a Car that Struggles to Start?

If you’re driving, and your radio cuts to another station or becomes very fuzzy without warning, you may wonder what’s going on… it could be that you have a car that struggles to start.

The lack of power reduces the energy available to the radio, causing the signal reception to be compromised. No, it isn’t ghosts or alien interference – most likely just a bad alternator. 

If the alternator is bad, it probably already ruined your battery. Have the shop check both the alternator and the battery at once. 

It usually doesn’t happen the other way around.

You Have Options When Your Car Struggles to Start

When the car struggles to start, it may feel like your world is shutting in around you. Car problems are very stressful, and it’s normal for them to cause anger, outrage, and sorrow. Then again, if you can clear your mind, you may see it could be a problem with a simple solution.

What will you do first? If the car struggles to start, but is running, you have to choose if you will drive it in its current condition. How far are you traveling? Is it safe to travel with how the engine’s running? Will you be stranded if the car doesn’t start the next time?

If your car isn’t running well, it may be safer to drive home (where you will be safe and sound should the car not start up again). 

Maybe you would feel comfortable leaving your car at the parking lot at work. Do you want to deal with a dead car outside of a convenient store, though?

The smartest best it is to drive it straight to a mechanic. If it is deemed unsafe to drive the car with the engine that struggles to start, then call a tow truck.

You have another option should you find yourself in this situation. You could send the old car to the junkyard.

Many people wouldn’t think to do that, but it makes perfect sense in some situations.

Perhaps the car struggles to start when it’s 30 degrees outside. That’s a problem 


There are plenty of winter days that are colder than that Chicago. 

In this case, maybe the car wouldn’t be the one on which to rely for the remainder of the wet and cold winter season. Instead, you could sell the car to a junkyard, getting rid of the problem once and for all.

There are a couple of benefits to this option. One of the top benefits is that they pay cash money for old cars. 

You could definitely put that money toward a new car, a transit pass, a motorcycle, a bicycle – or even a pair of new sneakers (for all the walking you will be doing).

There are many ways around the problem of a car that struggles to start – some of them do not require popping the hood. This is true if you choose to send your car to a junkyard after discovering that it struggles to start.

When Your Car Struggles to Start, Find a Mechanic

Another great option you have in the situation is calling a mechanic to help you when your car struggles to start. You can look up the information you need by performing an Internet search for “mechanics near me.”

You might be trying to call a mechanic in between meetings at work or hoping to get the car in and out of the shop before the kids get out of school.

Finding the right mechanic can be a challenge, especially if you’re in a rush trying to figure out why your car struggles to start all of the sudden. 

At the end of the day, you’re going to have to take a moment to figure out what attributes of a mechanic are the most important to you. 

Do you want a mechanic who is popular? Do you want a mechanic that works for a garage name or brand you recognize? What about a local one that only accepts cash?  Do you know a mechanic from your child’s soccer team?

These questions have to be sorted out; then, you can call the mechanic of your choosing.

There is one tip that many car owners enjoy: getting estimates can save you money on car repairs.

Ask three or four shops for an estimate on the car if you have the time. You can compare prices and timelines. Maybe there is a place that charges more but does the repair faster. Maybe you have a special connection to a garage that is a little pricier. Choose wisely!

My Car Almost Didn’t Start: Handling a Car that Struggles to Start

There is light at the end of the tunnel, even when you have a car that struggles to start.

If you’re a professional, or you at least know the basics, go ahead and take a look. You may see problems with alternators, batteries, or weather that’s just too darn cold for the car’s current condition. 

The rest of us will call our mechanic, car dealership, or garage and get this sorted out right away. 

If that doesn’t seem like a good option, then call a tow truck to cash out on this vehicle before it causes you any more problems.

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