I had a problem with my 2010 VW Jetta last week that has prompted me to write this post. I was going about my normal routine, dropping the kids off in the morning and taking another one to swim camp with her friend. I turned the car off to go get her friend, buckled him in, and the car had no power! There was absolutely nothing on the dash, no lights, nothing! The headlights wouldn’t go on, it was completely dead! I immediately thought that there was a major problem and jumped to the conclusion that a wire must’ve broke somewhere and I would need to trace it.
I made arrangements to get another vehicle and continued on with my day, leaving the Jetta out in front of my friend’s house for the remainder of the week. I did go back there that night to see if we could get it started. I used my Fluke meter to test the voltage on the battery and it was a little over 12 volts. At this point I was certain I was dealing with a major electrical issue that would need to be traced and resolved.
So Saturday rolls around and I decide that I would be foolish not to try and jump the car. I had 12 Volts at the battery and no lights what so ever on the inside, I jumped to the conclusion that the battery was fine. I was wrong! I put the jumper cables on the car and I had power back to the inside. I tried to turn it over and the starter just clicked. I let it sit for awhile with the jumper cables connected and I still could not get it to start, but the car once again had power and was at least attempting to start. I eventually came to the conclusion that the battery was bad and just did not have enough cold cranking amps to turn the started. I uninstalled the battery and went and got a new one. I installed the new battery and the car started right up.
I am very happy with the result and because of the stressful week that I was having I instantly jumped to the conclusion that it was a serious issue even though it was just a battery. I have never had a battery fail like that where there was no power in the car at all; I would usually have something to indicate that all the connections were good. That is why I instantly jumped to the conclusion that there was a broken wire somewhere that would need to be tracked down and repaired.
So, these are my steps to resolving a no start issue.
- Check the battery; I checked it with a Fluke meter. If it is reading 12 Volts or better I would say it was good, however that was not the case with me.
- If the battery checks out try jump starting it anyway to see if that works. If it does, the battery is probably bad and needs to be replaced. You can try to use a battery charger to bring up the charge but that may or may not be the solution.
- If you can’t get it started with a jump (or in my case a new battery) you will need to start looking at other systems in the car. Check to make sure that the air intake is not clogged with debris and blocking the flow of air to the engine.
- Next, I would check to make sure the ignition system is in proper working order by checking to see if the coils are firing properly. You can use a spark tester on the coils to see if they are firing right.
- The last thing to check is fuel….do you have gas in the car? (You should probably check that first; I knew I had gas in mine!) Is there proper fuel pressure at the fuel rail. If you have a fuel pressure guage you should be able to determine that.
If all those things check out, you have some issues. In order for and engine to run properly it needs air, fuel, and spark. If your engine has all of those things it should run barring a failed battery. If the alternator is bad, the car should still start with a jump but the battery will not be recharged properly so the next time the car stops I will most likely need to be jumped again.