When your car won't start, having a tow truck take it to a service station can be necessary if the engine and other systems need major repairs. However, sometimes a car won't start because of simple problems that you can potentially address on your own. The next time your car doesn't turn over, try these troubleshooting tips before you call for a tow truck and see if they get you back on the road again.
If your car makes a clicking noise as you try to start it, you may already know that this indicates a low battery. You can try to shut off all other electrical devices, meaning the headlights, dome light, and radio, and try your car one more time; some batteries will have just enough juice for one more start when they're low, as long as they don't need to power any other devices at the same time.
If there is a grinding sound, this usually means the battery is good but the engine won't turn over. In some cases, this can be because of a failing fuel pump that isn't pushing enough fuel to the engine. Try to start the car again and step on the gas pedal as you do, as this will force fuel into the engine. Be sure to have this problem repaired as soon as possible; if the fuel pump fails completely, the car will stall and this could be dangerous when you're on the road.
If there is no sound or response from your car, make sure you're in park or neutral, as most cars won't start when in gear; the shifter on the console may be hovering between gears and you simply need to nudge it into place. Look for an obstruction on the console; if there is a build-up of debris around the shifter, it may be stuck in gear without you realizing it.
Flashing dashboard lights
If the dashboard lights flash or blink as you try to start the car, this can indicate a problem with the car's computer. Like your computer at home, a program in that computer can fail and, in turn, it may not engage all the right systems to get your car started. If you have the time, disconnect the battery and let it sit for several minutes or even an hour, and then reconnect it. This can reboot the car's computer and it may then engage the right systems and get the car started again.