Car Won’t Start After Getting Gas: Other Causes of Engine Not Firing Up

So your engine refused to start, and the first thing you thought of doing was adding some gas to the tank. But even after doing that, your car refused to fire up. It's a nightmarish scenario in our lives packed with things to do, especially since most of the time, our cars won't start in the morning, right before we need to go to work.

But these are things you can't always have control over. Modern cars reliably start almost every day, but every now and then, an issue will occur that will stop the engine from firing up.

But you shouldn't have to worry, as most of the time, the problem is easy to fix and very cheap. So, without further ado, here are the main causes of your car won’t start after getting gas!

1. Dead Battery or Corroded Terminals 

Apart from an empty fuel tank, the second most common issue of your engine not starting up is the battery. Modern car batteries usually last three to four years. If you didn't check its health and replace it on time, it might surprise you by giving off one day – just when you least expect it.

Replacing the battery is obviously the solution here – just make sure the model you get fits your car and the position in the engine bay, and you'll be good to go. 

However, if you own more vehicles and want to avoid these situations, I'd suggest investing in a battery jump starter, as it can come in helpful multiple times.


Dead Battery or Corroded Terminals

Sometimes, though, your battery might be fine, and it's the terminals that are causing the issue. Due to moisture or battery acid leaking, the terminals can corrode and cause the battery to lose charge or stop electricity from being transferred from it to the engine starter.

You can clean the corrosion (sulfation) with water and baking soda or by simply using mechanical means, like sanding paper.

2. Bad Spark Plugs (or Related Components) in Gas Engines

The spark plugs serve a crucial role in gasoline engines, as they are used to light up the fuel/air mixture. Modern spark plugs are very reliable, but they can still go bad over time.

However, most of the time, they might not ignite because you flooded the cylinders with fuel, which renders the spark plugs inoperable. In that case, remove every spark plug, dry it out, and put it back in the engine.


Bad Spark Plugs (or Related Components) in Gas Engines

3. Bad Alternator

The alternator is a crucial part of any internal combustion-engine vehicle, as it transforms kinetic energy into electricity. If it wasn't for this part, none of the electrical systems in your car would've worked, and crucially, the battery would lose its charge in a matter of minutes.

So, if your alternator went bad, it would not have been able to recharge the battery while you were driving, which could completely stall your vehicle.

You will know that the alternator is at fault if the electrical systems in your car, like the headlights and radio, will start to dim or lose power.

Most vehicles even have a warning light on the dashboard, but the same one will light up if you have issues with the battery.

Unfortunately, you'll need to replace the alternator once it goes bad – it ranges from $100 to $350.

4. Bad Starter Motor

The starter motor is the part in charge of cranking the engine and starting it up – just like its name suggests. Naturally, if it goes wrong, your engine won't start.

But how would you know that the starter motor is the culprit and not the battery or the alternator? Fortunately, when the starter motor goes bad, it produces recurrent clicking noises when you try to start the car instead of cranking the engine.

When this happens, your only choice is to replace the starter motor, which costs from $80 to $400, depending on the vehicle.

5. Problems With the EVAP Purge Valve

The Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) collects the gasoline vapors from the tank and keeps them from escaping into the atmosphere. That way, the system ensures your car won't be polluting the air with dangerous fumes.

The EVAP system also uses the same vapors to start the engine via the canister purge valve. That way, your car uses every last drop of fuel, which is great for efficiency.


Problems With the EVAP Purge Valve

However, the purge valve can go bad and either stay open (too much fuel entering the cylinders) or stay closed (no fuel vapor entering the cylinders).

When opened, the purge valve could flood the engine with fuel, and your car might not start. If closed, your car might have issues starting, but in the end, the ECU will inject more fuel from the regular fuel lines, and the engine will start.

A new purge valve costs from $30 to $150, depending on the vehicle model.

6. Bad Crankshaft Sensor

The crankshaft sensor is one of the most crucial sensors in your car, as it constantly monitors the crankshaft's position and speed. Then, it sends the signals to the Powertrain Control Module (PCM), which controls the injection timing and duration, spark plug timing, and valve timing on some engines.

When a crankshaft sensor goes bad, the engine simply won't work, and the only thing you can do is replace it with a new one. It costs from $40 to $150.

7. Damaged Fuel Pump or Clogged Fuel Filter

Fuel pumps can last for a very long time, which is why owners often forget about them. However, while they are reliable, they can go bad over time. And when that happens, you'll need to replace them with a new one, which costs from $100 to $1,000.

Bad fuel can also clog the fuel filter (on some cars), which can also stop your engine from starting. Fortunately, fuel filters on most vehicles cost $50 to $100.


While the culprits I mentioned above are most commonly related to a car that won't start after getting gas, they are not the only ones.

A myriad of other problems can prevent the engine from starting, including ECU errors (the Check Engine light should be illuminated on the dashboard), skipped timing belts, clogged injectors, or even the key fob.

Therefore, apart from the battery and spark plugs, it's always best to check with a professional technician to find the culprit and replace the part. Or, if you trust your repairing skills, make sure that you follow repair guides specific to your vehicle model; an online forum is a great place to start, but if you are more serious, I suggest acquiring a repair manual.

Leave a Comment