4. Have you got the right key? This sounds unlikely but roadside assistance operators regularly report cases of mistaken identity as a reason for emergency calls. Not the wrong car but the wrong key. In a two Commodore family, for instance, the key may fit the ignition but won’t start it.
5. Is your remote flat? Modern electronics have led to remote engine immobilisers, which prevent your car from being stolen. Problem is, when they go on the blink you can crank the starter motor (or maybe not even get that far) and the only sound you’ll hear are your own four-letter words. You should get a spare remote with the car. If you own a handbag, keep it there; never ever keep it in the glove box. Some cars have a special key and switch to turn the alarm or immobiliser off, check the owner’s manual.
6. Locked the keys in the car? Many calls to roadside assistance are from people who have locked their keys inside the car. If you have an older car with accessible locking buttons, try using a piece of fibre glass packing tape, folded in two and slipped past the door rubbers. With a bit of fiddling, you can easily loop the door lock and pull it open. You may want to fix the tape in a hidden spot behind the bumper bar for emergencies or (more risky) even a spare key in the same spot. Most new cars, however, have locks designed to be tamper proof and only the experts (which unfortunately includes expert thieves) can gain access.
7. If you’ve checked all these problems and there’s nothing happening when you turn the key, chances are the battery is flat. There should be a reason for this, so look for doors ajar, headlights left on or similar clues. If you have jumper leads and another car handy, try jump starting (see point nine), or roadside assist will do the same thing. If your battery is more than five years old, chances are it can’t be saved. Call us on 9542 2260
8. If you can hear the starter motor turning over but the engine fails to join the party, it just may be that the battery is having difficulty providing enough charge. If the terminals are cemented into place by a build up of white or blue gunk, remove it by pouring hot or boiling water over the terminals. The gunk will dissolve, which will assist conductivity no end. Be careful though – call us if in doubt
9. If you are confident the battery is flat but can be rescued try jump starting from another car. There are plenty of safety precautions to look out for, so bone up on the procedure in advance, check the owner’s handbook. One jumper lead joins both cars’ positive battery terminals and the other goes from the healthy car’s negative terminal to a fixed metal point on the sick car’s engine. If the starting procedure works, run the sick engine for at least half an hour to allow for recharging.
10. Don’t blame the car. While some of us subscribe to the Basil Fawlty school of thought that cars are vicious and deserve to be punished, in reality they are a bunch of cunningly assembled mechanical parts, one of which will inevitably fail with time.