Car Won’t Start After Getting Gas (Most Common Reasons)

Few things are as stressful as trying to start your car without success. It’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed when your car won’t start, but there’s no reason to panic. So, what does it mean when your car won’t start after getting gas?

Your car won’t start after getting gas if the starter motor, fuel filter, or fuel pump is defective. This can also happen if your spark plugs and alternator are worn or blown. Otherwise, it can be a sign that your battery is dead or that there is a problem with your car’s security system.

The solution can be as simple as replacing the battery in your fob if it is dead. It is worthwhile to contact a professional to diagnose the problem if it is something serious such as a jumped timing belt. Follow along as we explore the most common reasons why your car won’t start after getting gas.

Here Are Some Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Start After Getting Gas

Everything from wheel lock and a dead battery to a failing alternator can explain why your car won’t start after getting gas.

Luckily, you can diagnose the problem without professional help in many cases if you know what to look for. Let’s take a look at the most common explanations for why your car won’t start after getting gas.

Jumped or Skipped Timing Belt

Most cars rely on internal combustion to start. The timing belt is responsible for the internal combustion that your car needs to operate. Unfortunately, timing belts are susceptible to mechanical and operational errors that can explain why your car won’t start after getting gas.

A timing belt can jump or skip out of its position within your car. This will stop your timing belt from triggering internal combustion that will start your car. It costs an average of $400 to replace a timing belt, but it can cost as little as $250.

Timing belts can skip right as you pull up to the pump at a gas station. This is a major inconvenience, but it is one of the cheaper problems to fix when your car won’t start after getting gas.

Bad Purge Control Valve

Purge control valves are environmental safety features of modern cars. They stop gasoline fumes and vapors from escaping your fuel tank and disrupting the atmosphere. Purge control valves also keep outside air out of your engine for safety purposes.

Your car won’t start after getting gas if the purge control valve fails because too much air will be in the engine.

A bad purge control valve can negatively affect your engine, spark plugs, and fuel gauge. Luckily, it usually costs under $150 to replace a bad purge control valve.

Faulty Security System

Many modern cars come equipped with security systems that are meant to deter theft. While this is a great luxury, it can sometimes backfire on the owner. Security systems typically include an engine immobilizer that triggers so that thieves can’t steal your car.

This system is run by a chip that controls the engine immobilizer. Sometimes, the chip can fail which will engage the immobilizer and prevent you from starting your car. This can explain why your car won’t start after getting gas if your car has a security system.

You should contact the dealer that you bought your car from if this happens. Otherwise, you will likely need to tow your car to an auto shop and have them reset or disable the security system.

Wheel Lock

Wheel lock is a common problem that occurs for cars with security systems as well. Some security systems can lock your wheels so that a thief cannot steal your car. However, it can also prevent you from driving your car if the security system fails.

In some cases, this happens if you attempt to move the wheel when there are no keys in the ignition. This is the easiest scenario to resolve because you can simply insert the keys and start your car. Make sure that your fob is in the car if you don’t have a traditional key or your car won’t start either.

Otherwise, a wheel lock can indicate that you have a problem with your power steering system. You can expect to spend up to $500 to replace your power steering pump if you have a wheel lock.

Dead or Corroded Battery

A gas station is one of the worst places for your battery to die, but it frequently happens. Car batteries can die or corrode within 5 years in some cases. Everything from extreme temperatures to leaving lights on can make your car battery die.  

Frequent short trips can also take a negative toll on your car battery and make it die quickly.

You also won’t be able to start your car after getting as in some cases if your battery is leaking. Battery leaks are dangerous and you should replace your battery immediately. It costs at least $250 to replace a car battery.

Failing Alternator

A failing alternator is often to blame when you can’t start your car after getting gas. Alternators turn mechanical energy into electrical energy so that your car will start. A faulty alternator won’t convert the energy so ignition will fail.

Unfortunately, it can cost up to $1,000 to replace an alternator depending on which car you have. You may pay as little as $350 to replace your alternator if you have a newer car. Alternators typically last for 7 years before you need to repair or replace them.

Bad Starter Motor or Circuit

Many car owners mistake starter motor problems for a dead battery because the symptoms are similar. Electrical problems are the most common reason for a starter motor to fail. This includes everything from corroded wires to a faulty circuit.

Your car won’t start if the starter motor or its circuit is damaged. Sometimes, a starter motor can fail due to a bad ignition switch or solenoid.

You can expect to spend up to $1,100 to replace a starter motor, but that isn’t always necessary. Qualified mechanics can replace or rebuild parts for a starter motor for as little as $300.

Issues With The Spark

Spark plugs are a critical part of any car’s ignition system. They ignite the fuel in your car so that all of the components, such as the pistons, can function. Spark plugs typically only last for between 100,000 and 120,000 miles.

However, you may have to replace your spark plugs after 80,000 miles depending on the climate and condition of the parts.

A set of spark plugs usually costs under $100 and they are necessary for your car to start. You can typically tell that your spark plugs are going bad before it’s too late if your acceleration weakens.

Ideally, you should clean the area each time that you replace your spark plugs. This will ensure that your new spark plugs will have a clean slate and won’t quickly get clogged with debris. Clean the area with a can of compressed air before you replace the spark plugs so they will last as long as possible.

Non-Working Key Fob

Key fobs are a convenient alternative to traditional keys, but they can also cause several problems. You cannot start a car if the battery in your key fob is dead. This can be frustrating if your car won’t start after getting gas, but you can solve this problem if you simply replace the battery.

Most fobs use a CR2032 lithium battery, and you can find them at any auto shop and even some gas stations.

Luckily, you only need to replace the battery in your fob every 3-4 years unless you get it wet before then. Your car should display a message on the dashboard screen when the battery life is low.

Unaddressed Trouble Codes

Cars don’t always display a notification, such as a check engine light when there is a trouble code. This can leave car owners bewildered when their car won’t start. Every car has a variety of sensors that detect problems and display a unique code to tell you what the error is.

You can use a diagnostic scanner to check for trouble codes on your car. Basic scanners only cost $25 and are worth the cost so that you don’t have to visit a shop every time you have a problem.

Trouble codes let you know which part of the car is having a problem. This can include everything from airflow issues to a faulty throttle valve.

Clogged Fuel Filters/Injectors

Fuel filters and injectors are two critical components of every car. When either component fails, you won’t be able to start your car unless you clean or replace them. As the name suggests, the injector delivers fuel to the engine so that your car will start.

The fuel filter is just as important because it can prevent clogs that will hinder your injector’s performance. It is easy for fuel injectors to get clogged, especially if you’ve had the car for a long time. Service technicians at auto shops can clean a fuel injector using an ultrasonic method.

Replace your fuel filter every 30,000 miles to protect your injector. Otherwise, you can’t guarantee that your injector won’t get clogged.

Can bad gas make my car not start?

Bad or incompatible gas can make your car not start. Your engine can fill with residue if you use bad, old, or incompatible gas because it won’t combust properly.

Generally, bad gas won’t be able to flow to the combustion chamber where it would normally start your car. Drain your fuel tank, flush the system, and refill the tank with fresh gas if this happens.

Defective Fuel Pump

A defective fuel pump can render your car useless and you won’t be able to start it. Fuel pumps deliver fuel from your gas tank to the engine. Your car won’t start after getting gas if the fuel pump overheated before you turned your car off at the pump.

Fuel cannot enter the engine if the pump is damaged or overheated, so your car won’t start. You can expect your fuel pump to last for 100,000 miles.

Most car owners need to replace the fuel pump before they get a new car. It costs an average of $600 to replace a fuel pump, but it can cost over $1,000 depending on where you go.

How do you prime a fuel pump after running out of gas?

Turn your ignition to the run position without starting your car to prime your fuel pump. Otherwise, you can press the start button without stepping on the brake if you have a fob. Wait 30 seconds, turn the ignition back off, and then restart your car to prime the fuel pump.

What To Do When The Car Won’t Start After Getting Gas

Call a roadside assistance service when your car won’t start after getting gas. They will likely need to tow your car to an auto shop to diagnose and repair the problem. You can also ask someone at the gas station to jumpstart your car if you suspect a battery problem.

If you have a fob, you may want to test it to see if the battery is dead. Press one of the buttons on the fob to see if it lights up. If it doesn’t light up, then that is a sign that you need to replace the battery in your fob.

Insert the key in the ignition if you have one and try to start the car. Don’t touch the wheel or else you won’t be able to start your car because the wheels may lock.

You can save time and money if you have a trouble code scanner so that you can diagnose the problem. Otherwise, it is worth it to tow your car to a professional shop if you are unequipped to repair it.

Symptoms of Bad Gas

You won’t be able to start your car if you have bad gas in the tank. This can occur if you put the wrong type of gas in your car’s fuel tank. Bad gas can also wreak havoc on your engine if you continually use cheap and unclean fuel for years.

Odorous emissions, strange sounds while driving, and bumpy idling are all symptoms of bad gas. You will typically notice that you get poor gas mileage if you have bad fuel in your car. It is dangerous to drive with bad gas, and you can cause permanent engine damage.

The only solution is to drain the bad gas from your fuel tank. This is best done by professionals because it can be dangerous, but you can do it without help. It costs an average of $350 to drain your fuel tank before the cost to refill it.

Why does my car shut off when I put gas in it?

Your car can shut off after you put gas in it if your alternator, starter motor, or purge control valve fails. This can also happen if your fuel filter, injector, or fuel pump is clogged or defective. It can also indicate that there is an underlying trouble code that didn’t appear on your dashboard.

Why does my car sputter after getting gas?

It can indicate that something is wrong with your purge valve or fuel and exhaust system. This can also happen if your gas tank has water in it. The water will settle at the bottom of the tank and your car will sputter as long as it’s in there.

Other Areas To Check

Ignition Key or Switch

The ignition key or switch is sensitive and can fail over time. This will prevent you from turning your key fully and your car won’t stop. You can avoid this problem if you gently turn the key in the ignition each time you start your car.

PRNDL Shifter

Cars with a PRNDL shifter can experience several mechanical failures. Accidental spills, cable corrosion, and rough handling can confuse the system and you won’t be able to start your car. You either won’t be able to shift gears, or your car’s internal system won’t recognize the shifter.

Ignition Cylinder

Ignition cylinders can lock up, and you can’t start your car if this happens in some cases. A misaligned cylinder won’t be able to turn properly. It costs roughly $230 to replace and reprogram your ignition cylinder.

Fuel Lines

Fuel lines can clog and can even freeze if you live in a cold climate. This will stop fuel from being delivered to your engine Luckily, you can unclog fuel lines if you flush them with lacquer thinner.


Fuses in a car can go bad due to a variety of electrical problems. This is common if your wires suffer damage, become tangled, or corrode. Otherwise, it is likely a sign that there was a short circuit.

Air Filter

A clogged air filter can prevent you from starting your car. This can prevent combustion which will render your engine useless. Ideally, you should replace your air filter every 12,000-15,000 miles.

Cold Injector

Cold injectors are useful if you live in a cold environment. They help deliver extra fuel in cold temperatures to give your engine a boost. Sadly, they can also easily clog which can explain why your car won’t start after getting gas.