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What to Do if Your Semi Won’t Start

October 23, 2014
By Jeffery White

Although most of us tend to associate semi trucks with about as much power as you can have on the road, like any other vehicle, sometimes that power simply doesn’t come when you turn the key. If your semi refuses to start, go through the following common issues.

First, do you have enough fuel? If you’re a veteran driver, this may be an insulting question, but it happens to the best of us. Start there before taking further measures.

Second, just take a look under your hood to make sure all your cables and wires are connected. If any aren’t, it’s a quick fix to have your semi back up and running.

Third, the same goes for your sensors. Semis rely on a whole host of sensors to keep them working properly so if just ones goes out, the entire vehicle will fail to start. Go through and check those next.

Fourth, you need to go look at the air lines. Your semi’s entire braking system relies on them so there’s good reason your vehicle won’t start if anything is wrong with them. In fact, even if you get it to start, but your air lines are compromised, stay off the road for your safety and that of others.

Fifth, is the ignition lock activated? Some trucks use safety measures like ignition locks to stop the engine from working after a problem has been detected. Once you’ve addressed the issue, be sure to turn the ignition lock off or it will continue to stand in the way of your engine starting.

Sixth, you might be experiencing problems with your glow plugs. This is especially true when it’s winter in Calgary. Without glow plugs working properly, it’s simply too cold in your engine for the fuel to combust. So long as the glow plugs haven’t completely died, try giving them about 20 seconds to do their job.

Lastly, take a look at the battery. If it’s not connected properly, your engine isn’t going to start. If the engine isn’t turning over, this is most likely the cause. That’s why so many truckers keep an extra battery on hand just in case.

This is also why it’s a good idea to keep the name and number of a reputable Calgary mechanic on hand. For something like an issue with the glow plugs, it’s also wise to take your semi in to be looked at, even if you get it to work. It might be a reoccurring issue you haven’t seen the last of.

The information on this page may have changed since we first published it and is for informational use only and is no substitute for actual professional advice. If you’d like to establish a relationship, reach out to us and we’ll tell you how we can make it official.