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Why won't she start?

My car was fine when I left work (in a city) but after 30 or so highway miles (by the time I got home) my power steering had gone out. At home I saw that the belt had come off (but not broken). I had a friend of mine replace the tensioner (which was broken) when everything was put back together the car would no longer start, the engine sounds like it is going to start but then refuses to turn over. Doesn’t seem to be a battery issue as it’s fairly new and all the lights, etc come on. Checked the spark plugs and they are fine…seems like power coil…but I find it hard to believe that would be effected by the tensioner? Suggestions? Something that we might have missed?

What does the engine do when you turn the key? What kind of sound? “sounds like it’s going to start” and “refuses to turn over” are contradictory. Driving without the belt on the engine could have easily have drained your battery. It doesn’t take very long, even for a brand new battery. You could just need a jump start, or something could have been damaged by operating at very low voltage. Lucky for you, your Neon has a timing belt driven water pump, which is probably the only reason you did not destroy your engine during this little misadventure. I will guess that a simple jump start will get you going.

It starts to turn over but it just doesn’t catch (or start). I tried to jump the battery this afternoon and no dice. Yes, I was pretty lucky…I didn’t feel it at all on the highway so I’m assuming that it happened when I came into town…

It’s a 2002 SE …

Back to basics, spray a few seconds of starting fluid in the air intake. If it starts and runs a second or two you have a fuel problem. Take the oil cap off and see if the camshaft is turning while cranking. If not you have a broken timing belt. Take a spark plug wire off and attach it to a spark plug lying on its side on the metal of the engine and see if it sparks when it cranks.

If all these check good you have either jumped time or lost compression.