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Troubleshooting Starting Issues

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    Troubleshooting Starting Issues



    by Cutlass


    Ignition key won't turn:

    You put the key in the ignition and go to start the car but the key doesn't turn.
    You jiggle the key back and forth and sometimes it will turn and the car will start.

    Possible causes:
    1. The steering wheel lock is applying pressure and not allowing the key to turn: Turn the steering wheel back and forth.
    2. Steering wheel lock broken or needs adjustment: Repair or adjust.
    3. Key is worn out. Get the key number and have a new key made. Don't get a copy of the old key, it won't work.

    Car won't start in damp or rainy weather:

    It's been raining for a while or it's early morning and the dew is on the grass. Maybe you drove through a big puddle and the engine died.

    Possible causes:
    1. Bad distributor cap : Replace distributor cap.
    2. Bad spark plug wires : Replace spark plug wires.
    3. The inside of the distributor cap is wet: Remove distributor cap and dry with paper towels.

    Engine won't start cold:
    This usually happens when it's cold, below about 20 degrees, but can happen under other conditions.

    Possible causes:
    1. There is a fuel injection problem: EFI system meeds to be scanned to find problem. Possibly a cold start injector or Coolant Temp Sensor.
    2. The choke on the carburetor (if so equipped) might not be closing: Inspect and adjust choke linkage.
    3. Vacuum leak: Check and repair or replace Vacuums lines as required.

    Engine won't start hot:

    You've driven your car for a while and you stop somewhere for a short time. When you try to start the car again, it won't start.

    Possible causes:
    1. Ignition module or main EFI relay may be overheating: Replace affected parts.
    2. Vapor lock: Open hood and allow the engine to cool for about 30 minutes. Insure heat shields and/or supplemental cooling fan is working properly.
    3. There is a fuel injection problem: EFI system meeds to be scanned to find problem. Possibly a bad ECM or Coolant Temp Sensor.

    Engine turns over slowly when warm:

    When you try to start the car when it's warm it cranks very slowly. Sometimes it will start, but most often it won't.

    Possible causes:
    1. Engine oil may be to thin or contaminated with gasoline: Change the oil and filter. Use the proper grade of oil.
    2. Dirty or loose battery cables: Clean and tighten cables as required.
    3. Battery is weak or dead: Test battery and charging system. Replace battery.
    4. Battery cables are bad: Replace the battery cables as required.
    5. Starter is overheating: Replace the motor.

    Engine doesn't start after sitting overnight or for a long period of time:

    You parked your car when you came home last night and this morning it won't start. It doesn't crank at all or cranks very slowly.

    Possible causes:
    1. You left the lights on: ump start the car and remember to turn your lights off at night.
    2. There is a current drain or short circuit: Locate system causing the drain and repair it as required.
    3. Battery top is dirty or covered with acid "snow": Clean and charge battery.
    4. Battery is weak or dead: Test battery and charging system. Replace battery.

    Engine won't start at all regardless of the weather or temperature. It cranks over normally, but just won't start.

    Possible causes:
    1. You're out of gas: Call someone to bring a couple of gallons over.
    2. The fuel filter may be clogged: Replace fuel filter.
    3. The fuel pump may be shot: Replace fuel pump.
    4. The engine is flooded: Hold gas pedal to the floor while cranking. This may clear the engine. Remove plugs, clean or replace.
    5. There may be some type of ignition problem: Check and replace distributor cap, rotor, ignition wires and spark plugs.
    6. The timing belt or chain may be broken. Replace timing belt or chain.

    Engine starts fine but quits when the key moves out of the start position:

    The engine starts fine, but when the key goes from the start position to the run position, it dies. It will restart fine, but dies as soon as the key is released from the start position.

    Possible causes:
    1. Bad ballast resistor (if so equipped): Replace ballast resistor.
    2. Bad ignition switch: Replace ignition switch.
    3. There may be a fault in the computerized engine control system: Check engine control systems with a scan tool. Test circuits and repair or replace components as required. (Generally not a DIY job)

    Engine starts but quits after a few minutes:

    The engine starts and runs fine for a minute or two, then dies. When you restart the engine it does the same thing again.

    Possible causes:
    1. Fuel pump may be shutting down: Replace main EFI or fuel pump relay. Replace fuel pump.
    2. There may be a fault in the computerized engine control system: Check engine control systems with a scan tool. Test circuits and repair or replace components as required. (Generally not a DIY job)
    3. Bad ignition switch: Replace ignition switch.
    4. If you have a carburetor, the carburetor choke may be stuck closed: Repair or replace choke

    You go to start the car but all you get is a clicking noise or a clunk.

    Possible causes:
    1. Dirty or loose battery cables: Clean and tighten cables as required.
    2. Battery is weak or dead: Test battery and charging system. Replace battery.
    3. Battery cables are bad: Replace the battery cables as required.
    4. Starter solenoid is bad: Replace starter solenoid.
    5. Problem in the charging system: Test and repair charging system as required.

    Nothing happens when you turn the key:

    That about says it all, you turn the key and nothing happens, no crank, no clicking, no nothing. It's totally dead.

    Possible causes:
    1. You left the lights on again: jump start the car and remember to turn your lights off at night.
    2. Battery is dead: Test battery and charging system. Replace battery.
    3. Dirty or loose battery cables: Clean and tighten cables as required.
    4. Problem in the charging system: Test and repair charging system as required.
    5. Bad Neutral Safety Switch: Replace Neutral Safety Switch.

    Grinding noise when starting the engine:

    You turn the key and you hear this grinding noise from the starter. It sounds really terrible and you know you're in trouble.

    Possible causes:
    1. Starter is bad: Replace the starter motor.
    2. Battery is weak or dead: Test battery and charging system. Replace battery.
    3. Dirty or loose battery cables: Clean and tighten cables as required.
    4. Engine oil may be to thin or contaminated with gasoline: Change the oil and filter. Use the proper grade of oil.

    High pitch grinding sound is heard when trying to start the engine:

    When you try to start the engine, you hear a very loud grinding sound. You don't know what it is, but it doesn't sound good. And it isn't. You keep trying and then the engine turns and starts. It may not happen all the time, but when it does you start sweating.

    Possible causes:
    1. Ring gear on the on the flywheel is damaged or broken: Replace ring gear, eplace starter motor.
    2. Starter drive gear is damaged or broken: Replace starter motor.
    3. The starter bolts are missing or loose: Tighten starter bolts. Replace missing bolts.

    Engine takes too long to start:

    When you try to start the engine, it takes a long time for it to start... if it does start. You may or may not have noticed that it doesn't have the pep and power it did before. This gets a little worse as time goes by.

    Possible causes:
    1. If you have a carburetor, the carburetor choke may be stuck closed: Repair or replace choke.
    2. The engine may have mechanical problems: Check compression to determine engine condition.
    3. Bad Fuel Pressure Regulator: Replace Fuel Pressure Regulator.
    4. Your ignition timing needs adjusting: Adjust ignition timing.
    5. There may be some other type of ignition problem: Check distributor cap or rotor. Ignition module may be bad.
    6. There may be a fault in the computerized engine control system: Check engine control systems with a scan tool. Test circuits and repair or replace components as required. (Generally not a DIY job)
    7. Fuel injectors may be leaking: Replace fuel injectors.
    Credit: Vincent Ciulla, Auto Repair Technician, about.com
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