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A car that is hard to start can be a major inconvenience. While this is usually not a life threatening malfunction, it can make getting around much more difficult. There are a number of issues that will make a car hard to start. Everything from the electrical system to the fuel system to the actual starter itself can be the problem.
Finding the root cause of a hard starting engine can take some investigation. Ignoring a hard starting issue can further damage the vehicle, which will often result in a more expensive repair.
In order to get an engine running, it must be turned at speed so that it starts to suck fuel and air into the cylinders, and then compress and ignite this fuel/air mixture.
The starter motor is an electric motor that turns the engine to get it started. The starter motor has a small pinion gear wheel that engages with a larger gear ring at the rim of the engine flywheel.
The starter motor draws the electric current it needs to run from the battery. The starter needs a heavy current and to avoid sparking a solenoid is used. The ignition switch operates the starter motor. When the ignition is turned on, current is fed to the solenoid and into the starter motor. Once the car engine starts and the key is released, the starter motor turns off.
Bad Starter: Over time starter motors can wear out and start to malfunction. If this is the problem the starter will have to be replaced. If the car turns over, the problem is not the starter. If nothing happens when the key is turned the problem could be the starter, or if the car turns over very slowly and the dash lights dim while it is cranking, the starter could be the culprit.
Bad Relay Wiring: The wiring between the battery and starter can become loose or broken which will prevent the starter motor from functioning. The wiring will need to be replaced or repaired.
Low or Dead Battery: The starter motor needs voltage from the battery to operate. If the battery is low or failing it may not produce enough current for the starter motor to function. Charging or replacing the batter should resolve this problem.
It is also possible that the battery terminals have become corroded or loose. Cleaning and tightening the terminals and cables is recommended.
Failing Solenoid: A failing solenoid is a common issue with the starter system and if the solenoid is going bad, the car will be difficult to start. The starter will need to be inspected to determine if the problem is the starter motor itself or the solenoid. A failing solenoid will need to be replaced.
Failing Ignition Switch: Over time an ignition switch can start to fail and one of the most common symptoms is that the car is hard to start. If the ignition switch is hot to the touch this indicates an issue with the ignition switch wiring. A failing ignition switch will eventually stop working completely and will need to be replaced.
Defective Fuel Pump: If the engine is not getting enough fuel, it will be hard, if not impossible to start. The fuel pump is responsible for pulling gas from the tank to the injectors and if it is not delivering enough fuel the car will be difficult to start and eventually will not start at all.
Fouled Plugs: Spark plugs create the spark which allows the vehicle to burn fuel. Fouled plugs are one of the most common reasons for a hard starting engine. As electrodes wear down, the voltage required to jump the gap to ignite the fuel increases. This can lead to prolonged cranking before the engine will start.
Clogged Fuel Filter: A fuel filter that is clogged can make a vehicle very difficult to start. The fuel filter screens out contaminants and can become clogged over time. This will prevent the injectors from getting enough fuel, making the car hard to start.
Contaminated Fuel: Fuel that has too much alcohol or water in it will result in a car that is difficult and often impossible to start. Even if it does start, contaminated fuel can do serious damage to the engine. If contaminated fuel is suspected, have the vehicle inspected immediately.
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to determine the source and cause of the hard to start issue, and will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
The starter, battery, connecting wiring and other important components will be inspected by the mechanic. This may include the vehicle's fuel pump, fuel filter, spark plugs, ignition and more. It may be necessary for the mechanic to crank up the car to verify the problem and issue an accurate diagnosis.
If a car is hard to start, it's indicative of a major condition preventing normal operation and if left unattended it may lead to the car not starting at all. The vehicle should be inspected and repaired as soon as possible.