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Hey, you're in the vehicle / car zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cars / Trucks / Vans Category: Engine System

Problem:

Engine, with a fuel injection system, is hard to start in the morning or otherwise after the vehicle has not been used for a couple of hours or more (the weather not playing a role).

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Technician equipment (like an engine analyzer, etc.)

  • Fuel pressure gauge

  • Assistant/helper

  • Service manual / owner's manual

Solution:

 

When you're about to start your day early in the morning and you're headed out to your car to drive to your first of many destinations of the day, you think nothing of encountering a vehicle problem until experiencing the sudden engine startup difficulty of your vehicle when attempting to start it, which immediately "hits" you where it hurts:  With your key, you turn on the ignition of your vehicle only to find out that your engine won't start immediately, and you're pressed for time because you never expected this automotive glitch to eat away at your time in the driveway.  There is no quick fix, of course.

There is a myriad of possible causes of your engine's startup difficulty, so it is best to seek the assistance of an automotive technician for immediate diagnosis and correction.

In fact, the first way of attempting to diagnose your engine's startup difficulty is to have a technician utilize an engine analyzer.  This analyzer, while not comprehensive in its troubleshooting of engine problems, can help to immediately discount certain aspects of the electrical, ignition and fuel systems of the vehicle as the problem of your engine's startup difficulty.

If the engine analyzer does, in fact, turn up nothing as to a possible cause of your engine's startup difficulty, you should then check other possible causes not tested by the engine analyzer, and they include the performance-check of (i) the fuel pump check valve, (ii) the fuel pressure regulator, (iii) the fuel injectors, and (iv) the fuel pump electrical circuit, all of which are briefly described below as to what needs to be specifically checked thereof:

(i) Fuel Pump Check Valve

If the problem is the fuel pump check valve, the engine's difficulty to start is due to its lack of receipt of gasoline.  The fuel pump check valve normally functions as a device that maintains adequate gasoline in the engine by denying the gasoline's drainage back to the gas tank when the vehicle is not in use for some time.  With this lacking of gasoline, the engine is unable to otherwise normally start up immediately as it did so in the past; it takes a bit longer for the gasoline to re-reach the engine and for it to, consequently, ultimately get cranked up and ready to go.

Test to see if the fuel pump check valve is the problem:  Attach a fuel pressure gauge on the test fitting (looks like a tire valve for pumping air) located on the fuel rail that channels fuel to the fuel injectors of the vehicle's engine.  With the ignition turn on, the fuel pressure gauge should read a spike in pressure, reaching the pressure specified in the owner's manual or service manual of your vehicle. Upon reaching this specified pressure, turn the ignition off and leave the fuel pressure gauge still connected to the test fitting.  If, after this, the pressure dramatically drops in the next dozen or so minutes, you may have a problem with your fuel pump check valve.

(ii) Fuel Pressure Regulator

If the problem is the fuel pressure regulator, the engine's difficulty to start is due to the fact that the fuel pressure regulator is failing to regulate the proper pressure in the hose stemming from the fuel pressure regulator itself to the fuel/gas tank (called the fuel-return hose).

Test to see if the fuel pressure regulator is the problem:  Attach a fuel pressure gauge on the test fitting (looks like a tire valve for pumping air) located on the fuel rail that channels fuel to the fuel injectors of the vehicle's engine.  With the ignition turn on, the fuel pressure gauge should read a spike in pressure, reaching the pressure specified in the owner's manual or service manual of your vehicle. Upon reaching this specified pressure, with the fuel pressure gauge still connected to the test fitting, pinch/squeeze shut part of the fuel-return hose.  If, while squeezing/pinching shut the hose, the pressure dramatically drops, you may have a problem with your fuel pressure regulator.

(iii) Fuel Injectors

Fuel injectors are to efficiently be fed gasoline without any complications.  If the problem is the fuel injectors, the engine's difficulty to start is due to the fact that the fuel injectors are leaking when gas is channeled to them.  The leak specifically occurs because the fuel injectors remain unobstructed and open as opposed to being closed off when the vehicle is turned off, causing the gasoline to drip down onto the vehicle's cylinder that ultimately accumulates into enough of a puddle in the engine to cause the difficult startup.

Test to see if the fuel injectors are the problem, conducting either one of the following tests, as may be applicable to your vehicle: 

a. Run the vehicle for about 20 minutes or so, so as to get the engine warmed up and then allow this vehicle to be parked (and turned off) for at least 1 hour.  After this 1 hour, obtain access to the spark plugs and remove them.  If the tips of the spark plugs have wet remnants of gasoline or otherwise smell like gasoline, the most likely cause of your problem is the fuel injectors.

b. For engines with fuel injection systems that come in a throttle body, run the vehicle for about 20 minutes or so, so as to get the engine warmed up and then allow this vehicle to be parked (and turned off) for at least 1 hour.  After this 1 hour, remove the air filter located above the fuel-injection throttle body, all so as to give you better access to observe the fuel injectors themselves.  Then observe the fuel injectors for about 25 minutes to see if any gasoline is seen leaking from the fuel injectors.  If any fuel injector is leaking, this is your problem causer.

(iv) Fuel Pump Electrical Circuit

If the problem is the fuel pump electrical circuit, the engine's difficulty to start is due to the fact that there is an electrical current interruption with this main electrical circuit even though the engine ultimately starts up.  The reason being is that there essentially are two circuits, and even when the main circuit fails, as noted above, the engine will ultimately start because the second circuit kicks in when enough time elapses along with amassed pressure from the prolonged cranking involved in the difficult startup of the engine.

To test to see if the fuel pump electrical circuit is the problem, do the following with the help of an assistant: Position yourself underneath the vehicle so as to be as close to the gas tank as possible, and, when in position, have your assistant turn on the ignition (just enough so as not to crank the engine) so that you may listen up to hear if there is a vibrating/buzzing sound for about 5 seconds coming from the area of the gas tank; if you hear this sound, this indicates there seems to be no problem with the circuits, but if you do not hear the sound, your circuit may be at fault for your vehicle's problem and you should have a technician perform additional tests of the circuit.

Just as having to endure the temporary nuisance of a difficult startup of your vehicle's engine, you will most likely encounter a similar "nuisance" of having to go through all of the above in order to find the root cause of the difficult startup, but know this: Alas, you will ultimately find the problem causer, and just as soon as you do, you can have it fixed.

Ed the Handyman

            &

Your Handyman Zone Team

 

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