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starting problem, it cranks, sputters and starts (video)
My car has a starting problem. The starter cranks strong, but sputters afterwards before the engine starts. Sometimes it cranks, sputters but fails to start. It does the sputtering about 1/3 of the startings. It happens both at cold and hot starts. The whole car runs normal after the starting. It doesn't seem to help when I step on the gas a little when the starter cranks.
1998 Infiniti I30
Milage: 103 K miles
My car used to have a bad ignition switch before this. The symtom was: the key was turned all the way without any cranking. I had to turn the key faster and harder to get the starter cranking. I learned the truth of that problem the harder way-- I replaced a few parts. The following are the parts I changed:
Battery (the old one started leaking, so it was time too. about $100 including tax from auto zone)
Starter (under warranty though, so cost me nothing)
Fuel pump, fuel strainer (around $170 including tax from pep boys)
Spark plugs (the old plugs had 50 k miles on it, they came out looking clean, changed anyway)
Ignition Switch($37 including tax from pep boys)
My fuel pump used to make noise. I was told it's getting old--the old one had 103 K miles on it. So I changed it and the pump noise was gone.
In addition, the fuel filter was replaced about a year ago. Plus, I always get gas at chevron, so I think my fuel filter should be fairly clean.
I tried pulling code, but nothing came up.
I've been observing for 2+ weeks since last time I worked on my car. The MPG has been usual. The symtom is pretty consistent. One of my firends is a retired mechanic, he couldn't figure it out either.
I searched the 4th gen forum and it seems no one has the same problem. Could any guru out there shed some light on it?
pmohr, I made a typo about 'strainer'. Just corrected it. Thanks for pointing it out!
I haven't tested ECTS, nor fuel pressure. Will try borrowing some tools.
All I had done on my car was replacing those listed parts. I also suspect something over there was messed up by me because the sputtering didn't exist till I touched those parts. But now I have no clue.
I don't think the root cause lies in the fuel system or fuel injector, because if fuel system is the culprit, there will be some symptom when the car runs, like stalling, weird RPM, slow to accelerate, etc.
When it happens, the starter sounds already disengaged off the flywheel. In another word, the engine seems to sputter, rather than the starter.
I'll try borrowing a camcorder this weekend to record one bad starting and upload it to youtube. One clip could worth a thousand words here.
In addition to what I described, my car makes kinda of 'uummmm' noise when I insert my key and turn to 'on' position without starting it. It sounds like some pressure builds up, but it definitely is not the hissing under the hood. The noise is more hearable when it is quite like late in the evening. What do you think that is, fuel pump, or the fuel pressure regulator? Do you think it is relevant to my starting problem?
Last but not least, sometimes when I try starting my car, it just cranks and cranks. It could last for 4-6 seconds to no avail. I usually give up when the cranking is that long knowing the engine wouldn't fire up. It happens about 10% of the time.
Sounds like it might possibly be fuel pressure bleeding off. Would that cause a slow or "sputtering start? I'm not saying to throw parts at it, but it could be your regulator or injectors leaking down with the engine off. Check your pressure with a gauge and observe the reading after shutting the car off.
Well, last Tue I changed my Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor(ECTS) and cleaned my MAF sensor with MAF cleaner, and it looks like the problem has been 'kinda' solved.
I've been observing for a few days, especially the past weekend when I had a lot of short distance driving around the town. A really minor sputtering happened only once.
I don't know how to explain the whole thing. As far as I know, ECTS contributes to fuel enrichment. When ECU receives a cold signal from ECTS, it increases injector pulse width to create a richer fuel mixture. This improves idle quality and prevents hesitation while the cold engine is warming up. As the engine approaches normal operating temperature, ECU leans out the fuel mixture to reduce emissions and fuel consumption.
The sputtering, or we may call it 'cough' as you can hear on the video, seemed like to be a result of wrong fuel/air mixture. When I took out the old ECTS, I found it in color of green, covered by a thick build-up. Well, it had been there for almost 12 years before I took it out, and I haven't changed my coolant for at least 5 years. (It reminds me I need to change the coolant sometime)
When I took out my air intake, I found my throttle body is dirty too. Will clean that in a month or two.