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Old 11-10-2017, 02:29 PM   #1
Brandonrr
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1994 SC2
Default 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

I haven't poated here in a while, but have been lurking. Last september, i found my favorite s-series with crazy low miles and the right price. It had (verified with carfax) 33k miles. I have since sold my 97 sl1. I'm currently at 52k miles.

This issue started rearing its ugly head at the end of last winter. It would take 2 or 3 attemps of 4-5 second cranks for it to start. It would sputter a bit while trying to start. Once the weather warmed up, it went back to starting within half a second like normal. It has been fine unt it got cold again this year.

Now, it takes about 5 minutes of attempting to start it to get it to start. After it starts, it struggles to keep running until the rpms slowly drop to nothing and it stalls. After the 2nd or 3rd time, it stays running, but any throttle will bog it down. Once it has been running for a minute, it runs completely normal, with the exception of grey smoke when i jab the trottle in neutral when it is still somewhat cold. Any subsequent starts while the engine is still fairly warm are the normal half second start.

This morning after trying to start for about 4 minutes, i pulled a couple spark plugs and they were bone dry with a little white residue. After cycling the fuel pump about 10 times before cranking again, it relectantly started.

I HAVE replaced and updated the ECTS with the brass unit. It was the first thing i did when i got the car. I also replaced the thermostat, as it still stayed around 1/4 on the temp gauge. It has run a little over 3/8 since.

I just got back from the parts store with a new fuel filter. It's probably overdue anyway.

A search only showed ECTS being the issue for hard cold starts. Anybody know what else could cause my hard starting issues?

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Old 11-10-2017, 02:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

97 was the one year for wonky fuel pressure regulators but I don't think that is the problem. The symptom is for it not to start on the first try and/or excessive cranking. The work around solution is to put turn the key to run without engaging the starter, wait 3-5 seconds for the fuel pump to prime the system and then engage the starter.

Changing the fuel filter is probably a good idea although the miles are still rather low. I'd check the fuel pressures first to see what they are doing. Some fuel filter manufactures don't make a very good product for these cars; generally it is recommended to go with the Wix brand.

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Old 11-10-2017, 06:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

I am familiar with the issue with priming the fuel system on the 97s. I used to have a 97 sl1. My current vehicle that i am having trouble with is my 94 sc2. Even at its worst, the 97 didn't act like this. My 94 sc2 will still act like it's not getting enough fuel for the first minute after it finally starts. Then it will run like nothing is wrong. If it sits for 5 or 6 hours, it is a little hard to start. Overnight or longer, it takes 5 or more minutes.

It's been raining all day, so i haven't changed the fuel filter yet. I have been running errands all day and the car has been running just as good as it always has. There is no noticeable loss of power and it idles and runs smooth as glass. Tomorrow morning, it will likely take me about 5 minutes to get it started again.

Another theory is the lucas fuel treatment I've been using. I noticed/remembered today that the stuff is pretty thick when cold. When i filled up earlier, i added a can of b12 solvent based fuel system cleaner, instead of the lucas. I'm wondering if that stuff has accululated in the fuel filter and clears out after pushing enough gas through.

Edit: one of those errands was to rent a fuel pressure testing kit from autozone. I plan on testing it in the morning.

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Old 11-10-2017, 11:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandonrr View Post
......This morning after trying to start for about 4 minutes, i pulled a couple spark plugs and they were bone dry with a little white residue. After cycling the fuel pump about 10 times before cranking again, it relectantly started.....
The hint of finding bone dry plugs after several minutes of failed starting seems to point directly to fuel pump and/or fuel filter. Loss of fuel pressure whether its a strangled fuel filter or faulty/intermittent pump is found with extensive testing. The best thing to do is as you stated, checking fuel pressure in the same conditions as you experienced it. You may have test several times throughout the day under various conditions to see if pressures vary enough to show a pattern when pressures should remain steady under all conditions.

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Old 11-11-2017, 07:07 AM   #5
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandonrr View Post
I am familiar with the issue with priming the fuel system on the 97s. I used to have a 97 sl1. My current vehicle that i am having trouble with is my 94 sc2.
Oh right. I looked in the sidebar of your post to determine the likely model year your driving. It shows a 97 however you did note 94 in the title. Sorry about that. You may want to update that in your profile.

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Old 12-01-2017, 07:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

Well, it warmed back up here for a while, so the starting issue went away. Now that it's cold again, the problem is back. I tested the fuel pressure and it was 35-40psi. After first starting, when it bogs if i apply throttle, fuel pressure actually rises a few psi.

A new symptom has also come up. After a minute or 2 after it starts finally, the cooling fan kicks in. It only happens every 2 or 3 starts, even when it is difficult to start. I've also noticed the cooling fan coming on randomly, even when coolant temp is normal at the 3/8 mark. The 1 wire coolant sensor for the dash is reading correctly, but i think the pcm coolant sensor is reading false.

My new theory is the ECTS is giving a false high temp reading. The engine acts like it needs the choke engaged it it had one. I think the pcm is fueling for a hot start when i am cold starting it. I just bought another brass ECTS in hopes the one i installed last year went bad.

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Old 12-01-2017, 09:13 PM   #7
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Post Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

I would carefully inspect the ECTS connector for corrosion as it sounds like it is running rich when starting and this will also cause intermittent fan problems.[Air temp sensor has the same connector get from pick and pull. Solder and heat shrink do not crimp!!]

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CHECK YOUR OIL!!

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Old 12-02-2017, 02:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

Back-probe the ECT connector (with the sensor connected) and tell us what the voltage is between the to wires when the engine is hard to start. Better yet would be to back-probe those two wires at the PCM connector, but that is harder to get to; try the easy one first. It's easy enough to correlate that voltage to what the temp input to the PCM is.

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Old 12-02-2017, 05:57 PM   #9
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

Well, mystery solved. I found the cuplrit and it was obviously the problem.

Once i pulled the brass ECTS i put in last year, i noticed the entire brass head was missing. All there was past the threaded portion was the 2 little wires with a green blob at the tip of the wires.

I put in the new brass ECTS and the car lit off in its normal 1/2 second crank. It also smoothed out immediately and was putting out "steam" from the exhaust like it should at <30f.

Now, i just hope that brass sensor head settled somewhere it won't disturb anything.

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Old 12-02-2017, 06:21 PM   #10
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

There should be no issue with the missing tip.

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Old 12-02-2017, 09:14 PM   #11
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

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Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
There should be no issue with the missing tip.

That's good to know.

After driving it for about 60 miles today after fixing it, I realized i was a little down on power before, especially in the lower rpms. I feel like the car is not only idling smoother, but gained back about 20hp i didn't know i lost.

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Old 12-02-2017, 09:34 PM   #12
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

I gotta wonder, though... how could a brass tip beak off???

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Old 12-05-2017, 11:22 PM   #13
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

I suspect one or two reasons the tip could have broken off.
I dropped the sensor before install, which could have cracked it. At the time, autozone only had the cheaper option in stock and the brass was very thin at the base, where it broke off.
The other (more likely) scenario that broke it was during install. I cranked it down pretty tight. I thought i heard a faint, cracking sound when torqueing on the sensor to get the pins to line up without twisting the connector. Still, it could have been my imagination.

Those are the only reasons i can think of.

It was in the low 20s this morning and the car still started within 1 second of cranking time and only fluctuated rpm slightly for a few seconds. I think it's safe to say this issue is done and over with. Thank goodness. My other vehicle is an older diesel truck with an engine that has a reputation to be hard to start in cold weather. It has done fine so far, but the trusty ol' saturn is supposed to be the one i can count on to start in sub-zero temps.

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Old 12-06-2017, 06:03 AM   #14
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Default Re: 94 sc2 difficult to start in cold weather

You broke the coolant sensor when you over tightened it. The sensor has a tapered pipe thread - it seals as its tightened along with thread sealant. It was never meant to be cranked down to bottom out. You aren't the first to break it from over tightening. The broken sensor explains the leaned out starting with dry plugs. The instantaneous startup of EFI engines is appreciated only when it doesn't start up. Your suspicion of the coolant sensor was the key to solving this mystery.

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