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Old 04-25-2009, 02:04 PM   #1
tk3000
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Default Difficulties starting up

Hello Folks,

I have a Saturn Sl2 2001. Recently has developed a problem to start up and the felling that I have by the way it sounds is that it is an electrical issues: sometimes when I try to start up the engine (specially if it has been off for more than an hour) I turn the key for a moment and it seems to want to start or it is about to start and after a couple of seconds it dies out or it will not start at all (sounds like a weak battery at first); so after a few seconds when I try to start up again the starter seems even weaker and that when I depress the accelerator and it finally start up. Sometimes it does not have much of a problem to start up and if I turn the key it would start up on its own. At first my impression is of an electrical problem (bad battery cable connections/contacts/cable or something fuel starvation issue).

Any insights would be appreciated.

tk
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Old 04-25-2009, 03:51 PM   #2
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Quote:
Originally Posted by tk3000 View Post
....my impression is of an electrical problem (bad battery cable connections/contacts/cable or something fuel starvation issue).
Well, there's a start! How old is the battery? Corrosion on the battery cables? How's the ground connection? Is the alternator outputting 14+ volts when the engine's running? A battery/alternator test from one of your favorite auto stores can tell you this but not about the cables. You have to actually look over the connections and check for severe corrosion as well as connections on the battery and on the other ends. Then there's the starter to consider since you haven't mentioned any other maintenance issues as far as what's been done, replaced, etc.. It helps to post any pertinent information.

Your car may also suffer from the engine coolant temperature sensor (ECTS) issue. Use the Forum Jump below to find the How-to library about it. This one sensor can create many different symptoms including poor transmssion behavior.
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Old 04-26-2009, 12:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Well, there's a start! How old is the battery? Corrosion on the battery cables? How's the ground connection? Is the alternator outputting 14+ volts when the engine's running? A battery/alternator test from one of your favorite auto stores can tell you this but not about the cables. You have to actually look over the connections and check for severe corrosion as well as connections on the battery and on the other ends. Then there's the starter to consider since you haven't mentioned any other maintenance issues as far as what's been done, replaced, etc.. It helps to post any pertinent information.

Your car may also suffer from the engine coolant temperature sensor (ECTS) issue. Use the Forum Jump below to find the How-to library about it. This one sensor can create many different symptoms including poor transmssion behavior.
I have had that car for a year now, and apart from changing the oil and replacing the battery (the battery is about 1 year old) and cleaning battery terminals I haven’t performed any maintenance task; and on the surface the connectors seems to be clean and rust free. I never verified the ground (do I have to jack the car to verify the ground, I will have to trace the battery cables). I have avoided performing any maintanance task since I live in a small apartment and don’t’ have a garage (but I‘d love to work in the car if I had the proper place/space). Also for most part the car has been running fine so far until now. Previous to have bought that car I haven’t had a car for almost 10 years (and back then I did no perform any maintenance of repair in my first car), but in the meantime I acquired motorcycles/scooters and I am relative proficient mechanic in terms of motorcycles/scooters (have performed all type of maintenance, repairs, and rebuilds of engines, etc). But I have to educate myself more in terms of cars and that car in particular (I already have Haynes manuals, guides, etc; but not much time lately).

Is the battery cable in a single piece with the terminals attached to both ends (my battery has side terminals) or does one need to crimp the connectors to the cable. How big should the cable be? Would the following battery cable work out for the car:

No url allowed

The car uses the following type of battery cable bolts:

No url allowed


It is not clear for mot how to remove and install it. Could I just pull it out in certain way?

As far as alternator goes I checked it out with a multimeter some time ago and it seems to around 14volts. I also checked it out while driving the car around with the accessories on (heater blowing, etc) with the following device plugged into the cigar socket:

No url allowed

and it seems to be working fine at first (and I understand that alternator sometimes can have intermittent problems).

As far as starter and starter relay I never tested them. Does it seem that it is the starter? What else should I check?

I will look into the “engine coolant temperature sensor” issue too.

Sorry about too many noob questions. Thanks for the help.

tk




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Old 04-26-2009, 01:53 PM   #4
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

The restriction of new members posting any links is to filter out the annoying spammers cluttering up the message boards, while new members that have genuine problems/solutions/ideas/thoughts will easily pass the minimum posts necessary before being allowed to add links. It seems to have worked thanks to our Administrator riding herd over us.

With the vague symptoms posted, a good starting place with the main power supply and its connections would methodically eliminate certain issues and possibly correct the main problem - starting up. Battery, cables and starter. There have been posts about new batteries failing very early when not expected and the suggestion to have the battery and alternator tested for free from the large chain stores is one way to kill two birds with one stone. There's also the home method with a good multimeter to measure battery terminal voltages at engine off, idling, and above idling that will do almost the same as store testing except load testing the battery to simulate a large current load to expose a weak battery immediately. Then the belt drive system would have to be addressed as the belt and belt tensioner are the mechanical links to allowing the alternator to supply all the electrical needs of the car while charging the battery. A loose belt slipping or worn belt tensioner won't allow engine torque to turn the belt as each belt driven accessory requires some hp to turn them. The a/c compressor alone requires at least 3-7hp(!), the alternator(?) maybe a few also. Not mentioning mileage of the car may be hiding a worn out starter if its the original and the car has over 100,000 miles. The battery cables are usually red positive from the battery to the main fuse box and feeding to the starter solenoid terminal. The black negative cable from the battery go to someplace on the car frame and engine frame to ensure electrical grounds are distributed evenly. You'll have to trace the cabling. Being sure that the battery and cables are in good condition ensures that the starter will be able to use the large currents needed to turn the starter motor. Anywhere from 50-150amps, making the checks for the battery and cables necessary before suspecting a starter problem.

Battery cables come preassembled for top or side terminals, with a robust lead C-clamp using a nut and bolt or the insulated side terminal type surrounding the small bolt. Each of their ends has a large ring terminal to bolt onto either the fuse box, starter solenoid or engine/car frame. Almost every auto store will carry replacement cables in any length and gauge to match the OEM ones.

As far as having someplace to work under the car, finding an empty parking lot in an industrial area away from busy traffic, behind closed stores on week ends, etc., may give you some ideas of where to scout around for likely places to set up a safe work area. You can even drive one side up on the curb to lift up one side, enough to crawl under the car safely, city style without ramps. The higher the curb the more elbow room you have.
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Old 05-11-2009, 12:00 AM   #5
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Sorry about the long stretch of time before my response. Thanks for the info and the hints on how to find a place to work in car! I haven’t considered the starter because at first because the impression I have by the sound alone was that sometimes it seems that the battery was weak so I depressed the accelerator to help kick start the engine (but sometimes it starts just fine). I have overhauled an electric starter for a motorcycle once, like the one shown in following link:

flickr.com/photos/20606226@N02/3513054441/

I would imagine that starters in general are not so much different in principle. Could I test it following a similar procedure (continuity between commutator bars, and size of the brushes, etc)? Is it serviceable to begin with, or do would I need to buy a new one in case mine is no good?

As far as battery cables goes I ordered some at Jcwhitney with 18“. Does it sound that 18“ will get the job done as far as length goes? The following is battery cable that I ordered:

jcwhitney.com/autoparts/ItemBrowse/c-10101/s-10101/p-100000322363/mediaCode-ZX/appId-100000322363/Pr-p_CATENTRY_ID:100000322363

I was able to trace on the old ones from the battery to the frame. But there a couple of things that are not clear for me: the original battery cables at least on the portion closed to the battery itself is color coded (red and black) and it has a different connection on the battery’s end (side terminal connection with terminal bolt in order to connect the battery). The ones I bought is a uniform cable with the same type of terminals on each end. Does the battery cabling use a two stages cable? Could I use the cable that I bought directly without any other cable or adapter? I also noticed that the red cable from the battery bifurcates into two cables, would I need another cable for that? I haven‘t inspected everything very well so I will into it again tomorrow. Sorry about too many questions. I should have bought the cable in a local autostore as you suggest.

I will check the battery and alternator as you suggested new time I stop by at Autozone!
But I tested it with a multimeter and it seems to produce enough voltage and power to charge the battery and run all the accessories (around 14 Volts I believe)

I also looked at the belt and its tension, I took a pic of it as shown in the link below:

flickr.com/photos/20606226@N02/3520877902/

I don’t notice any clear sign of wear and tear in it such as chafed rubber, cracks. Is there any tool used to measure its tension? It seems to be easy to replace.

The car has lots of miles (about 150,000 miles), but it is in very good shape overall. Have had it for year, and only thing I needed to do was change the battery for a new one and change the motor oil.

Note: you need to put www in front of the links!

Thanks a lot for the help!
tk:


Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
The restriction of new members posting any links is to filter out the annoying spammers cluttering up the message boards, while new members that have genuine problems/solutions/ideas/thoughts will easily pass the minimum posts necessary before being allowed to add links. It seems to have worked thanks to our Administrator riding herd over us.

With the vague symptoms posted, a good starting place with the main power supply and its connections would methodically eliminate certain issues and possibly correct the main problem - starting up. Battery, cables and starter. There have been posts about new batteries failing very early when not expected and the suggestion to have the battery and alternator tested for free from the large chain stores is one way to kill two birds with one stone. There's also the home method with a good multimeter to measure battery terminal voltages at engine off, idling, and above idling that will do almost the same as store testing except load testing the battery to simulate a large current load to expose a weak battery immediately. Then the belt drive system would have to be addressed as the belt and belt tensioner are the mechanical links to allowing the alternator to supply all the electrical needs of the car while charging the battery. A loose belt slipping or worn belt tensioner won't allow engine torque to turn the belt as each belt driven accessory requires some hp to turn them. The a/c compressor alone requires at least 3-7hp(!), the alternator(?) maybe a few also. Not mentioning mileage of the car may be hiding a worn out starter if its the original and the car has over 100,000 miles. The battery cables are usually red positive from the battery to the main fuse box and feeding to the starter solenoid terminal. The black negative cable from the battery go to someplace on the car frame and engine frame to ensure electrical grounds are distributed evenly. You'll have to trace the cabling. Being sure that the battery and cables are in good condition ensures that the starter will be able to use the large currents needed to turn the starter motor. Anywhere from 50-150amps, making the checks for the battery and cables necessary before suspecting a starter problem.

Battery cables come preassembled for top or side terminals, with a robust lead C-clamp using a nut and bolt or the insulated side terminal type surrounding the small bolt. Each of their ends has a large ring terminal to bolt onto either the fuse box, starter solenoid or engine/car frame. Almost every auto store will carry replacement cables in any length and gauge to match the OEM ones.

As far as having someplace to work under the car, finding an empty parking lot in an industrial area away from busy traffic, behind closed stores on week ends, etc., may give you some ideas of where to scout around for likely places to set up a safe work area. You can even drive one side up on the curb to lift up one side, enough to crawl under the car safely, city style without ramps. The higher the curb the more elbow room you have.
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Old 05-11-2009, 12:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

I must be a dimwit as I can't seem to link and see the pics!?

At any rate, 14v+ seems to be appropriate for the alternator output. It may be more important now to look into the ects issue if the original is still in use.

A starter is a starter whether its a motorcycle or car starter. Once you take one apart and know the insides you won't have problems with starters in general. The main problem might be finding a source of parts if you don't have a rebuilder company or small rebuilding shop stocking parts to help. They'd rather take yours in for exchange to make some profit as most car owners won't or cannot rebuild their own starters.

Understanding motorcycles, engines (whether carburetor or EFI) should not be much of a stretch to work on cars - the parts are just larger and take up more room instead of under and between your legs. Electronic fuel injection just makes understanding car engines running differently from carburetor engines. Not familiar with EFI? Get the latest Bosch fuel injection manual for basic information covering virtually 100% of every vehicle using EFI systems.
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Old 05-11-2009, 05:01 PM   #7
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Sorry my bad, I was trying to find an workaround to be able to post the pics (such limitation is too harsh on people who has legitimate posts). It seems at first my workaround did work out. But I mentioned that it would be needed to add the “www” to the links that I posted which most likely is not true; modern browsers would recognize the link without the need to add the “www”, in other words if you copy the links that I posted in you browsers address bar it should load the page.

Yeah, you are right cars and motorcycle are just different versions of the same thing with many similarities. I have small 2-stroke and a 150cc 4-stroke bike (minarelli 2-stroke turbo and Honda gy6 engines). For instance I have almost all the tools that I need to work in the car (impact wrench, torque wrench, etc). But for some strange reasons I am always afraid of being underneath a 4 tons car jacked (even with jack stands) having the feeling that will fall on me and somebody will have to collect on my life insurance.

How about the battery cables that I mentioned on the last post, does it seems that I bought the wrong ones or do I need to buy something else to add to the cables that I bought?

Thanks!
tk




Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
I must be a dimwit as I can't seem to link and see the pics!?

At any rate, 14v+ seems to be appropriate for the alternator output. It may be more important now to look into the ects issue if the original is still in use.

A starter is a starter whether its a motorcycle or car starter. Once you take one apart and know the insides you won't have problems with starters in general. The main problem might be finding a source of parts if you don't have a rebuilder company or small rebuilding shop stocking parts to help. They'd rather take yours in for exchange to make some profit as most car owners won't or cannot rebuild their own starters.

Understanding motorcycles, engines (whether carburetor or EFI) should not be much of a stretch to work on cars - the parts are just larger and take up more room instead of under and between your legs. Electronic fuel injection just makes understanding car engines running differently from carburetor engines. Not familiar with EFI? Get the latest Bosch fuel injection manual for basic information covering virtually 100% of every vehicle using EFI systems.
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Old 05-11-2009, 07:49 PM   #8
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

I can't make heads or tails of JC Whitneys numbering but you might not need those cables since you're reading over 14v on the battery posts. Those readings are good enough but only for the alternator output. If your battery cables are in decent condition where only the ends suffer corrosion and no corrosion exists, leave them as is. Your 1-yr old battery may be suspect if you focus too much on cables. Paid a good price for the battery or bought a discount special? A battery load test may be needed to find out the condition and capacity of this battery. After checking the battery you're left with the starter that's either the original or the second one. With 150,000 miles I'm guessing the starter is your problem and the original one. The wear items are the solenoid contacts and the motor brushes. Unless you have alternate transportation, it may pay to have the starter tested and/or replaced unless you have the time to disassemble and rebuild it.

When I first crawled under a car I too was hesitant and used the wheels placed under the car sometimes as the maximum allowable drop onto a hard wheel for some peace of mind. Either I only had one wheel or two off the ground, either on the same side or front pair/rear pair, never needed all four off the ground. If I did need the car off the ground I probably would have bought the cast iron jack stands. The medium duty hydraulic jack and light jack stands are what I use in the garage.
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Old 05-12-2009, 01:03 AM   #9
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

The previous battery probably was the original one (came with the car) and when I bought the car it was leaking acid (or some white emulsion) and over tightened (needed vise grips to remove bolts from battery) so that is part of the reason for what I believed that the cable may have been compromised to some extent but maybe to a very small extent since as you pointed out it has an output of 14volts from the alternator when measuring on the battery side terminals. But the cables side terminald bolt heads are not in good shape so it is difficult to tighten them with a 8mm (or 5/16) socket wrench. Usually I tighten them with a pair of pliers. I bought some new bolts, but it not clear how to remove the old ones and insert the new ones; should I just pull out the old ones with a pair of pliers? Would there be any particular trick or tweak to jiggle them out and insert new ones in ? Yeah, the one year old battery I bought at Sears and it was on sale (less than US$50), so it is on the low end side. I probably should submit it to a more complete test as you suggested to double check it. But the starting issue I was having before have not manifested itself recently (guess I am luck for the moment being).

I don’t know about the car service history, so it is quite possible that the starter was never changed. Is it a straightforward procedure to remove the starter, or do I have to take other parts out of the way? Would it be easy to find parts (brushes, etc) to recondition it (in case it is needed)?

I am also working out my fear of being beneath the vehicle, I will also put the wheel beneath the car for extra protection. Before I jacked up the car with the scissors-type jack that came along with the car I noticed that close to each wheel underneath there is a flange or groove where the jack head should make contact with (hope I was right). But it not clear for me where I should place the jack stands (I imagine that some stud place on the chassis).

Thanks!
tk




Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
I can't make heads or tails of JC Whitneys numbering but you might not need those cables since you're reading over 14v on the battery posts. Those readings are good enough but only for the alternator output. If your battery cables are in decent condition where only the ends suffer corrosion and no corrosion exists, leave them as is. Your 1-yr old battery may be suspect if you focus too much on cables. Paid a good price for the battery or bought a discount special? A battery load test may be needed to find out the condition and capacity of this battery. After checking the battery you're left with the starter that's either the original or the second one. With 150,000 miles I'm guessing the starter is your problem and the original one. The wear items are the solenoid contacts and the motor brushes. Unless you have alternate transportation, it may pay to have the starter tested and/or replaced unless you have the time to disassemble and rebuild it.

When I first crawled under a car I too was hesitant and used the wheels placed under the car sometimes as the maximum allowable drop onto a hard wheel for some peace of mind. Either I only had one wheel or two off the ground, either on the same side or front pair/rear pair, never needed all four off the ground. If I did need the car off the ground I probably would have bought the cast iron jack stands. The medium duty hydraulic jack and light jack stands are what I use in the garage.
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:18 AM   #10
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Ahh, the essential information comes out! The previous battery (leaking?) with corrosion all over the terminal and over tightening usually results in puncturing the thin wall of side terminal batteries. Acid leaks out onto the terminal bolt and runs into the crimped copper wires where it eats away hidden from view under the heavy insulation. This usually occurs on the RED cables - peeling back the heavy insulation with a box cutter knife will reveal whether or not the cable's been compromised to require replacement. Replacing the bolt has its own hazards as they're specially designed with a built-in flat washer to grab onto the cable ring terminal for the electrical connection. The heavy insulation of side terminal cables makes replacing these bolts difficult as much as taking a chance of using the wrong bolt, too long and it risks puncturing another perfectly good battery as well as stripping the flimsy threads of side terminal batteries. Tread lightly. The white emulsion may be wet acid damaging the wires if capillary action has succeeded well into the cable. A warm water and baking soda solution using a toothbrush will scrub, dissolve, and neutralize battery acid immediately but not replace any copper wires eaten by acid. This reduces the cables effectiveness to carry the welding currents (anywhere from 50-150amps+) needed by every starter to turn over an engine. Battery, cables, and starter are the main components for the starting system and systematically going over each one from the battery to cable to starter eliminates them in order of priority.

Starter removal is straight forward - other than difficulty with accessing the top bolt, setting up and crawling under with tools is about all there is to do. Of course the starter is between the firewall and engine so you're well into the underside. Scissor jacks may not lift the car up high enough to place jack stands where you need to. I'm not exactly sure where the safe jack points are but the engine cradle is one area. I use whatever hard points I feel are safe to place a jacking point or jack stand to hold the car off the ground. I don't work on S-series cars but I would think that you should be able to lift up one corner to have access to the starter.
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Old 06-02-2009, 12:43 PM   #11
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Ahh, the essential information comes out! The previous battery (leaking?) with corrosion all over the terminal and over tightening usually results in puncturing the thin wall of side terminal batteries. Acid leaks out onto the terminal bolt and runs into the crimped copper wires where it eats away hidden from view under the heavy insulation. This usually occurs on the RED cables - peeling back the heavy insulation with a box cutter knife will reveal whether or not the cable's been compromised to require replacement. Replacing the bolt has its own hazards as they're specially designed with a built-in flat washer to grab onto the cable ring terminal for the electrical connection. The heavy insulation of side terminal cables makes replacing these bolts difficult as much as taking a chance of using the wrong bolt, too long and it risks puncturing another perfectly good battery as well as stripping the flimsy threads of side terminal batteries. Tread lightly. The white emulsion may be wet acid damaging the wires if capillary action has succeeded well into the cable. A warm water and baking soda solution using a toothbrush will scrub, dissolve, and neutralize battery acid immediately but not replace any copper wires eaten by acid. This reduces the cables effectiveness to carry the welding currents (anywhere from 50-150amps+) needed by every starter to turn over an engine. Battery, cables, and starter are the main components for the starting system and systematically going over each one from the battery to cable to starter eliminates them in order of priority.

Starter removal is straight forward - other than difficulty with accessing the top bolt, setting up and crawling under with tools is about all there is to do. Of course the starter is between the firewall and engine so you're well into the underside. Scissor jacks may not lift the car up high enough to place jack stands where you need to. I'm not exactly sure where the safe jack points are but the engine cradle is one area. I use whatever hard points I feel are safe to place a jacking point or jack stand to hold the car off the ground. I don't work on S-series cars but I would think that you should be able to lift up one corner to have access to the starter.
Sorry about the long delay in my follow up (having been away). Well I was considering removing the starter to check its conditions. The starting problem is mostly an intermittent problem but it has happened more often now: sometimes I have to depress the accelerator in order fully start the car if I don’t the engine may stall, and sometimes its really hard to start (I guess I have give some timer intervals between attempts not to foul the sparks and make it even more difficult to fire up the engine), other times it start up just fine. By the sound its seems that the battery is not given enough power and when it want to start if I don’t hold the ignition key in the starting position long enough it seems that only one cylinder fires up and the immediately depress the accelerator the engine (all cylinders) seem to come to life.

Also I certainly going to replace the battery cables (I bought good quality one from jcwhitney) but there are not color code (read and black). Yeah, the old battery was leaking, but the leakage of acid/emulsion was fairly small I always contained the spread of leak and checked out and cleaned it witha solution of baking soda every day, besides I only used the old battery for about 5 days; but car was used so I can not tell the whole story and even the small leakage must likely have affect the integrity of the cables from the inside as you pointed out. The new cables are side terminal cables, their connector ends are identical (the end connector that connects to the battery of the original cable is slightly different visually but it seems to fit the battery side terminals). I would imagine that I would only need a proper size bolt to connect one end of the cable to the battery and the other end to the frame or somewhere else, since the standard terminal bolt seems to be needed only for the original type of cable. Besides the Starter Motor, and Battery Cables, couldn’t such problem be in function of a malfunction Ignition Coil? Changing the Battery Cables seems to be a relative simply task, but I haven’t find any diagram or anything of the route of the cable and what I have to remove to access the cables and connectors, etc.

I also replace the spark plug and for high quality ones: the original ones were Champion RC12YC, the new ones Champion Platinum Spark plugs. But overall the old ones were in good shape. I am also planning to replace the spark plug wire for better. But I did not gap the plug since I heard that they come with proper gap from factory, is that correct; or should I remove the spark plug and apply the proper gap?

Thanks!
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Old 06-02-2009, 07:35 PM   #12
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Default Re: Difficulties starting up

Today I changed the spark plugs wires for a set new higher quality wires and noticed that is more responsive and starting up faster without any difficult in starting up the few times I tried to fire up the engine since I installed the new spark plug wires. But since the issue is intermittent one never knows for sure, tomorrow I am planning to check out the condition of the battery cable and battery cable connectors (ground, etc) and maybe replace at least one of the wires.

thanks!
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