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Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine


Car starting problems


Starting your car when it is cold is difficult, the engine at times is hard to get it running and struggles before it starts. When the car is parked overnight, the engine gets cold especially when the surrounding is cold and because of the cold surrounding, the engine oil thickens, and if this happens the engine will need more power to turn. The battery is electrolyte is partially frozen, as result the battery will produce less current for the starter motor, not enough current will not make the motor spin as it should as when it’s warm.

Car trouble symptoms
When starting, the car struggles to start but after starting it runs fine.

The reason why the car struggles to start but runs fine

(1) Partially frozen battery electrolytes or battery is weak.
(2) Corroded battery terminal.
(3)Heavy single weight engine oil is used.
(4) Bad starter

Car troubleshooting

Partially frozen battery electrolytes or battery is weak If the battery is at 40% Sate of 0f charge the electrolyte will freeze up if the temperature drops to approximately -27 °C, however, if the battery is fully charged it will take an approximately -69 °C drops in temperature before the electrolytes freeze up.

When temperatures are very low, the electrolyte within the battery may freeze or at least freeze partially. This causes a battery to lose much of its power and in turn not crank the engine quickly enough to start it immediately, this mostly causes car starting problems.

What to do?
If you observed that the temperature will drop down to a very cold state replace your car battery with a battery that has a very good "Cold Cranking Rating". Such batteries are very effective in cold weather. A battery cold cranking rating or CCA is the ability of the battery to start the engine in a very cold environment, the rating simply define as the number of amps a 12 volts battery can deliver at -18°C (°F) for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts. If the CCA rating is higher the greater the starting power of the battery.


If you live in an area where the temperature of surrounding drops below zero you will need a battery with a higher rating because once your battery age it will start to deteriorate therefore a higher capacity battery will sustain the cold environment over time. When choosing a battery for your car, the minimum rating of a replacement battery shall be the same as the stock battery of your car, when it’s lower expect poor the battery to perform poorly. Visit your local auto parts store and ask the salesman to explain the differences between the various batteries the store stocks.

Corroded battery terminal or weak battery
There is a simple test that can be done to determine if this car starting problem has a battery-related problem. Begin by turning on the headlights. Then, turn the ignition key so the engine starts to crank and take note of the change in the brightness of the headlights. If this test is done during the daytime, you'll need a friend to stand in front of the car and watch the headlights as the engine is cranking.

If the headlight goes out while the engine is cranking now open the hood of the car. Locate the battery and look at it. Pay particular attention to the battery terminals. If there is a cruddy like substance on the terminals. As indicated that the car struggles to start but it does eventually start. If the headlights went out as the engine was cranking, we suspected a problem with the battery. Further, if the battery terminals have a cruddy substance on them - this means they are corroded. The problem is that the corrosion is interfering with the battery's ability to "send" current to the starter. This causes the starter to take longer to start the engine.

Car battery

What to do?
You need to remove the corrosion from the battery terminals. A wire brush is a good tool for removing the corrosion. You may also want to apply some baking soda and water to help dissolve it. Avoid getting the dissolved corrosion on your hands since it is an acid. Finally, after the battery terminals are clean, you may want to coat them with petroleum jelly to help prevent these deposits from forming in the future.

If there is no cruddy-like substance on the battery, it means the battery is weak. it was indicated that the car struggles to start before it eventually starts. Since the headlights went out as the engine was cranking, we suspected a problem with the battery.

If you didn't notice a cruddy (i.e. corrosion) substance on the battery terminals. Therefore, any power the battery may have should be transmitted to the starter (i.e. it isn't being interfered with by corrosion on the battery terminals). Knowing this, it is very reasonable to suspect that the battery must simply be weak. A weak battery cannot provide enough current to start the car quickly which is why it struggles before it starts.

What to do?
If your battery is not sealed, check the liquid level in each of the compartments. The level should cover the tops of the plates inside the battery. If the level is low, add distilled water. This may be all your battery needs. If the starting problem indicated happened in very cold weather and the battery is fairly new, it may have an inadequate "Cold Cranking Rating". You may want to replace it with a battery specifically for cold weather. If neither of the above, replace the battery or have it recharged. Recharging will, of course, be cheaper.

If the headlight will not go out while the engine is cranking the problem is not the battery, could be the starter.

Shut the engine off if it's running and then try to start it again. Listen for any unusual sounds coming from under the hood as the engine is cranking. If there is a grinding or growling sound as the engine is cranking, then the problem is a bad starter. If none the starter is not a problem.

If you noticed a grinding or growling sound as the engine was turning over. This usually means the starter is bad. A bad starter will not turn over an engine adequately.

Heavy single weight engine oil is used
The use of heavy single oil in your car engine will cause your car to struggle during starting. Heavy single weight engine oil tends to thicken especially in cold environments. If the oil is too thick the engine will have difficulty in cranking this is because of the extreme friction that the single weight oil is producing.

Engine lubrication


What to do?
If you live or if you drive in a very cold environment use an engine oil like the multi-weight oil like the 10W-40. A multi-weigh oil will not thicken in a cold environment and will not cause the engine to struggle during starting.

Change your engine oil to a multi-weight oil such as 10W-40. This type of oil will not thicken in colder temperatures and thus not cause hard starting when the engine is very cold.

Bad or failing starter
The starting system cranks the engine. This starting system generally uses a DC motor that operates on electric energy from a battery. The motor rotates when the ignition switch is turned on (ST position). The turning force of the starter motor is delivered through its pinion gear to the flywheel ring gear that is attached to the crankshaft. When starting the engine, a large amount of torque is required to compress the air-fuel mixture in the engine cylinders and overcome the engine’s oil viscous resistance and other loads. Therefore, a large current (150A to 200A) must flow through the starter motor, and consequently, the battery must be fully charged, if the starter is bad or failing the engine will struggle to start or will not start at all.

Car starting problem

What to do?
The starter needs to be replaced. Refer to a repair manual covering the car for the necessary instructions. You may want to buy a rebuilt starter since it is cheaper than a new one. If you want a garage to do the work, shop around for the best price. We recommend AAA approved garages.

If the starting problem happens at a very cold temperature, then the problem is a partially frozen battery electrolyte. When temperatures are very low, the electrolyte within the battery may freeze or at least freeze partially. This causes a battery to lose much of its power and in turn not crank the engine quick enough to start it immediately.

What to do?
You may want to replace your battery with a battery that has a very good "Cold Cranking Rating". Such batteries are very effective in cold weather. Visit your local auto parts store and ask the salesman to explain the differences between the various batteries the store stocks.


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