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Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: fauch
Date: January 27, 2011 03:56AM
I know this is not the best place to post this but I am at my wits end here.

I had an engine swapped (evidently by shady characters) in my 1994 Fiat Uno (I don't live in the US) and since then it will NOT start in the morning (or afternoon/evening for that matter). It doesn't get particularly cold here so that is not the issue, the problem is when it is sitting for more than 5 or so hours regardless of the ambient temp...

The car cranks fine and once in awhile even sputters and "almost turns over" but often it can take 10-15 mins to get it started which of course kills the battery every time (and is probably burning up my starter). Even with jumper cables it takes ages to get it started and isn't always successful...

When the car is warmed up it starts with half a click of the ignition and the engine runs fine and doesn't stall. And the alternator is charging the battery fine, it just can't take the amount of cranking needed to start the car (as I said even with CABLES it is touch and go).

They claim to have replaced my computer and the whole fuel injector bit that regulates the fuel air mixture (I don't know what it's called, it would be the carburetor in an older car) and it is a little bit better but still problematic and will rarely start without draining my entire battery.

Does anyone have any suggestion as to what it could be? The guy seems to think it is an electrical problem, but these idiots seem to be fumbling around in the dark and they are replacing things at THEIR expense that don't seem to fix the problem. I brought it to a second mechanic and he suggested to replace the fuel injection circuit (which I sat and watched them do). Also I find it strange that while cranking if I hit the gas it will stall IMMEDIATELY, you can only give it gas once it has ALREADY turned over for a few secs...

What could it be? I would just take it somewhere else but I already paid these guys, and I don't want to pay another penny to fix what THEY broke. I NEVER had any problems with the ignition or battery before the engine blew, and even NOW it works fine when the car is warmed up.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated...
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: DRR
Date: January 27, 2011 06:11AM
Try a new battery.
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: modelamac
Date: January 27, 2011 06:24AM
Best guess it is a lack of fuel - fuel system is partially plugged or weak/bad fuel pump. It is probably coincidental with the engine swap - it could have been a problem developing all along. Fuel pumps do fail.

Condensation in electrical systems can also exhibit these symptoms. When warm, no condensation. As engine cools (2.5 hours to cool to ambient temp), moisture collects where it should not be (caused by engine swap?). Now electrical current has 2 options: short to ground or go where it should, and it often goes to ground, the least resistant of the 2.



Ed (modelamac)

I think I will just put an OUT OF ORDER
sticker on my head and call it a day.
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: January 27, 2011 07:19AM
I'll vote for a very simple electrical problem... one of the high voltage cables was squeezed or crimped when they swapped your motor, and that is causing some issues.

Replacing an engine is not like replacing RAM chip in a computer. There are all sorts of fiddly little bits and connections and whatnot that you can easily damage or get wrong. Vacuum lines contaminated, bits screwed in juuuuust a bit wrong, etcetera etcetera. Engine swaps in the modern age are not a job for amateurs... it's a bit like doing open heart surgery.

The fuel issue mentioned above is certainly a chance.

Did the lads in the garage hook your vehicle up to a diagnostic computer ? Oftentimes the problem can be better diagnosed by reading the cryptic codes.

And good luck ! These 'intermittent' problems drive us all mad !
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: Psurfer
Date: January 27, 2011 08:51AM
There's only 1 problem worse than not starting: Not stopping.
I agree w/cbelt, that you'll probably need a better diagnostic to get to the bottom of it.
Good luck.
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: Speedy
Date: January 27, 2011 09:50AM
Perhaps low compression so you will need a valve job. If it is, try starting it with starting fluid (ether) when it has sat overnight and I bet it starts right up.



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: norse
Date: January 27, 2011 10:35AM
FIAT: Fix It Again Tony
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: flareslow
Date: January 27, 2011 11:25AM
I had a BMW 320i '78 vintage with Bosch Continuous Fuel injection. When it would not start cold, I found the cold start injector to be the problem. It was a single injector that sprayed fuel into a plenum that fed to the intake manifold when the engine was cold. It was a simple test to check it, simply unbolt it from the manifold and place it in a glass. Crank the engine when the coolant is cold, if fuel sprays into the glass, it works.
The injector is controlled by a thermostatic switch in the coolant loop and a timer relay. It can only stay open for a minute or so. You may or may not have a similar system. This took the place of the choke found in a carburetor equipped engine.
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: DRR
Date: January 27, 2011 07:50PM
Can you hear the fuel pump when you turn the ignition to the on positon? (Do not try to start it - just turn the key to on) You'll need a pretty quiet garage or street, but you should be able to hear it.

My vote is still battery. It's a very simple test, can't they check how many CCA the battery has? Especially if it's an older battery? That would be where I start, before I start messing with the fuel system needlessly.
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: fauch
Date: January 29, 2011 04:51PM
It's definitely NOT the battery (although that is probably shot by now, or close to it from all the discharging). And the fuel pump works.

The cold start injector sounds like a likely culprit, it IS a Bosch unit, though I assume significantly newer than they had in '78, the thing is they replaced the whole thing, but maybe the cold start injector is separate.

The car is at the mechanic and I told him I don't want it back until its 100% fixed and that my patience have run out...

As for Fix it Again Tony, so far this car has given me surprisingly few problems, except for normal wear and tear and some weird stuff (like the throttle cable snapping). The old engine was fine too, it's just that the timing belt broke (why it was not checked and replaced is another VERY good question) and took the whole engine with it...
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Re: Car won't start when it's cold...
Posted by: flareslow
Date: January 29, 2011 06:23PM
The cold start injector was separate from the air flow sensor/fuel distribution unit.
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