Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine (Causes & Solutions)

If a car struggles to start but runs fine, it could be due to several reasons. This article examines these reasons, explains why an engine experiences difficulty in starting, and what could be done to solve this problem.

Aside from failure and mechanical wear, other factors such as temperature, weather, type of fuel and its condition, and the vehicle’s age can be the reason why a car struggles to start but runs fine.

Check the vehicle’s dashboard for lights or indicators that may come up. These indicators or lights can give a lead on the exact issue wrong with the vehicle.

Although more ideas and knowledge will be gotten from this article, nothing beats having a qualified mechanic run a diagnosis on the vehicle.

Special tools like an OBD2 code reader and battery testers (which can be gotten by the vehicle owner himself if he so wishes) are essential for this task. 

If a car struggles to start but runs fine, some common factors responsible for this condition will be discussed below:

Car Struggles to Start: Charging System Faults

Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

The name implies that the system’s duty is to power up the battery for optimal performance, whether the vehicle is in motion or in a position.

A vehicle’s charging system comprises components such as the alternator, battery, and different connections and relays. When a car struggles to start but runs fine, these components should be examined first.

1. Bad Battery

A charging systems failure may occur due to an issue with the battery. The charging system loses power when trying to supply the battery with enough charge to start a vehicle.

Asides from this, a damaged battery can the reason why a car struggles to start but runs fine. A vehicle’s electrical system depends entirely on the voltage and power generated by the battery.

If a vehicle’s battery wears out, specific electrical systems, such as the starter engine and the fuel pump, receive inadequate power and find it challenging to work.

If this problem becomes persistent, replacing the vehicle’s battery should be highly considered because other parts will be affected if nothing is done.

A vehicle’s battery also provides power for the combustion chamber to ignite the engine. If it wears out, electrical energy is not produced as quickly as required because chemical reactions do not occur in time, resulting in the vehicle’s slow start.

Also, check the vehicle’s battery in case of any loose connections. In case any loose link is found, ensure they are adequately tightened.

Also, battery terminals should be checked to ensure they are not dirty or rusty because corrosion does occur on battery terminals.

Use a brush to clean a dirty battery terminal after disconnecting the battery cables. Finally, ensure the wires and cables are correctly fixed before igniting the engine.

Also Read: Car Battery Won’t Charge (Causes & Solutions)

2. Faulty Alternator

An alternator is a tool that charges a battery and generates sparks in the vehicle’s engine. if a car struggles to start but runs fine its may be because the alternator is not charging the battery as required.

Jump-starting a vehicle to enable the alternator to build up enough charge to make an engine work is a simple fix for this problem. If there is nothing wrong with the alternator, move on to other parts of the vehicle’s charging system.

3. Loose Drive Belts

Although the alternator and battery can cause problems, they are not the only components that can be the reason a car struggles to start but runs fine. A vehicle’s drive belt could also be responsible.

For example, a vehicle may have difficulties in starting, after which it works fine due to a loose drive belt, which will delay the effectiveness of the charging system.

In this instance, the battery receives insufficient power and cannot charge the vehicle. There is also a possibility of tear; hence, always look for a tear on the belts.

4. Faulty Wiring

The duty of a vehicle’s wiring system is to transmit power from one component to another. A problem with the wiring is quite common, and it is for this reason that a thorough check is usually advised.

There may be no connection between the alternator and the battery, and there could be a possible break in the charging system.

If a car struggles to start but runs fine, its cables and connections should be checked and fixed because leakage or corrosion may stop the vehicle from starting.

This is a common reason why a vehicle takes too much time or does not start. So, ensure there are no leaks in the vehicle’s connections and wirings.

A vehicle’s starter usually has two wires that must be thoroughly checked to ensure no leaks. In addition, the cables must be corrosion free and should be appropriately fixed if they are not well positioned.

After this, the battery wires should be checked. Also, the battery itself needs to be checked alongside the wire to confirm if there are no external damages.

A damaged battery will only worsen with time and starts producing less than the power required to ignite the vehicle.

Also Read: Charging System Failure (Meaning, Causes & Fix)

Car Struggles to Start: Oil and Gas Tank Faults

Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

Although it is possible to avoid this issue, many busy or new drivers forget to check their vehicle’s fuel meter and begin to worry when a car struggles to start but runs fine.

Before parking the vehicle for the day, look at the fuel meter and confirm if the fuel left in the tank needs to be topped. If the fuel level is not responsible for the slow start, look closely at the fuel tank.

1. Low Temperature

In cold weather, a vehicle utilizes extra fuel. Due to this factor, always check and ensure enough fuel is in the tank. Also, certain fuels are weather-specific.

Hence, if the fuel in the gas tank is causing too many problems, it is advisable to change it.

2. Interference From the Remains of Previous Oil

If oil is not changed frequently, particles contained in the former come together as time passes, obstructing oil flow into the engine. As a result, such a vehicle will require several starts before the engine ignites.

To avoid this situation where a car struggles to start but runs fine, replace the fuel filter regularly to enable the vehicle to start without many difficulties.

3. Contaminated Fuel

Fuel contamination may occur through the air. Microorganisms in the air can pollute fuel. Fuel contamination can also quickly occur with water, as water contains sediments and facilitates rust.

Therefore, it is advisable to check the content of the fuel in a vehicle on a weekly basis or not for more than a month interval.

Doing this is not so expensive and also saves time, so this is advisable if the car struggles to start but runs fine and the vehicle owner needs to keep to time.

Ensure the fuel in the vehicle is not of bad quality. This is due to the fact that certain fuels contain excess alcohol or water.

In the actual sense, this means the fuel content is really low, as it is contaminated by some other content that interferes with chemical combustion. In this case, the vehicle’s engine needs to be warmed up before it works properly.

Car Struggles to Start: Bad Weather Conditions

Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

The climate in a particular area may be the reason a car struggles to start but runs fine. Too much heat or cold can cause difficulties for a vehicle’s engine to start correctly.

The liquid electrolyte in fuel evaporates due to hot weather. The loss of electrolyte reduces the power produced; in effect, some time will be needed before the engine starts.

On the other hand, when the weather is too cold, a vehicle’s battery produces less voltage than required because chemicals react slowly.

As a result, the battery is unable to produce the required electric current and causes problems when starting the vehicle.

The weather could also affect how intense the battery’s current is. The vehicle usually has difficulties starting; however, it works fine after several attempts, as the combustor should have enough fuel, to ignite the engine.

As a result of the cold weather, engine oil starts getting thick, which prevents the smooth flow of oil, and puts more pressure on the vehicle’s battery.

At times, moisture could find its way into the fuel hoses, and with a low temperature, the moisture can freeze right inside the hose (although this is not so common in large fuel lines, unlike the thin ones), which restricts the flow of fuel.

Warming and revving the engine can clear the fuel lines, which will fix the issue.

Car Struggles to Start: Fuel Pressure Problems

Another reason a car struggles to start but runs fine is low fuel pressure. A low gas pressure could be the cause of the jerky and rough start in vehicles. Low pressure may occur when there is little or no fuel in the vehicle.

If fuel is insufficient, the fuel pump will not pass fuel into the engine, slowing down the ignition.

1. Bad Fuel Pump

The gas pump supplying fuel to the engines should be okay without any problems. Hence, ensure the pump is checked too. When the weather is cold, it can weaken the fuel and, in effect, reduces the fuel supply going into the engine.

For this reason, it may be necessary to restart a vehicle a few times to heat the fuel pump.

A suitable starting voltage is required for a pump to supply an adequate quantity of fuel to the engine. Unfortunately, fuel pumps do not normally work with a low starting voltage because battery power is also reduced.

This reason could also be the reason a car struggles to start but runs fine.

2. Bad Fuel Filters

The function of a fuel filter is to collect any residue or dirt in the gas that may cause damage to the engine or interrupt chemical reactions.

If a vehicle’s fuel filter gets blocked by residue or dirt, it can cause low fuel pressure. Over time, a replacement or proper cleanup becomes necessary if a lot of dirt has been collected by the filter.

To ascertain the cause of this, the fuel quality should be checked. In a situation where this is the problem, it is advisable to change the fuel. In old vehicles, fuel filters would have gathered rust over time. Eventually, rust may clog fuel filters if they begin to come off.

3. Bad Fuel Lines

Fuel lines pass fuel into the vehicle’s engine from the fuel tank. If a car struggles to start but runs fine it may be due to leakages or blockages in the gas lines.

Since gas lines come in contact with metal, they wear away as time goes by. This is also capable of causing low engine pressure because fuel does not flow into the engine as it should.

4. Fuel Injectors

Fuel injectors are electronically controlled valves that collect pressurized fuel from a vehicle’s fuel pump. Fuel is reduced into a smooth mist when it receives enough energy, which makes it pretty easy to combust in a vehicle’s engine.

If a fuel injector fails, it stops the fine mist from being sprayed in high quantities, which makes it a little difficult for the engine to burn fuel.

In addition, if the valve is open and cannot close, carbon contamination will cause problems for the injectors.

Fuel leakage may also occur due to this, and the engine does not receive a quantity of fuel good enough to ignite the vehicle in one attempt.

Car Struggles to Start: Starter Motor Faults

Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

Another reason a car struggles to start but runs fine is if the starter engine does not connect properly with the flywheel.

An issue with a vehicle’s starter means the engine cannot spin. Therefore, starting the vehicle a minimum of 3 to 4 times to heat the engine becomes necessary.

The vehicle’s battery powers the motor, while the motor, in turn, starts the engine. A motor relay connects the battery and the motor.

If any of these two or both become faulty, the vehicle will struggle to start; however, it will work fine afterward. Motor starters can be defective for a number of reasons, including:

  • A loose or improper connection between the battery and the motor
  • Leaking wires
  • Faulty relay
  • If the starter system has some damaged components
  • Motor burnout due to low voltage
  • Oil leakage

1. Starter Solenoid

A good starter motor is an excellent thing for a vehicle. If a car struggles to start but runs fine, the next thing to check out is the solenoid. It is a coiled cylindrical component, that passes power to motors from the battery.

If a solenoid wears out, it may cause the vehicle to have issues when starting. Also, if no sound is heard when starting the vehicle, then something may have gone wrong with the solenoid.

2. Ignition Switch

If, after checking the battery and everything looks perfectly okay, and the car struggles to start but runs fine, the ignition switch could be the problem.

A damaged ignition switch can cause this, as the starter motor does not receive power, and so does other engine components.

A damaged stops the switch making the engine not start in one attempt, and it may need a few more tries before the vehicle finally gets to work.

Try to ascertain the cause of the wear on the ignition switch. For example, a possible reason for an ignition switch wearing out is when the keys are attached to the ignition for a long time.

3. Ignition Coil

The ignition coil converts battery voltage to electrical energy, which spark plugs need to burn fuel. A worn-out coil means less electrical energy is produced due to low conversion.

Due to this, the sparks produced are usually not enough, for the air and fuel mixture to burn.

When the ignition coil fails, energy movement slows down. When this happens, little power is sent to the spark plugs, which creates irregular sparks when burning the fuel mixture.

This is another cause of difficulties in starting a vehicle that works fine after the initial struggle.

Also Read: Bad Ignition Coil Symptoms (Causes and Solutions)

4. Tear in the Coil

Check if there is any break in the ignition coil because if there is any problem, the process of transforming battery voltage into electrical energy and transporting this energy to spark plugs is abridged.

5. Spark Plugs

A vehicle may struggle to start if the sparks required to ignite the air and fuel mixture are unavailable. After checking the coil, ensure the plugs are also checked. An indication of a worn spark plug is a wide gap between the plug.

To take care of this problem, the coil must produce a large quantity of electrical energy. This will make the coil overheat, resulting in ignition coil failure, and necessitates starting the vehicle several times, to produce enough electrical energy to reduce the effect of the gap.

Spark plugs contain electrodes that wear off after using them for some years. When electrodes wear off, the gap increases and large electrical energy will be required to cause any reaction.

Hence, there is the need to start the vehicle several times to gather the required energy for ignition.

6. Ignition Timing

Ignition timing is a particular time the fuel burns when a vehicle is started. An incorrect timing means the sparks will occur earlier or later than they should.

When this happens, the air and fuel mixture will burn in a manner that will cause engine problems when starting.

When the weather is hot, especially during summer, this can cause overheating. When ignition timing occurs earlier, the air and fuel mixture ignites early too.

A large quantity of energy is generated, which makes the engine overheat, and consequently, the vehicle struggles when starting but works fine afterward.

However, during winter, ignition timing may become slow and not occur when expected. This is because spark plugs ignite air and fuel mixture late.

This will result in incomplete burning, which slows down ignition till the piston starts to go down the engine cylinder. This means that enough power was not supplied to the engine, and the engine did not heat up on time.

Car Struggles to Start: Distributor Cap and Rotor

A vehicle’s distributor cap transports electrical energy required for ignition to the engine cylinder from the ignition coil.

1. Stored Moisture

If a distributor cap stores dirt, moisture, and other contaminants, this could clog the distributor cap and will prevent it from transporting enough electrical energy into the engine cylinders.

Due to low energy, the engine will squeak and may finally start after a few attempts.

2. Wear and Tear

Due to its delicate position, a distributor cap tends to wear and tear more than some components. A rotor on the distributor cap sends a series of high currents to the engine cylinder and sparks plugs.

Maintaining a particular timing and voltage is crucial, which can easily wear out the distributor rotor and cap.

Car Struggles to Start: Timing Belt

An essential component of a vehicle’s engine is the belt. It helps open and close the vehicle valves, and keeps the internal combustor running. A misaligned belt can cause a vehicle not to work properly later on.

When this occurs, the valves stay open. The piston then begins to go up and down faster than usual, without restrictions.

Damage to a belt’s pulley could cause a belt rip, resulting in the belt working slowly. So, if a vehicle needs a belt replacement, ensure that it aligns appropriately and has no crimps or folds.

Replacing a broken or ripped timing belt is the best thing to do because later on, it may cause further issues which can strain or damage the engine.

Car Struggles to Start: Too Much Oil

Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

On a few occasions, the number of times a vehicle is started does not matter because the engine fails to ignite regardless. In this situation, check the quantity of oil. The plugs may be drenched in oil, and drenched plugs cannot spark.

To fix this, after starting the engine, hold down the pedal. This is usually done to clean engines. Upon doing this, the ignition should not be a problem anymore.

Also Read: How Much Oil Does My Car Need?

Car Struggles to Start: Technical Malfunction

Perhaps it may not be a problem with the car. In recent times, innovations and inventions have led to the development of a key fob, that makes it easy to start an engine outside a vehicle.

However, the key fob works with the battery. Hence, if a vehicle struggles to start, the battery could have died or had its issues. To eliminate this possibility, ignite the vehicle manually and try to identify the problem.

Coolant Sensor

The coolant sensor optimizes a vehicle’s temperature. It also regulates the temperature when ignition occurs and stops any damage that could occur from the heat.

If the car has difficulties starting but works fine afterward, check this sensor for any damage.

A faulty coolant sensor means the air and fuel mixture will not work as they should. In this situation, the engine fails to start until after some time because it will take some time for chemicals to react completely.

Car Struggles to Start: Air Filter

The air filter passes oxygen into the engine for proper combustion. It also prevents dirt, debris, and other pollutants from gaining access to the engine.

Another possible cause of difficulties when starting a vehicle is when the air filter is clogged after it must have gathered a lot of dirt.

This will reduce the rate at which oxygen flows into the engine, which means the engine is only supplied with little oxygen. If the oxygen in an engine is inadequate, it will cause combustion to occur slowly in the engine.

Occasionally, when incomplete combustion occurs, dirt gathers on the spark plugs. As a result, the plugs will not be able to produce and pass enough spark into the engine, which means the vehicle has to be started a few times for it to work correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions – Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

What does it mean if the car struggles to start?

If a vehicle fails to start, this could result from a dead or dying battery, corrupted or lost connection cables, a faulty alternator, or the starter motor having an issue. Unfortunately, it is challenging to ascertain if this problem is due to a bad alternator or battery.

Why is my car acting like it doesn’t want to start?

If a vehicle’s starter motor refuses to turn, its solenoid or relay may be too short, or something could have gone wrong with the ignition switch. On the other hand, if the engine refuses to ignite even when the starter has no problem, then there is the possibility that the alternator, battery, and starter are all in good condition.

What causes a car to delay starting?

A vehicle may have difficulties when starting due to a faulty charging system, a weak battery, a poor starter or starting circuit connection, or a drained battery. If this occurs only when the vehicle is started in the morning, it could be due to a drained electrical system or a marginal battery.

Conclusion – Car Struggles to Start but Runs Fine

In conclusion, many factors may be responsible for difficulties in starting a vehicle that works fine after.

To ascertain the real cause of this problem, find an auto workshop where a thorough diagnosis can be conducted. If this problem is neglected, it can cause the vehicle to brake down later.

If this article increases your knowledge as to why a vehicle faces difficulties in starting but works fine afterward, share this article to enable others to learn from it too.

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