Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!





Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Did you get a great deal? Let us know in the Values & Prices Paid section!
Meet your fellow owners in our Owners Clubs

96 LeSabre, occasional HARD starting

rallyveerallyvee Posts: 15
edited July 30 in Buick
First and foremost: It's not throwing any codes.

It has a new battery, plugs, wires, and both the fuel pressure regulator and starter were replaced within the last year.

I tested the battery and it's solidly at 12.6 v. AutoZone and O'Reilly both tested the battery and alternator, and they say everything looks good.

I took it to the dealership, and they used a smoke test to find a vacuum leak: a broken vacuum line on the purge valve at the throttle body. They didn't have the part, so they patched it with tape until they could try to find the part.

They tested the fuel pressure, and said it was good.

I looked at the fuel pressure regulator, and it did look as if the hose wasn't quite on it tightly enough. I took it off, and there's not a drop of gas in the hose, so I guess the fuel pressure regulator is okay. I hope....

Here's what's happening:

* The car usually starts right up, with some major exceptions--usually, after I've driven 30 miles to work, and parked it in the sun for 6 hours.

* If I run a few different errands, sometimes it's slow to start after I've started it a few times...when it's hot, I guess.

* The idle is better since they found the vacuum leak, but I still notice a loss of power going up hills that aren't very steep.

* When I back up, I notice a gas smell, so I suppose unburned gas is coming out of the exhaust. There is no gas smell at all, when I park it in the garage--only when it's running.

* The most recent time I had trouble starting it, I stepped on the gas--which I've never had to do in 20 years, living in both desert and bitter winter climates. Giving it gas got it to start, but it reeked of gasoline when I backed out of my parking space.

* I drove home 30 miles, parked the car in my garage for an hour--no gas smell while parked--and it started up just fine when I drove to a nearby town to get gas.

The mechanic thought it was having trouble starting while hot, because of the vacuum leak. So are my problems continuing because of the temporary tape fix, or is something else going on?

I'm taking it back to the dealership to be checked out again, but I'd like other people's input before I do.

If there's any other info you need to know, I'll do the best I can to answer your questions.

Thanks!

Comments

  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,619
    Does the service engine light come on when you turn the key to ON before you start the car? I am surprised it's not turning the light on or showing any codes.

    You didn't say if you let the car run when you park in your garage to see if you get the gasoline smell while it's still running. If it's the pressure line out of the tank, that's metal on some and can corrode through from the road salts. Might leak under pressure and quickly quit as pressure drops when car is shut off--pressure should stay up but may drop due to leak or aging fuel pump valve.

    Another _guess_ that should turn on the check engine light temporarily is a leaking fuel injector that allows fuel to go into the manifold from the residual pressure when car is turned off. Then you go to start and the pressure in the line has to rebuild before it hits the required level so starting seems hard or slow AND you get a burst of extra fuel into the engine as it does start the vacuum sucks the extra fuel that leaked into the intake area. After a few seconds that extra fuel has been whisked away and car is back to normal. Sometimes you might notice it doesn't run right for a few seconds--like a flooded carb in the old days when the car finally started. That extra gas might be going through the catalytic converter before it's up to temperature and you're smelling it in the exhaust.

    Good luck.
    Report back if you find anything, please.

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • rallyveerallyvee Posts: 15
    Yes, the service engine light and ALL the lights come on when I turn the key, before starting the car. I have a handheld scanner, and it has picked up codes as recently as June, when I was having an EGR valve problem. Now, it just says "no codes", and I've tested it several times.

    I do let the car idle in the garage for a few seconds in the garage, because I get out and check how I'm parked, to make sure the car is where I want it to be before I turn it off...in case it won't start again. It's idling better than before they did that tape job on the vacuum leak. But there's no noticeable gas smell. I have allergies, and the smell of gas really bugs me, so that's one thing I would notice immediately.

    I, myself, have been wondering if a fuel injector could be the issue, and I'm going to ask the mechanic to look into that, too. Because (at least yesterday) it finally started when I pressed the gas pedal, but then it really reeked of gas for a few seconds.

    I'm leaving work soon, and hoping the car starts now, and tomorrow, so I can get to the mechanic without the need for a tow truck.

    I'll be sure to report back, after the mechanic has a look at it. Thanks.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,619
    No gas smell in the garage could indicate there's no leak from the tank and ancillary tubing.

    If it's extra gas from leaking injector
    Holding the pedal to the floor while cranking turns off the injectors and prevents adding extra fuel to the leaked fuel. That should speed up starting when flooded from leaking injector.

    Leaking injector should show up with fuel pressure gauge on the line as a definite drop in pressure over a shorter time than a good fuel pump and line should give for holding pressure.

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • rally_veerally_vee Posts: 8
    The mechanics tested the fuel pressure, and they say it's fine. So that means the injectors are okay, too?

    The starter, battery, and alternator also tested good.

    They're at a loss to explain the hard starting when it's hot. They think I might be having an issue with vapor lock, but I didn't think that occurred with fuel-injected engines.

    They suggested that I start using gas with some ethanol content (I currently use pure gas). They said to turn the key just enough to activate the fuel pump a couple of times, when I have issues starting. That sounds like what you'd do with a bad fuel pump, but they said the pump is okay.

    Any thoughts, based on this new information? Thanks.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,619
    I may be wrong, but if I recall when I checked on my fuel pump on my 03 leSabre when I had random occasional misses and flash of engine check lights..., the fuel rail should hold pressure for hours after being turned off. So that the next morning when you turn the key and the pump primes for 1 second while the car is cranking there's enough fuel pressure to adequately spray from the injectors.

    A leaking injector, or leak in a line, lowers that pressure.

    When they said your pressure is fine, I assume they checked the pressure while car is running. Checking pressure after car is shut off requires leaving the gauge on for hours.

    Looking back over your initial post, you say it's hard to start when engine is hot. Has the strength of the spark been checked when car is heat soaked?

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,619
    The only other thing besides air, fuel, and spark, which you seem to have would be incorrect fuel mixture being sprayed in because the computer thinks the engine temperature is different than it really is. I have a scanner that reads codes but also shows real time data from the engine while it's running. BUT it can show the engine temperature that the computer is being sent. If that is too warm, there might be too little fuel being put into the hot engine. OR maybe if it's too cold in temperature reading, the engine is getting too much fuel and not firing.

    Usually problems with the temperature reading show up in cold climates in the winter where the temp sender is saying the engine it warmer than it is and the injectors aren't putting in enough fuel.

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,619
    edited August 1
    Is this old gal on her original fuel pump?

    Rereading all posts since you say hard starting is occasional, I'd look to the fuel pump if nothing else fits.
    If you have access to fuel gauge by borrowing from a box store or a friend with one with a long enough hose,
    a mechanic taped the fuel pressure gauge to the outside of the windshield so he could watch the pressure
    when the car he had was acting up, which happened only occasionally.

    I asked to be sure the check engine light bulb was working, because some of the symptoms should give
    a brief turn on of the check engine light. My leSabre did. Often it did not set a code to tell which cylinder or injector was giving a problem. A shade tree mechanic neighbor went through the injectors looking at the intake screen and some were blocked with crude. He cleaned that. Seemed to help. Apparently the fuel pressure was getting through but he felt the blockage caused trouble. He put the injectors back in with the same o rings. You're supposed to use new o rings every time they're removed. They sell those separately even at the box stores.

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • rally_veerally_vee Posts: 8

    I may be wrong, but if I recall when I checked on my fuel pump on my 03 leSabre when I had random occasional misses and flash of engine check lights..., the fuel rail should hold pressure for hours after being turned off. So that the next morning when you turn the key and the pump primes for 1 second while the car is cranking there's enough fuel pressure to adequately spray from the injectors.

    A leaking injector, or leak in a line, lowers that pressure.

    When they said your pressure is fine, I assume they checked the pressure while car is running. Checking pressure after car is shut off requires leaving the gauge on for hours.

    Looking back over your initial post, you say it's hard to start when engine is hot. Has the strength of the spark been checked when car is heat soaked?

    They didn't mention anything about that. FWIW, the wires and plugs were replaced last month.
  • rally_veerally_vee Posts: 8

    Is this old gal on her original fuel pump?

    Rereading all posts since you say hard starting is occasional, I'd look to the fuel pump if nothing else fits.
    If you have access to fuel gauge by borrowing from a box store or a friend with one with a long enough hose,
    a mechanic taped the fuel pressure gauge to the outside of the windshield so he could watch the pressure
    when the car he had was acting up, which happened only occasionally.

    I asked to be sure the check engine light bulb was working, because some of the symptoms should give
    a brief turn on of the check engine light. My leSabre did. Often it did not set a code to tell which cylinder or injector was giving a problem. A shade tree mechanic neighbor went through the injectors looking at the intake screen and some were blocked with crude. He cleaned that. Seemed to help. Apparently the fuel pressure was getting through but he felt the blockage caused trouble. He put the injectors back in with the same o rings. You're supposed to use new o rings every time they're removed. They sell those separately even at the box stores.

    The old gal is on her third fuel pump, actually! The original one died in 2009, then its replacement was a cheap aftermarket part, so I went to a mechanic who put in a third one in 2011, I believe.

    I know the CEL bulb is working, because it comes on along with all the other lights, when I start the car. I'll keep an eye on it next time, to see if it briefly comes on if/when the car won't start. I have a basic handheld scanner, and it's not picking up any codes. AutoZone and O'Reilly don't get any codes, either.

    Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to hook up a fuel gauge as you suggest, because my problem usually happens after I've left my car parked at work all day...and the people here wouldn't approve of me running tests on my car in their parking lot. They don't even like me staying a few minutes late....

    As for the fuel injectors: The mechanics I've been to are telling me that the injectors are fine, based on the fact that the fuel pressure reading has been good, both times it's been looked at. Fortunately, the second mechanic didn't charge me, even though he had my car for 2 hours...so this isn't costing me a fortune yet.

    Using your suggestion, I'm going to try to get it looked at by another mechanic, to see if there are any blockages in the fuel injectors.
  • rally_veerally_vee Posts: 8
    To update you all on what the mechanics have said:
    They all seem to think it's vapor lock, because they've seen a lot of that happening lately, in the hot weather we've been having lately.

    I'm not sure I agree that hot weather is the sole cause, because I lived in the desert for years, and this car never had vapor lock. Which is why I intend to go to another mechanic, and inquire about some of the suggestions you folks have made upthread.

    I also found this article:
    http://www.startribune.com/buick-is-showing-classic-symptoms-of-vapor-lock/247652201/

    One thing that jumps out at me is the suggestion of having the cooling system flushed.


    My coolant is WAY overdue to be flushed, and it actually looks brownish in the plastic reservoir. Even though the car isn't overheating, I wonder if this dirty coolant is part of the reason the car is getting hot enough to experience (possible) vapor lock.

    Thoughts?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    While I can't tell you what it is without testing this first hand, I can tell you that it definitely is not vapor lock. The linked article is a good example of how easy it is to get bad information from the internet. The repeatable nature of this failure would make it relatively easy to analyze.
  • rally_veerally_vee Posts: 8

    While I can't tell you what it is without testing this first hand, I can tell you that it definitely is not vapor lock. The linked article is a good example of how easy it is to get bad information from the internet. The repeatable nature of this failure would make it relatively easy to analyze.

    It was 3 mechanics who said it was vapor lock, two of which are at Buick dealerships.

    I, too, think it's something more.

    I also think I need to get the coolant flushed, before the old coolant causes other problems.

    But FWIW, it was 80 degrees today, and I had absolutely no problem starting my car and running errands today.

    I wish I could find a mechanic around here who could get to the bottom of this....
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    That's sad but not unexpected. There are techs out there that can handle this but it has mostly been a thankless endeavor becoming that person. Things are starting to change but it hasn't quite hit the bottom yet so expect it to get even harder to find someone who would make easy work of this at the majority of the shops before it starts to get better.

    When this is hard to start, does it sound like it is trying to fire at all? Is it sputtering a bit while it is being cranked? You stated earlier that holding the pedal to the floor helped it start, can you see the exhaust in your mirror and if so is it putting out black smoke when it starts to run? When this all happens, does it just simply start or start firing and maybe take a little throttle manipulation to achieve a smooth idle?
  • rally_veerally_vee Posts: 8
    edited September 6
    First off, I'm sorry to everybody who has responded here, that it's taken me so long to reply. I've been taking the car to multiple mechanics, and I've been hoping to get a solution before updating the situation. Still no certain answer yet.

    To answer your question, @thecardoc3 , it was cranking, just not starting. No black smoke at all. Once it started, it ran well--I never worried that it was going to stall. It was just idling slightly rough.

    Now, to update what has happened since my last post:

    I've had the fuel pump tested, and it's fine. Some mechanics were saying I didn't need the fuel filter changed after 30,000 miles, but I insisted, and that seems to have helped. Only one time did it start just a tiny bit slowly, but it started fine on a recent hot day we had.

    I have since learned that there is an exhaust leak, but I don't know where it is yet. The mechanic tested the catalytic converter, and it's a little bit blocked, but no cause for concern at this time. (I'd had some EGR valve issues in May/June, that seem to have been resolved after someone used compressed air to get rid of excess carbon buildup).

    This latest mechanic, who is one of the better ones here, told me there might be an issue with the MAF sensor. The car isn't throwing any codes, but it still idles a bit rough at times, and this guy thought the MAF could be causing that, and the occasional hard starting. The car also doesn't accelerate as well as it did just a few months ago; I don't know if the exhaust leak could have something to do with that, or if it could be the MAF sensor, because poor performance is a really nonspecific symptom.

    Does anybody here think the MAF sensor needs to be cleaned or replaced, or do you have another opinion? Because there are no codes pointing us in any direction. Thanks in advance.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    What are the total fuel trims (add long term and short term for bank 1 and bank 2) during idle, light cruise, moderate cruise, heavy cruise? Under full throttle acceleration what does the engine load data pid report at 1000 rpm increments up to 4000-4500 rpm?

Sign In or Register to comment.