1991 Chevy Corsica: Starting problems

Discussion in 'The Steam Vent' started by Seth=L, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    If anyone here is gear head I could really use some advise now. My 1991 Chevy Corsica 3.1 Liter FI has some problems starting. This started in the winter (I live in northern Indiana) and has continued to be a problem even on warmer days. What happens is if I don't get the car to start with the first attempt, it will not start for several hours. If I get it started, it runs fine, and starts easily anytime after I have had it running. If it isn't started at least every 12 hours I run into problems. The strange thing to me is if it doesn't start I know it isn't going to after the first attempt to start it, because after that it simply will not start. When I crank it over it sputters (the first time heavily) and just when I think it is about to start I may let off the ignition (which I shouldn't do given the circumstances). I have to crank it longer than normal, what seems like 5 seconds to get it to start most times. Basically I have to crank it passed it being actually started, which I know is bad on my starter gears, or else I have little hope of actually getting it going.

    Things I have checked...

    The battery, it is cranking fine

    Gas, I have plenty

    And I am going to check the oil.

    If anyone has any advise or pointers I would be very thankful for any input. Also let me know if I need to go into more detail about something so I can help you to diagnose the problem better (but I warn you, I don't know much about cars, obviously).

    I can't afford a major problem, so I hope the problem isn't major. This problem couldn't have come at a worse time during my job search. I am in a really tough spot at the moment.

    Thanks in advance.:)
  2. avaserfi Audioholic Ninja

    avaserfi
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    How did you test your battery? Are you entirely sure it has enough cold (car off) amps to turn everything over?

    A couple things come to mind from your description: For some reason the first thing I think of is your alternator. I don't entirely know why, but the timing issue you have gets me thinking that your alternator isn't charging up properly, but you say the car runs fine if it turns on which makes this unlikely. If possible I would check out your starter as well.

    Your car is old enough so that your starter could be worn down. I don't know how technically inclined your are with cars, but if you could remove the starter and take it to a parts shop like O'Reilly they could check it out for you (going to a library and reading the Chilton manual would help it is generally pretty simple). Replacing it yourself would cost about $60-70. My girlfriends car had a similar problem where her car wouldn't start every once and a while and replacing the starter fixed it fairly easily.

    If I come up with anything else I will let you know.
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  3. annunaki Moderator

    annunaki
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    I would suggest doing some basic maintenance. A new fuel filter may fix your problem, as well as new spark plugs, wires, and potentially a distributor.

    The must do's in my book would be the fuel filter and plugs. It could also be that the starter is going out as well.

    The fuel filter and plugs are cheap to do, probably under $30.00.

    Does the starter use a solenoid, or is it built in?

    If you replace the distributor, you will need a timing light to make sure the vehicle is firing properly. These can be rented from Autozone, they also offer free parts checks. I think Autozone even offers instructions for doing it yourself.
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  4. emrliquidlife Junior Audioholic

    emrliquidlife
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    Let me see if I can help. First, I know NOTHING about Chevys. However, I am familiar with basic automotive issues.

    I think your batter and alternator are fine. I mean you are cranking away on the car to get it to start. So if these two items were an issue, you would have cranking issues.

    Like I said, I don't know your car's FI system, but I would venture to guess you have an issue with your cold start injector.

    To assist it, try putting in some FI cleaner. Techron is a good one. Do what annunaki mentioned along with the FI cleaner and go from there. If you were in So Cal, I'd offer to help.

    E
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  5. j_garcia Audioholic Jedi

    j_garcia
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    I would suspect spark plug wires or something in the ignition system as well, and a tune up usually uncovers many of these. Often bad spark plug wires may not be obvious to the eye. Alternator could be suspect as well, but I would actually look at the starter first. A bad starter can have one bad spot and if it happens to be in that spot the next time it won't start and it will seem completely random. I agree with taking it out and having it checked.
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  6. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    Thank you.:)

    The alternator, battery, and starter are all in perfect working order (lets say I know this for a fact);)

    I won't quote everyone's messages, but thank you all. I have heard it may be the plugs, distributor, and wires, but I hope to hell not. Three of the spark plugs are virtually impossible to get to without tipping the engine forward.:(

    I like the FI cleaner suggestion, I will have to try that, and I have been wondering if my fuel injectors are part of the problem. It is worth note it is not freezing temperatures out and hasn't been for the past few days (we've been up in the 50's lately) and it's not likely the cold weather is causing this problem, but it may have triggered it.

    As mentioned before, I can't afford to do much. I know that doesn't mean it won't be an expensive problem just because I don't have money, but I literally have no money and no job.:(

    I really appreciate everyone pitching in to help with this matter. Thank you all.:)
  7. Rickster71 Audioholic Spartan

    Rickster71
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    (I'm a little slow typing, didn't see your last post.) edit
    I've reread your post, you mention the car is cranking fine. So that rules out the battery, starter, and alternator.

    How many miles on the car? When was the last tune-up?

    Some auto part stores will hook up a scan tool, and pull trouble codes, for free, or a small fee.
    There are many possibilities, because of the many sensors. Scanning the codes is a good bet.

    Would you be willing to check for spark, and fuel? I could talk you through it.
    PM me.
    A few things that come to mind:
    Crank engine over do you hear the injectors clicking?
    The computer has to get a ignition reference signal in order for it to tell the control module to fire the coils.

    Another possibility is a bad crank sensor; when they go bad the engine wont start.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2008
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  8. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    It starts, just not all the time, it's actually pretty consistent with a time table. If it starts and runs for a while, it will easily and always start with no problem within a short space of time. If it goes past 12 hours it may or may not, if it goes 24 hours, it just won't. If I attempt to start it and it doesn't start on the first try I must wait at least an hour before attempting it again and trying to crank it over once will determine if it starts or not. I ran the battery down far enough once to discover this once.

    I went and purchased some FI cleaner and applied it. (I even got my car started to go and get it, YIPPEE!:D). If that doesn't do the trick I will move on to spark plugs, wires, and distributor.

    Thanks again.:)
  9. annunaki Moderator

    annunaki
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    Think about how injectors get dirty> Dirty fuel. Change the fuel filter. If the car is that old, who knows when it was last changed. You could also have a fuel pump issue. If it cranks fine and it is sparking fine, it is most likely a fuel/fuel delivery problem.

    I would suggest the following, at a minimum, with the car that old: fuel filter & plugs. Chances are the plugs on the backside of the V-6 have never been changed because the previous owner did not want to change them either.
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  10. Mort Corey Senior Audioholic

    Mort Corey
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    And if they've NEVER been removed, on a 17 year old car (assuming it probably has 70K miles+) they are likely seized. If you break one, you're basically screwed unless you have access to a LOT of tools.

    Mort(oh yeh.....good luck, hope it was just dirty injectors)
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  11. mouettus Audioholic Chief

    mouettus
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    I know what the problem is.... it's a chevy!

    come to the toyota side... we have cookies! :p
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  12. Sheep Audioholic Warlord

    Sheep
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    You can remove the spark plugs with the motor hot to reduce the chance of them seizing. But you run the risk of burning yourself.

    I would look into the Fuel delivery side of the car. If it runs fine once it's started, I highly doubt it's the spark plugs, distributor, or any electrical ignition issue. Those issues would occur the entire time. The alternator can't be it because it would also fail the entire time. Plus it isn't a factor for start ups.

    Clean your throttle body, the butterfly, and run fuel injector cleaner. Change the fuel filter, and maybe give the gas tank a whack. That usually helps if there is a fuel pump issue. If hitting the tank helps it start, then you know it's the pump.

    SheepStar
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  13. highfihoney Audioholic Samurai

    highfihoney
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    Seth,i'd be willing to bet money that you have moisture in your distributer cap,you live near me & we are having the same mushy crapy weather,rain for a few days then cold,i'd bet that condensation has set in inside your cap.

    You can check this out easily,if you can get at the distributer cap most GM cars take either a T-10 or T-15 Torx screwdriver to remove the cap,if you can get at it remove the cap,spray some starting fluid in it,wipe it out,let it air dry for a few minutes & reinstall,if it was moisture the car will fire right up.

    If you cant get at the cap but can see it between the firewall & engine you can still check to see if moisture is causing it not to fire,take a hair dryer & point it directly at the cap for about 15 minutes to a half hour,crank it over,if it starts you know it was moisture causing the problem.

    BTW,in older cars from the 60's & 70's moisture in the cap was a common problem & both ideas i gave you were common trouble shooting methods not something i dreamed up.
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  14. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    All you gearheads have been a great help, and with this new information I am sure to find the problem.:)

    And no, I am not converting to Toyota, because I am BROKE!!!!!!!!
  15. mtrycrafts Audioholic Slumlord

    mtrycrafts
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    A couple of others to check:

    In the dark, lift the hood and have someone turn it over while you are looking for visible arcing in the ignition system. This happened to an older car of mine some time back. The distributor was cracked enough to arc with moist conditions.
    When your car does start, does it idle at high RPM until it warms up? If yes, this indicates a good choke system.
    Condensation in the gas tank would cause hard starts as water gets into the line, water being heavier than gas; check a tight gas cap, good gas at fill up time, etc.
    As was suggested by another, when were the plugs changed last, how many miles?
    Are you pumping the gas pedal too much to get it started, flooding?
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  16. Sheep Audioholic Warlord

    Sheep
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    Car is Fuel-injected. Flooding isn't an issue.

    SheepStar
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  17. yettitheman Audioholic General

    yettitheman
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    But, I could find a cheap Metro and meet you in a gravel pit ;)
    LOL.

    If I had some money, I would probably look at it this weekend.... sounds like the old Mustang's spirit lives in your Corsica :D :D :D
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  18. yettitheman Audioholic General

    yettitheman
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    This car has about 104,xxx on it, last time I observed. I believe the plugs and wires are stock from the factory. Platinum plugs (long life) weren't really in style back in '91, so I assume that they are regular old Autolite copper style plugs (great for about 40,000 miles or so). Plus on the 3.1 the plug wires are indeed very close to the exhaust manifold... not good. Just like old 432's....

    Choke system seems to be ok, it has a bit of high idle when warming up. I'm thinking the problem is electrical, just because of the symptoms of starting, and the randomness of conditioning. If it were a fuel problem, it would more than likely be consistently performing badly.
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  19. mtrycrafts Audioholic Slumlord

    mtrycrafts
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    Well, the choke is eliminated then:D Detective work is like that, process of elimination.

    If you have fuel issues, like water, that can be random. Small amounts get in there, rough start or no start, then perhaps it is blown out and it starts. Good for a while until it happens again.

    Electrical, yes, arcing certainly would now power cylinders. That is one reason to check in the dark for any blue arcing around the ignition cables and system. Even this can be random.:eek: Dry or damp conditions.:eek: Heat could have hardened the wires near the manifold and cracked, hence arcing?

    Pull the plugs and see their condition. Yes, the back 3 may be a bear but if the fronts are bad, well out of gap specs, you, someone else with the right tools, lift, may need to replace them all. 104k is a lot on copper plugs.:eek:
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  20. Rickster71 Audioholic Spartan

    Rickster71
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    Seth, if your plugs and wires have that many miles on them, by all means change them. (Even if they aren't the problem)
    If the wires pass the 'night time arc test;' they can still be bad due to internal resistance being too high.

    The crank angle sensor on the 3.1 is a known pattern failure. It causes intermittent starting as you describe.
    When a car gets that old, and has the mileage it does; their are many possibilities, unfortunately.
    Cars aren't simple like they were in the sixties or seventies. Then it was easy to check for fuel delivery, and spark problems.
    That's the reason I mentioned having someone check trouble codes, in an earlier post.
    If one of the many sensors go bad, that can also cause a no spark or no injector signal condition.
    Good Luck
    Rick

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