Why is My Car Slow to Start?

hard starting carIt’s a letdown when you jump into your car and try to start it and it begrudgingly turns over slowly.  It cranks a few times and you wonder if it will start up if you give it a few more tries.  Of course this always happens when you’re already late, it’s cold out, or your other car is broken down.  But why is your car slow to start?

Well, there could be a few reasons.  Assuming all of your wiring is correct, not loose or eaten by an animal, it may be because your starter is starting to wear out.  When you turn your key, an electromagnet forces the starter gear to engage the teeth on your fly wheel.  The motion of the starter gear sliding forward into the fly wheel also engages electrical contacts which give power to the starter motor, spinning the starter gear and starting your engine.  For more information on how your start works, check out this article about how a starter works.  The electrical contacts that power the starter motor can wear out overtime due to the high current flowing through them and the spinning motion of the starter motor.  As these contacts wear down, they will transfer less and less power to your starter motor causing it to spin slower, making your vehicle harder to start.  In this case, you may need a new starter for your vehicle to solve the problem.

The other most common answer to the question, “why is my car slow to start?”, is that your battery is in need of replacement.  The battery in your vehicle uses a chemical reaction between lead and sulfuric acid to create the electricity used to start your vehicle and to power the lights and accessories when your vehicle is not running.  While your vehicle is running, the alternator supplies electricity to run those accessories and recharge your battery.  This chemical reaction between the lead and sulfuric acid creates a certain amount of current, and the bigger the battery, the more current it can produce.  Automotive batteries are rated in “Cold Cranking Amps”.  The higher the rating, the more power the battery can produce.  If a battery is rated for 700 cold cranking amps (CCA), that means the chemical reaction inside can produce 700 amps for 30 seconds when it is 0oF.  Over time, the constant charging and discharging of a battery will take a toll on the lead plates inside, causing them to corrode and the chemical reaction to become less effective.  Temperature also affects the rate of the chemical reaction in a battery so a warm battery is more noticeable when it is cold outside.

Car hard to startAs your battery wears out, it will produce less and less power for your starter motor to use, causing it to spin slower and making your vehicle hard to start.  You can measure the life of your battery by measuring the current it puts out while you are trying to start your vehicile.  Measuring the current output of your battery takes a special tool, but is relatively simple to do.  Many auto parts stores have the proper equipment and will measure your battery output for free.  The same tool can test how well your starter and alternator are functioning as well, and often can all be done at the same time.  Getting these tests done can be a great way to check up on your vehicle’s electrical system.  You often will get a reading for your battery’s percent functionality and if it is below 70%, we recommend getting your battery replaced.  Your vehicle may still start with your battery as low as 50% but it may leave you stranded on a cold day.

If your vehicle is starting slow, consider stopping by one of our partnering local auto parts stores to have your vehicle’s battery and starter tested.  While you are getting your vehicle tested, check out BlueDevil’s full line of leak stop products guaranteed to stop your vehicle’s leaks!

BlueDevil’s partnering local auto parts stores:

  • AutoZone
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • CarQuest Auto parts
  • NAPA Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys
  • Fast Track
  • Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Specialists
  • S&E Quick Lube Distributer
  • DYK Automotive

Pictures provided by: accu-test.nl and pixgood.com

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47 responses to “Why is My Car Slow to Start?

  1. My car is a 2008 crysler 300. It has always started right up. Now it is delaying a few seconds. Someone said something about a computer in it. Could mine be the starter? My battery is in the trunk of the car and looks new.

    1. Freckles-

      Yes, I would have the battery and the starter tested first. If you are still experiencing the delayed start after those have been addressed then you may want to have it looked at by a certified mechanic. We hope this helps!

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  2. my car has a hard start when have run or drive for some times then stopped for 3 or more hours what could it be have changed the fuel pump, air cleaner but still has the hard start

    1. Victor,

      Thanks for your question about your hard start. If your car seems to crank at normal speed but just takes longer to start it could be that your spark plugs need to be changed, or that you have a dirty fuel system. Use BlueDevil Fuel System Cleaner (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/fuel-system-cleaner-00202/) to remove any fuel deposits and get your car back to starting like it should.

      If your car cranks slower than usual in these circumstances you may consider checking your electrical connections to your starter or the condition of your battery.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  3. Hi, my car seems to start slower like it doesn’t want to start if its below 80. This morning its 63 and it barely started. I just had battery changed but not sure what else it could be. I have a 2012 scion xb.

    1. Michelle,

      Thanks for your question about your Scion XB. It sounds like your cold start enrichment system isn’t supply the extra fuel needed to start your car when the weather is a little bit colder. The problem could be a bad temperature sensor or cam/crank position sensor. You could try checking your engine computer for error codes even if your check engine light isn’t on. Some codes indicate something is wrong but not major enough to trigger the check light.

      You may also just need an additional tune-up like new spark plugs, air filter, and fuel system cleaning. You can check your car’s maintenance manual to let you know how often you should change those things.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto pro

  4. Have a 2006 lancer battery looks good slow to start battery shows 12.53 v and 14.3 v charging what do you think ? Battery may still be bad or starter

    1. Keith,

      Thanks for your question about your Lancer. Try measuring the voltage on the battery while you’re cranking the car. If the battery voltage drops bellow 8 volts while cranking it may be worth replacing your battery, especially if its more than 5 years old. If the voltage stays high, your starter is likely in need of a rebuild or replacement.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  5. My 06 Magnum 5.7 hemi has intermittent starting issues. Battery was tested and starter replaced….still….struggles to turn engine over long or fast enough to start the car. Additional attempts “click” but won’t turn over

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for your question about your Dodge Magnum. If your battery and starter are new and your engine is still running slow or the start is just clicking then you have a bad electrical connection between your battery and starter. This may be the positive cable that runs directly from you battery terminal to the starter terminal. Try cleaning the connections or checking or frayed or broken wires. It could also be a grounding issue so check the mating surface between the starter and the bell housing and all the grounding straps on the engine and make sure they are securely connected to the negative terminal on the battery.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

      1. Hey my car has slowly been starting I just had to replace my alternator a while go and my starter is still new from last year so is the battery what could be the problem that my won’t start

        1. Michael,

          Thanks for your question about your Jeep Cherokee. With a new starter and alternator it does sound like the culprit is your battery. Most auto parts stores will test the condition of your battery for free so we would recommend stopping by one to have your system tested. If they confirm your battery is below capacity we would recommend having it replaced to make sure you don’t get stuck this winter.

          If your battery turns out to be good, you may consider cleaning you battery terminals, the connections for the ground wires and the connections for the wire that is connecting the battery to the starter. You may also consider a regular tune up like changing the spark plugs and distributor cap and rotor.

          Thanks again for your question!
          -BD Auto Pro

  6. I have a 2005 Land Rover Freelander with a 2.0L TD4 engine. I have recently noticed that my car is slower to start, and the engine idles rough for about 30 secs, but then it just runs smoothly once warmed up. In addition to that, greyish smoke comes out of the exhaust for about a minute, and then just disappears. Is there anything seriously wrong with my car? Engine oil, coolant etc. seems to be fine.

    1. Fahim,

      Thanks for your question about your Land Rover. Greyish or white smoke on start up usually indicates either a problem with fuel pressure or a leaking injector in a diesel motor. You may consider having your injection pump checked for proper pressure and having your injectors tested for leakage. A leaking injector can quickly damage a diesel engine so we would recommend having them checked soon.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  7. I own a 2003 Malibu and my question is could the wires on the starter make the car mis fire for it to start? And also I would like to know is when I start my car it has like a screeching noise could the starter be going bad or maybe the wires on the starter need to be cleaned?

    1. Terry,

      Thanks for your question about your 2003 Malibu! The wiring on your starter wouldn’t make it misfire during starting or make a screeching noise. The screeching noise during start up is probably due to a worn belt on your engine. For more information about that, check out our article about that here: https://gobdp.com/blog/engine-belts-squeal/. If the starter is going bad you would experience slow cranks rather than odd noises. It sounds like you may simply need a tune-up, like new spark plugs, filters etc.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  8. My car,isuzu kb300 has the problem of hard start and not pulling,i replaced the battery with the new one,serviced the injectors and cleaned the fuel system,but no change,help.

    1. Kennedy,

      Thanks for your question about your Isuzu KB300. It sounds like you’ve got more of a mechanic issue with your vehicle. If your truck is a diesel then your problem may be a bad relief valve on the injection pump. It could also be due to a bad fuel pump causing low fuel pressure or your ignition system if it is a gasoline powered truck. We would recommend starting by checking your fuel system pressure, then moving on from there.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  9. My car lags to start. It’s a 2000 nissan maxima. I just bought a new battery about a month ago and just had the starter and alternator tested. All checked out good. My car won’t pass smog, the guy said something about my drive cycle resetting every time I start the car, so this is causing the catalytic to not register on the test. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    1. Rene,

      Thanks for your question about your 2000 Nissan Maxima. It sounds like your problem is an electrical one either with your car’s computer or a sensor. Besides your catalytic converter, your car also uses the throttle position sensor, airflow sensor and O2 sensor to calculate how much fuel to use which can affect emissions so if any of those sensors are bad they could cause a hard start and failed emissions. If those sensors are functioning properly then your mechanic may be correct in that your computer is resetting itself every time you turn your car off. This would cause poor performance and hard starts and would indicate your computer is not getting a constant 12V power source.

      Hopefully that helps, and thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  10. My 1997 Intrepid has recently developed a hard-starting problem. It has a new fuel pressure regulator and a new fuel filter. The dealership thinks it might need a new fuel pump but I disagree since once the car is started, it accelerates, runs and idles smoothly.

    The cranks are normal speed, not too slow. The dashboard lights are all bright (except when cranking) and the radio, accessories, interior lights work fine, so I don’t know if it’s an electrical/battery problem. But sometimes it takes two tries of cranking for several seconds to get the engine to fire. Once it fires, it’s fine. This happens when cold or warm, although if I try to restart immediately after shutting off, it does start right up. Waiting 15 minutes will still cause a hard start. I do not notice any smoke in the exhaust. It runs completely normally otherwise. The car has relatively low miles on it but has a bit of rust so could a wire be corroded? It has an alternator bearing noise and I’m taking it in to have the alternator fixed but they still suspect fuel.

    1. Andrew,

      Thanks for your question about your Intrepid. It sounds like your car either has a weak spark or low fuel pressure. Weak spark could be caused by old spark plugs or spark plug wires or incorrect timing. Low fuel pressure could be caused by the things you’ve already replaced or a bad fuel pump. If your fuel pressure is low, your car will run normally as the computer will compensate for the low fuel pressure. We would recommend checking the pressure in your fuel rail while cranking and comparing that to the factory specification to see if your fuel pump is operating properly. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your spark plugs and wire, you may consider doing that as well. If all of that seems fine you can use BlueDevil Fuel System Cleaner (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/fuel-system-cleaner-00202/) to clean your injectors and see if that is the problem.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

      1. Had same problem with my 1999 chevy express van. Cleaned mass air flow sensor and “honey comb” with carb cleaner. Haven’t had the same problem in 2 years.Randy Stamper

      2. Thanks for your reply. I had had the fuel pressure regulator replaced due to hard-starting but that did not fix the problem (in fact it seemed worse afterward). The dealership that replaced the FPR said I needed a new fuel pump but I was certain that was not the issue. After reading your reply I took the car to a different garage to have a fuel pressure test and spark test. They determined the fuel pressure was normal on the supply side but low on the return side. I told them I just had the FPR replaced and to please double-check it. They discovered that the new FPR had a torn/split o-ring. The issue is now resolved and the car starts like a champ! Thanks for all of your help.

  11. Hello there! I have an 09 Ford Fiesta (automatic) and I recently had the spark plugs, coil pack, battery, leads and starter motor replaced but the car is still slow to start. However, it is not slow every single time I start the car and the time of day and weather don’t seem to make a difference. Any idea what the problem could be?

    1. Kate,

      Thanks for your question about your Ford Fiesta! It sounds like you’ve already replaced everything we would recommend replacing for a slow start. The thing that is interesting is that it doesn’t start slowly every time which makes us think maybe it’s an electronic problem with the automatic starting system. The only way to diagnose that would be to have a Ford Dealership run a full diagnostic on the car while starting.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  12. I have a 2010 lincoln mkx. Car turns over extremely slow but eventually starts everytime. Parked in heated garage. Just put in new battery. Had alternator tested and was fine. No clicking noise while turning over. Feels like a very cold start every time. Thanks for your help!

    1. Brian,

      Thanks for your question about your Lincoln MKX. It is possible that even with a new battery, your battery cables are not making good contact to supply the proper power to your starter, so we’d recommend checking your battery cables for corrosion and a good connection at the battery. If everything looks good there, then the other option is that your starter is beginning to wear out. The internal components of a starter do wear out over time causing slower and slower starts and then eventually the clicking noise you mentioned. If you remove the starter, many auto parts stores can test just that component so that may be a place to start.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto pro

  13. I have a 2006 Honda element, i had a recall on driver air bag. Since then my car has been running crappy. I bought a new battery and had alternator checked. It’s very slow to turn doesn’t turn at all. I try it a few times then finally it starts but today it did nothing. Could it be my starter?

    1. Linda,

      Thanks for your question about your Honda Element. We’re having trouble finding a correlation between your airbag recall and your car running poorly. Unless the timing is just a coincidence it seems most likely that the mechanics who did the work left a connector or sensor unplugged so your car wouldn’t run properly. Our recommendation would be to take your Element back to the dealership who did the work and have them check over the areas the repaired.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto pro

  14. I have a 2006 Nissan Altima, 175K. A few months ago it started to randomly not crank, or click, on turning the ignition. There was full power to the lights and interior. Then after a few minutes it would just start, on the first try.

    About 4 weeks ago a new symptom began where it would start right up the first time, but if making frequent trips, would not start when returning to the vehicle (would crank and after a few tries would start).

    We have replaced the starter, the batter, the positive battery connector, and the crankshaft position sensor (from error code reading).

    Any suggestions appreciated!

    1. Eric,

      Thanks for your question about your Nissan Altima. Based on your description we would have said your starter was going out, but if you’ve already replaced it could still be your wiring. There are 2 wires going to your starter, a large gauge wire that is bolted on and a smaller wire with a clip. The symptoms you’re describing would be caused if the smaller wire had corrosion on or around the clip that plugs into the starter.

      The crankshaft position sensor going bad on these cars is a common occurrence and we’ve found most people recommend replacing both of the sensors at the same time, so if you’ve only replaced one so far you could try replacing the other as well.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  15. I have a 2008 Toyota Sequoia. At random times I’ll have a hard start. Usually when this happens after it starts you can smell fuel and the check engine light comes on. The codes given show a random miss fires. We have tried changing the spark plugs, coil packs, and dropping the tank cleaning out the fuel system. Yet, it still is happening. What could possibly be the problem?

    1. Jessica,

      Thanks for your question about your Sequoia. There are two things you might try. First, if you haven’t had a top engine clean performed yet you might try that. There are cleaners you can put into your engine through a vacuum hose that will dissolve carbon and other engine junk in your intake and combustion chamber that may help fix your problem. Second, some larger Toyotas that have FlexFuel engines in them have been known to have trouble with the engine computer detecting the wrong fuel (Either gasoline or E85) and consequently adding the incorrect amount of fuel for a cold start. It seems it was new Sequoias that were affected by this, but you may try calling a Toyota dealership and asking if there are any recalls for your car in that area.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  16. I recently had the serpentine belt replaced in my 2005 Scion XB because it was making a terrible screeching noise intermittently as I drove. One night about a week ago, the car was very sluggish to start and the battery and ABS lights stayed on for a few seconds after the car turned over. Yesterday the car was sluggish again and the same lights came on for a few seconds again. This morning the temp was colder, and I had another very sluggish start with the same lights for the same duration. After the car starts, it runs perfectly fine. I drove it to work this morning (about 6 or 7 miles from my house), shut the car off and then restarted. It was much easier to start, but still a little sluggish. I’m really hoping it is just the battery and not the alternator–I am going to Autozone this afternoon or tomorrow morning to get them both checked out. In the meantime, based on my limited info, does it sound more like an issue with the battery, the alternator, or something different? Thanks for your time!

    1. Jason,

      Thanks for your question about your Scion XB. Based on your description it could be either. Since your commute is so short it may just be that your car isn’t running for long enough to get a full charge back in the battery after you’ve started it. Also, the combination of the belt noise with the hard starts and the lights staying on for a few seconds sounds like good indicators that your alternator is failing. Our guess would be it is your alternator, but many car parts stores will test your charging system, battery and starter for free which should get you on the right track.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  17. Just replaced alternator on our Hyundai Tucson 2005 2.0 and today it was sluggish to the point of almost not starting. Let it run awhile to charge, and it’s better but not up to par. Recent check up on battery/alternator showed the alternator going bad and the battery a little low on the readings. Not sure if this is the battery, starter, or what? Any advice? Oh the dash lights were crazy before replacing the alternator, but it’s fine now. 3 of the cells in the battery were low, so I put some water in them. Mistake?

    1. Thomas,

      Thanks for your question about your Tucson. It is possible that your battery is so worn out that your alternator is having trouble charging it. Sometimes extremely worn batteries can kill an alternator as it is stressed trying to charge it. If your battery is only a little low then the other most likely possibility is that one of the wires isn’t making a good connection with your alternator so it can’t transfer full power to your battery or starter.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto pro

  18. Hi I have a BMW 530i e60 with the m54 engine (same as the older e39)

    We replaced the starter last week as it stopped altogether and that sorted it out however when we start the car, it fires up first time no problem however where it would crank 3 times automatically (still does) at random times it would crank 8 maybe 9 times automatically before starting

    Rang up the same garage to make sure all connections were made back properly and assured me nothing to do with workmanship

    Could this be spark plugs or something? Last spark plugs changed 20k ago

    1. ManLikeMo,

      Thanks for your question about your BMW e60. It sounds like the automatic starting system in your car may be malfunctioning. When you press the “start” button the computer controls how long the engine is cranked for based on feedback from sensors measuring engine RPM. It sounds like either that computer is malfunctioning or the sensors are giving it bad readings causing it to occasionally crank longer than it needs to. The fact that it is random on how many cranks it takes to start makes it seem more like a sensor problem and less like a tune-up issue but you may consider replacing your spark plugs and having the fuel system cleaned just to make sure.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  19. My car 2007 Honda, Discussion continues, I sent it for servicing, after that, I began to experience hard starts. In the day time when the weather is hot, it starts easily, but in the morning hours, it takes time to start. I have checked the fuel system, co-starter and the starter, everything is okay. I want to know what might be the fault.

    1. Didei,

      Thanks for your question about your Honda. The hard starts you’re describing sound more like a problem with your starting system than your battery or starter. Depending on what model Honda you have you may have a bad cold start injector, or you may simply be having a problem with your computer aided cold start. This could be due to a bad temperature sensor, a clogged injector or even spark plugs that need to be changed. You can try checking your temperature sensors for proper operation and giving your car a basic tune up including new spark plugs and fuel system flush.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  20. Hello! I have a 2010 Honda Civic that is slow to start. It usually starts right up, but now it is delaying just a few seconds. This ONLY happens when the car has been sitting for long periods of time, such as when I first start it in the morning, or when I am leaving to go home from work and my car has sat in the parking lot all day. If I take it out at lunch it doesn’t happen. I do not hear any clicking or grinding when starting it. Once it’s started, it accelerates and runs smoothly. I just had the front brake pads replaced and the dealership’s multi-point inspection said the battery was fine. I had the battery and spark plugs replaced last year. The car has 99,000 miles on it but I keep up with regular maintenance and it runs pretty great. I have never replaced the starter though. Thank you for the help!

    1. Betty,

      Thanks for your question about your Honda Civic. The problem you’re describing does sound quite a bit like your battery is starting to go bad, but that would surprising with it only being a year old. If the terminals look clean and free of corrosion your problem is most likely with the wiring connections at the starter. It might be worth cleaning those connections to make sure they’re carrying full power to the starter. If that doesn’t help then the brushes may be wearing out on your starter, but that would be surprising with so few miles on your car.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  21. Have a question, I have a 2004 pontiac grand am gt and when I turn the key in the ignition, the car starts right up but the dash light delay to come on in about 5-10 seconds. Don’t know if it’s the starter, ignition switch or a fuse. Any input you may have is greatly appreciated

    1. Marshall,

      Thanks for your question about your Pontiac Grand Am. It sounds like your starting system and engine computer is working fine if your car starts right away. It is possible that you’ve got a loose fuse or a relay going bad that is powering your dash. Electrical problems can be tricky to track down, but we’d recommend starting by reading our article about that here: https://gobdp.com/blog/diagnosing-electrical-problems/.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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