2003 Olds Alero having difficulties starting up

Over the past month I have had two distinct periods of time where my car had difficulty starting. When I would turn the key, the electrical would start and the car would sound as though it was going to start, but then would not completely turn over. After 3-4 tries it would start, and then it would run smoothly. I have yet to experience it NOT start after a couple tries and everything is up-to-date as far as maintenance is concerned.

Here are my questions:

(1) What could be causing this?

(2) How much does it cost to fix (including labor, etc.) and

(3) How can tell if I’m being given accurate information/prices/etc. from the mechanics I am talking to?

Any information is much appreciated!

Having an OBD II tester is a good thing with these vehicles. (Maybe $100.00 at AutoZone or WalMart.) That said. My wife’s Alero was experiencing the identical thing recently. It could be a stuck EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) valve (about $135.00) or a dirty throttle. Also, using a high detergent fuel could cause hard starting. In my wife’s case, after checking plugs, throttle, EGR, and finding no problem indicated by my OBD II tester I told her to switch gasoline brands (this particular high profile brand advertises lots of detergents in it) to see if that might clear up the problem before we have to surrender to the repair shop. In 2 days the hard starting disappeared and the car has been rstarting on the first time every time for over 3 weeks, now. She switched first to BP, then went to Mobil.

If this is happening after the car has sat for a period of time, the next time you go to start it, try this.

Turn the ignition switch to the run position so that the dash lights come for two seconds, but don’t try to start the engine, and then turn the ignition switch off. Repeat this a half a dozen times, and then try starting the engine. If the engine starts right up, it indicates that the fuel pump assembly check valve is defective. And the fuel pump assembly requires replacement.

But! If this the problem, I would use this method to start the engine until the fuel pump assembly displays a more serious problem. Because the fuel pump is fine. It’s just the check valve in the assembly that’s the problem.


One more thing. If you don’t wish to invest in an OBD II tester, AutoZone will run a test for you free and tell you if anything is wrong. That way you’ll know whether you have a problem which needs work and you’re armed with the info when you go to the repair shop.

UPDATE: Here is what has happened since I posted this…

  1. Battery replaced
  2. Fuel pump failed (2 days before my birthday no less) & replaced
  3. Fuel injection cleaned
  4. Transmission flush

Now I am experiencing the same problems as I initially experienced. More specifically, the car will turn over and the engine will start; however, the car does not seem to idle properly (too low), so it stalls. It does this when it starts up several times (I’m up to 5-6 tries per drive), and it feels as though it may stall when I slow down after I have been driving for just a few minutes. There are no problems driving the car, it’s just the start up and idling that is causing it to stall. After it has been driven for a while (e.g., I commute 23 miles each way), it does not have any difficulties.

Any additional information would be helpful. I’ve been searching the internet and it sounds like many Aleros have this type of problem.

Now you’re describing a problem with the Idle Air Control circuit. Try this.

When starting the engine, just tip into the gas pedal just a little bit and see if the engine starts. Once driving, and you feel the engine is going to stall at a stop, with your left foot firmly on the brake pedal, slightly tip into the gas pedal. If this prevents the engine from stalling, there’s a problem in the idle air control circuit. And it’s usually with the Idle Air Control valve.


Took the car into a repair shop (same place that gave me a new battery). They reprogrammed the computer for idling/RPMs (not really sure if that’s the proper terminology) and they cleaned the IAC. 24 hours after I got the car back, it is still having problems. This time I experienced difficulty starting (engine wouldn’t turn over) and it turned over on one occasion but then stalled after 2 seconds. I tried slightly stepping on the gas to get it going (which had worked on a few occasions) however it did not work this time.

I appreciate everybody’s comments thus far. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know.

Figured out it was the ignition switch that needed to be replaced. Now the car is working well again. Just though everyone would appreciate an update. Thanks for all the help!

Thank you so much for telling us the outcome and sharing your good news! I wish everyone would be as thoughtful as you have been. Best wishes!