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2013 Subaru Outback extended crank problems

My outback started giving me intermittent extended crank starting problems on cold engine starts a few months ago. I brought it in first to repair shop and then dealership. Battery replaced, all systems checked out, computer update, camshaft sensor shim, and still I have the problem. Any ideas what this could be?

Check for loss of residual fuel pressure. The fuel system should maintain pressure while the car is not in use. This allows an instant start.
If pressure is being lost this can lead to extended start times.

You might try turning the key on (not starting engine) and then back off. Do this half a dozen times and then attempt an engine start. If it fires right up this should point to a fuel pressure loss problem.

My Son Has A 2013 Outback. About A Month Ago, During Cold Weather Starts, He Had The Same Symptoms That You Describe. I Think It Got Over It As He Hasn’t Called For A While.

To get through the temporary intermittent extended cranking he found that by depressing the accelerator a little while cranking it would start right up. Try that the next time it acts up.

The problem is that my son likes to “remote start” on cold mornings and he couldn’t press the accelerator and remote start, simultaneously. :neutral:

I resort to that when the extended cranking happens (pushing down lightly on the gas) but was thoroughly scolded by the mechanic for doing it. It really shouldn’t be happening.

I’ll try the turning the key thing, however, the problem is so intermittent that the mechanics have not been able to replicate it. It happens unpredictably.

I also had a vehicle that very occasionally needed the accelerator slightly depressed to start . It happened so rarely I never worried about it .
Anyone know why a mechanic would scold someone for this ?

I was told that because it was a computer-sensor-regulated fuel injection vehicle, that could flood it. They can’t figure out the problem so they’re convinced I’m doing it via my occasional tapping (after the fact).

Just got the car back. Guys said the fuel pressure checked out fine. Oh well.

Mine didn’t require tapping . On the rare occasions it happened to me the engine turned over but didn’t start . I could just push the gas pedal about 1/3 rd of the way down while the engine was turning over & it would start right up .The times it did it was also always on a cold start .

Simply because the fuel pressure checks at the moment doesn’t mean that it is always OK. An injector could be hanging up open intermittently and draining the pressure. I had the problem years ago with my Buick. The mechanic kept trying the switch and it always was fine but then once it stuck open and the pressure went to zero on start up. A good injector cleaning took care of it. On the other hand if its on a cold start up and pressing on the pedal makes a difference, they could have a problem with the engine coolant sensor that tells the computer the engine temp and sets the fuel ratio accordingly. Pressing on the gas pedal would tend to richen the fuel ratio I do believe. They would have to monitor the readings off of the coolant sensor and compare that to what it should be.

1/2 pedal while crankingr richens mixture during crank. helps with subzero starts

A fuel pressure problem wouldn’t be likely, hopefully Subaru’s fuel system components have improved since the 1980’s and 90’s. I don’t see fuel pressure problems on vehicles this new.

This is what the software update was for;

ECM Reprogramming for Extended Engine Cranking
This Bulletin announces the availability of ECM reprogramming files to address an extended engine cranking condition caused by camshaft positioning at the time the engine is shut off.

That sounds like the variable valve timing can be out of proper position when shutting off/starting the engine, in your case that has been corrected but it shows how complicated things can get.

Drivability problems on late model vehicles can be complicated and difficult to demonstrate for analysis. There may be a flaw in the PCM software that doesn’t open the throttle enough during a cold start. If it is something like that technicians can only wait for a remedy from the manufacture.

Is your car still under warranty? A 2013 might be. If so, make sure you get receipts for each visit and that they state exactly what problem you report and what they did to check it. This is for documentation in case they can’t solve the problem until after the warranty expires. That way Subaru will still be on the hook for the repairs.

Good info from Nevada above. Suggest to ask your dealership why they didn’t alert you to this. They’re supposed to be the Subie experts after all, so should be familiar w/ all the systematic designed-in problems associated with the vehicle already.

If a re-programming doesn’t fix it, and that isn’t he problem, there’s special stuff that needs to happen for a cold engine to start. The engine computer knows what to do, but it either might not be recognizing that this is a cold-start b/c of some sensor problem, or it may think it is doing what it is supposed to do, but some actuator or another is responding. For example on cold starts the engine computer is supposed to inject more gasoline than normal, a common technique for that is to double pulse the injectors. That’s something a shop with the proper equipment could easily verify is happening or not.

The only other idea I can come up with is a hail-mary, unlikely to work but maybe worth a shot. A bottle or two of fuel injector cleaner in the gas tank.

The OP stated that the software revision was completed, I was just using the information about the software update to illustrate how intermittent problems are more complicated today.

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. What I don’t understand is why this problem would be happening now, when I spent two very cold winters with a properly starting car.

As mentioned above, sensor or actuator problems develop as the car ages. All your routine engine maintenance per the owner’s manual is up to date, right?

Just a wild guess here, but I think your mechanic should check the connection to the ECTS (engine coolant temperature sensor) to see if it is loose or corroded or has water in it.

Depends on what you consider cold too. Here cold is 10 below but some folks here think 55 is cold. Sometimes a start up at 10 below won’t be a problem but at 40 might be. Just sayin’ is all. It might work fine when it is really cold but not with intermediate temps and then of course not all the time.

Hi Bing, cold here was last winter in the upper Midwest : ) However, the first time it happened was this summer after I left it parked outside for a few days. The occurrence is more frequent in the winter, though.