97 Cavalier takes longer to start after sitting for a while - why?

The car in question is a 97 Cavalier, 2.2L motor, 164,000 miles, automatic transmission.

Just a curiousity question…If my 97 Cavalier sits for a while, it takes slightly longer (varies, depending on how long it sat) to start. It still turns over quickly, indicating to me that it’s not the battery, and doesn’t hesitate at all in starting…it just needs to “turn over” more times before “catching”.

If only sitting overnight, it just takes a few more turn-overs than if it was started recently. If it sits for a week, like it did last week, it takes quite a few more seconds of turning over to start up.

Oh, if it’s been started recently, it starts up almost instantly.

So, just wondering, what is the usual cause of this behavior? Is it a failing starter? A weak fuel pump? Or is the fuel pressure disappearing somewhere?

It hasn’t not started for me yet, but it’d be nice to know why it does this and if it’s an issue I should do something about now rather than later, to avoid getting stranded somewhere.

I know a little extra start-up time is normal when a car has been sitting (especially one with 164k miles) but this seems a bit more than normal.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!


Your line of diagnosis is in the right direction in that the fuel system is losing its’ ability to maintain pressure.

It could be due to a weak fuel pump (the pump primes properly at each start up?) or perhaps a faulty fuel pressure regulator.

There’s no pinholes in the fuel lines (Front to back)? This can happen where the two lines rub against one another or rub against the frame rail where they are held together in a clamp.

BTW, I’m glad to see you are wise to check into needed repairs before you are left stranded.

I’ll second Roadrunner about the loss of fuel pressure while the car is sitting. Another cause of lost fuel pressure is a worn or contaminated check valve in the fuel pump. This allows fuel pressure to bleed back into the tank when the engine is not running.

Thanks for the replies! Are there any easy things I can check (fuel pressure regulator, etc)?

There are no leaks in the lines that I know of, but I know these models are known for rusty fuel tanks, I wonder if a small hole in the tank somewhere could cause this? Or would the check valve not allow the fuel pressure to be affected by that? (assuming the check valve is working properly)

Try this.

Next time you’re about to experience this issue, instead of turning the car over, turn the ignition key to on, wait 2 seconds, off, on 2 seconds, and do this 5 times.

On the 5th try, turn the ignition jey to start. If the car fires up right away, your fuel system isn’t holding pressure. There’s usually a check valve in the pump that fails with age/wear. The fuel pressure regulator could be failing as well.

Thanks Constantino. I’ll try this next time the car sits for a couple days.

Is there a way to test the fuel pressure regulator?