98 Neon Inconsistent Starting

starting
dodge
neon

#1

My 98 Neon has been inconsistent when starting since I bought it a year and a half ago, with 65.5k miles. Sometimes it cranks for a long time, sometimes it turns over right away. 100 degrees or below zero, same story. If it’s sat for a long time, it generally takes longer. And sometimes, when it’s been cranking for a long time (5 seconds+), I let up on starting and it kinda sputters a little like it’s trying to turn over, then it either turns over or dies. Also, tends to take a lot longer when I have less than half a tank of gas.

It has 73.5k on it right now. Major transmission service 7k ago, got a new battery 5k ago, new plugs & air filter .5k ago, and oil changes every 3k-4k miles.

I’ve done my research, and I’ve seen two possible issues that could cause this. The most popular one is a bad starter. The other less popular one is a faulty/bad check valve in the fuel pump assembly that lets fuel back into the gas tank when I turn it off. Seeing as how sometimes my car sputters like it’s running out of gas just before turning over, and how it’s faster to turn over when I have more than half a tank of gas, I’m gonna say it’s not the starter.

So, my question is this: If it’s the check valve, will I have to replace the whole fuel pump assembly or just one part of it, like the pump or the fuel pressure regulator. Or, is it something completely different?


#2

I would have the ignition coil checked. These cars were infamous for weak ignition coils. Its easy to test by checking the primary, and secondary resistance with a ohm meter to see if its within spec. The Haynes manual has the procedure, and the resistance specification if you want to try and check the coil yourself.


#3

If you conclude the problem is with fuel delivery, you will need to replace the fuel pump. The pump and check valve are all one single unit. It’s not a bad DIY job if you are so inclined, since you don’t have to drop the tank. Access is from underneath the car and there is a drain to remove remaining fuel.