Car hard to start when cold

I live in Phoenix, and it doesn’t get very cold here. But it does get cold enough that my 98 Mazda Protege, 90k miles, is difficult to start in the morning. It takes about 60 seconds of cranking to get it going. Once it’s up, though, it will start just fine. What would cause this problem, when the temperature isn’t below 60 degrees?

Try this tomorrow morning: Turn the key to “ON,” wait about 5-10 seconds, then turn the key to “START.” See if that makes any difference.

There is a one-way valve in the fuel line designed to maintain fuel pressure after the engine is shut off. If the valve leaks and the fuel system is not fully pressurized the engine won’t start until the fuel pump has pressurized the system.

Waiting a few seconds before turning to “START” allows the fuel pump to pressurize the system.

The above problem is not temperature related, however, so it may not apply in your case, but it’s worth a try.

After trying mcparadise’s good suggestion, the next most likely issue would be a faulty coolant temperature sensor. That assumes that routine maintenance like spark plug replacement is up to date.

My dad is the primary driver of the car, and he says that giving the fuel system a chance to pressurize helps, but doesn’t completely solve the problem. Would replacing the valve fix it all?

You brought up spark plugs, and those are fine. I’ve done a fair bit of work in the past couple years to keep it going.