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Car "hesitates" before it starts; Alternator or something else?

The last few days, when I would start my 1990 Acura Integra (morning or afternoon after sitting at work), it had just the slightest hesitation before the engine would start or “turn over”, if that is the correct term. Sometimes I just thought I did not have the clutch engaged the whole way and did not worry.
This morning I went to start it and it hesitated again, but now won’t start at all…makes the clicking starter sound after a second attempt, but nothing else. NO lights were left on!

The Battery (Duralast Gold 8 year battery) was replaced in Feb 2011, the Distributor in August 2011 and the Distributor in 2007. Could it be the latter?

I have posted inquiries about my car on here in the past, but when I looked at my old discussions, all that remains in older ones are a few comments, and not necessarily my original question, which I find odd.

I am the original owner of this car (going on 24 years) when it was only FOUR miles old! My family and friends are always pushing me to get a new one, but I’m very attached to her!

When it just clicks when you try to start it, this often indicates a drained battery.

If you can get a jump start and it starts, take it to a chain store like Advance Auto Parts, and they can run a test that will tell you if you have a “parasitic draw”, which is when there is something that is using electricity when the car is turned off.

I would check the easiest, cheapest fix first. check battery connections for tightness, remove and clean battery terminals and check the cables for corrosion , check under wire insulation too.

this sounds like a battery connection or corrosion problem

It’s also possible the starter is failing. This wouldn’t be surprising on a 24 year old vehicle.

Take it to a trusted local mechanic for diagnosis, not an auto parts store that won’t be able to fully diagnose it and will likely sell you unnecessary parts. Find a recoommended local mechanic in the Mechanics Files section of this website.

If I CAN get it started, I will run it down to the current shop I go to, which is only a few miles away, as it is due pretty soon for it’s timing belt replacement…which prompts another question…
The last time my timing belt was replaced (Nov 2006, at~197K mile) by a DIFFERENT shop, they insisted I needed to replace the water pump at the same time. Is this always true?

I can have them look into the starter, but the ignition CABLE was replaced back in 2009

Replacing the water pump is a “While-yer”. While-yer doing all this work around the water pump replacing the timing belt, why not replace it too if it is unlikely to last to the next belt change? The labor to get to the part is similar and doing both at the same time generally saves money. A failing pump can also damage the timing belt causing it to be replaced in the middle of its life.

Oh, BTW, an 8 year battery doesn’t mean it will LAST 8 years, only that it has a warranty for 8 years. The 8 year thing just means you get a pro-rated credit towards a new battery.

If you didn’t replace the water pump last time around, I would definitely do it this time. Given the mileage and age of the car, it’ll probably be the last timing belt/water pump it gets, but a new water pump can mean the difference between getting another 75k miles or having the engine conk out tomorrow.

Thank you Mustangman and jesmed1. The pump WAS replaced last time along with the timing belt; same thing back in 2000. I just asked out of curiosity, and of course I will get both replaced :slight_smile:

As for the battery, in all of my years with this car, the batteries have ALWAYS lasted way longer than intended (you’d have to see my old-ancient posts).

Very good. Since your current battery is only 3 yrs old it’s probably fine. My bet is on a bad starter.

still sounds like a bad battery connection to me.

If you have no battery power then either the battery is drained or poor connection. If the battery is drained, either bad alternator or parasitic drain, or a battery that is not holding a charge. So turn the lights on to see if they are ok and if the lights go on, then the battery is not drained and likely a starter problem. I agree though, I have had no luck with the auto parts stores reliably checking batteries or alternators.

…lights may work even if connection is too poor to start vehicle.

AAA towing came out to jump it, and said it is/was the battery…pretty much dead and would not hold much charge. The guy proceeded to try and get my to buy a new one thru them, but I told him mine was still under warranty, but the guy was STILL insistent! He went on his way ( without a sale!) and then I realized he still had my AAA card!
Anyway the guys at my shop are cleaning up the connections, etc. and putting in my new “under warranty” battery.

I do still wonder if something “parasitic” as some have said, is slowly draining it? It was only 3 years old and supposed to be an 8 year battery. I live in Point Loma, so it does not get super hot here!

Batteries don’t die in 3 years unless (a) the battery itself was defective, which is unlikely, (b) the alternator isn’t charging it properly, in which case you’ll usually see a red light on the dash while driving, or © there’s a parasitic drain on the battery, slowly draining it when the engine is off.

You can buy a new battery but if (b) or © is the root cause, the new battery will die the same way.

@jesmed1, (a) happens more than you think. I had a battery die before the 2-yr free replacement warranty ran out. A cell died in it. I’ve seen similar problems in other batteries, including a shorted cell that killed the alternator. All in relatively new (2 years old or less) batteries.

@BustedKnuckles, I buy only high quality batteries and have never had a problem, but you could be right. I Googled “Duralast Gold 8” which is what the OP said she bought, and one of the reviewers who bought them said he had two in a row that lasted only 3 years…same as the OP.

yeah, I ve had two cheap batteries that died in two yrs each. I won t buy another

What is your idea of a cheap battery? I paid $129.99 for the new battery 3 years ago. It was just 3 months over the 3 year 100% replacement, so I got a pro-rated price of $57.29 (+TAX) but now with only 2 years free replacement.
In case we cannot quickly determine what might be “draining” it, (I’m leaving town soon) I was thinking of disconnecting the battery while I’m out of town for a few weeks; what do you all think? Bad idea?

I had a Walmart battery go in a year on a car that didn’t get much use. Wouldn’t even take a charge enough to start it. We’ve had the battery discussion here and everyone has their favorites. I use Delco myself but there are three different qualities evidently.

Its not a good idea to disconnect the battery because of the loss of memory of the engine computer. If you really suspect a parasitic drain, it would be better to use a battery maintainer for extended non-use periods. Like a small chatger that will keep the batter up. I believe they even have some solar ones.