Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Car only starts when it's cold

My wife has a 1996 Dodge Neon (Standard). It’s been a good car and run rather well, but over the last few weeks it’s been sluggish to start up (almost like the battery is dying). Then Thursday night the car would not crank. I thought it might be the battery so we attempted a jump. That didn’t work. The next morning the car was sluggish to start, but started. She rode to work with my mom anyway, and in the afternoon I started the car. It started up the same - sluggish, but once it started it ran fine. I drove about a mile or two to pick up our kids from daycare, and it started the same after I picked them up. Then I drove about 30 miles round trip to pick up my wife and we stopped to eat at a restaurant about a mile from home. On returning to the car 30 mins - 1 hr later, the car would not crank. We were able to push-start the car just fine, and get home. The next morning the car started - sluggishly.

Our thought (and fear) is that it’s the starter. Anything we could check that’s easier/cheaper?

TIA (Thanks in advance)

I would go to an auto parts store and have them check the electrical system. My first thought is that not enough power isn’t getting to the starter motor. This could be due to a weak battery, corrosion on the battery cable clamps,or a charging system that isn’t recharging the battery as it should–possibly an alternator problem.

If the above check doesn’t reveal the problem, then a current draw measurement should be done on the starter. A defective starter will draw excessive current and will crank the engine sluggishly.

The last possibility is that the engine itself is binding up when it is hot.

A jump-start should have added enough extra oooph to start the car. The car not starting (cranking quickly enough) points to poor connections of wires and cables, especially, the cable attached to the starter; also, the ground strap connection is suspect.
Disconnect, examine, and file or scrape the terminals and where they connect on the starter post, and the engine block, or car body.