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Car won't start (sometimes)!?!

When key in ignition car will make a ruaa- ruaa sound as if trying to turn over… sometimes it will be prolonged as if struggling, sometimes it will turn right over no problem and sometimes it will try to turnover but unsuccessfully.

If we can get the car to turnover and we drive the car a while (like to work) it will start up no problem the next time (to go home). We have driven prolonged distances >500 miles with no loss in power while driving, headlights on, etc, no problem. If running errands (short trips, 5min or so driving) with frequent stops, the car will progressively sound worse as it increasingly struggles to restart and after the 4-5th or so it will not start at all.

Battery: had a new battery put in about 6 weeks ago now after car wouldn’t start. Battery tested fine. Mechanic said it was likely a bad cell in the battery making it difficult to start, even though the battery tested fine. So we replaced the battery, and now 2 weeks in are having similar issues. *of note: if anything is plugged into the cigarette lighter (phone charger) when tries to start always has issues.

Our thoughts are:
Likely not alternator, because no loss of power while driving…?
Likely not starter, because always makes an attempt to turnover…?
Thinking most likely parasitic battery drain?

Please any help/brainstorming would be greatly appreciated!!

Stop plugging stuff into the cigarette lighter/power port and see if the problem goes away.

If it does, there’s something you plug in that draws down the battery.


1 Like

Thank you for the reply!

It does it even if nothing is plugged in (for days). We never had issues in the past 10yrs that we’ve owned the car using the charger similarly for low cell phone battery as emergency.

Does this issue point to something in particular besides the battery being used to charge something like the occasional cell phone? And would it drain the battery that quickly with frequent restarts but not with prolonged driving?

First, get one of these:

and use it every night while you’re trying to figure this out.

Also get one of these:

to plug into the cigarette lighter socket.

As you drive, watch the voltage. Your car has a two-stage charging controller. After starting, it will read 14V or so. After driving a while (certainly on your 500 mile trip) when the battery is “topped off” it will drop to 12.8V or so. It will then alternate between those two voltages as it sees fit. You can leave the voltmeter in; it is not powered with the car off (key removed).

Is the battery also ten years old?

If so, it’s time for a new battery.


Nope. Replaced twice. Once 6 weeks ago and again 2 weeks ago. So the battery is 2 weeks old.

How would these products help figure out what is causing the problem?

When you replaced the battery, did you test the charging system?

It isn’t a battery or alternator problem. Either of those would cause the engine to fail to crank. You say it is cranking fine. Cranking is that rrr rrr rrr souind. Cranking demands much more battery power than any other engine function. Suggest to forget the battery or alternator as a likely cause.

This sounds like a fuel supply problem. Something may be allowing the fuel rail to depressurize while the car sits unused. Problems in the evap system can cause this too, creating a flooding condition. You could test the latter idea by holding the accel pedal all the way down when cranking. If it started more readily that way, it might be an evap problem. But I think it is more likely the fuel rail is depressurizing. A fuel pressure test is what you need.

The battery maintainer is a band-aid to keep the battery charged while you figure out the problem. The voltmeter will tell you if the battery charge controller is working correctly. When you find that it is, you start looking for the parasitic draw on the battery. This is done by putting an ammeter in series with the battery with the engine off. Then remove fuses one by one to find the circuit causing the draw. Normal draw with the engine off is less than 50 mA.

double check that the battery cables are tight, clean, and not corroded inside.

Battery connections are the first place to begin when you have a “No Crank” situation. Even
if you have a new battery, if the connections are loose, dirty or corroded, you will not be
allowing the full flow of current to pass thru the connections. The connection may be
enough to turn on the lights, but not enough for the huge flow that is needed to operate the
starter. This is where many people say that they know the battery is good….”because the
lights come on”. This is no more a battery test than licking a 9volt battery. It only tells you that there is electricity…not how many volts or the amperage that flows from the battery.
Jump starting may have wiggled the terminal just enough to allow the current to pass and start the engine, but tomorrow you have the same problem.

First remove the cables from the battery and use a wire brush to remove any corrosion and dirt from the battery posts and the cable terminals. There is a tool with a round wire brush for this purpose, found at any auto parts store for less than $10
Before connecting the cables, apply a coating of di-electric grease to the battery posts this will keep oxygen away from the connection so that it will not corrode as fast.

It is just as important that the other end of the cables also have a clean connection. Remove the positive cable from the battery again so that you do not short anything out. Follow both cables to their far ends, remove this connection and wire brush the connection and the cable terminal clean and retighten these connections.

If there was work done recently, there may have been an “engine to body” ground that was not installed following the work. These grounds normally run from the rear of the engine to the firewall and are uninsulated and most are a braided wire. If any of these are found unattached…reattach them.
Remember….this is not a “Sherman Tank” don’t over tighten the connections.
Tight…tight………………too tight…broke!!!