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Difficult to start problem

My 2002 Chrysler Sebring LXi convertible (2.7L. V6) had always started INSTANTLY, either hot or cold, until this past May. It suddendly began taking from 3 to 5 seconds (hot or cold) of cranking before it starts. It had only 22,500 miles on it when the problem began. I’m an engineer and I was a professional auto mechanic when I was younger and I am an absolute fanatic on maintenance; the car looks and runs like it is brand new. I took it to my Chrysler dealer who had it for 3 days and were able to duplicate the problem, but can not find the source. I spoke to two service advisors during the 3 days it was at the dealer and both, independently, thought that the fuel pump was the most likely cause of the problem. However, the fuel pump pressure checked normal and they checked for pressure bleed down at the fuel distribution rails after a couple of hours, but all is OK. They also checked the crankshaft position sensor, but found no problems. They ran the code reader which showed no faults. There has been no change in gas mileage and once the engine starts, it runs perfectly. This change from instant starting to cranking for up to 5 seconds was so sudden that I’m concerned the problem will get worse and eventually it won’t start thus stranding me. Normally that would just be aggravating, but my wife is quite ill and being stranded with her in the car could pose a major health risk. I would deeply appreciate any thoughts you would have as to the source of the problem. Thank you for your time and effort, Fred Tamkin.

p.s. it has 100,000 mile platinum spark plugs, but I pulled one anyway; the gap and the color and condition of the electrodes is perfect, so it is very unlikely that the spark plugs are causing the problem.

Have you tried cycling the key on a few times before cranking to see if building up fuel pressure will prevent the delayed start problem?

Yes, I turned the key to on and waited for 60 seconds before turning it to start, but there was no difference. Since Chrysler service found that the fuel pressure was normal and that even after several hours of the engine being off, there was minimal pressure bleed down at the fuel distribution rails, I didn’t think this would do any good, but I tried it anyway. Thanks for trying to help; I appreciate it, Fred.

Sounds like ignition problem. its easy to test. but you’ll most likely need two people. First pop off a spark plug wire and stick a spark plug in the end of it. Then get someone to turn the key and see if you get spark instantly. Pretty simple. if thats it, change your control module.

Thanks, but an ignition problem is very unlikely. Such problems should show up as an ECU failure with the code reader, but Chrysler service found no faults. However, I’ll consider trying it anyway. As to it being simple to do, your right! It brings me back to my youth when I rode a Whizzer motorbike and used this technique to check for spark. Thanks, Fred.