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Should I be concerned if my car takes 2-3 tries to start in the morning?

My initial thought is Yes… but let me give you the details and hopefully some of you can give me advice…

I have a 1999 Toyota Corolla and for the last 3 mornings, it’s been a little slow to crank. 2 days ago and yesterday I had to turn the key twice, both times the engined ‘nudged’ the first time and then started strong the second. This morning it took 3 attempts… the first time I could hear the car attempt, but the engine didn’t budge, the second time it ‘nudged’ and then the 3rd time it cranked strong and started. It is very early spring here and this morning was indeed chilly… but we just got over much colder temps that had no effect like the last 3 days.

The battery is about 6 months old - is one of those ‘72 month’ or so batteries… supposed to last a long time and I have the receipt in my files at home. When I have left might lights on or when the old battery was having problems, I noticed the ‘door is open’ indicator would be dim… but when the battery is strong, it lights up brighter. I made sure to actually look at it yesterday and this morning before cranking the engine - very bright so it doesn’t look like it’s a battery problem - especially after 2 failed attempts that it did crank the engine strong.

The oil was changed about a month (and approx 1000 miles) ago and the engine isn’t getting hot when I run it… everything appears normal other then the required multiple attempts to start it.

I appreciate any thoughts on this… I am admittedly not a ‘car smart’ guy… I’m an IT tech… lol

Thanks all!


You might have a defective battery. It also could be the battery cables could be corroded at the ends. Have both battery cables inspected and cleaned at the motor side and the battery side.

How much do you drive daily? If it is only a few miles you might have a good, but discharged battery. If you drive 20 to 30 miles a day the alternator, or something else in the charging system, might be going bad.

Doesn’t sound like a defective battery to me. Batteries don’t not-work then work. If the battery was the problem when you tried to start the car…it sure wouldn’t then be able to turn the engine over good and strong 30 seconds later.

It could be a connection…or even the starter. I’d look at the connections…start with the battery terminals…

Ok, so you do think it is still battery or charge related then? I guess you are saying that the battery is strong enough once it’s nugdged the engine, but not strong enough for the initial cold start? I thought about looking at the terminals but each time was on my way to work… I’ll do that tonight when I go home.

On a side note, the car has started with no problems for the last 3 afternoons… but of course, then the car is very warm due to the sun and I’m thinking that it’s easier to crank it then.

And yes, it’s maybe a 20 minute drive to work each day… about 9 miles. I just moved a few months ago to get closer to where I work. If you think it could be a good battery that’s just discharged, how long of a drive would it need to charge it back up and how often would I need to do it to keep problems at a minimum?

Thanks for the info!

Your symptoms remind me of what happens to my Civic when my battery is on its last leg, which usually takes about four years. Get the battery tested. You can probably get it tested for free where you bought it or at an auto parts store.

Another thing that happens with small cars like yours and mine is that it takes time for pressure to build up in the fuel lines. If your battery isn’t performing like it should, it could make things worse. Try an experiment. Turn the key to the “on” position, but don’t start it. Wait for 10 seconds first. You might be able to hear the fuel pump engage and disengage if you listen closely. If you can hear it, wait for it to disengage before you start the engine. If it seems to take a long time, I am willing to bet the battery is the issue.

If the battery tests fine, you might have something draining the battery while the car sits. With small cars, it takes surprisingly little juice to start the engine, and what would be complete failure in a larger car (no cranking, only clicking), might be enough to start your engine.

I would tend to look for a bad battery or more likely a bad battery to cable connection.

You are driving enough per day so the battery should be charged, IF the battery is good and the charging system is working properly. Corrosion on the ends of the cables can reduce the amount of current getting to the starter, which needs a lot of current.

1st check and clean cables at both ends. If still a problem it could be a bad battery or weakness in the charging system. Some starters act like this before they die, but that isn’t as likely as other problems so don’t go for a new starter just yet.

In the old days of V-belts, a loose belt on the alternator would cause similar symptoms. Since this is a '99 corrosion, and alternator going bad are likely suspects for your problem.

I’m going to vote for a failing starter.

I’d have the battery load tested to rule that out too. The shop that tests the battery should be able to measure the amount of current the starter is drawing. Usually when starters begin to fail in this way, they draw a lot more current than normal. And of course, have the wiring and battery terminals inspected.

Looks like I’ll be making an extra stop this weekend… at the auto parts store where I bought the battery… to have them start with testing that.

Thanks everyone for your advice!

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Do you have a simple volt meter at home? If so…

In the morning before doing anything, test the voltage across the battery terminals themselves, should be above 12.0 volts. Then, test voltage across the cable ends at the battery, should be the same. Then, have someone try to start the car while you are still measuring voltage across the cable ends. If the car turns over slowly and the voltage drops below about 10.6 or so, you probably have a weak battery or poor connections at the battery. Repeat the test with the meter on the battery terminals themselves to verify no voltage drop at the cable ends.

If the car turns over slowly and the voltage stays high, you probably have a bad starter.

There’s more detailed testing that can be done, but this should get you in the right direction.

What about the fuel filter? Does it play a role?

No role in whether the starter motor cranks (turns over) the engine.


9 year old post…

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My dad would not buy a Ford because he said you had to crank them quite a bit to get them to start in cold weather. I didn’t think having to run the starter motor was a big deal. The problem was that the Ford he thought about was his family’s Model T. It didn’t have a starter motor–it was started with a hand crank. My dad had driven the Model T to a college dance. While the dance was going on, the outside temperature dropped. When my dad and his date got in the Model T,. my dad cranked and cranked to get the engine to start. By the time the Model T fired up, his date found a ride with someone else. My dad never forgave Ford. I said, “Look on the bright side, dad. Suppose the Ford had started right up. You might have really gotten something going with your date, would not have met mom and I wouldn’t be here”. “That’s what I have against Fords”, he replied.

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If the car was having these problems nine years ago, I doubt changing the fuel filter now would help.

…but it can’t hurt!


Perhaps new ignition wires and plugs are needed.

7 year old thread, sure I would think it is time for proactive service if I had the problem, no chance of helping the original poster.

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lol … My prior 60’s Ford Galaxy and my current 70’s Ford truck always start on the first try, usually with less than 2 seconds of cranking. Provided they are used every day. If not started for four or five days then it might take more cranking time before it pops and starts.

My dad’s real reason for not buying a Ford back in the 1930s was the treatment of workers at Ford who wanted to unionize by Ford’s sidekick, Harry Bennett and his henchmen. Dad bought his first car in 1938 and it was a new Chevrolet. It got wrecked and he replaced it with a new 1939 Chevrolet. My dad had all kinds of stories about traveling on family vacations in the Model T.
As far as hand cranking an engine, the 1939 Chevrolet had an emergency hand crank. I saw my dad start the Chevrolet on several occasions with the hand crank. I think he mastered that technique from having driven the Model T.

99 Corolla - I seriously doubt it has ignition wires.