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Starting in the cold is a problem

My wife’s 2003 manual trans Saturn Ion (2.2L) has problems starting in cold weather-- only cold weather. I’ve replaced the battery, alternator, clutch switch, and spark plugs, but the problem persists. Please help!

Could be a bad coolant temperature sender. If the computer gets an incorrect signal regarding the coolant temp it will not enrich the mixture and cold starting will be difficult.


Thanks for the advice. How would I check the temperature sender? I’ve never heard of it before, so I’m completely unfamiliar with it.

Are you saying that it cranks but won’t fire? Or that it wont crank at all (click-click)? That has you looking at different kinds of things.

You’d have to have a service manual to know the specs and some electronic test equipment to perform the test. Many people just replace the sensor if they suspect it is faulty. They are not very expensive.

Sometimes just a dirty electrical connection can cause a problem. If you can find the sensor you could try cleaning the electrical contacts. There is a temp sensor in the radiator that controls the cooling fans, and a temp sensor on the engine that feeds a signal to the computer. The one on the engine is the one that can cause this problem.

I guess I should have been more clear in my description; sorry. Here’s a typical cold day or night start:

My wife (or I or whomever) gets in to start the car. Turn the key, and the engine cranks but doesn’t turn all the way over, or sounds like it did turn over, but then slowly dies out (2-4 seconds of cranking/turning over). Wait two minutes, turn the key and no clicking, no starting, nothing; except, all the lights and radio, etc. work fine. Wait two minutes, nothing when the key is turned. Wait two more minutes, engine attempts to start, cranks, almost starts, dies. Wait two more minutes, turn the key, starts up no problem whatsoever.

I’ve tried turning the key to the on position for 30 seconds, then off, then trying to start, but that doesn’t help either.

I forgot to mention originally, it is a manual transmission, and I also replaced the starter. This problem only seems to happen when it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks for your help!

sounds like the starter motor is going

Since you have even replaced the starter… I would say connections and/or the cables themselves. Cold weather makes the engine stiffer (harder to start), so it takes more current to make it happen. Thin wires / bad connectors carry less current that thick wires / good connectors. Check that, it might be a cheap fix.