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Suspected electrical starting problem with 1998 Maxima

My car sounds like it always did when I try to start it, but it doesn’t “catch” right away as usual. I have to turn it back off and back on again to finally start it. My friend, who knows more than I do, heard it and said it was electrical, not a starter issue. It has a manual tranny, and has had no problems until recently. He suggested I just drive it until it refuses to start any more, then tow it in as at this point I would just be guessing and it could possibly cost more as I waste money on trial and error. I am afraid to follow his plan, as it might go out on me at work which is 30 miles from the nearest garage. What does this sound like to you?

It’s probably the clutch safety switch if your car has one. Are you required to depress the clutch to start the car? If so, it’s probably just giving you some trouble.

The problem might be with the fuel pump. The fuel pump has a check valve that prevents the fuel from draining from the fuel rail(s)/line back into the gas tank. If this check valve doesn’t prevent this from happening air gets entrained into the fuel system. To find out if this is what’s happening, a fuel pressure leak-down test would have to be performed.

But you can also find out if this is what’s happening yourself. The next time you know the engine isn’t going to start right away, just turn the ignition switch to the RUN position for a couple of seconds and then turn it to the OFF position. Repeat this a half a dozen times, and then try starting the engine. If the engine starts right up, suspect that check valve in the fuel pump has failed.


When you turn the key to RUN, the fuel pump should run for about two seconds. Listen for its hum in the gas tank. If you don’t hear the hum, the fuel pump may not be running. See if the starts improve by turning the key to RUN, wait two seconds, then, turn key to START. Results?

Thanks for replies. I will address them:

  1. I do have to depress the clutch to start the car. The clutch safety switch is cheap and can be a quick experiment.
  2. The first time I try to start the car and it doesn’t start, I turn the key back to off immediately and then crank it again. It usually starts up the second time. Maybe the check valve IS bad, but I don’t have to repeatedly try to start- as of right now, just twice.
  3. I cannot hear anything over the antennae going up and down. The motor is really noisy. However, I will try turning the key to ON and then to START. I don’t think it says RUN anywhere, but then again, I have fifty year old eyes.
    Thanks again…And I will investigate all responses…