What's the proper way to start a car? ('92 Volvo 740)

We have an old man Volvo, 1992 740 wagon, but with under 100,000 miles, in very good condition. Two years ago I would occasionally have a problem with the engine going into a stall right after start-up, after it had been sitting for a couple of hours in a very hot sun (90+ degrees). However, it happened so rarely that we didn’t pursue and, at any rate, this problem never affected my husband.

Over the past few weeks it has gotten so bad for me that I’ve refused to drive the car. We are now living in a temperate area. I was always able to start the car from our garage, but after having it parked somewhere for a couple of hours it would stall. The engine will turn over, and then turn off.

Husband had it mini-tuned today and it handles fine, but he never had the problem. As soon as I tried the blasted car, the same thing happened. The idle was turned up, so it didn’t stall as quickly, but it did stall.

My husband says I don’t start the car properly and that’s the problem, but I’ve been doing it this way for years: Foot on brake, turn key, engine turns over, and then I accelerate. He says I should start it with my foot on the accelerator to give it a bit of gas. Adult son starts car with neither peddle engaged, then puts his foot on the brake to accelerate. Actually, the instruction manual says to do just that.

So, what is the proper way to get things going? Any thoughts on what’s happening here? Thank you, and I’m sorry for such a long posting.

We start 92 Volvos once a year in Maine because it’s our right under the constitution to partly assemble a car to move it about 5 feet. This is done as soon as most of the mud hardens. It’s funny how the trailer hitch is on the back when it’s needed more on the other end.

This isn’t like old carbureted cars where you had to do the whole song and dance to set the choke-- with a fuel injected car you should be able to just turn the key. There’s definitely something wrong with the car, and it sounds like your husband’s starting method is a workaround.

By “then puts his foot on the brake to accellerate” do you mean that stepping on the brake pedal causes the engine to speed up? If so, your problem is a leaking brake booster, which would explain the starting problem and will eventually lead to loss of power assist so get it fixed ASAP.

Also, the “mini-tune” will probably have to be undone-- on a modern fuel injected car you should never have to adjust the idle and it is probably idling too high now. (Again, turning up the idle is a workaround of an underlying problem, not a solution).

GreasyJack, maybe I worded it wrong. I meant that my husband puts his foot on the accelerator pedal to get it started, whereas I have my foot on the brake to accomplish the same thing (and it stalls). My son successfully starts the car with just the key, then puts his foot on the brake and puts the car in gear.

Unless there is a leaking brake booster, having your foot on the brake shouldn’t do anything, so I think that’s a red herring.

Another thought. Is it possible that they are turning the key to “run”, then doing whatever they do to get the car started, and then turning it to “start” whereas you turn it all the way from “off” to “start” in one motion? If you have a weak fuel pump, leaving the key in “run” for a moment before starting can give it a chance to build up fuel pressure.

The fuel pressure checks should be done. If the fuel filter hasn’t been changed in years (if ever) change it. Check the fuel pressure with the engine idling, and at 2000 rpm in DRIVE (if an automatic transmission). Shut the engine off, and the fuel pressure should remain for five minuets, or more. If any of the values are off, they need further diagnosis by a mechanic. The results of the tests determine what should be done next.

Your problem is NOT due to the way the car is being started. If there were nothing wrong with the car, it would be starting all the time.

You need three things to start a gasoline car, compression, spark, fuel.

I can’t rule out any, but for now I think I would put compression last. What was done at the “mini-tune”

How old are the spark plugs, wires, and when was the last time the air and fuel filters changed?

My guess is you have a fuel problem with a clogged filter or a weak pump. I would like to see the fuel pressure checked.

Does it “fix” itself once the engine is completely cooled down?

My Volvo experience is limited, but I’ve seen this same situation on fuel injected BMWs a couple of times. Believe it or not, the problem with those was that the starter was going bad. Once it was warm, the starter was heat-soaked and would drag causing a large amount of amperage to be needed to turn it. When that happened, there was not enough juice left to properly run the cars’ on board computer which tells EVERYTHING how to work, especially the injection system in this case. Have the starter checked for amperage draw when it’s warmed up. Autozone should do it for free, but you may not be able to get home.

You might get the throttle and idle port cleaned.