1996 3.5L Vision TSI (LH) - Occassional Hard Starting

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Bob Shuman, Jun 9, 2004.

  1. Bob Shuman

    Bob Shuman Guest

    Vehicle is a 1996 Eagle Vision TSI, 3.5L with 66K miles. New plugs, wires,
    PCV, and air filter installed at ~60K miles. Battery is ~2 years old and
    starter is original. Car runs very well, idles smoothly once started and
    gets 29 MPG on highway using A/C.

    I'd appreciate thoughts on a problem I have experienced occasionally with
    difficult starting. The majority of the time the engine starts on the first
    try without any problem. Occasionally, it won't start and requires retrying
    the starter for up to 20 seconds before it catches. Once it gets started, it
    runs rough for a few seconds before smoothing out. No diagnostic error
    codes (just a "55") when you use the on-off-on-off-on key trick. No known
    problems with the battery or the starter and the starter turns "normally"
    when it is not starting and sounds strong.

    I believe that the problem must be either something electrical or fuel
    delivery related. I've thrown a bottle of Techron fuel injector cleaner
    into the last full tank, but have not noticed any improvement yet. I also
    plan to change the fuel filter this evening since it has been about 30K
    miles since this was last done. Assuming these don't fix the problem, does
    anyone have any thoughts on how I could narrow this down to determine the
    root cause? Any other symptoms that I should be looking for if this is
    the fuel pump beginning to give out? (I don't currently own a fuel pressure
    gauge, so if this will be needed, I'd appreciate a specific make/model
    recommendation.) Could the fuel pressure regulator be causing occasional
    loss of pressure and causing the hard starting? If not fuel related, what
    electrical area would you recommend I check given that most of the time this
    problem is not apparent and the car runs fine otherwise?

    I know there is a wealth of experience out here on this engine, so would
    appreciate opinions and thoughts so thanks in advance for your response.

    Bob Shuman, Jun 9, 2004
  2. Enlist a helper to stand at the back of the car and watch the exhaust pipe
    as you try to start it. (perhaps, since the pipe is on the driver's side,
    you can hang out the driver's door and watch the pipe while you crank the

    If you see black smoke in any amount when the engine finally catches and
    as it's running rough, suspect one or more leaky fuel injectors.
    Your fuel delivery system is fine at least up to the fuel rail, unless you
    have high-speed/high-load running problems you haven't mentioned. Even a
    filthy fuel filter and/or weak fuel pump will usually supply enough fuel
    to start and idle the engine. When fuel demand goes up, *that's* when the
    a substandard pump or partly clogged filter show themselves.

    Not only do you have extended crank times, but also rough running once it
    does start. A bad fuel pump outlet check valve (for instance) that would
    cause the pressure to drain down would cause extended crank times but not
    the rough running.

    On the other hand, if the system's pressure is draining down through a few
    leaky fuel injectors, all that raw gas would be in the cylinders -- you'd
    have your extended crank time to repressurize the system, your extended
    crank time to clear the overly-rich mixture out of the cylinders, and your
    rough running thereafter. Another test you can do: Next time it gets
    cranky, push the accelerator about halfway down while continuing to crank;
    see if that shortens the crank time.

    If a crank or cam sensor is getting wonky, or the MAP sensor is headed
    South, this can also cause these kinds of problems, often without setting
    a code. An easy check for the MAP sensor is simply to unplug it. The
    computer will then not see it and will substitute fixed values. If the
    black-smoke test is negative, you might try this to see if the car starts
    more easily.

    Daniel J. Stern, Jun 9, 2004
  3. Bob Shuman

    Bob Shuman Guest


    Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions here. Your note leads me in a
    different direction than I was originally leaning (fuel delivery) and is
    exactly why I posted my request for other ideas.

    The fact that this only happens occasionally (maybe 1 in 50-60 starts and
    generally when I am not driving it), requires the vehicle to have been
    sitting for some time unused, and is not repeatable with any frequency makes
    it difficult to diagnose. Nonetheless, I will do my best to try to have
    someone else watch the exhaust or turn the key for me so I can see what is
    happening at the exhaust myself.

    I'll also keep in mind that it could be a sensor and that I can try to
    unplug the MAP sensor but once again, the unpredictability makes this
    difficult to do much here. Based on what you've said, I am now leaning
    towards leaking fuel injector(s). Let's hope I can confirm this by visual
    examination of the exhaust. That said, is there any way to easily diagnose
    which one(s) are leaking or is a total replacement of all 6 the best
    approach given the vehicle mileage and the cost of diagnosis by a good

    Bob Shuman, Jun 9, 2004
  4. You can pull the whole fuel rail assembly and leave it connected to the
    fuel supply, put a twist of paper towel around the bottom of each injector
    and a plastic bag over that, leave it sit for awhile and then remove and
    see which paper twists smell of fuel...donno how "easy" that is...
    Daniel J. Stern, Jun 9, 2004
  5. Bob Shuman

    Bob Shuman Guest


    Sounds like a plan. I'll try to remember to post the outcome when I get
    around to looking at this. As I indicated, it happens infrequently and is
    basically an annoyance, but I would like to fix this before winter cause I
    expect it might become a real problem then.

    Bob Shuman, Jun 9, 2004
  6. Bob Shuman

    Steve m... Guest

    On my 94' LHS there was one time that it wouldn't start at all. It was
    the crank position sensor. That sensor supplies all timing to the rest of
    the system and won't set a code when it is acting up.

    Steve m..
    Steve m..., Jun 10, 2004
  7. Bob Shuman

    Ted Guest

    My granddaughters '97 Intrepid ES has the 3.5 but it has 2 throttle bodies
    on it..so I don't have a clue how you would check the injectors ..Did those
    early 3.5's come with port injection?

    Occasionally she used to experience this problem, but DS recommended turning
    the key off and on for some one else on a different vehicle to troubleshoot
    a problem and this "cured" her trouble completely, we have not pursued the
    problem further as this has worked so well,, it is just a habit now,, key on
    wait for the pump to stop,, key off, key on wait again, then crank.. Lights
    up instantly.. She doesn't use the vehicle much anymore and will wait for
    real problem to manifest itself and fix it then.

    DS also stated you can only do this twice in so many seconds,, he said there
    is some kind of timer in the circuit that only lets you do it so often in so
    much time...unfortunately I didn't save the post so I don't know how much
    time. I learned my lesson and save the stuff that has good info in it now.

    Overall once we got the intake manifold gasket and water pump taken care of,
    this engine has been just about as bullet proof as you can get... 125000 and
    counting smooth and very powerful for it's size.

    Don't mention tie rods though,, ..... anyone know if there is a "permanent"
    fix for these out there..?? On the 4th set, well 3rd not counting the
    original.. {:-(


    Ted, Jun 10, 2004
  8. Bob Shuman

    Bob Shuman Guest


    Thanks. Sounds like your granddaughter's vehicle may have a bad check valve
    in the fuel pump. This is initially what I thought my problem may be as
    well before Dan pointed out the rough idle after it finally started most
    likely being due to raw gasoline leaking from my injectors into the
    cylinders/combustion chambers.

    I've done the water pump and timing belt thing twice on this vehicle
    already. The second time was not really the water pump, but was due to
    corrosion around the O-ring in the water pump housing that bolts to the
    engine block.

    I've had no problems with the intake gasket.

    I've replaced one set of tie rods and the infamous sway bar links as well so
    can relate to your comments here as well. I wish they had placed grease
    fittings on the front end since this would probably have lasted a lot

    Otherwise, I can't complain as it still drives like it did when it was new.
    I'm preparing to hand it down to my oldest son so want to get everything
    squared away before then so he does not have any problems.

    Bob Shuman, Jun 10, 2004
  9. Bob Shuman

    Bob Shuman Guest

    Steve M,

    Thanks for the reply. I presume your crank sensor failing caused a "hard"
    failure. That is, the vehicle would not start at all once this sensor
    failed. This is not the case with my vehicle since it starts normally the
    majority of the time and only occasionally exhibits this "rough start"
    condition. Even after it does happen, it might be a week or a month before
    it reoccurs. I just have not really noticed any pattern to it other than
    the engine has not been running for a period of many hours. I've had it
    happen when the weather was sub-zero and most recently when the temperature
    is in the mid-80's.

    Bob Shuman, Jun 10, 2004
  10. All the '93-'97 3.5s had the same induction system.

    Well, no, this isn't a "cure". All you're doing there is pressure-priming
    the system (which in your case is probably leaking down via a bad fuel
    pump outlet check valve) so that the engine will start quickly. Nothing
    really wrong with it, won't hurt anything, but it hasn't cured the
    problem. I sometimes use the same "double prime" technique on my '89 D100
    in cold weather. Sort of the modern equivalent of giving the accelerator
    two pumps instead of one before initially cranking the engine. Also don't
    think the on-off-on-off-on deal will get you diagnostic codes on your '97
    as it will on earlier cars, but I could be wrong about that.
    Again, you won't hurt anything, but the fuel pump will only run twice on
    initial key-on within a certain time period, so additional key flicks
    won't do anything.

    Daniel J. Stern, Jun 10, 2004
  11. Bob Shuman

    Geoff Guest

    Also don't
    Assuming the same OBD-II diagnostics were in place on '97s as they were
    in my '96, the keycode method does work.

    Geoff, Jun 10, 2004
  12. Bob Shuman

    Bill Putney Guest

    For future reference, the really good news is that you don't have to
    save *anything* posted here, and yet you will always be able to find it.

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    Bill Putney
    (to reply by e-mail, replace the last letter of the alphabet in my
    address with "x")
    Bill Putney, Jun 12, 2004
  13. Bob Shuman

    Ted Guest

    Thanks,,, this is the "one" I will save then !!!
    Ted, Jun 12, 2004
  14. Bob Shuman

    Steve Guest

    I had a bad crank sensor on my wife's 93 3.5 that was intermittent
    before failing hard. It would "stumble" at highway speed, and would
    stall at idle.

    Weirdness at starting sounds more like a fuel injector (or lower O-ring
    more likely) leak, or just a drain-down of fuel system pressure. You
    might try cycling the ignition 3-4 times (spaced apart by about 2
    seconds) to cause the fuel pump to run longer than its normal one burst
    of operation prior to cranking, just to see if its a loss of pressure.
    (Or better yet, use a fuel pressure guage.... ;-)
    Steve, Jun 13, 2004
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