Astoria Mechanic | Collision Repair | Tolimas Auto Center

What Causes My Car to Hard Start

Why Does My Car Hard Start?

When you start your car in the morning you might notice that your car is taking unusually long to start. Your car cranks and cranks and then hard starts. Typically this could be due to a weak battery, dirty air flow meter, or if your car is in need of a tune up. This topic was discussed in this blog post, “Why your car doesn’t start in the winter“. In this article we will discuss another reason why your car can hard start. That is a seizing accessory or idler pulley.

The front of your engine hosts your accessory serpentine belt system. This system uses the rotational energy from your engine spinning to drive your accessories such as your power steering, air conditioning, water pump, and alternator. Under normal conditions the pulleys are free spinning as the engine crank pulley spins them. As the pulleys wear out they start to make a chirping noise when you start your car and normally goes away after a few minutes of driving unless the bearings are very worn. Accessories such as your water pump and power steering may be on their way out but won’t make any noise. The only symptom you might have is a hard start.

Why does my car hard start when those accessories are about to fail?

As the accessory pulley starts to fail it will get harder to turn. The battery and the starter have to turn the engine, but now are also meeting resistance from the failing accessory pulley, causing the hard start. The majority of the time a hard start means that you might need a tune up or need a new air filter or Mass Air Flow Sensor. But in this case the issue is much more urgent as the failed accessory will break the belt or can seize bad enough that the car won’t be able to start.

Engine Accessory Belt System
Engine w/ Serpentine belt system

How can you diagnose a hard start condition?

A reputable mechanic shop will check spark plugs, fuel pressure, air filters, and intake components for any obstructions. If those test out fine then the serpentine belt will be removed and all the pulleys will be checked by hand for wear, play, or binding. This takes time, knowledge, and equipment to test. That is why reputable shops charge a diagnostic fee as you can’t diagnose issues like these by simply connecting a computer and checking for codes.

Broken Accessory Belt and Pullies
Broken Belt with Accessory Pulleys

How long can I drive my car with a hard start condition?

That is tough to say as if the car is in need of a tune up it can drive with a hard start condition for a long time. If the hard start condition is being caused by an accessory pulley binding then seizing then it could drive like that for a few hundred miles or much less. Either way it is best to get your car diagnosed if you can’t do it yourself. A diagnostic fee will always be cheaper than a tow truck and repairs after a component fails. Serpentine belt and accessory pulley failures tend to have a cascading effect where the belt shredding can damage other components and now those other components need to get repaired or replaced. Here is an example of an X5 with a seized water pump.

X5 failed water pump

The water pump pulley bent the fan shaft which caused the fan to hit the air conditioning idler pulley. The belt shredded and the system overheated which blew some coolant hoses. All of these parts could have been reused if the water pump was changed in a timely manner. If you are suffering from a hard start starting condition it might become more expensive to wait than to get it repaired right way. If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us.

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