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GL hard to start when cold


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#26 CornerHard

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 08:46 PM

CHECK YOUR COMPRESSION! Before you throw plugs, coil, etc. at it.


Alright, after abandoning my Subie for a while to enjoy my other car, I'm back to trying to get it to start so I can go snowboarding. I got new plugs, a new battery, and did a compression test. The new plugs didn't do anything for me, though these ones stick into the cylinder a bit more, so maybe they will be better. The battery puts out the same readings at the voltmeter on the dashboard - 14v when the car is running, but 8-10v when the car is turned off. If I measure the battery directly with my multimeter, it always shows 12v, so I think the gauge is either bad, or there's some extra voltage drops in the wiring.

I suspected my compression was bad, but here are the numbers:

1: 175
2: 170
3: 165
4: 150

Other than the low value in #4, they look pretty good to me. The bad news is I'm still stumped at why my car won't start without bump starting it :( It seems to be getting worse now, and I need a pretty steep hill or several people pushing the car and several tries to get it going.

Please give me some more ideas on what I can look at guys, I want my old lovable subie back :banghead:

#27 smelly_cat

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 09:10 PM

here are some ideas

Plug wires in the right places? my vw ran pretty smooth on 2 cyl's. IF you can get it to run . watch the engine in the dark to see if you have arcs flashing

I have a GL and the hitachi cab. but if the weber has the recirculation lines . They are funny on mine and instead of gas in carb the gas goes back to the tank. Try pinching the return line to see if it fills the carb and starts.

Make sure the choke works. Put you hand over the air horn an see if it hits a lick better when cold

The starter fluid should have done something. stuff is explosive

Does the starter turn the motor fast. will a push start make it go?

PVC valve clogged,

Spray mist water or carb cleaner all over to see if you have a vacuum leak.

Check Vacumn lines. I have had mud dauber wasps make nests in them and clog them up

Thats all i'm spent

#28 beataru

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 04:25 PM

I suspected my compression was bad, but here are the numbers:

1: 175
2: 170
3: 165
4: 150


Do a wet Compression test now. That will show you if its valve train related, well basically it will tell you if the low value is the rings fault or not.

#29 zyewdall

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 07:12 PM

I still think that is a carbed car so... it doenst likedy the cold weather!


carbed cars don't necessarily have to not like cold weather -- the other day, single digit temps, I started both my 1976 truck and 1954 tractor. The tractor took some judicious manipulation of the choke to start, but the truck started immediately with the choke on.

The fact that it starts when bump started, but not with the starter is strange.... not sure if someone has already mentioned this, but is it possible that it isn't getting spark in the start position, but is in the run position? I've had that problem before, where the ignition cut out when the starter motor was turning (I think it was due to an ignition switch problem) -- so it would have an insane time trying to start it, but if you bump start it with the key in the run position, you never move it to the start position so it starts right away. Maybe?? That doesn't really explain the cold vs hot issue..... geesh. I don't know.

#30 zyewdall

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 07:15 PM

One more idea... you mentioned that the voltmeter on the dash doesn't agree with a multimeter... I wonder if there is a bad wire or ground somewhere such that the voltage during cranking is getting low enough that the ignition cuts out.... I happen to know that the ignition on a '85 GL will still run at 7 volts though --the radio stops working before the car stops....

#31 daeron

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 07:21 PM

The fact that it starts when bump started, but not with the starter is strange.... not sure if someone has already mentioned this, but is it possible that it isn't getting spark in the start position, but is in the run position?
...
Maybe?? That doesn't really explain the cold vs hot issue..... geesh. I don't know.



Yah, actually, it could happen that somehow an intermittent connection in the ignition switch might be affected by the outside temperature, OR the temperatures of the wires themselves (warmed up after having current running through them with the car running.)

Check the color of the spark when you are cranking the engine cold. And seriously, if you haven't done it yet, try to get your hands on a junkyard starter, or some known good starter, and give THAT a shot, too... something is just plain fishy with this, and it might be time to start ruling out (with a certainty) anything that you ruled out intellectually up to this point...

#32 CornerHard

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 04:04 AM

here are some ideas

Plug wires in the right places? my vw ran pretty smooth on 2 cyl's. IF you can get it to run . watch the engine in the dark to see if you have arcs flashing

I have a GL and the hitachi cab. but if the weber has the recirculation lines . They are funny on mine and instead of gas in carb the gas goes back to the tank. Try pinching the return line to see if it fills the carb and starts.

Make sure the choke works. Put you hand over the air horn an see if it hits a lick better when cold

The starter fluid should have done something. stuff is explosive

Does the starter turn the motor fast. will a push start make it go?

PVC valve clogged,

Spray mist water or carb cleaner all over to see if you have a vacuum leak.

Check Vacumn lines. I have had mud dauber wasps make nests in them and clog them up

Thats all i'm spent



Plug wires in the right places? Check.

Try pinching the return line to see if it fills the carb and starts. I actually ditched the return line with the weber, so it's just one fuel line going to the carb. The car worked fine after the swap for the better part of a year, so I don't think it's an issue.

Make sure the choke works. Check.

The starter fluid should have done something. I agree! Very frustrating, espcially when I can see that I'm getting spark.

Does the starter turn the motor fast. will a push start make it go? The starter turns somewhat slowly, but even if I hook three batteries up to the starter directly in parallel, it doesn't speed up. Right now a good rolling start is the only way to get the car started.

PVC valve clogged? Where is it on the EA81?

Spray mist water or carb cleaner all over to see if you have a vacuum leak. I tried that, and the idle speed never changed, so I don't seem to have any leaks.

Check Vacumn lines. This might be an issue. I haven't noticed any issues, but there are a lot of them.


Thanks for the ideas!

#33 CornerHard

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 04:14 AM

One more idea... you mentioned that the voltmeter on the dash doesn't agree with a multimeter... I wonder if there is a bad wire or ground somewhere such that the voltage during cranking is getting low enough that the ignition cuts out.... I happen to know that the ignition on a '85 GL will still run at 7 volts though --the radio stops working before the car stops....


This is my current theory. I can still see a spark if I pull one of the plugs and crank the engine over, but maybe the voltage is low enough that something along the way isn't quite right when starting. I played around with my multimeter and used jumper cables to ground different parts of the car directly to the battery to see if I could find something that wasn't getting grounded properly. I also tried hooking up a bunch of extra batteries to the starter to see if I could get the car to turn over more quickly and simulate rolling down the hill, but the starter stayed pretty constant.

The interesting part came when I tried testing the ignition coil with my multimeter. While my battery reads 12v just fine, the ignition coil only reads 9v! Apparently whatever part of the harness is routed to the dashboard volt display also runs to the ignition coil. I tried running cables directly to the ignition coil from the battery and played around with it a bit. Unfortunately, I seem to have blown the ignition coil in the process :eek: :dead: It now reads 0v with the ignition on, and has continuity between the + and - terminals, as well as being warm to the touch and smelling a bit of burned electronics. Time to buy another one, apparently :( Where to look to figure out why it's only getting 9v? I don't want to be careless and blow another one.

#34 CornerHard

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 04:21 AM

Yah, actually, it could happen that somehow an intermittent connection in the ignition switch might be affected by the outside temperature, OR the temperatures of the wires themselves (warmed up after having current running through them with the car running.)

Check the color of the spark when you are cranking the engine cold. And seriously, if you haven't done it yet, try to get your hands on a junkyard starter, or some known good starter, and give THAT a shot, too... something is just plain fishy with this, and it might be time to start ruling out (with a certainty) anything that you ruled out intellectually up to this point...


The spark is faint blue since replacing the ignition coil, which isn't quite the best. I replaced the old starter that was on there with a brand new one pretty recently, and they both performed the same and had the same starting issues. Unfortunately, I think I threw the old starter away, so I can't try switching them again.

Re: hot vs. cold, the car seems to be getting worse recently, and it won't always start back up even if the engine is hot. Also, the hill in front of my house isn't very steep, and sometimes I can't get the car started with gravity alone and need a roommate to push me downhill before I can get the engine to kick over.

I almost tempted to dump the car at Smart Service and have them sort it out, but I'd rather figure this out myself with the help of people on the board :)

#35 TomRhere

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 04:47 AM

Check the connector for the ignition switch for it's condition. Drop the panel under steering column and find the Pink colored connector, (6 place plug with 5 wires). Look it over, looking for any discoloration especially around the white wire, that's the Battery + feed to the switch. Very common for that to be a bad connection. You can cut the wires from the connector and splice them back together, (only need to do the battery feed wire).

9 volts at the coil during cranking of engine, may not be enough to fire the engine over. 12 volt is optimal for good spark, 10 volt may work, anything less and you'll get starting issues. Once the engine is running, 6 volts is enough voltage to coil to fire plugs. A "warm" engine will start with 6 volts also, but not real easy.

#36 subaruguru

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 04:51 AM

have you checked compression i had this happen bad compression will make it not want to start (has to spin faster to keep presure up in the cylinders).

#37 Nug

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 10:52 AM

not sure if someone has already mentioned this, but is it possible that it isn't getting spark in the start position, but is in the run position? I've had that problem before, where the ignition cut out when the starter motor was turning (I think it was due to an ignition switch problem) -- so it would have an insane time trying to start it, but if you bump start it with the key in the run position, you never move it to the start position so it starts right away. Maybe?? That doesn't really explain the cold vs hot issue..... geesh. I don't know.


This is a strong possibility.

#38 CornerHard

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 09:15 PM

Check the connector for the ignition switch for it's condition. Drop the panel under steering column and find the Pink colored connector, (6 place plug with 5 wires). Look it over, looking for any discoloration especially around the white wire, that's the Battery + feed to the switch. Very common for that to be a bad connection. You can cut the wires from the connector and splice them back together, (only need to do the battery feed wire).

9 volts at the coil during cranking of engine, may not be enough to fire the engine over. 12 volt is optimal for good spark, 10 volt may work, anything less and you'll get starting issues. Once the engine is running, 6 volts is enough voltage to coil to fire plugs. A "warm" engine will start with 6 volts also, but not real easy.


Aha, I wondered if that might be what's going on! I have to order a new ignition coil now, but I'll be seeing if I can fix this voltage drop. zzz

#39 CornerHard

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 01:58 AM

Check the connector for the ignition switch for it's condition. Drop the panel under steering column and find the Pink colored connector, (6 place plug with 5 wires). Look it over, looking for any discoloration especially around the white wire, that's the Battery + feed to the switch. Very common for that to be a bad connection. You can cut the wires from the connector and splice them back together, (only need to do the battery feed wire).

9 volts at the coil during cranking of engine, may not be enough to fire the engine over. 12 volt is optimal for good spark, 10 volt may work, anything less and you'll get starting issues. Once the engine is running, 6 volts is enough voltage to coil to fire plugs. A "warm" engine will start with 6 volts also, but not real easy.


The pink colored plug is just fine, and reads 12v. The weird thing is, the steering wheel side has five wires and the firewall side only has four :confused:

I picked up a new ignition coil and quickly realized that it tested the same as my current coil and my current one is not blown. I guess I don't understand how it works though:

The ignition coil has the two terminals and the beefy output to the sparkplugs. The terminals on the coil are labelled + and -, but they have continuity between them. The black wire going to the coil has a full 12v and continuity with the positive battery terminal. The yellow wire has 0v and poor continuity with the negative terminal (~150ohms). If you measure the two together, you get about 7v, apparently since the yellow wire is a poor ground. The weird thing is, with barely any resistance between the two terminals on the ignition coil, why don't you blow a fuse as soon as you hook the wires up? I thought the ignition coil was supposed to produce large voltage when current was suddenly applied to the two terminals. How is this switched if they have it hooked to a ground?

How is this supposed to work?

#40 CornerHard

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:09 AM

Okay, after studying my FSM for a while, I've noticed that the mysterious yellow wire from the ignition coil is wired to the tach and oil pressure sensor, both of which have gradually gotten flakier over time, with the tach eventually no longer working. Hmm! This seems a bit suspicious, since that's basically the course my starting issues have taken over time. The ignition fuse sees voltage fine, so I took out my gauge cluster to poke around and see if I could see the important wire shorting out somewhere.

According to the tach troubleshooting chart, I need to check for conduction between Combination Meter #9 and the (-) terminal on the coil. Anyone know where meter #9 is?

#41 CornerHard

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 04:35 PM

have you checked compression i had this happen bad compression will make it not want to start (has to spin faster to keep presure up in the cylinders).


Yeah, I checked the compression earlier in the thread, and the numbers were all okay, except for one cylinder which was a bit low.

#42 Cougar

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 12:34 PM

I would suspect the hard starting while cold has to do with the choke somehow.

As far as wanting to know about the ignition system here is a link you can go to for some good info. The electronic ignition, which is what your car has, starts on page 174.

http://books.google....--_88#PPA174,M1

#43 Gloyale

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 01:00 PM

Unfortunately, I seem to have blown the ignition coil in the process :eek: :dead: It now reads 0v with the ignition on, and has continuity between the + and - terminals, as well as being warm to the touch and smelling a bit of burned electronics. Time to buy another one, apparently :( Where to look to figure out why it's only getting 9v? I don't want to be careless and blow another one.


1)Reading 0 Volts with the ignition on is not a coil problem, it's a fuse or other supply issue. the coil doen't produce voltage, it amplifies it.

2)there SHOULD be nearly full continuity beween + and - terminals. should be 1.2 ohms or so. Measure on the lowest scale of you're meter.

3)resistance between the center terminal and the + or -(secondary reistance) should be around 10,000 ohms or 10k ohms. Measure on a high setting.

4)resistance between the center terminal and coil case or other ground should be over 10M ohms. Virtually infinite.

If the coil passes those test, it's probably OK. You blew a fuse somewhere, that's why you have no voltage there now.

#44 Gloyale

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 01:10 PM

Okay, after studying my FSM for a while, I've noticed that the mysterious yellow wire from the ignition coil is wired to the tach and oil pressure sensor, both of which have gradually gotten flakier over time, with the tach eventually no longer working. Hmm! This seems a bit suspicious, since that's basically the course my starting issues have taken over time.


Bingo. Have you ever heard of the "rev sensor" in these cars? Also called "Fuel pump control unit"

Basically it is a relay of sorts. it only sends power to the fuel pump when it sees an ignition pulse(RPM signal from - side of coil)

I wonder if somewhere in the harness, that tach wire is severed or corroded. Find the rev sensor and test for an ignition pulse at it' connector.

#45 CornerHard

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 03:10 AM

I wonder if somewhere in the harness, that tach wire is severed or corroded. Find the rev sensor and test for an ignition pulse at it' connector.


I haven't found/tested the rev sensor yet, but I started testing a bunch of wires working my way back from the ignition coil, and noticed that in several places, such as the A and IG connections on the starter key cylinder, wires have both continuity with ground and 12v when the ignition is turned on. Ultimately I tried the - sides of all of the fusible links, and the green and middle red ones have only a couple ohms separating them from the negative battery terminal! This seems like a bad short circuit, and I'm sort of surprised I'm not blowing fuses or catching things on fire :Flame:

#46 naru

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 01:47 AM

Okay, after studying my FSM for a while, I've noticed that the mysterious yellow wire from the ignition coil is wired to the tach and oil pressure sensor, both of which have gradually gotten flakier over time, with the tach eventually no longer working. Hmm! This seems a bit suspicious, since that's basically the course my starting issues have taken over time. The ignition fuse sees voltage fine, so I took out my gauge cluster to poke around and see if I could see the important wire shorting out somewhere.

According to the tach troubleshooting chart, I need to check for conduction between Combination Meter #9 and the (-) terminal on the coil. Anyone know where meter #9 is?


That`s combination meter TERMINAL #9.
You need to unplug the round 12 pin connector from the RH rear of the instrument panel.Terminals are numbered CCW from the gap.

Check the ground too.I believe it is at the extreme lower left.
FPCU(rev sensor) is in the same general area,I think.

You can check FPCU operation even if you can`t find it.
Look for 12V at the fuel pump w/engine cranking/running.
Even easier to look for fuel pump voltage at the check connector-consult your FSM.

BTW-FPCU doesn`t control the anti-diesel solenoid,so,12V there doesn`t indicate proper operation.

#47 naru

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 02:18 AM

There's one other interesting thing I noticed when I had it running. I could pull the spark plug wire for any cylinder and it would start running horribly - except cylinder 1. If I took away the spark from cylinder 1, there was no change at all. I guess it's time for a compression test :eek: Anything more benign that would cause cyl 1 to make no difference?


This seems to be the real issue.You need to address it.
Your initial description and susequent info suggests that there is a vaccuum leak affecting #1 when cold.Leak diminishes when warm.
Recently ran across this scenario on a non Sube.
Engine idled terrible cold,but,smooth as glass once warmed up.
The above assumes good ignition components.

Pull #1 plug to make sure it isn`t fuel fouled.

#48 naru

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 02:18 AM

double post

#49 Gloyale

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 01:39 PM

BTW-FPCU doesn`t control the anti-diesel solenoid,so,12V there doesn`t indicate proper operation.



Being that it's on the same circuit. If the Rev sensor(FPCU) is faulty it can *short that fuse and prevent operation.

*I was incorrect, It is the ASV solenoid that is on the same circuit. and I was thinking this was about an 87 EA82. sorry

#50 naru

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 02:39 PM

Being that it's on the same circuit. If the Rev sensor(FPCU) is faulty it will short that fuse and prevent operation.


Shaky logic here.
FPCU can fail other than by shorting to ground.
If fuse was blown,it would stay blown.
More to the point,they don`t share the same fuse.#13 for the solenoid,#5for the FPCU.
Blown #13 = no ignition,or temp,fuel gauges.

Perhaps your thinking of the ASV rev sensor.
It is powered by #13.




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