2000 Buick Park Avenue hard starting

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#1
I have a 2000 Buick Park Avenue, 3. 8 L. engine, Vin K. There are approximately 130,000 miles on the engine.
Since last fall up to now, I am having trouble starting the engine when it is very cold or very damp outside. I am using Napa Thermoaid when it is cold and it seems to start real well, but when it is cold and damp, it just cranks with a little sputter here and there like it is trying to light the fuel mixture.
I have changed my ignition coils and installed a new ignition module. The spark plugs, which are Bosch platinum and the wires were replaced about 1 1/2 years ago. I had a problem last summer with the crank shaft position sensor and it has also been replaced. Yesterday, when it was damp and foggy, the car would not start with the old ignition module, and I installed the new module. I also cleaned and wiped down the module mounting plate and put some dielectric grease on the back of the module. When I went to start the vehicle, still same conditions. I then wiped down the plug wires with a CRC soaked rag, to remove the salt in case I had a grounded wire. The engine did then start but it started hard. I had to crank and crank sometimes with the throttle wide open until it caught and started to run.
Is there anything else in the ignition train I should be looking at? Any input from here is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Sincerely, Rich in East PA
 
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#2
Replace those crappy Bosch plugs: almost any other brand would be an improvement. You may have other issues, but replace the plugs first.
 

billr

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#3
Have there been any trouble codes during all this? Is that NAPA "Thermoaid" a starting-fluid? If so, the fact that it starts with that indicates there may be a fuel problem; and the fact that you can get it to start with much cranking and WOT is a classic symptom of flooding. But I agree, change the plugs first... my opinion, don't use Autolite either. Stick to AC or Champion.
 
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#4
I agreee with my colleague ditch those bosch plugs- AC Delco- the thermoaid? that is their gas treatment? believe for gas line freeze up mostly alcohol,,,

Suggestions:
let us know is the check engine light on?
also I would do a fuel pressure check.- start pressure and a leak down test.
When chenging those plugs give us a description of their condition - wet dry gray black
adding to Biillr 's suggestion -flooding- an easy thing to ck- remove the vac line from the FPR - there should be NO evidence of fuel in vac line.
 

Gus

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#5
I agree with the guys....use A/C-Delco plugs......look at the Bosch plugs to see if one or any are carbon fouled or wet....

Then I would check spark output of all six coil terminals with a spark tester.....be careful.....you don't want any spark near the battery(BOOM!).....

Also try starting with the MAF disconnected....

If ok, then remove the vac line to the fuel pressure regulator.....if any fuel in that vac line, replace the regulator(very easy, relieve pressure and just remove spring on top to remove...you just replace the "guts")).....also plug vac line with a golf tee, and have someone crank vehicle to see if any fuel comes out the side nipple....

Then check fuel pressure......last time fuel filter replaced?...

Are you losing any coolant?

Any codes?

I know you replaced the plug wires, but were they el cheapos? If this vehicle starts ok when it is dry, but if it starts hard when moisture is in the air, try starting the vehicle at night to see if you can see an arc jumping somewhere....
 
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#6
Danica, Gus, BillR and Kev2, I do not have any codes set.

Thermo aid is a gas line treatment, it seems to work when the temp gets into the single digits.

I will replace the plugs with A/C's. Thanks for that tip although I never had a problem with the Bosch single electrode type.

I will also replace the fuel filter. It has been awhile. I will also check the fuel pressure at pre-start and while running. What pressure am I looking for?

I am losing some coolant, but that is from a leaky radiator. The oil fill cap does not have any chocolate milk coating in it and I have no anti-freeze smell emanating from the exhaust.

Thanks for the replies. I am at work at the moment and it will be probably next week-end when I can get to check all the diagnoses.

Again, thanks!

Rich East PA
 

mony0_8

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#8
I had hard starts with my 2001 lesabre and was getting a mass air flow sensor code. replaced the sensor with no luck. Turned out the upper intake air plenum was bad. Has yours been replaced yet?
 
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BillR, If you mean that the check engine light comes on when starting yes it does, but it does go out after about 3 to 5 seconds. I have no other lights and the check engine light does in fact go out.

Mony0_8, No, the upper intake plenum has not been replaced.

I am seriously taking into account the fuel pressure regulator and fuel filter check and/or changing, but I don't get why fuel problems will cause hard starting in only damp weather, that is why I was leaning towards the ignition end of the spectrum. Damp weather seems to be when it is really difficult to start the engine if it does start. I had a day earlier in February when we had snow, changed to sleet, changed to freezing rain to just plain old rain and it was foggy, so there was a lot of humidity in the air. The car would not start that day. The next morning, it did start, the humidity was very low and it was cold.

Sincerely,
Rich East PA
 

billr

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#10
Yeah, I agree. If it is related to only humidity, not cold too, then I would also be leaning towards ignition. The only "fuel" items I can think might be affected by air humidity are the MAF sensor and the MAT sensor; and I wouldn't think the MAT would have enough authority over A/F ratio to cause that bad a case of hard-starting (especially if it is failing "in range" so as not to set a code). When you change out those plugs take compression readings too. I can't think of how that could be important in this case, but it is easy to do while changing plugs, and always nice to know... When you go to get the plugs, get a can of carb-cleaner or starting-fluid to spray into the intake next time it won't start. If it fires at all, then you know it isn't just a spark issue. Note: many other folks here advise to use carb-cleaner only, no starting fluid.
 
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#11
BillR,
I did go the starting fluid route earlier in February during the storm, would not start, even with the throttle wide open immediately after spraying. Note to self, use carb cleaner in the future!

I will change the plugs and get compression readings as a just-to-know/just-in-case.

Thanks,

Rich East PA
 
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#12
With DIS, need two good plugs for the right one to fire, also agree with using Delco double platinum plugs, I used Bosch one time, thought it was a good idea, but that all it was. With cold weather the grease in your ignition switch can be stiff, are you getting a full 12V to your ignition system? What about the spray pattern to your injectors, with 130K on the engine, could be well carboned up at this time as well as the EGR not fully closing.

Can be a number of different problems, usually end up checking everything. Then after it does start, how well does it run, what about fuel mileage and performance?
 
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#13
NickD,
After the engine starts, it runs fine, no problems, hesitation, etc. I also have no hesitation or bucking when pulling a hill at highway speeds, and I take it that my wires are good. I have dealt with wire problems on a Delta 88 and it used to buck something fierce on a hill until the wires were changed. I know spark plugs and a coil with a crack or a carbon track can also cause this along with a very dirty fuel filter.

With the "winter gas", I am getting about 24. 5 mpg. PA changes the formula of gas in about October and again in April. I usually lose about 100 miles on a tank when we get to late October, but I gain it back in April. The BTU content goes down something fierce with the winter additives. I keep an eye on fuel mileage. I never let the tank get below 1/3 and I can go about 280 miles before filling. In the summer I can go about 380 to 400 miles if I watch myself. On a highway trip, I can go about 430 miles before filling. Not bad for a 5000 pound car!

Rich East PA
 
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#14
Same thing here in Wisconsin, feel it criminal, especially when the EPA doesn't provide public reports on air quality improvements by making these changes. Doesn't help either that the price of gas has gone up 70 cents a gallon in the last year while seeing increases on a daily basis.

Spark problems are normally easy to find with a voltmeter and a spark gap tester, and visually in the case of plugs. But do have a pressurized spark plug tester that shows up many sins. With cold weather, you know that a lean engine won't start either and no longer have a choke. Injector dwell time has to be increased for starting, the colder it gets, the more the dwell. And stuff sticks when its cold is why I suggested the EGR valve that can also lean out the system, or even a minor vacuum leak.
 
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#15
Nick,
I will check the egr also, could be all gunked up.
I do appreciate everyone's replies and am taking heed to them. Later in the week, when I am off, I will do some more investigating with what you all said and definitely change my plugs. I won't know any results until we get a real damp day.

Thanks again.

Rich East PA