Low temps = slow strained crank, starts by 5th try. Electrical seems good. Other checks before pro service?

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11
After finally starting, car runs fine, and by voltage measures, electrical (battery/alternator/grounds) seems OK. Anything else to do/check before spending unavailable $$$ on diagnostics and service?

Coincident with "cold" (say 20˚F-35˚F (-7˚C-2˚C)) strained slow crank (or slow, slow, then no, no crank) 1-5 times, then (so far) starts up, and (so far) re-starts easily immediately after that, and (so-far) keeps re-starting after *briefly* turned off for the errand type drive-park-drive which follows. Warmer weather, generally starts either on 1st or 2nd attempt (with a longer crank). And on a single, unexpected 70˚F day, started on first try. (So far.)

No battery load test yet. Did see vague web-references to harder starting in cold because of engine oil, but it's 5W-30 and 20˚F(-7˚C) isn't extreme. Couldn't find anything on the net regarding temperature and the (mal)functioning of a starter motor, but could imagine something like age/wear and tight tolerances and various metals contracting differently with temperature. (If the starter, probably counting down to a never start...)

Thanks for any comments.

For the detail-oriented:
2004 Acura TSX (aka Honda Accord in Europe/Japan), K24A2 2.4L engine, automatic, 125K mi, street parking, very low usage over past year (< 450 mi, all city), gas gauge ~1/2 tank (added a few gal about 11 weeks ago).

Battery/Electrical: 1.5yrs old, voltage normal, (maintained with a charger periodically), measured instantaneous dip to ~10.xV during a start and right back up, terminals clean/greased; a battery-boost while cranking did not help start; DMM tested ground points seemed OK; battery negative terminal jumped to engine block ground made no difference; engine-on measured over 14V even with all accessories active; no battery load test yet.

Fuel system/engine: can hear fuel pump for ~2 sec when key to ON as expected (extra key-ON-off primes before start did not help). Few auto-related tools owned, and never having even seen any such checks in person, not comfortable inspecting things like MAF sensor, throttle, valves, spark plugs, fuel filter, fuel pressure, etc.

Starter: Arms aren't long enough to turn the key while testing the "fix" of tapping on the starter. Can't reach (or see) the starter (somewhere deep under the intake manifold in a crowded engine bay) with a volt-meter probe. It's not accessible at my experience level to pull it out for inspection/repair/replacement.

Misc: Autozone's house code-scan tool saw "no codes have been saved." Was advised to try dry-gas, but don't know if it helped as the isopropanol was added just as weather warmed.
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(Just dreaming, but would imagine the least expensive option for someone with the skills (or at least a less concealed starter) would be to just pull the starter out and bring it to a local motor rebuild shop.)
 
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2,903
Location
High Tax Illinois
Well you've done everything BUT the load test. That should show you what is what. A bad battery "could" negate the jump box additional volts/amps. Good Luck!!!
 
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1,728
Location
Athens, GA
Have you noticed any other issues like the climate controls losing their settings or any other oddities to go along with the slow crank?

Your load test is probably going to show a weak battery.
 

jim04g

Thread starter
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11
> any other issues like the climate controls losing their setting
No other electrical anomalies.

> load test
Agree it's a must-do. Would be super if it's the battery and not the starter.
 
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8,643
Location
Texas
As starters age they will often times pull more amps to a point that you will notice slower cranking. If you are sure 100% that your battery is good, all grounds are good, connections at the starter are good - then I would toss a new starter on.
 
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14,824
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Central NY
Could also be a battery cable. My Cherokee cranked SLOW when I got it. Eventually the battery died, so I put a new one in and it was still slow. Then the starter died a few years later and I replaced it; still slow. It wasn't until I upgraded the battery cables that it cranked normally.
 
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2,415
Location
SD
Could also be a battery cable. My Cherokee cranked SLOW when I got it. Eventually the battery died, so I put a new one in and it was still slow. Then the starter died a few years later and I replaced it; still slow. It wasn't until I upgraded the battery cables that it cranked normally.
Correct. They can corrode internally and look fine on the outside.

If the battery tests good, this is the next thing I'd look at.
 
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696
Location
Upstate NY
I had a beetle years ago with bushings in the starter that had worn. It would pull to the side in operation, adding drag (and eventually sticking the armature to the field) . It was more noticeable in the cold, and I ended up replacing the starter. Battery and cables had been my first thoughts, but those chased out OK.
 
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5,450
Location
Ohio
Faulty ground(s) and/or Positive connections in the electrical system from battery to starter and everything in between. Checking and cleanning all connections won't cost you anything and is a good thing to do on an old car.Load test the battery then lastly, I would have the starter tested. You can jump across the starter solenoid to see how the starter cranks. . "Seems good" means nothing when it comes to electrical without any testing and if your voltage measurements at ALL points done were not during actual cranking of the engine, that information is useless as well.
 
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7,553
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North America
Agree with Miller88 and zrxkawboy about the battery cables. If the load test shows good I would look there.

Had two vehicles with corrosion INside the cables, up to about 7" in. Caused a number of issues including weird dash displays, hard starting and engine dying. New cables fixed all those issues.
 

JRed

Site Donor 2021
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2,298
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Virginia
Honda K24s have a known problem with slow cranking for some reason. It's worth googling it. My brother in law's element had the same problem and we ended up deciding it wasn't worth throwing parts at.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
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46,274
Location
New Jersey
Agree on load test. Is it a group 51 battery? Not much there to push the amps. Nice that you took some data when cranking, but those results may be buffered/slow sampling.
 
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1,165
Location
Arizona
+1 battery load test +1 cable and connections test. A cold battery has more difficulty supplying current flow. As voltage drops current needs to increase to do the same amount of work and weak cables will eat voltage. If you replace battery or cables more CCA's or thicker gauge cable is better ...kinda like oil lol.
 
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2,081
Location
Winnipeg MB CA
Starting around 2009, our '97 Mazda failed to start a few times in the cold. I installed a couple of aftermarket batteries, which would help for a few months.

Finally, in April 2011, the starter gave up completely. Replaced it, and had no more "battery problems" thereafter.

Having said that, I would start by charging and load-testing the battery first, then cleaning up the battery terminals and cables, and then checking for excessive dark current.

If those are all OK, I'd move on to the starter.
 
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2,273
Location
Cincinnati, USA
Get a helper, and a multimeter, and measure where voltage drops while cranking. The point where it drops, the component/connection just before that is your problem. This includes the battery, cranking it is a load test. Also measure drop between grounds and chassis.
 

jim04g

Thread starter
Messages
11
Wow. Appreciate all the suggestions and experiences.

> Group 51 ?
Yes, 500CCA. Some people do mods to squeeze in the next size up, but the engine is so small that even the 430-ish CCA factory battery was fine and replaced only because of age.

> K24s and slow cranking
Interesting. Came across that comment before, but took it as talk about typical behavior rather than trouble. Just did find a TSX-specific video re: very similar slow crank then no crank, with fix being the starter; quite a few drivers with similar 1st generation TSX vehicles (same engine) posted similar experiences in the comments.

> load test, check/clean cables/connections, jump to starter, etc.
Agreed on all. Unsettling about hidden corrosion. Although easy-to-check things like battery to various grounds and bare metal points seemed OK, if the darn thing was reachable without disassembling the intake manifold and associated ducts, pipes, sensors, etc. would have made measurements directly at the starter.

Well. Whichever way things turn, I'll update here.
 
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199
Location
Central FL
Had a slow cranking Olds Delta 88. Different animal, I know... but anecdotal. A load test is free. About a cheap as it gets at auto stores. My battery checked "OK". It was a gm GM side post battery. Though not leaking, they can give off gasses that are extremely corrosive through the side posts.

My cables were junk. Rotten a full foot in behind the insulation where you didn't even see it. The terminals and bolts were shiny and bright... but curl the first 4 inches of the cable over a finger broke the insulation off and all of the green pus that was supposed to be copper just flaked away like sand in the wind.
 

jim04g

Thread starter
Messages
11
Just updating for anyone interested. Before had a chance for a load test, began to slow-crank / no-start even when warm out, then the next day didn't start at all. Pushed my luck, and after two-days of no-starting, on the third (really sunny and warm) day finally got it going - barely - on the 11th try. Having avoided a tow, drove it straight into the shop. Definitely the starter (cables and battery checked fine). Plan to keep the car, and after discussing it with the tech, decided on a (presumably more reliable) re-manufactured Denso (another usual Honda OEM supplier), to replace the dead Mitsuba starter.

Thanks again to all for the help.
 
Messages
1,728
Location
Athens, GA
Just updating for anyone interested. Before had a chance for a load test, began to slow-crank / no-start even when warm out, then the next day didn't start at all. Pushed my luck, and after two-days of no-starting, on the third (really sunny and warm) day finally got it going - barely - on the 11th try. Having avoided a tow, drove it straight into the shop. Definitely the starter (cables and battery checked fine). Plan to keep the car, and after discussing it with the tech, decided on a (presumably more reliable) re-manufactured Denso (another usual Honda OEM supplier), to replace the dead Mitsuba starter.

Thanks again to all for the help.
My TL did the same thing. I replaced it with an auto parts special and rebuilt the factory, its sitting on the shelf should the new one go bad. You're in a different spot though because of how hard K motors are to change out.
 
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