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BRD

1990 Buick Reatta Now ONLY Starts on Second Attempt

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Have owned and operated my Reatta for 30 years.  For 29 years had no problem starting the car.  However, about one year ago, my Reatta started having problems when attempting to start. 

 

Have noticed the following:

 

1.  Car now fails to start on first attempt 99% of the time, when attempting to start IF the car has sat overnight or engine has been off for 2+ hours.  The battery is strong.  When turning the key, the starter strongly attempts to turn over the engine (as normal).

2.  To get the car to start:  After first failed attempt to start, I have to turn the key to “off” and wait about 10 seconds (not 3 and not 15 seconds) and attempt to start the car.  95% of the time the car then starts right up (as normal).  I do not initially have to place my foot on the accelerator to get the car to start (on either first or second attempt).

3.  The car then idles roughly for about 30-60 seconds.  When I place the car in gear I have to give it some extra gas to prevent it from stalling. 

4.  But once the car gets moving there seems to be no problem.  (I drive this car every day and have made two cross-country trips within the last year with this “starting problem”)

5.  Three notable exceptions within last year are two times when I rounded a corner with a relatively low amount of fuel and the car (engine) completely shut off.  I was also on a major highway recently traveling between 30-60 mph and the car (engine) completely shut off.  In this case, I put the car in neutral, restarted the engine, revved the engine, placed in Drive and kept driving without incident.  

6.  This “second attempt starting problem” has consistently occurred every day for past year with two different engines, new spark plugs, and three new batteries.  Including starts at 100+ and -10 F outside air temperature, and altitudes ranging from sea level to 7000+ feet.  Seems to be more pronounced when fuel level is low but also happens with a full tank of gas.

 

Greatly appreciate any insight as to how I might fix this problem.

 

Thanks and best regards,

 

BRD

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Sounds to me like a fuel pump issue. I would recommend a fuel pressure test. 

 Car doesn't start on the first try, and runs rough for the first few minutes to me are indications of fuel pump.

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30 minutes ago, BRD said:

After first failed attempt to start, I have to turn the key to “off” and wait about 10 seconds (not 3 and not 15 seconds) and attempt to start the car.  95% of the time the car then starts right up (as normal). 

If you turn the key on and off several times without engaging the starter,  will it fire right up when you do try to start it?

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42 minutes ago, DAVES89 said:

Sounds to me like a fuel pump issue. I would recommend a fuel pressure test. 

 Car doesn't start on the first try, and runs rough for the first few minutes to me are indications of fuel pump.

Thanks Dave,  I had the fuel pump replaced about three years ago for a similar rough idle/start problem.  Not sure if the "new" fuel pump is faulty or was never properly installed.  Could also be the case that the garage who replaced the fuel pump was trying to fix a problem that they thought was the fuel pump but is actually something else (related).  Maybe even something that causes a new (good) fuel pump to go bad within a year or two.

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38 minutes ago, Ronnie said:

If you turn the key on and off several times without engaging the starter,  will it fire right up when you do try to start it?

Thanks Ronnie,  I have never actually tried this before.  Just went outside to try it and it did start up after cycling the key "on" and "off" five times (without engaging the starter).  However, I did have the car running about three hours ago and it normally does start after it has been running.  I will try this again tomorrow morning after the car has been sitting for 8+ hours and see if I can replicate.  

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The only way to know for certain if the fuel pressure is within range is to put a gauge on it. You could hotwire the fuel pump by applying 12v to the green test connector, somewhat analogous to the multiple pump prime cycles as mentioned above. It won't hurt anything. The fuel pump was replaced by a third party I assume so we don't know if the stock pulsator was replaced or bypassed with the short hose that usually comes with new pumps. 

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Have you checked your fuel pressure regulator? An easy way to test it is to pull the vacuum line off the pressure regulator.  If gasoline comes out of the line, then you have a faulty regulator.  If not, then you might want to go to your local part store and "rent" a loaner fuel pressure gauge tester. 

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18 hours ago, BRD said:

Thanks Ronnie,  I have never actually tried this before.  Just went outside to try it and it did start up after cycling the key "on" and "off" five times (without engaging the starter).  However, I did have the car running about three hours ago and it normally does start after it has been running.  I will try this again tomorrow morning after the car has been sitting for 8+ hours and see if I can replicate.  

Hi Ronnie,  Thank you for the recommendation.  After letting the car sit overnight without running the engine, tried the method you suggested to start the car.  Cycled key "on" and "off" five times and then tried to start the car by turning far enough to engage the starter.  Last night (about three hours after my car was running) this worked but this morning it did not.  After cycling the key and first attempt, I then waited about five seconds and engaged the starter a second time.  The car started right up as normal.  This is consistent with the daily behavior of the car for the past year (only starts on second attempt when engaging the starter).

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18 hours ago, 2seater said:

The only way to know for certain if the fuel pressure is within range is to put a gauge on it. You could hotwire the fuel pump by applying 12v to the green test connector, somewhat analogous to the multiple pump prime cycles as mentioned above. It won't hurt anything. The fuel pump was replaced by a third party I assume so we don't know if the stock pulsator was replaced or bypassed with the short hose that usually comes with new pumps. 

Thanks 2seater,  You're right that I don't know if the third-party garage (a national chain) replaced or by-passed the stock pulsator.  (I did not even know to check for something like this).  Will pass this information on to a local mechanic as we further troubleshoot the problem.

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17 hours ago, Jay said:

Have you checked your fuel pressure regulator? An easy way to test it is to pull the vacuum line off the pressure regulator.  If gasoline comes out of the line, then you have a faulty regulator.  If not, then you might want to go to your local part store and "rent" a loaner fuel pressure gauge tester. 

Thanks Jay,  No, I have not personally checked the fuel pressure regulator.  I will pass this recommendation on to a local mechanic as we further troubleshoot the problem.

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18 hours ago, 2seater said:

You could hotwire the fuel pump by applying 12v to the green test connector, somewhat analogous to the multiple pump prime cycles as mentioned above.

I suggest you try priming the pump first thing in the morning before starting by running 12 volts from the battery to the green test connector as 2seater suggested and see if the engine will fire on first try.  It is on the drivers side of the engine compartment toward the front.

 

If you have not done so you should replace the fuel pump relay to eliminate it as the source of the problem.

 

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One last thing to try...  When the engine is cold, instead of turning the key on and off before attempting to start, just turn the key to the start position and let the engine spin long enough that the engine will build oil pressure. Doing this bypasses the fuel pump relay and allows the pump to run even if the relay is bad.  Let us know if this works.

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Thanks for the two recent suggestions Ronnie.  I will try these and get back to the you (and the forum) to let you know if it worked.

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21 hours ago, Ronnie said:

One last thing to try...  When the engine is cold, instead of turning the key on and off before attempting to start, just turn the key to the start position and let the engine spin long enough that the engine will build oil pressure. Doing this bypasses the fuel pump relay and allows the pump to run even if the relay is bad.  Let us know if this works.

Hi Ronnie,  This morning tried the following as per your recommendation.  Background: Car engine sat overnight at least 15 hours without being run.  Ambient outside air temperature 27-41 F during this time.  Turned key to "on" position without engaging the starter and just waited.  The Teves accumulator immediately started charging and stopped at 18 seconds.  Waited until exactly 30 seconds with key in "on" position and then engaged the starter.  The car started right up on first attempt (as a car would if everything is working properly).   Greatly appreciate your insight as to what this might mean.    Sidenote:  The fuel pump was replaced exactly two years ago at a national garage chain.  (Of course this does not mean the "new" fuel pump was (is) working properly or was properly installed.)  

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If you haven't done so I believe you should replace the fuel pump relay.

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Thanks Ronnie,  I pulled the fuel pump relay and took some pictures of it (below).  Two of the prongs look tarnished.  Is this normal?  Some of the other relays also have somewhat tarnished prongs in the same position but not to this extent.  Temporarily swapped the fuel pump relay for the fog lights relay.  Is there a recommended or best relay manufacturer/part to replace this (these) relays?   Greatly appreciate your insight.   

Relay 001.jpg

Relay 002.jpg

Relay 003.jpg

Relay 004.jpg

Relay 005.jpg

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57 minutes ago, BRD said:

Two of the prongs look tarnished.  Is this normal? 

That doesn't look normal to me. It appears the prongs have been overheated.  Possibly because of not making good contact in the socket. Does the socket look like it has been overheated too? 

 

The name on the relay "Hella" makes me think that relay may be intended to be used with aftermarket fog/driving lights.  I would probably stay away from that brand for use as a fuel pump relay.  It might not be designed to be cycled on and off as often as a fuel pump relay.  Your auto parts store should be able to supply you with the correct relay.  I like ACDelco when I can get it but there are other good brands that will work. 

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In the thirty some years you have owned the car, Have you ever changed the fuel filter?

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Ronnie (and others above who have been very kind to assist),  After switching around the relays (specifically ensuring to swap out Fog Light and Fuel Pump relays) my car has now started on first attempt for two days in a row (as it normally should).  Hopefully it was just the fuel pump relay and nothing more.  Especially since I just had the fuel pump replaced two years ago, after original worked fine for last 28 years.  Time and further troubleshooting will tell.  Given this relatively simple fix, would like to replace the other relays, as they look in bad shape and might also be causing other problems.  Tried researching ACDelco relays as per Ronnie's suggestion but came up with a bunch of different options and not sure what to purchase.  Going to make a separate post about relays if anyone else is/will be in similar situation.  Thanks again!

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On 11/22/2019 at 1:39 PM, jon L said:

In the thirty some years you have owned the car, Have you ever changed the fuel filter?

Hi Jon, Thanks for the reply and suggestion.  Yes, I had the fuel filter replaced when I had the fuel pump replaced two years ago.  Probably also had it replaced before in the (distant) past but can't recall exactly - as it seems that I have replaced just about everything on this car at least once over past 30 years.  Based on the recommendations above I was able to swap out the fuel pump relay and everything has worked perfectly for last few days.  

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