Engine Starting Trouble After Lockdown? Try This Method
Parked your vehicle for a prolonged time due to the corona virus lock-down and it is giving you engine starting trouble? Then, try this simple trick at your home. Due to prolonged inactivity, the automobile engine fails to start quickly or does not start at all. There are many reasons for this. Let’s look at some of the possible causes and their solutions in this article.
Always Check The Battery
When you try to start your vehicle, it doesn’t either crank or start on its own. Read here on why the engine does not start. Firstly, see if the vehicle has sufficient fuel & if it is cranking or not. When you switch on the ignition, the lights on the meter should turn ‘ON’. Especially, the battery indicator light should turn ON and it lights bright or stays STRONG; indicating that the battery is in healthy condition. Alternatively, you can use a multi-meter to check the battery voltage. It should be above 10 volts at least to provide enough power to crank the engine. Also check the engine oil & coolant level is upto the mark as specified by the manufacturer.
If the battery indicator light is NOT strong or if it is flickering, it means that the battery is very low. In this case, DO NOT attempt to crank the engine as this will create excessive load on battery. If so, then, you will need to charge your battery through external means such as battery charger or use jump start. You will need to take help of local mechanic or service center to charge the battery.
Engine Starting Trouble: Scenario 1
If the battery indicator light is strong and battery voltage shows above 10 volts, then try to crank the engine. In addition, you might need to turn ‘ON’ the choke to supply rich air-fuel mixture in case of a carburetor fuel system in your vehicle. In case of fuel injection system, you just need to crank the engine. Try to crank the engine a few times to see if it starts on its own. If it does, it’s well and good. You must run it in idle for at least 10-15 minutes before you can take the vehicle to drive. This 15 minutes period is necessary to ensure that engine support systems such as the cooling system and lubrication system are up and running smoothly.
Now, the battery indicator light on the dash should go ‘OFF’. This means that the battery charging system is working correctly. Then, see on the dash if any other warning lights such as the ‘low engine oil pressure’ or ‘high engine temperature’ are turned ‘ON’. If so, then immediately turn ‘OFF’ the engine and call for professional help or a mechanic to look into the issue. After 10-15 minutes, the engine fan will turn ‘ON’; indicating that the engine reached its operating temperature. If there are NO warning lights showing on the dash, then you can safely drive off your vehicle.
Engine Starting Trouble: Scenario 2
If you are able to crank the engine, it means that the battery is OK. Now, try to start the engine by cranking it. In case it shows the engine starting trouble after cranking for a while, then it indicates that there is some issue with either fuel system or ignition system. In most cases, the issue could be of the fuel system. Since, the vehicle was inactive for a long time, the fuel in the system has dried up or its quality has degraded. The fuel quality is NOT upto the mark. The fuel starts to lose its quality after three weeks after filling up. So, this might be the case.
Remove Spark Plugs
If your vehicle is inactive, there is NO reason why the ignition system goes wrong/faulty. However, this depends upon the age of the vehicle and/or if any repairs done previously. So, if still the vehicle has engine starting trouble, then you will need to proceed to further diagnostics. This includes, whether or NOT the engine is getting a good spark. Now, just remove one of the spark plug with the spark plug cable attached to it and crank the engine. (For the correct procedure of removing spark plug, please refer to ‘Owners Service Manual’ of your vehicle. It is supplied with each vehicle or you can use the Internet.) You will see a spark generating at the tip of the spark plug. If you see the spark, it means that the ignition system is fine. Then, focus on the fuel system.
Use This Trick
This condition indicates that there is NOT enough air-fuel mixture supply to the engine. This could be because the engine was inactive for a prolonged time and fuel dried up. Now, put 4-5 drops of hand sanitizer containing 70% alcohol into the spark plug hole on the cylinder head as shown in the picture below. (You can also put a few drops of engine oil or petrol or any alcoholic liquid. This will also work.)
Now, plug the spark plug back in and hand-tighten it fully. Make sure that you have tightened the spark plug fully and correctly. Failing to do so will result in engine stalling/not starting at all. Now, wipe off any excess sanitizer and put back on the spark plug cable. Note: Put only 5 drops of sanitizer or petrol. Don't put more drops as it is NOT necessary and it will be difficult to start the engine.
Spark plug is very important in the engine as it causes engine starting trouble. It ignites the air-fuel charge in the combustion chamber. It provides the electrodes very high voltage of around 20,000 volts and produces spark to burn the air-fuel mixture. Now, try to start the engine by cranking it. But, before cranking, put the choke ‘ON’ again and then crank the engine.
Whoa.. The engine will start immediately as the alcohol-based hand sanitizer is highly inflammable and catches fire immediately. Now, as the engine starts, keep it running in idle for 10-15 minutes. Don’t raise it or push the accelerator as it could damage the engine. You can use this method for any petrol engine. However, for multi-cylinder engines, this process becomes a bit lengthy as it involves more number of components.
DO NOT KEEP ANY FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS SUCH AS PETROL, KEROSENE, AND ALCOHOL IN AN OPEN AND UNPLUGGED BOTTLE/CONTAINER NEAR THE ENGINE.
Extra Note: Spark Plug Gap
The electrical resistance of the spark plug depends on the distance between the electrodes. This distance is known as spark plug gap. This gap needs to be adjusted as per the manufacturer’s specifications by bending the ground electrode. Too much or too small gap decreases the efficiency of the ignition system and develops engine starting trouble. This, in turn, causes loss of engine power and fuel efficiency.
Watch here how to change a spark plug on a motorcycle:
Read More: Why adjust Spark plug gap?>>