By January 12, 2011 9 Comments Read More →

Starting Problems Troubleshooting

Reader Question

Austin, thanks for the great advice you give here, it has been extremely useful. I need you input on this. Two weeks ago I tried to start my car in the morning and after 2 or 3 attempts it finally started. I immediately noticed that the engine light was flashing and the engine was running very rough.

By the way this has never happened to me before and my car usually started right away. I let it warm for 5 minutes and when I switched to drive the car was not responding as usual. When I stepped on the pedal it seemed like the gas was not getting through. I drove it less than 3 miles to work and at lunch I decided to take it to Firestone for a complete check up which is also less than 3 miles away.

I dropped the car and an hour later the Technician called me and he said that the ignition module and ignition coil went bad, because of this two of the spark plugs got damaged. Their estimate to replace the above mentioned parts was $777. I was shocked but did not have many options at that moment. I asked them about the warranty and he said 12 month/12k miles for parts and labor. I approved the estimate and picked up the car in the evening. The next day the check engine light came on again, it was not flashing but I decided to take it to the shop again. They said that since the car was only running on 2 cylinders it could have been that there were still fumes in the system and they recommended that I drive the car for a couple of more days and the light should come off.

They reset the computer but after two days the light came on again. I took it back and this time the said that the catalytic converter went bad and the shop manager gave me an estimate of 640 dollars to repair it. I obviously was furious when I heard that and I demanded an explanation, the manager said the they performed all the necessary diagnostics and it was impossible for them to diagnose a problem like that without the code. I asked them if they checked the sensors and he said the those were working fine.

I believe that my car was not diagnosed properly and although they have offered not to charge me for labor and reduced the estimate to 400 I still believe they should take responsibility for the repair. What do you think Austin? Could they’ve done a better diagnosis even without the code?


Hey there Jose, thanks for your email.

You did not say anything about the starting issue still being there? I am assuming they DID fix the original starting problem?? If so, then I suppose their original diagnosis was partially correct then, right? There is a possibility the catalytic converter was damaged with the engine running poorly and you continuing to drive it when it was running bad. It could have caused too much fuel rich exhaust to inter the converter. I would just drive the car for a while and see if the light goes out and stays out. Maybe take it on the freeway and really get heavy in the gas pedal and try to blow out what ever carbon build up that could be in the converter and see what happens.

I am not sure I would spend $400 to replace the converter if nothing else is wrong. I would probably get another diagnosis, preferably from a dealership in a month or two if the light is still coming on.

Let me know what happens
Austin Davis

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."
  • Dan H.

    I had the same issue with my Alero as well. Thanks for your input, will try your recommendations

  • Austin Davis

    Yes, you should always start at the battery and move towards the engine when chasing any type of electrical problem.

  • Jake

    I found out that I had a bad battery cable going to my starter which was why the car did not start. Check your cables!

  • John

    great stuff mate

  • Canan

    If the block is cracked, I think replacement is the only real answer to fixing the problem. I would have a second mechanic take a look and see that it is in fact a cracked block and a not a blown head gasket.

  • bill

    I really like the colors here on your blog. did you make this yourself or did you have it done by a professional?

  • austin

    Wow, that is a new one on me, sorry to say. I would have to read the computer codes and see what information is being stored to go any farther. Only thing that really comes to mind is a fault with the Body Control Module, but that is an expensive GUESS without being able to test anything.

  • joelnava

    Hi , I have a 2004 Olds Alero and one thing I would like to ask is; When I use my bright lights for about 1 to 2 minutes the check engine light comes on. What do you think makes that happen. It does go away after I turn off the car and then turn it back on and all is well. Thanks, Joel

  • honda auto dealer

    There is a possibility the catalytic converter was damaged with the engine running poorly and you continuing to drive it when it was running bad.