Car Doctor Q&A: Why is My 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity Hard to Start?

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John Paul answers a question from the olden days, when your phone hung on the wall and you had to walk 18 feet across carpet just to change the channel.

Q. I have a 1984 Chevy Celebrity wagon. It is a great car, it came from central Florida so it is rust free, although the sunshine and heat hasn’t been kind to the interior. This old car carries all my stuff when I go camping or kite-surfing and has been real dependable with one exception.

Lately when it is cold, the first start in the morning it will crank over for a long time until it starts up. Once started it runs great all day. I was convinced it was the fuel pump and replaced it and it still has the same problem, any ideas?

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A. I needed to dust off my memory a little to come up with an answer for this one. The issue is most likely a faulty fuel pump relay. The fuel pump relay is connected to a circuit that includes the oil pressure switch. As a back up to the fuel pump relay the fuel pump can also be energized by the oil pressure switch.

As the engine is cranking over it is developing oil pressure, once there is sufficient oil pressure the fuel pump will turn on and supply fuel to the engine.

Of course, the issue could be a faulty ECM (engine control module) or wiring between the computer and the fuel pump relay. Online you can purchase a fuel pump relay for as little as $6.00, at that price I would just replace it and see if it solves the problem.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.