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1997 Safari has issues starting bone cold in Winter - HELP PLEASE

404 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  AstroWill
Hey folks, Happy New Year!

I have done a search and have found quite a few posts about this same problem I am having, but in my case the issues are a little more pinpointed/specific to weather and driving habit etc. Let me explain!

As of about early November, my 1997 GMC Safari with only 128k KM (so 80K Miles) started having weird start up issues. The way I have noticed it goes: I will turn the key, let the fuel pump prime/build up pressure, and crank. Usually it would fire up instantly, but in November (and currently) it began cranking and cranking and then it will sputter/chug to a start, OR I have to repeat the process a 2nd or 3rd time before it catches. (So just imagine: "fuel pump primed - crank crank crank crank sputter crank sputter sputter FIRES UP" as the best case scenario)

Here are all the other factors:

1. Brand new Starter in the fall - Battery is near new and strong - fuel pump etc all good
2. If I use my BLOCK HEATER, I have zero issues. Fires right up, even if is it -20 degrees Celsius out. (-4 F)
3. It will only happen if it is cold out. If it is +10 outside Celsius (50F) or above, it is fine
4. If I start it in the morning, go to work and then go to start it at work after 8 hours, same issue. Super stubborn to start.
5. If I get it going, and then drive to the store, once I leave the store and get back in, fires right up, no issues. As in, once it gets going, as long as hours don't elapse between starts, it is fine.

My suspicions:
1. Distributor - The cold temps have caused condensation to accumulate and the microcracks in the old plastic as letting moisture in. OR in General it's just old.... HOWEVER why would it be so inconsistent depending on Block Heater/No Block heater, temperature outside, how long it has stood etc.
2. Sensors: One of the sensors isn't reading temps/AF ratio correctly etc, due to atmospheric changes and being old and worn...?
3. It's just a GM. Live with it ;):LOL:

Basically, my van is acting the same way a truck with a carburetor would act in cold weather/cold starts, without a working choke.

Any ideas, Astro/Safari Gurus?!

Appreciate any input!
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1. Always, always, always check the fuel pressure/leakdown, and while you are in there check for Pancake Distributor Disease as well.
2. Check that the distributor vent holes are clear and general overall condition, I forget what years were an issue but I'm sure it's in the link in my sig.
3. Use a cheap OBD2 reader/adapter and check that your temps are reading correctly after sitting overnight, up through normal op temp, etc.

When it's super cold out, your engine is rotating slower to get started, battery isn't converting chemical energy to electrical energy as well, harder to move oil until it's warmed up, etc. So everything has to be up to par.
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