So over the weekend when I tried starting my car up with the fuel running from reserve (I know, times are tough), it didn't crank. We tried kick starting it, nothing. My neighbour went to get some fuel, we tried kicking it a couple more times, still nothing.

Then my neighbour pumped the fuel pedal a couple times, we tried another time and it started. Since then the car's been idling on a very low rev (just above zero). I did get enough fuel since then to put my tank above Empty.

Anyways; since that day, every time I started the car it would crank for a long time before actually starting and then this morning, it just cranked and cranked and cranked... I pumped the fuel pedal as my neighbour did, but nothing.

what could the problem be? it can't be the fuel pump, cos it drives fine when It's on the road. what can I check between the engine cranking over and the fuel going through. what are the points I can check myself to get the car to start?

EDIT: Please note my car was originally a D15Z4, but that engine seized and I swapped it out for a lower mileage imported D16A (not using VTEC, cos I kept the original ECU and the PBB ECU it came out with wasn't imported to South Africa, so VTEC never kicks in... I know (_,,) )


  • What's the engine? Did the car spew a huge cloud of black smoke when it eventually did start? Feb 17, 2016 at 11:21
  • First thing I would check is if there was a spark at the plugs when trying to start the engine. Is it a gasoline engine?
    – HandyHowie
    Feb 17, 2016 at 11:39
  • nope, no cloud of smoke. it's a petrol engine (not diesel) I'm out in Africa our engines run on petrol over here Feb 17, 2016 at 12:24
  • Have you checked to see if you have a spark at the plugs while trying to start?
    – HandyHowie
    Feb 17, 2016 at 15:03
  • Did you try priming the fuel pump a few times before attempting to start? Feb 17, 2016 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


An engine only needs a few things to run: fuel, air, compression, and spark.

Considering the engine runs fine once started, I would guess the engine has enough air and spark. A lack of air would cause rough or erratic idle, and lack of spark would stall the engine, or at least cause it to stumble, shake, and generally sound unhealthy. It would also be unlikely that all of the plugs/wires/distributor contacts would fail at once. If there were no other problems and any of the cylinders were getting spark the engine would at least stutter before dying. If the engine sounds completely normal once started, you could also rule out compression.

I wouldn't totally rule out the fuel pump, as it will have to work slightly harder with very little fuel in the tank, on top of already having to work extra hard to build pressure in the fuel lines and supply enough fuel to get the engine started. Running with low fuel would also increase the chances that your fuel pump sucked up debris in the fuel tank that could clog the fuel filter. Kinks/leaks in the fuel lines may also prevent the pump from supplying adequate pressure.

If you haven't already, I would inspect the fuel lines that run under the vehicle from the fuel tank to the engine for any damage. If no damage is found I would replace the fuel filter (fairly cheap and easy if you have a good set of metric wrenches and a breaker bar). If all else fails I would replace the pump as well.

The next step would be replacing the spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor (all fairly cheap), and the coil pack (relativly expensive).

  • Just out of interest, why does a fuel pump have to work harder with low fuel in the tank?
    – HandyHowie
    Feb 17, 2016 at 15:16
  • 2
    I would be more worried about sucking in the debris inside the tank of an old car, clogging the pump filters. Feb 17, 2016 at 15:42
  • 1
    Don't forget timing. Given the age of the vehicle and an unknown service history the belt could be broken/missing teeth.
    – Ben
    Feb 18, 2016 at 0:08
  • 2
    @pythonian29033: IME, a clogged fuel filter will let the car idle, but it'll cut out or run poorly when driving. I don't think that's your problem (especially since your current filter is only six months old). Have you checked the plug wires? Maybe try cranking it over in a dark place and see if they're arcing.
    – TMN
    Feb 19, 2016 at 15:41
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    sorry guys, as it turns out; I ran out of fuel the moment I parked my car and so all I did was go to the garage to buy some petrol... it did crank over with no start for a while, but now it's running fine again lol thank you all for you guys' help though, I got to know my car a little better. just need to check out why my fuel light isn't switching on Feb 25, 2016 at 13:27

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