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Usually, when starting my car, as soon as I turn the key all the way around, the car instantly starts revving and then springs to life.

For some reason, today, when starting my car. I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened. My dashboard's lights turned on, however, no sputtering or no audio indication that my car was doing anything. I tried this multiple times, but still nothing.

On my final attempt, I turned the key all the way -- but held it there. For 5 or so seconds, the car did nothing, but then suddenly it started up like it usually would.

I'm aware that this has likely something to do with my battery going bad, but what I'm confused about is the specific nature of this event. In my experience, either the car will sputter for a bit or just wont start up whatsoever. Not this weird delay. Really, I'm just curious if there's anything else I should be concerned about other than my battery.

Thank you! My car is a 2010 Camaro with quite a good number of miles on it.

Edit: Thank you guys for all your responses. Seriously, you guys are absolute geniuses!

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  • The only thing that currently comes to mind is that there is a problem with your ignition switch. Perhaps it's become intermittent. I'm not clear how a bad battery would cause this but you might take it to a shop and have the battery load tested.
    – jwh20
    Apr 11 at 13:05
  • I don't think it's the switch. I'm "pretty sure" GM no longer uses a direct relay to the starter, but rather, the switch tells the ECU to start the engine, then the ECU engages the relay, which fires the solenoid. I'm pretty sure it'd be the ECU which does the deed, however, it could be the body control module. Apr 11 at 14:08
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    According to the diagrams posted here, it appears the BCM might just control the starter circuit. If so, my theory seems more likely. A starter is either going to work or it isn't. If power is applied to it when you turn the key, you'll hear either: the starter running, which cranks the engine; A noise as the solenoid throws the starter gear, but doesn't pass power to start the engine; or nothing. It's not going to wait five seconds for it to kick, which means something else is doing it. Apr 11 at 14:31
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    @paulster It is possible to have a high resistance connection that heats up as current flows through it. The heat causes the metal contacts to expand which then improves the connection and allows a high current to flow. I think that this is the most likely cause of the issue. I have seen this on worn starter solenoids contacts.
    – HandyHowie
    Apr 11 at 14:56
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    Maybe automatic transmission position sensor/switch is faulty and it does not recognise the handle as being in "parking" position. I had a problem where the car would occasionally not start from "parking" position. Try shifting the handle to "neutral" if that happens, in my case starting the engine from "neutral" worked. Later I changed the transmission position sensor/switch. Apr 12 at 15:09

6 Answers 6

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The most likely from my experience of this happening are -

  • Worn/burnt contacts in the starter solenoid
  • Worn starter motor brushes
  • Bad connection between the high current cable and the starter solenoid
  • Bad connection between the starter solenoid and the starter motor
  • Bad engine earth strap connection

It is possible to have a high resistance connection that heats up as current flows through it. The heat causes the metal contacts to expand which then improves the connection and allows a high current to flow. This would account for the delayed start.

9

What you are describing is known as a 'lazy' starter. Starters take a lot of power to run, enough energy to injure a human, so to protect the carbon unit between the pedal and the wheel automakers use a starter relay to power the starter motor. When you turn the key a low current connection runs to an electrical component called a relay, which is a remotely operated electromagnetic switch, the small amount of electricity closes a connection which allows the high voltage electricity to power the starter. When the low power current is cut off the internal connection springs back, cutting off the high-voltage current.

A lazy starter is usually caused by one of two things:

  1. The relay described above gets old and the lubrication inside gets viscous, causing the relay to stick. This is bad because it can not only cause a slow reaction to start, but it can also cause a slow reaction to stop the starter, keeping it engaged longer than it needs to. This can damage the starter motor and the flywheel. The fix is simple: replace the relay, which usually requires no tools and can be done by anyone. Relays are one of the cheapest things to replace as well
  2. The starter motor may be starting to stick due to a lack of lubrication and/or worn bearings. The fix is to replace the starter with a new or quality refurbished unit

So, start by replacing the starter relay, which could be called a solenoid or switch as well. The location and type should be shown in the owners manual, auto parts stores are usually helpful with this as well. This will most likely fix the problem, if it doesn't replacing the starter is your next step. If someone tries to convince you to do both at once walk away as they are probably trying to rip you off - replacing a relay takes minutes and you'll know right away if it has worked.

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    I'm not sure that there's any high voltage involved, just higher current Apr 13 at 14:07
  • Yes, the starter relay has nothing to do with safety - it's a 12V system so it's perfectly safe as-is. It's only to do with the fact that a keyswitch able to carry several hundred amps, as well as the huge wire gauges necessary to route all the way to the wheel and back again are simply impractical.
    – J...
    Apr 13 at 22:58
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As I've stated in the comments, because of how you describe things happening ... I'm taking a different tact than the other answers. I don't believe your issue is being caused by the battery or the starter itself, but rather in the starting circuit.

It is my understanding GM no longer uses a direct relay between where you turn the key and the starter, but rather, there is a starting circuit which is controlled by a third party. The third party in this case is the Body Control Module (BCM). Basically, you turn the key, which tells the BCM to kick the relay, which puts a low amperage circuit into play, which powers the solenoid, and finally the solenoid allows power to pass through to the starter motor itself, allowing the engine to start.

Since you're not hearing any noise when you turn the key (ie: a "thunk" which would indicate the solenoid has thrown the starter gear), it's not as described in HandyHowie's answer. You'd hear something, when you turn the key. It does not seem to be switch related, because ultimately the car does start by holding the key in the start position for several seconds. It does not seem to be the battery, because all accessories are working and the car does ultimately start. If the battery were low, it would seem sluggish to start and not as you're seeing it with nothing at all happening.

This leads me to the BCM, which (from my research) controls the starting. It should also control the starting for a remote start. The BCM can on again/off again work, causing all kinds of strange issues. I've read in other GM models (not specifically your model) the same kind of effects as you're seeing when trying to start the car which ultimately panned out to be the BCM. Their problem was the BCM timing out and going into a "sleep" mode or not "waking" when it should. One of the symptoms was the dome lights would not come on when opening the door. Testing a BCM is not an easy task, mainly because when the problem is intermittent, it's really hard to diagnose as such.

If it is not the BCM, it might also be the immobilizer or security system. That'd be a long shot, though.

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  • In case of an ECU failing, OP could get the Diagnostic Trouble Codes read, maybe there is something.
    – arne
    Apr 12 at 12:32
  • To read ODBII trouble codes, purchase an inexpensive reader. I paid $20 for a Bluetooth key variety that works well. GM probably has a lot of non-standard codes, but a certain number and type-designates are required by law for cars in the US. You ought to be able to see what module and nature of problem if codes were thrown. GM is still making unreliable cars: 1. Excessively complicated car systems (it's a car not a rocket) 2. May make it difficult or impossible to diagnose and repair by the owner with a resonable toolkit and less highly specialized knowledge (that a repairer might not have!) Apr 12 at 14:17
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A delay in beginning the crank is unlikely to be caused by a failing battery. Whatever energy remains in the batter is available right away, and doesn't require the battery to "warm up" or "think about providing power." Said another way, the battery may well be declining — you don't say how long or how many miles it's been in the car — but delay in cranking will be caused by something else, or several something elses.

Other components are in the starting circuit between the battery and the starter motor. For example, heavy electrical cables connect the battery to the starter motor and to the car's body and/or engine block. Each cable has a connector on both ends, and the connectors and the cables can fail gradually as the cables' and connectors' ability to pass electrical current declines with age.

The cables should be removed, and all the connections cleaned. Remember that the electrical connection between the cable and its end connector, often hidden within a rubber or vinyl sheath, may also be going bad, or the cable itself in the middle of its run.

It's also possible that the starter solenoid is failing. This is an electrical device mounted on the starter motor that that, when activated, switches the heavy starting current on and allows the current to reach the starter motor. if the solenoid is tired or failing and cannot move briskly to make this connection, starter motor operation may be delayed.

Finally, it's also possible that the ignition switch itself is failing. If turning the key feels differently than it used to, it may be that the electrical switch (behind the key barrel) is worn out.

You several times say that when the starter motor finally cranks, the car starts as usual. This suggests to me that the battery actually is doing fine, and has the muscle to crank the car properly.

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Although I'm not a Chevy guy, possibly I can shed some light. My 2012 ford f-150 does the same thing. I bought the truck used and it came with only after market keys. After much searching I've figured out the ignition is hesitant to recognize the chip embedded in the key. After a few tries it will start and run like normal. Fix is to go to dealer and get a key from them that fits. You then will have a few options, have them program and cut or go to 3rd party, most locksmiths will have equipment to accommodate you. I have access to computer that has the ability to program so I just needed original equipment key. Good luck.

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i only joined this forum to get points and tease you your problem is because it's a camaro.

I'm aware that this has likely something to do with my battery going bad, but what I'm confused about is the specific nature of this event. In my experience, either the car will sputter for a bit or just wont start up whatsoever. Not this weird delay. Really, I'm just curious if there's anything else I should be concerned about other than my battery.

  1. with the car off overnight, leave locked but hood latch open so you can open the hood without ever opening the car door to turn on interior lights and cause electrical draw. Measure battery voltage with a digital meter, temperature notwithstanding if you get 12.4 volts or less then consider replacing your battery. 12.55v or higher generally means good battery but with many miles on car and an old battery it is suspect.
  2. ignition switch
  3. clutch switch if manual trans, the equivalent switch for an auto trans sensing the shifter is in park.

i had a 2002.
the Body Control Module (BCM) controls everything, including the start ciruit via the ignition key. The car alarm / security system is all built in to the BCM, and if GM still uses the resistor in the ignition key, PASSkey or something, on your 2010 that will flash the security light on the gauge cluster if that is causing any problem but that would not cause the condition you describe (just suddenly crank over after 5 second delay with no sputtering) the security system will prevent starting for however long.

it is not the battery, because if the engine cranks over strong then there it is not a weak battery. a weak battery will typically be evident by audible starter solenoid clicking and the starter not cranking the engine over or be slow/weak in doing so.

The starter can be manually jumped, at the starter solenoid, from under the car, and will cause the engine to crank over but the engine will not start because of the security system / body control module. This would be the simplest diagnostic to do to see if the problem is mechanical/electrical at the starter+solenoid; if you can replicate the problem there this way then a starter replacement would be the fix. Or every time you turn the key if you use a volt meter see if the starter solenoid start terminal gets battery voltage: if it does and the problem happens then the problem is at the starter which is good and is an easy fix versus a BCM or ignition cylinder or wiring problem.

go find a camaro forum those nutjobs will have more first hand experience and will be more likely to recognize your problem and say something like likely the ignition switch a lot of people experience your exact problem (because they are also 2010 camaro owners) for example versus here with what seems mostly speculation and theoretical explanations of what's possible.

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