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Old 12-10-2008, 06:25 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 17
Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

and check your (static) timing marks, the belt might have jumped a nub

retrace your steps, did you forget to connect something.... or drop a rag down on the crank position sensor?
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Old 12-13-2008, 04:52 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 6
Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

I replied to another post (from someone else) about my problems with hard starting in my 97 Protege. After wasting tons of money on plugs, cap, rotor, wires, fuel filter, I had to go further in my diagnosis. Like grey said, check your timing marks on the timing belt. Then do a compression check. My little jewel had 100 PSI across all cylinders. I advanced the timing on the distributor all the way, which is like putting a band aid on your elbow for a sore on your knee - but it helped the hard start problem and knocked and ping like an SOB going up even a slight grade. One used engine from a Japanese used engine place and a long Saturday - and wala! She starts everytime now.

I had the same problem you did. Above 50, it started fine. Below that, forget it. Not even starting fluid would help. I would have to crank and crank till the starter damn near burned up, it would catch and run at about 400 rpm for a second or two, then die. I would have to do this several times.

Check the timing belt and compression before wasting any more more money.
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Old 12-15-2008, 07:51 PM
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Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

Thanks Grey, I am in the middle of a Winter storm but will try your suggestions. Appreciate them and will respondas soon as possible.
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Old 12-18-2008, 08:40 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1
Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

I am having a similair problem with my 93 protege - not sure if the engine design is the same or not, but my problem is related to not enough air flow. If you push the gas pedal all the way to the floor, then turn the key, the car roars to a start. Replacing the air filter helped. butnot much. Just had it serviced at a non mazda dealer who serviced the mass air flow sensor (he used another word, can't remember) and this helped greatly, but it is not where it was.

To get the car started, push the gas pedal all the way to the floor first, hold it there, then turn the key - works like magic for me
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Old 12-18-2008, 11:17 PM
vhm vhm is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
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Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

This is a pretty common problem with this engine! Check your compression ratio on each cylinder! Your valves are probably gone, and are not fully closing. Mine had the same problem, and a compression check showed the cylinders to be 150, 100, 125, 145. Only started hard when the temps got below 50 degrees. A valve job wioth a couple replaced valves got everything above 150 and it starts even in the mid teens cold weather now.
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Old 12-23-2008, 01:00 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2
Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly


I have the same problem that you describe, but in a 1995 Mazda protege. Have wasted a lot of money on it and the problem is still there. I'm so frustrated that perfectly understand how you feel about his issue. I'll sumarize the diagnostics and repair I have done on it but will describbe the problem first.

Problem: On cold days Engine cranks and cranks over and over again and does not start, after lots of cranking-pause-cranking revolutions go up upto 300-400 and softly press gas pedal and engine will fire up, it revs. upto 2000 rpm and will idle more or less fine, after warm up it will restart just normally at first crank.

Diagnostics done:

Check engine light off;
spark plugs new, spark plug cables OK, Distributor OK, spark intensity OK;
Fuel pump OK (replaced twice), Fuel pressure regulator seems to be OK (Not really sure), injectors OK;
Coolant temperature sensor OK (I got the resistance-temperature curve and looks OK beyond 16.5 Celsius and within specifications from manual, below 16.5 and upto 4 celsius it looks not very deformed but it is not as smooth as beyond 16.5 C), Air temperature sensor (hosted in the air filter case OK, also did the check as in the CTS and curve looks consistent and within manual specifications in the range from 7-60 celsius), Crankshaft position sensor OK, MAF sensor replaced 3 times current one is brand new;
Air tubing from air filter housing to air intake OK.

The problem is clearly temperature dependent, so it must be related to something that is in contact with the coolant. Surfing the Autozone website I found the online version of the manual where it illustrates the procedure to check the Idle speed control valve ISCV. I did check the resistance of the (motor, solenoid, sensor not sure) attached to it and it is within specifications (7.7-9.3 ohms), but this valve has coolant lines and it seems to have an internal core that is moved by the coolant temp. or motor attached to it or even both.I have not had the time and patience to check this, but when I crank the engine in the cold mornings it seems there is partial combustion inside the cylinders since the engine seems to start but not with enough force and the exaust smells rich on gas. By depressing the gas pedal I just foold the engine and make the start more dificult. The ISCV is the one that supplies the needed air to start the engine (assuming you are not depressing the gas pedal and therefore the throttle plate is fully closed) initially and while engine running and at idle it adjusts idle speed according to the coolant temperature. Here is my theory:

At least in my case, when I try to start the car in a cold morning, I crank the engine several times for some seconds with no success. At most of crank times I hear partial detonations in engine (partial combustion), it sounds like there is not enough fuel, air or spark, but I'm certain there is fuel and spark. The water pump spins at evry crank and it moves the coolant along the cooling system. Due to the partial combustion and extended crancking time the coolant becomes warmer and after it is warm enough it makes the ISC valve to supply enough air to cylinders to finally make a strong enough combustion to run the engine. Once the engine is hot, the coolant in it will remain warm enough to allow the start of the engine several hours later after engine trun off.

I came up with this theory based in the figures and procedures to check this valve listed in the autozone online manual. In those figures the ISC valve is supposed to open/close with the temperature allowing/restricting the intake of air to the cylinders. My guessing is that in coold days the engine does not get enough air for combustion (due to a dirty/faulty ISCV) to compensate the fuel rich condition created by the car's computer due to tho cold temp. This creates partial combustions and partially floods the engine. It could be that the ISCV has a wax cor driven by coolant temp. (like in the engine block thermostat) that in conjuntion with the integrated motor/solenoid/sensor keeps the idle speed tuned according to air and coolant temps.

I'll have no time to check this theory for validity in the coming days due to work, but if you have the time and decide to go ahead and check the ISCV please post your findings.

Best regards and please keep in touch!!!!!!!!!!!! WE MUST OVER COME THIS ISSUE!

By the way, tha valves were replaced last year due to the same issue and the problem is not gone!

1995 Mazda protege
1.5 L-4 16 Valves DOHC
about 107K miles
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Old 12-29-2008, 10:47 PM
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Posts: 21
Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

Really appreciate input. I just changed timing belt and found it to be in line, but feel it is a maintainance item and should be changed anyway. Same issues. I have not checked compression, but I will and will post results. I am really thinking about taking to mechanic.
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Old 01-02-2009, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2
Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

Dear ecousin:

I found the problem =o(. I did check the idle air control valve a couple days ago and got same problem to start engine. So this valve is OK. Fourtunately I had not to remove any thing, just the coolant little hoses, dumped very hot water for a while until valve body got hot and tried start engine with no good results. However engine revolved faster/higher. Dissapointed (as usual) I got to finally think about compression related issues like stuck/broken piston rings. At least in my case this is the origin of the problem!!!!!!!!!!

Save some money and do what I did to know if your piston rings / cylinder walls are badly worn. However if you have the compression gauge/kit with you go ahead and check your compression correctly. What I did is:

1) Dumped about 1 oz MMO (the wonderful Marvel Mystery Oil) in each cylinder. Head of piston got totally covered. Shaked car and MMO saked as well. This would loosen any sludge/carbon from the rings groves and if piston rings were stuck they would loose enough to improve compression. If they (some of them) were broken the oil would leak down past the rings faster than in the other cylinders.
I let MMO sit over nigth (about 20 hrs) and next morning MMO was almost gone. Leaked down slowly. Replaced spark plugs and cranked engine. It revolved faster for some seconds and got to cranking with almost no force as usual. No success!

2) After cusing the @#!@$@#@ car I left it there and same day night I got 85W-140 gear lube from walmart. Next morning dumped 1/2 oz of this thick oil in cylinders, replaced spark plugs and cranked engine. It revolved to about 1000 revs/min for about a second and after that got same usual behavior until battery got dead after 4,5 cranks.

3) Cused the car again and got my battery charger out to charge the battery is 6 amp. setting for about 1.5 hrs. In the mean time I got breakfast, took a shower, discussed with my wife regarding the battery charging time and finally removed the charger and cranked the engine. I think during this time the 140 oil lube spreaded better to seal compression leaks in cylenders because it revolved stronger and faster so that after 3 short cranks I got it running.

Conclussion: Piston rings/cylinder walls badly worn.

In warm days overnight oil in crank case is not too thick as it is in cold winter mornings so that after 2, 3 short crancks the oil pump is able to pump the easy-flow oil upto the oil rings to seal compression leaks, improve compression diring stroke part of piston and engine starts. After oil is warmed up it remains easy-to-flow for about 3,4 hrs until it cools down and gets thick and the problem reapears again.

4) I did notice that oil level was a little bit low so before leaving to my mother's in law house I dumped 4 oz of MMO in the crankcase to make oil thinner. Car worked great. It was so soft to drive. MMO also in gas. Mileage: about 45 miles/gallon. Next morning engine did not started (usual problems) however engine revolved stronger. I did read in some other foruns that some mazdas use 3w30 oil instead 5w30 or 10w30 traditional oils.

At least in my case the 1.5 L engine is too small (very shork block, small pistons and cylinders) so that it must be highly revolved in order to get speeds of the order of 60-80 miles/hr. This added to a high torque transmission rapidly wears the engine piston rings/cylinder walls causing the blow-by gases to be abundant at the hose from the valve cover-to-air intake hose. This is a side problem that leads to oil beeing condensed in the intake air hose and leak down to fall on the air filter.

To check for this, start the engine as you can and with engine at idle remove the oil filler cap and look for abundant smoke-like gases coming out form the valve cover. Replace oil filler cap and remove hose running from valve cover to air intake hose. Again look for abundant flow of blow-by gases. If this is your case your engine is like mine, crap! However there is a smoll chance to improve problem. At the moment we can use a very thin oil like 0w30 that flows very easy at cold temps and protects the same at hot temps. as a 5w30 or 10w30 oil would do. This will highly improve the oil flow from cranckcase to oil rings on pistons during cold start in those cold mornings improving compression and hopefully solving the problem at least for this winter. May be a combination of MMO-5w30 or MMO-3w30 or Lucas oil stabiliser-5w30 would work too. By spring-summer (when this problem disapears) we can change this oil and use the normal recommended oil together with a restore can which is a thick EP oil (Extreme pressure) with micro metal particles that supossedly stick to the cylinder walls and highly improve compression upto factory specifications. Who knows, it could work and it is a lot cheaper than take the car to a mechanic and pay him for the same diagnostics you already know. In addition the mechanic will want to rebuld you engine or replace it for a similar engine that sooner or later will develop the same issues.

Please keep in touch and I'll keep posted the results of my experiments/findings with this crappy car.

Happy new year and best wishes!

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Old 01-09-2009, 04:21 AM
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Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

make sure your EGR is not sticking open
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Old 01-18-2009, 03:58 PM
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Default RE: Starting problems with 97 Protege it starts but reluctantly

Solved the problem on my car in all the reading sometimes one forgets. 1997 Mazda starting difficulties on cold mornings. Compression check revealed 120,90,80,90 PSI. This is simply too low. I discussed this with Machinist who suggested I pull the head off and have him rebuild it. I did just that and put it all back together yesterday. Results imediate starting. I am sure this was the problem and feel that the work was well worth $440.00 rebuild of head and including new gaskets.
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15, 1997, 93, car, coolant, die, fine, hose, iac, isc, mazda, morning, plug, protege, slow, start, starts, valve

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