Piston Slap: A positive outlook on starting troubles?

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Piston Slap Chevrolet pickup
Chevrolet

Rickie writes:

I have a 1997 Chevy pickup with the 5.7-liter engine and 200,000 miles. It performs perfectly, with the exception of when starting, as it drags as if the timing is retarded for the first few revolutions, then turns over more freely before firing. It seems a little worse when warmed up. I have a new battery, and the cam retard is set at zero. Thank you for any advice!

Sajeev answers:

From what I see online, you’ve set the base timing in the right place, so that isn’t the issue. What caught my attention is your comment about hot re-starts: I reckon your battery cables aren’t flowing electrons terribly well after a warm engine heats ’em up. Problems occur when insulation goes bad (when the years turn into decades), when terminals corrode (at either end), or there’s internal corrosion in the middle of the cable. Or maybe all of the above? The problem may not be visible to the naked eye until after you remove the cable and inspect it on a bench.

So my advice is simple—so simple, in fact, that I expect the comments below will hammer me if I get this wrong: you need a new cable between the battery and the starter. It’s probably not as bad as the video below, but it could be!

Ya know, I’m a bit more confident in my assessment after watching this video. But while you’re down there, I’d recommend getting a new negative battery cable too, as I bet it’s also ready for replacement after all these years.

What are the odds that I diagnosed this right, Hagerty Community? I’d love to have your feedback.

Have a question you’d like answered on Piston Slap? Send your queries to pistonslap@hagerty.com, give us as much detail as possible so we can help! Keep in mind this is a weekly column, so if you need an expedited answer, please tell me that in your email.

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