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Admittedly I don't know about cars as much as I should, and not knowing a trustworthy mechanic in the area, I want to get some opinions before I get taken at the shop. Though my guess is this will be an obvious problem for the experts here.

My wife is away this week so I decided to drive her car a bit to make sure its still running. Needless to say, there are problems that I didn't (or wouldn't have probably) found out until I drove it. The car has been maintained well and short of an oil change is up-to-date on maintenance.

Its a 1997, 4-cylinder, automatic with about 106k miles on it. The problem is in the starting, the car turns over but doesn't "catch". She says this has been going on for some time (months) got better (on its own) and then returned with the cold weather. It will start with revving and feeding it gas. It is worse in the cold weather but present in the warm as well (per her). The longer it sits the more gas it needs (had to redline it the last two days). Once it has been sitting (hours) needs more revving to "re-start", but if I run into the store quickly it starts relatively easily. This am I noticed some white smoke (which she says is from time to time). The starter (to me) seems weaker as well, separate from feeding it gas. Once it starts I notice the idle is weak sometimes, hovers under 1k with a pulse. If I put it into drive (rpms going up) it is ok and the pulse (wavering of the needle) normalizes.

I assumed it was a fuel pump issue since it worked with feeding it gas, but the "weak" starter doesn't seem to fit (unless its a separate issue). The white smoke is likely from the oil needing changed. Thoughts?
 

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Your not alone on this one. I have a hard cold start issue as well. I have cleaned the throttlebody, replaced the front O2 sensor and replaced the coolant temp sensor. I still cant get the car to idle on its' own when it's cold out. Once the car is warmed up it runs just fine.

And before I forget , do not rev your engine if it is not under load. I'd say keep it under 3000 rpm's if you feel the need to do that for some reason. Just give it enough gas to keep it from stalling until it's warmed up. A red line blast of the throttle while the car is not under load...Not good

You can try some type of dry gas but I supect it 's not the problem as your RAV would be rough all the time....not just on cold starts.
 
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Chucks97: Out of curosity, how long have you had your problem? The car has been in the family since it was purchased new and never had these problems. Figured a systematic problem would have shown earlier but thats obviously not a stead-fast rule. I'll try and find some methyl hydrate based antifreeze first.

Thanks for the tip on not red-lining it, although thats less sleep now to warm up the car! :D
 

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Sorry but a vehicle with dirty oil does not blow white smoke out of the exhaust .
That would be from oil getting into the combustion chamber any of a number of different ways .
Another possibility is a coolant leak into the intake or combustion chamber (really not good :( )
 

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Er, why hasn't anyone mentioned the obvious? It's an old RAV, so do the easy things that probably need doing first: new spark plugs, new air filter, new spark plug wires, new distributor cap and rotor. That should fix it. And a bit of white smoke on start-up might just be condensation.

White smoke is really only a problem if it gets really bad (i.e. you are driving along and there is so much of the stuff that people behind you cannot see!) and if you notice the coolant level falling. Then you may have problems.
 
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