Dry Starts.......my OCD to the Max!

Hi Gents,

I have a 2000 X-308 with the AJ 27 4.0 engine in it. I have owned the car since new, and now it has 41,000 miles on it. As time marches on, life keeps throwing curve balls at me (each new one more violent than the last), up to the point that, at this point in time in my life, I can only dedicate a little bit of time to the car about once a month, if I’m lucky. Which brings me to the point of this posting: Dry Starts aka timing chain rattle at start-up.

I also own a 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac with the 4.0-liter SOHC V6 engine that also suffers from the same dry start problem if it is not started at least once a week. Sometime ago, a friend gave me some advice on how to solve the problem: remove the fuel injector fuse (so that the engine does not fire up), crank over the engine continuously for about 15 seconds or so at a time, let the starter rest for a few seconds and repeat this “cycle” a few times until the oil pump builds up oil pressure, replace the fuel injector fuse, and you are good to go. It is amazing how well this works on my truck! In my truck’s case, I remove the fuse, turn the engine over for about 15 seconds, let the starter rest for a few seconds, and repeat… At about 8 or 9 seconds into the second cranking “cycle”, the needle in the oil pressure gauge jumps to the normal position. I replace the fuse and fire up the engine… It is a beautiful thing how this engine starts; no different than any other engine would start after a quick stop at the Mini Mart!

So…use the same procedure on my XJ8, and problem solved, Right? Not so simple! In the case of my XJ8, I remove the fuse, and I crank the engine over continuously for about 15 seconds per “cycle”, letting the starter rest for a few seconds in between “cycles”. After 8 or 9 of these cranking “cycles” (for a total of 2 minutes and 15 seconds of almost continuous cranking time), the oil pressure indicator light won’t even budge. By this point, the battery starts getting a little sluggish due to all this cranking; at which point I usually panic, and decide to fire up the engine before the battery goes completely dead. Oh Lord!… I crinch every time for the first few seconds of each one of these Dry Starts! The engine fires up, the timing chains rattle and slap for around 3 seconds (about the same amount of time it takes the oil pressure indicator light to turn off during the initial start after an oil and filter change), then the engine builds up oil pressure, the oil pressure indicator light turns off, the engine quiets down and runs smooth and silent as it always has. What really gets to me is the fact that when I do this on the Sport Trac, after 30 seconds of cranking the engine, it has built up oil pressure; whereas in the XJ8 after 2 and 1/4 minutes, the engine has not built-up oil pressure. What is it? Is the oil pump on the Sport Trac that fast, or is it the pump on the Jag that slow? Where has my thought process gone wrong? What is it that I’m not doing or that I’m doing wrong? Does anyone have any advice for me to help me out?

Thank You.

PS. I had the secondary chain tensioners replaced with the new aluminum ones about 14 years ago. Chains, guides, and primary tensioners are the original ones.

When I do an oil change on any of my vehicles I let the engine start but immediately shut it of and let it idle down, a couple of these starts gets the OP up.

Hi Robin,
Thank you for engaging. If I understand correctly, what you do is fire up the engine, then immediately turn the ignition off so that it will wind down until it stops turning. Do this a few times and it will build up oil pressure…Essentially, this is the same thing that I’m doing. The only difference I can see is that when you let it fire up for a brief moment, it will get the opportunity to increase its rpm’s to about 700 or so. In my case it will turn at a constant, lets say, 100 rpm (constant cranking speed). I can see where higher engine rpm’s will lead to higher oil pressure. The one thing that will keep me from doing so is that all of the AJ 26, and the early AJ 27 engines had a code boo-boo in the ECU fuel injector control protocol, that, in the eventuality that the engine didn’t start or stall shortly after a cold start attempt, the injectors would dump an excessive amount of fuel in the ports for as long as the ignition switch was in the “on” position.Inevitably, this would lead to an almost instant flooded condition, and in the “good 'ol days” of high sulphur content in the gasoline, this meant the premature death of a lot of otherwise wonderful nikasil cylinder engines.

On the X308 if you do that you will likely wash the bores loosing compression and consequent a NO start situation which can/will need all 8 plugs removing and pouring a little oil into each bore.
The later X308s had a firmware fix to prevent this.

Well it hasn’t happened yet Neil and I’ve done a few changes of oil.
As I see it, as soon as I have switched off the ignition there cannot be any further injector pulses so no bore wash.

I agree 100% – don’t do the quick shutdown with the X308.
This is the reason I own my X308. Previous owner backed it out of the garage to wash it, flooded it doing so,
then his “mechanic” told him the timing chain jumped, so he dumped it.

As I’ve written before, I assumed the mechanic was correct and decided to do a leak-down test (rather than
a compression test) to see if any valves were damaged. I got nearly 100% leakdown on all cylinders. Knowing
that was impossible, I checked the timing and it was correct (car only had 75K miles, BTW). I put some motor
oil down each of the cylinders to help it seal and she started right up. Been running great ever since, other than
that drum in the tranny that breaks (it broke).

Love the car, but I agree with Joey about the fragility.


Hi Robin,
As I said I think a firmware fix was done on the ECM to prevent this on the later models!
Mine was a 1998 and it always did it if I forgot and shut down too soon.

My point is that I am not just doing a quick start and then shutting down without starting up again and getting the car warm, I know about the cold start, shut down, no start problem. Perhaps I didn’t quite explain it as good as I should have.

Hi Guys,
I guess we all agree about the existence of the flooding problem in the early X308’s. But, once again, what about my problem? A little help…Please :cry:!

I’d get the primary tensioners checked. It may be the oil pressure light in the Jaguar doesn’t work like the one in the Explorer. It could use some sort of programmed algorithm to determine when to go out, as opposed to reacting to a set pressure level on a sensor. Or perhaps the Jag engine doesn’t build and hold oil pressure without continuous operation.

Bottom line is that the tensioners seem to be rattling, and that’s not normal. You can change the oil and filter on a X308, guaranteeing zero oil pressure, start it up with no priming and not hear timing chains rattling even if the warning light is still glowing.

You may be lucky in that your tensioners are warning you before they expire - but at any rate, you need to inspect them and find out for sure.


I am interested in this string because I have a supercharged AJ26 which also rattles on start up. My chains and tensioners were replaced less than 1,000 miles ago on a 75,000 mile engine and I don’t think my rattle is chains. Are you sure your rattle is the chains?

I used to worry about it but you can’t drive the car without starting it and now I think what the heck? We all wear out one day!


FWIW when I had all 4 prm’y & scd’y tensioners replaced on my ‘98 X308 at 40K miles all 4 were cracking badly!

I guess I’m a bit lost: what is your precise problem?

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the response. All good observations you are making. My next post will be to answer Frankie’s post. Please read that one, because it will touch on something you addressed in your post.

Hi Frankie,
Thank you for your thoughts. You are making me re-think this whole concern I have with my car… Not the part about not worrying about it, but the part about it actually being chain rattle. If you ask me if I am 101% unequivocally sure about it being the chains… No, I am not. The noise comes from the front of the engine; middle-front, upper-front…who knows! My immediate thoughts were chains because that is the known issue with these engines. Now, I’m starting to wonder…could it be VVT hubs? Cam followers? Anything in the valve train, other than chains?

Hi Neil,
What about the guides…Were they cracking too? Did you replace them? Did you replace the actual chains?

Hi Paul,
If I’m going to be honest with myself, I guess I’m letting OCD get the better part of me. But…no, it is actually more than that. Since I was a teenager, my dear ol’ papi drilled into my head that you never fire up a dry engine. You always turn it over a few times first, to get the oil flowing, then you fire it up. I have been faithfully doing this for the last fifty years. With this Jag, I crank and crank and crank without any indication of it building up any oil pressure (as opposed to the example I gave of the Explorer in the original post). When I finally give up on the “turning it over exercise” and I fire it up, it makes like a “muffled”,audible sort of rumble noise ( like a vibration noise), coming from the front of the engine. This is precisely the kind of thing I am trying to prevent the engine from doing, but it is doing it anyway! Now… could all this turning over and trying to prime the engine with oil before starting, be counter productive? I mean…could this “starting procedure” of mine be, somehow, doing more harm than good and that is why the engine sounds the way it does at start up.
I have to make the point that this only happens when first starting it after it sits for a month or more without being used. Any advice? Thank you.

I’ll only say this…and I’ve said it before: if an engine hasn’t sat for years, starting them “dry”… is NOT starting them dry.

Starting an engine and just letting it idle for a few seconds *will not hurt it.

Ones does not want to start an engine and then stand on the throttle.

This opinion isn’t a specious one, nor one borne out of lack of experience. If all the mechanicals are in good shape, you need not obsess over it.

I agree with Paul. Its not the start up but the start up/shutting down/cold revving that can cause premature wear. Ask yourself this; what causes more wear a) starting/running an engine after a month of standing or b) starting and running it every day for 30 days?


It was back in 2003 and as I remember it was all tensioners and guides but not the timing chains, developed severe leak down due to nikasil shortly after and sold it on pronto!