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Oily engine increasingly hard to start

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My 1993 Corolla DX, 7-AFE engine with 266k miles, is becoming temperamental to start. Worst when it's been sitting overnight. This morning leaving the house, I twisted the key and just got a single click from the starter. Subsequent key twisting yielded only single clicks. I persevered, and at some point, it actually engaged the engine and turned it over a couple times ... but then the engine ground to a halt. Subsequent tries elicited either starter clicks, or a few sluggish turnovers before halting. Eventually, I got it to turn over enough times that the engine caught on and commenced idling - a bit wobbly sounding, but it smoothed out shortly. I drove to work.

 

Yes there are major oil leaks from the valve cover. And the spark plugs are due for changing. I get a cloud of white/blue smoke when it starts.

I recently changed the oil (+ PCV valve + grommet) after putting it off too long - and I intend to do another oil change after a couple weeks, to "flush" it. That recent oil change seemed to alleviate the starting problem for a week or so, but now it's back to being temperamental.

The battery is going on two years old - should be ok.

I've got new plugs and plug wires, plug tube gaskets, and valve cover gasket on hand. I think that's a good starting point (haven't changed them in forever), but I'm wondering if I should blame the starter and order myself a starter too. Much of the time, the starter starts the engine within 3 cranks.

 

Any hypotheses on the cause?? Major oil leakage is a primary concern, IMO. I've been neglecting it. Time for SeaFoam???

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