I have a 2007 automatic Vibe 1.8L with 90,000 miles. No problems until 3 days ago, when it was slow to start. Instead of starting right up immediately, it takes a few seconds to actually start running, but it DOES always start. I haven't driven or started it much since then, since I don't want to make anything worse. I took it to the auto parts store and they tested the battery and alternator (but not the starter), and said the battery was low and charged it. The first time starting after charging the battery it started almost normally, but still a little hesitation. I only drove it once after this, but it was back to the previous time of slow starting, like before the battery was charged. But again, it always starts.
Then I happened to notice a noise when I turn the key. This is before it begins to start the car, before anything on the car starts to make noise. I turn the key just a little and I hear a weird noise, I guess I would describe it as a grinding noise. It is a strange noise that I've never heard on a car before, and it's not very loud; you wouldn't normally hear it or pay attention to it when starting your car. But it is DEFINITELY THERE, and it doesn't sound good. Something is definitely not right, and coupled with the slow start, I know something is going on that needs to be fixed.
I've looked online and see a problem with the VTC camshaft actuator, but I'm hoping it's something else, of course. I think the noise you hear with the VTC is when the motor is actually starting, and at this point I don't hear that noise when starting it, just when initially turning the key, but the sounds are a little bit similar.
Any help is greatly appreciated. I love my Vibe and it has relatively low miles. I really need to avoid a huge repair bill if at all possible. Thank you in advance for your help.