I am buying a '98 GMC Sierra tonight. The truck is a 350, Automatic, 2WD. It has *cough* 349,970 miles on it. The truck is in fantastic shape, with only one tiny spot of rust above the windshield and all the maintenance records. The engine is very strong, and has never been rebuilt.
When I turn the key to start the truck, it pauses like the battery is dead. Then the engine fires up immediately. No cranking. It is like the engine turns on with a switch. Is this typical? Is the starter on its way out?
The accessories (power windows, locks, mirrors, etc.) all work just fine with the truck not running, so I know it's not the battery.
At this point, you would gather some evidence such as compression, fuel pressure etc. in ideal circumstances.
It could be as simple as resistance between the battery and the starter. Verify engine health and perform a voltage drop test between the starter and the battery for resistance. The voltage drop would clue you in right away to electrical related issues. However, the starter could be the culprit or perhaps a fuel filter is 'really' clogged and the fuel system must 'build' pressure for it to start? Perhaps injectors or something else relative to combustion mixture that may cause a startup delay of sorts. It could just need plugs, but that might be a stretch.
Also, if going to check compression may as well inspect the spark plugs for evidence that may clue you in to something else.
The HHR ignition is a switch. Turn the key to on, let it go, and the car handles start up from there. No need to hold the key at start until the engine fires, except on rare occasions when the automated cranking failed to fire it up.
But it's a 2006. I don't know what type of ignition GM used in '98.