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Melissa_M 10-06-2017 12:09 PM

no start urgent
My car is stranded, I could use a hand figuring this out.

Haven't driven for about a week.
Started fine today (no hesitation, etc), drove less than mile.
Now no start.
No noise. (i.e. no starter noise)
(I don't actually know what the fuel pump sound is like, despite having driven this car for so many years)
Tried a jump start.
checked lots of fuses, they look good
Battery is about 2 yrs old, reads 12.4V
Pulled it and brought it home to charge.
mileage ~ 76K

I don't know how to check for spark.
I'm about 50 miles since I did the cam gasket. Last time I drove I checked the plug wells and they were dry. It has started after I pulled/replaced the ignition wire.

alordofchaos 10-06-2017 12:25 PM

Re: no start urgent
How old is the starter, mileage and age? Is it getting power?

Fuel pump sounds like a faint background hum/whirr. But without cranking/starter, having fuel won't help.

Having spark won't matter if the engine won't crank. (check by pulling wires at the opposite end of the plugs, look for spark jumping across the coil towers as someone else cranks)

Starter has to crank engine, pushing one cylinder up in its turn. The valves are attached so that this cylinder, after air is let in, the valves will shut sealing the cylinder, the upward movement compresses the air, and PCM will add fuel and spark at the right time. Without the cranking, having spark and fuel won't matter, so those are not on the "check list for troubleshooting" yet

SRGW 10-06-2017 12:30 PM

Re: no start urgent
[B][SIZE="3"]Sounds like either a poor battery connection or a bad starter. Starter is on drivers side engine area under the throttle body area. Get a 2x4 and hit the starter a few times then see if it starts.

1995 SL1 231,050 Well Oiled!! ;)
1997 SL1 62,450 Just A Teenager!! ;)

Melissa_M 10-06-2017 12:45 PM

Re: no start urgent
I have had starter issues on other vehicles at much higher mileage, iirc. I'm at 76K now. Fortunately, I did know about the 2x4 trick, altho I am not clever enough to carry one in the saturn. Can't remember tho, how hard do you hit it?

I'm not familiar with the starter location on the saturn - can you actually get a 2x4 in there? Broom handle should also work?

Power door locks and RKE horn did work, so I assume that means I can rule out battery connection?

Waiex191 10-06-2017 12:46 PM

Re: no start urgent
If it is a manual, and you have a helper, bump start it. Roll along as fast as you can push, pop into second and pop out the clutch. I've done this solo also.

Melissa_M 10-06-2017 12:58 PM

Re: no start urgent
I actually tried a push start about 10+years ago and I wasn't able to start it - I thought for some reason it didn't work on saturns? Or perhaps needs more finesse than I have.

Now I'm at the bottom of a hill, so it would be problematic.

I'm headed back over with the battery and will hit the starter.
What next for troubleshooting?

Waiex191 10-06-2017 01:32 PM

Re: no start urgent
Works great on saturns. You don't need much with finesse. Get a few friends.

I'm on my 4th starter. They don't seem to be great.

alordofchaos 10-06-2017 01:58 PM

Re: no start urgent
1 Attachment(s)
Hunt4Steve's photo, attached, flipped and labeled. Starter is the black cylinder here, oil pan/drain bolt at bottom of pic. Roughly at the level of the oil filter

more photos and diagrams here


toggenburg 10-06-2017 01:58 PM

Re: no start urgent
As always, someone has to verify that the starter is actually receiving 12v on the PURPLE jacketed wire right on the starter itself. Either a voltmeter or 12v test light (on lead connected to ground (clean, bare metal anywhere under the car) is used while someone turns the ignition key to START. IF this is a 5-speed be sure, very sure the car is in neutral and not in gear else if the starter did turn correctly when the key is turned someone may get badly hurt or worse.

No voltage at purple wire on starter? check battery connections, 12v present at starter? Replace starter. $44.78 with free 2-day delivery at [url][/url]

If an automatic trans, there is not that danger of the car moving until yall move the selector from P to R or D.

fetchitfido 10-06-2017 02:00 PM

Re: no start urgent
Hard to bump/push start any vehicle if the key isn't left in "run" :tounge:
I believe using a higher gear than 1st, like 2nd or maybe 3rd works better, the engine only needs to be spun to about 300rpm before it'll run on it's own.

If the lights look normal that suggests that the power level is okay and the battery cables are fine. Doesn't mean they are fine as the starter requires more power to do any work (even "click") than any of the lights do, but without a volt-meter of some sort you gotta work with whats "on hand".

Not sure where the best place would be from the top to reach the starter, you really want to hit the middle of it which means snaking something between intake runners 2 & 3 (not a 2x4...), but you might be able to reach the end of it with careful aim sorta from the battery & under the fuel line bracket under the intake manifold.

Melissa_M 10-06-2017 03:16 PM

Re: no start urgent
I was able to get a broom handle between the intakes to tap on the starter.
No joy.

How do you get access to the purple wire for testing?

Since the starter is very tricky to get to, I'm leaning towards having a shop do the starter, if that is the cause. I do want to keep troubleshooting this, tho.
Any recommendations on starter brands to pick/avoid?

toggenburg 10-06-2017 03:33 PM

Re: no start urgent
Best around and best price ($44,78) & free 2 day delivery

billr 10-06-2017 03:39 PM

Re: no start urgent
You have to jack the car up and crawl underneath to get to that PPL wire. Doing voltage tests down there is the definitive troubleshooting method, though.

Many of us like the new starters from <>, a bit less than $40 delivered to you, but will take a day or two to arrive.

Still no joy with the push starting? This[I] is[/I] a manual trans, correct?

PS: I guess I should have said "about $40", it has been a few years since I bought one from them...

Melissa_M 10-06-2017 03:49 PM

Re: no start urgent
I haven't tried push starting. Huge logistical issues.
If the starter is toast, the push start will just get me running once, right?

Considering the location of the starter, if it is the culprit, I would likely have a shop do it for me. As such, they would use a brand such as Duralast or ACDelco, etc.

I thought starters usually kinda failed with some warning first. And the 2x4 trick works for a while. I gave it several fairly solid taps with a broom handle, should I try more/harder? With those wires in there, it makes me nervous. Visibility of the area is less than ideal.

billr 10-06-2017 03:58 PM

Re: no start urgent
Whacking it with a 2 x 4 is certainly not a guarantee, more of a "Hail Mary" play.

Your choice on where to buy the starter, but that db price is too good for most of us to pass up. I would avoid letting a shop use a rebuilt starter, of any brand, and you might gag at the cost of a new one from a local supplier.

Yes, a push start will only work once, each time it is done. It is harder to do, but can be started in R if that is part of the "logistics" problem.

billr 10-06-2017 04:02 PM

Re: no start urgent
Also, don't take it to a shop and simply tell them to replace the starter. Until those voltage tests down at the starter are done, you don't know that the problem even [I]is[/I] the starter. It may be something a lot simpler and cheaper, like the clutch safety-switch.

Melissa_M 10-06-2017 04:05 PM

Re: no start urgent
yeah, I was just thinking about the clutch safety switch. How do I know if that is the problem??

Waiex191 10-06-2017 04:40 PM

Re: no start urgent
I made a bypass for the clutch safety circuit. Two spade terminals crimped on the ends of a short piece of wire. It was never that switch for me. Also I'd be shocked if you weren't getting voltage on the purple wire.

I find that when the starter is going, it is intermittent at first. Then it dies hard. If you bump start it it may work the next time. I've done it solo many times on flat ground. When my starter dies I park strategically until I can replace it.

Gotta love manual gearboxes!

fdryer 10-06-2017 04:43 PM

Re: no start urgent
Are able to crawl under the engine to measure voltages? The best way to eliminate any doubts about the neutral safety switch is to measure voltage at the starter 'S' terminal, the small terminal on the starter solenoid. This terminal gets 12 volts directly from the ignition switch when its turned to the START position. The START voltage goes thru the park.neutral safety switch before its gets to the 'S' terminal on the starter. This is the start signal to power the solenoid that begins starter operation. If you can locate the safety switch under the clutch pedal swing arm assembly, you can bypass the switch by joining both wires together and see if the starter powers up.

If you choose measure the small terminal on the starter, either disconnect this wire to prevent inadvertent starter operation or clip a temporary long wire extension so you can measure this wire for 12v when the ignition switch is turned to START. 12 volts will on this wire for as long as the ignition switch is held in START position. No 12 volts here means a starting circuit problem. 12 volts on this wire means the starting circuit including the safety switch is fine and the starter is worn out.

Melissa_M 10-06-2017 11:25 PM

Re: no start urgent
Update: I was able to push start the car and get it closer to my house.
(thank you fetchitfido for mentioning the key position, i actually did not realize this at first, despite it being ridiculously obvious!!)

I parked down a *slight*hill so I could push start again.
Cut off ignition and tried to restart. Would not restart.
A buddy of mine, who is a saturn-guy, says the fuel pressure drops as the car sits, so as time passes, it is harder to push start. Any clues on how long this actually is?
Also, how do you push start on flat ground?? Just push it, and then jump in?

Not sure how I am now going to get to the starter purple wire (and/or neutral safety switch)for testing, as I have it parked on a hill (for restarting purposes) but need to jack it up somehow. I did try to crawl under it as-is, but wasn't really able to get far enough under to reach the starter, for testing.
I think I found the neutral safety switch on the firewall, but was not able to remove the connector, not to mention figure out how to jumper it for testing.

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