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Old 09-28-2011, 09:01 PM   #1
nature noggins
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Default All checks out well but car won't start

My future son-in law has a 97 Saturn sc2, standard transmission. All has been fine until a few weeks ago when the car suddenly wouldn't start. it just clicked. After a few tries it started. When he got to my house we threw the battery charger on it. It showed a slightly weak battery so we left the charger on all night. The car started fine the next day. Although he hasn't driven much in the past few weeks all seemed fine. I took it to our local Autozone today and they checked the battery, starter and alternator. All was fine with all three. He said the wiring between also checked out fine. When we left, we stopped to get gas and the problem started again. A slow crank with no turning over. A second effort started the engine.

When we got home I checked the battery connections and they were clean. Where the ground connects to the frame it was a bit rusty so we took it off and cleaned it thoroughly and reconnected it. When we tried starting the car it just clicked and wouldn't turn over. 3 attempts and no luck.

The dude at Autozone said if it happens again we should check where the flat silver ribbon ground connects to the frame. I couldn't find any such beast but checked every wire I could find for corrosion or loose fitting. No problems that I could see.

Any suggestions?

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Old 09-28-2011, 09:18 PM   #2
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Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

A battery over fours years old can be suspect if its a low priced one with a low warranty; something like a 3yr battery warranty will fail close to three years, 4yr battery dies at 4yrs, etc.. If the battery cables are clean and free of any corrosion then the starter is next.

An original starter and how many miles on this car? Over 100k miles and original tends to point to a worn out starter although some get past 150k miles+ (all highway mileage). Short trip driving many times a day will shorten the life of a starter. Unless you're skilled at starter disassembly, you won't know how worn the wear items are - starter brushes and starter solenoid contacts. Some have had excellent luck disassembling their starter only to find a very dirty set of heavy duty electrical contacts that were cleaned up and allowed it work as good as new.

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Old 09-28-2011, 09:42 PM   #3
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1997 SL2
Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

I agree with FD!

Sounds like a classic starter going south to me but, if the battery is old that can confuse the issue. The engine grounds are on the top of the transaxle bell housing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zjstj9kWos0

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Purchased 114k 10/07
Added OEM CC

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Old 09-29-2011, 07:18 AM   #4
nature noggins
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Question Re: All checks out well but car won't start

There are 136,000 miles on the car and I'm not certain if the starter is original. I went out this morning to work on the car. I turned on the lights and cranked it over. The lights didn't dim so I know it's not the battery. The car started right up. I tried starting it numerous times and it started each time with no problems.

As mentioned in the original post, the Autozone guy put his sensor on the car and tested the battery, starter and alternator and all checked out fine. So the battery, starter and alternator are not the problems.

Any other thoughts?

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Old 09-29-2011, 08:05 AM   #5
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Default Re:rushes All checks out well but car won't start

Next time it happens, tap on the starter with something. That will reseat the brushes, which is a symptom of a starter going bad, as fdryer and off-track have already diagnosed. I would have more faith on info. obtained on this site than a diagnosis from Autozone, which tends to be too generic.

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Old 09-29-2011, 08:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

New brushes are available from NAPA, but must be ordered from Virginia, but they're inexpensive.

The solenoid is also available, and I believe it costs around $35.

...Or you can go the fast but not so inexpensive way of entire motor replacement.

If you do rebuild the starter motor, be sure to clean all of the connecting straps and their respective terminals (nuts and bushings).

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Old 09-29-2011, 11:30 AM   #7
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Happy Re: All checks out well but car won't start

Thanks everyone. I'll tell my future son-in-law to tap the starter (I'll have to show him where it is as he is not car savvy) next time it happens and I'll look into fixing it for him when I find more time.

Thanks again everyone!

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Old 09-29-2011, 12:22 PM   #8
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Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

Nature - I've got an 01 SL2 w/ 135,500 miles and just replaced the starter. Exact same symptoms... would start fine most mornings (sometimes a weak start, though) but randomly stopped restarting when hot. IE, at gas stations, short trips to the store, etc.

My particular car went from always starting (but sometimes starting weak) to being dead as a doornail in about 7-10 days.

Watch the Richpin starter removal video on Youtube.

Also get a 20"+ breaker bar to remove the top starter bolt. And PB Blaster.

Good luck. Starter replacement isn't hard, but it sure sucks.

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Old 09-29-2011, 10:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

Quote:
Originally Posted by nature noggins View Post
I'll tell my future son-in-law to tap the starter (I'll have to show him where it is as he is not car savvy) next time it happens and I'll look into fixing it for him when I find more time.
Just save some time and replace it now. It will get worse. Not a big job, just awkward with the top bolt. Better to swap it when it's still starting than be stuck in the middle of nowhere when it finally gives up the ghost!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6awyslXkeI

...
1997 - SL2, barebones, 161k, Auto - Rebuild complete and.. burnt a valve 20k later Arrgh!
Purchased 114k 10/07
Added OEM CC

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Old 09-30-2011, 05:58 AM   #10
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Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

Battery, Battery , Battery. First, make sure you are working with a STRONG, fully charged Battery!
Starter, Starter , Starter !
Check those connections between Battery & Starter. Have friend turn key to start while you test voltage at starter.
If voltage is good; check starter ground;
Starter brushes could have "flat spot" at that age. Hit it with a hammer while friend is cranking. Doesn't all ways work. But if you are 100% you have good voltage to starter and good ground...you'll need a new starter.

ASE Technician

...
94 SC1 1.9L SOHC
GM Blue Green
278,429 miles
32+/- AVG/MPG

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Old 10-02-2011, 12:56 PM   #11
nature noggins
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Default Re: All checks out well but car won't start

Ordered a starter today and will get it in this week. Thanks everyone for the help.

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