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Old 08-05-2012, 05:27 PM   #1
melinuxfool
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Default Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Today, I was out for a Sunday drive, and decided to do a little mountain climbing in my Saturn (Cadillac Mountain in Maine, for anyone familiar with the area, not incredibly steep, and only 1500 ft). I kept an eye on my temperature gauge, as it is one long uphill climb, even if not steep, and it did rise slightly, but did not go above the halfway mark as I drove up.

I parked at the summit and went inside a store for a few minutes, only to have the car not even attempt to crank when I stepped on the clutch and turned the key.

I have had this issue happen to me before, usually after a lot of stop and go driving where the car tends to heat up more. If I let it cool down for about 15 or 20 minutes, it'll crank right up.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that, as I said before, the temperature gauge did not rise above one-half. I go in the store for maybe 10 minutes, come out, try to start the car, and notice that the gauge is now reading higher than it did when the car was running (scan gauge had the coolant temperature as 220F - highest scan gauge reading on the way up was 204F).

I immediately suspect something may be wrong with the ECTS (thermostat was replaced not long ago). However, as I look at the wiring diagrams, it seems to me that the coolant temperature, and therefore, the ECTS, would be irrelevant to the starting system. So I suspect another issue. Though the ECTS has the plastic tip, so it's going to be replaced regardless.

What would be the reason that the starter would not crank if the engine is warm? Faulty solenoid? Starter motor itself? I checked the battery terminals, and they are clean and tight. I haven't yet crawled underneath, but I intend to tomorrow.

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Old 08-05-2012, 06:16 PM   #2
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Year, model, mileage?

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Old 08-05-2012, 06:33 PM   #3
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

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Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Year, model, mileage?

Sorry: 1999, SL2, 143k

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Old 08-05-2012, 06:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

If the engine won't even try to crank, I would already suspect the starter since you said it only happens intermittently and when the car is hot. If the car is hot and will not start, you can always try the old hammer trick by hitting the starter with a hammer. If the starter will then crank the engine after its' beating, then it is time for a new starter. Do you know if it has ever been changed before? If not, around 140k is when my original starter went, too, so all of the information you already gave makes me think it is the suspect.

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Old 08-05-2012, 06:56 PM   #5
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

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If the engine won't even try to crank, I would already suspect the starter since you said it only happens intermittently and when the car is hot. If the car is hot and will not start, you can always try the old hammer trick by hitting the starter with a hammer. If the starter will then crank the engine after its' beating, then it is time for a new starter. Do you know if it has ever been changed before? If not, around 140k is when my original starter went, too, so all of the information you already gave makes me think it is the suspect.
That's kind of what I've been suspecting. I've had the car since 111k, and the starter hasn't been replaced by me, don't know about previous owners.

I got the car home after bump starting it (so glad I got a standard!), and in the garage, it did crank, but it was weak. I'm going to double check the wiring, just to make sure it isn't something stupid like a loose or corroded wire, but if not, time to replace.

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Old 08-05-2012, 08:21 PM   #6
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

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Originally Posted by melinuxfool View Post
I got the car home after bump starting it (so glad I got a standard!), and in the garage, it did crank, but it was weak. I'm going to double check the wiring, just to make sure it isn't something stupid like a loose or corroded wire, but if not, time to replace.
Sounds like a great plan of attack to me. If you were able to bump start it and get it home, it pretty much seals the deal except for a loose wire, as you suspected. If you do decide to get a new starter, I will pass along a place that OldNuc recommended. DB Electrical's Website I got both my new alternator and starter from there and they are both working great, and they are much cheaper then the parts stores (by $75+, actually). Also, if you are replacing the starter yourself, take heed that the two starter bots are a pain to get off, and it will probably take you an hour or two to get off because of how awkward of a place they are in. Other helpful advice on the forum is to replace the starter bolts with intake manifold studs to make it easier to get off in the future.

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Old 08-05-2012, 09:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Yeah, I remember it being a bit of a pain in the butt when I had to do it on my 96 Saturn (may she rest in piece). Definitely felt kind of blind when I did it then.

But hey, these cars are still a heck of a lot easier to work on then some. My mother has a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan with a 3.3L V6. Talk about cramped!

At any rate, I may try disassembling the starter and giving it a cleaning as I've seen suggested in some other threads.

Nothing to lose by trying it anyway. If it works, wonderful! If not, I'll park on a hill until payday.

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Old 09-04-2012, 02:44 PM   #8
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Well, a new starter did not fix the problem, evidently.

I put a new starter in, and she has been starting fine ever since... until today.

I got in a traffic jam (something that doesn't happen often in Maine), so a lot of stop and go and idling. The car did not overheat. I go to walmart, come out in about 5 minutes, and it won't crank.

I had left the fan on, and noticed that it was not coming on when I turned the key to ON. After about 5 minutes of sitting there, I turned the key and it started right up. But the ABS and Traction lights would come on for a bit, and then turn off.

I am thinking that there is some weird electrical issue going on here, any suggestions?

...
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Old 09-04-2012, 04:43 PM   #9
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Terminal f-5 on the inside fuse block maybe? Do a search on it.

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Old 09-05-2012, 02:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

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Originally Posted by bluesl2 View Post
Terminal f-5 on the inside fuse block maybe? Do a search on it.
Well, I pulled out the 10 amp chime fuse referenced in some of those posts, and there was a smidgen of black (darker than normal) on the terminals. The fuse itself isn't blown. The car starts with it just fine under normal circumstances. The issue only manifests itself after driving in stop and go traffic or up a long steep grade (like when I went up Cadillac Mountain). It doesn't seem like the electrical systems should care about that.

I can avoid the mountains, but I can't avoid city driving altogether, unfortunately.

...
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:19 PM   #11
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

I'd pull the big connector off the back of the inside fuse block and have a look see at that.

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Old 09-05-2012, 05:02 PM   #12
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Well, one way to check the starting circuit, if its suspect, will require crawling under the engine to measure the START signal for 12v, the signal from the ignition switch when its turned to the START position. 12v is sent through wiring from the ignition switch to the starter solenoid's small gauge purple wire connected to the starter solenoid. Disconnecting this wire from the starter will make testing the starting circuit safer than leaving it attached to the starter otherwise you'll be in for a rude awakening. To ensure the engine won't fire up, remove the IGN and FUEL pump fuses to disable the engine EFI system from letting the engine run. All you're trying to do is test the starting circuit for complete system reliability, nothing more. This starting circuit test can be done at any time and may be better when done after a thorough engine warm up. You'll have to exercise caution against hot engine parts when locating and pulling this wire off the starter.

Once the wire is disconnected, have someone turn the ignition switch to the START position as you measure the wire for 12v. Voltage should be on this wire as long as the ignition switch is held in the START position. Releasing the ignition switch should remove 12v from the wire. You can test the STARTING circuit as many times to ensure nothing is interrupting this cycle to suggest something wrong in this circuit. Cycle the ignition switch as many times as needed. Once you are convinced the starting circuit is not an issue, move on with other troubleshooting.

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Old 09-12-2012, 03:03 PM   #13
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

An update. A long process this has been, busy with school, work, and other things. But I am 99.99% certain the issue is with that chime fuse (terminal F-5 in the fuse box).

At first I looked at the starter circuit, and could fathom why, since it wasn't listed anywhere there, but then I noticed the RKE module in the circuit (which I had forgotten that my Saturn does have), and that it gets its power through the Chime fuse. An open in the RKE module would prevent the Relay from activating, and thereby prevent the starter from cranking.

So my determined course of action:

1. Clean and fix the terminal f-5
2. Bypass that damn starter relay to take it out of the equation altogether.

How does it sound to y'all?

...
99 Saturn SL2

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Old 09-12-2012, 05:24 PM   #14
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Default Re: Intermittent no-start issue when warm

Sure seems like a way to go. Just keep an open mind if there are problems.

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