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Old 10-26-2017, 10:27 PM   #1
Ace of Sevens
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Default Starting issues

I have a 2001 Saturn SC2. It has a problem when it sometimes cranks, but won't start. It starts fine cold and it starts fine hot, but if I run it, then leave for 90 minutes or so, it won't start. When I first start up, it sounds a bit rough and can die when I stop at stop signs and such. Switching into park to keep the engine speed up keeps in alive. Once it heats up, it runs fine.

I had trouble figuring this out on my own, so took it to a mechanic, who said I needed a tune-up. I replaced the spark plugs & wires. It made no difference. I took it to another mechanic, who said he smelled coolant in the exhaust and it was a bad head gasket. That seemed unlikely as I and a friend replaced the engine about 30K miles ago and put in a brand new head gasket and nothing has happened to it that I would think would cause problems. Also, I wasn't losing coolant. I added Bar's gasket sealant to the radiator and did that whole process. Symptoms are unchanged. I also put additives in the fuel to clean the injectors.

So far, the behavior hasn't changed no matter what I do? Can anyone suggest what's causing this or additional trouble shooting steps?

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Old 10-27-2017, 12:16 AM   #2
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Starting issues

The first mechanic may be the only one to give free advice, not making any money from you because you did the basics first. A good first try to see if a tune up helps.

The second mechanic may be on a fishing expedition into how much you have in your wallet for a blank bill he can try padding with guesses. Stay away from those types.

With a few posts already made, were there any suggestions in the other posts about removing/examining the coolant sensor for damage? All original round nosed plastic sensors fail (cracking) in the S-series engines and send incorrect signals to the pcm that's fooled into seeing a frozen engine. The pcm responds with a rich fuel mixture all the time, flooding sometimes on startups and runs the engine above idle rpm all the time (>1k rpm). Normal warm idle is between 650-900 rpm. Cold engine startup around 1200 rpm. The flat nosed brass sensor fixes this problem permanently. A tell tale indicator is the temperature gauge hovering over the 1/4 mark.
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Old 10-27-2017, 01:12 AM   #3
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1998 SL2
Default Re: Starting issues

Prior owner ran without oil and now you have a bent or burnt exahust valve

...
98 SL2
5th gear swap- .643 gear
245,000 miles
215/45 17"
I burn about a quart about every 1500 miles.

If it ain't broke, fix it some more.

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Old 10-27-2017, 10:50 AM   #4
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Default Re: Starting issues

I actually paid a lot to the first mechanic (who was also removing a broken alternator bolt) and nothing to the second. It did flood early on, which got a bit of gas in the oil, which I haven't changed yet as wanted to make sure I can fix the engine before I pour a bunch more effort into it. The temperature gauge seems to work and generally ends up a hair over half in normal operation.

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Old 10-27-2017, 11:50 AM   #5
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Starting issues

There's a misunderstanding where you stated "I replaced the spark plugs & wires".

Was the coolant sensor ever replaced? Not knowing the answer and still seeing the temperature gauge needle going up to the half way mark may be misleading to anyone and not helpful in determining where this problem lies. A more accurate way to determine coolant operating temperatures; thermometer, infrared probe or reader displaying coolant temps. It cannot be stressed enough about the S-series original coolant sensor failures creating many issues. Ignoring this can mislead you and anyone attempting to help with second guessing. When you generalize without specific information, help can become delayed.

What's mileage on this engine, fuel filter ever replaced, fuel pressure, throttle ever cleaned warm idle rpm? These are a few questions to ask as no one here is standing next to your car to assess what's wrong and rely on you to provide all info.

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Old 10-27-2017, 09:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Starting issues

The engine has about 145K on it, I think. The odometer reads more, but this was a replacement with lower mileage. It was done about 28K ago, I believe. We did not mess with the coolant sensor, fuel filter or throttle when doing the engine replacement. Idle speed when the car is warm is about 700-800 RPM.

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Old 10-28-2017, 07:12 AM   #7
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Default Re: Starting issues

The fuel rail has pressure even if it won't start, but I don't have the tools to measure it.

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Old 10-28-2017, 10:14 AM   #8
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Starting issues

Are you near Autozone to borrow a fuel pressure gauge? Free loaners against a credit card, removed when tools are returned intact.

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Old 10-30-2017, 12:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Starting issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Are you near Autozone to borrow a fuel pressure gauge? Free loaners against a credit card, removed when tools are returned intact.
I tried compression testing first. It built to 90-100 psi and stayed there on socket 1 after several trials. The engine was cold when I tested it, but I otherwise was following protocol. Does this mean bad head gasket?

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Old 10-30-2017, 02:08 AM   #10
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Starting issues

90-100 psi is well below 185 psi for a normal engine. What does the spark plug tell you? There's some science in reading spark plugs by looking up plug wear charts with pictures to show every possibility of how an engine wears. It doesn't matter whether the engine is cold or warm. What are the other compression values?

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Old 10-30-2017, 02:56 AM   #11
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Default Re: Starting issues

And when I tried the other sockets, 2 got 90-60, 3 got 60-70 and 4 got 30-40. Since each one got lower, thinking running out the battery may be an issue. I'm currently charging it & will retest.

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Old 10-31-2017, 12:56 AM   #12
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Default Re: Starting issues

With those very low compression numbers, keep notes. After charging the battery, squirt some motor oil into each cylinder, remove the fuel pump fuse to prevent fuel injection diluting the oil and run another set of compression tests. From initial testing, this seems to be a very tired, worn engine with very low compression, a reason for poor starting and running.

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Old 10-31-2017, 09:43 AM   #13
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Starting issues

Remove the PCM B fuse to disable BOTH the fuel pump AND ignition spark. Firing the plugs when the plugs are out of the engine and removed from the plug wires is incredibly hard on the coils and plug wires.

Removing just the FUEL PUMP fuse is only half of the job.

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Old 11-02-2017, 10:09 PM   #14
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Default Re: Starting issues

Got weird results. 70-75 on 1, 3 & 4. 130 on 2. I wasn't doing anything different than last time other than the battery charge, pulling the PCM B fuse and putting a bit of oil in, but 1 is a lower result than before. I checked all these several times.

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Old 11-02-2017, 10:47 PM   #15
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Starting issues

This second engine is worn out and the reason for no starts, very poor starts and rough running. Loss of compression won't allow to make power and is making very little with compression below 185 psi in each cylinder. Three very low compression numbers below 100 psi means worn piston rings and/or valves. The fourth cylinder with 130 psi is still below recommended minimums, 185 psi. Other than removing the cylinder head to examine what's there, you're probably looking for another engine or rebuilding this one.

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Old 11-02-2017, 11:47 PM   #16
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Starting issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace of Sevens View Post
Got weird results. 70-75 on 1, 3 & 4. 130 on 2. I wasn't doing anything different than last time other than the battery charge, pulling the PCM B fuse and putting a bit of oil in, but 1 is a lower result than before. I checked all these several times.
IF you screw the compression tester into the spark plug hole past the point where the o-ring just contacts the head it will leak and you will get funny numbers.

To prevent washing the cylinders down with fuel remove the PCM B fuse to shut off the fuel pump, injectors, and ignition before starting the test. Remove all spark plugs and block the throttle open. Use a low charge rate battery charger to fully charge the battery before conducting the test.

Crank the engine until the gauge quits increasing and compare both the final pressure and number of compression strokes to reach the max pressure, cylinder to cylinder. You can do this test either cold or hot or warm just mention it when stating results.

For example if you find all cylinders produce a final reading of 200psi but the compression cycles are as follows: 1-8, 2-6, 3-8, 4-14 then it should be obvious that cylinder #4 has a serious problem with leakage past either the valves or compression rings.

FSM states the MINIMUM number of compression cycles is 10 and a Fully charged battery is required to obtain the full 250RPM cranking speed.

Nominal compression for a high mileage good condition DOHC is 190-220psi and SOHC is 175-205psi.


Be sure the throttle is blocked open and the compression tester is not tightened too far.

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