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Old 03-05-2010, 10:39 AM   #1
jonnycube
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1997 SL2
Default Buzzing relay

When I turn the key to the on position on my '95 SL2, the relay in the fuse box under the hood that is closest to the back of the car buzzes randomly. Observe:

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

More significantly, the engine won't turn and the car won't start. I suspect the starter since I have power and kick-starting didn't work, and I'm going to try jumping the starter itself.

This buzzing just struck me as strange, and I wondered if anyone had insight. Swapping the relay has no effect - it buzzes just the same.
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Old 03-05-2010, 10:52 AM   #2
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

Look inside the lid of the fuse box. There is a identifier in there. The relay is suffering from low voltage. Battery cable at the battery or the red lead at the fuse box are prime suspects right now. Check them and clean them if required.


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Originally Posted by jonnycube View Post
When I turn the key to the on position on my '95 SL2, the relay in the fuse box under the hood that is closest to the back of the car buzzes randomly. Observe:

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

More significantly, the engine won't turn and the car won't start. I suspect the starter since I have power and kick-starting didn't work, and I'm going to try jumping the starter itself.

This buzzing just struck me as strange, and I wondered if anyone had insight. Swapping the relay has no effect - it buzzes just the same.
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Old 03-05-2010, 11:39 AM   #3
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1997 SL2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

Let me describe the problem more fully.

When I turn the key to the on position, the dash lights flicker. In this video you can see that when I turn the key, the lights flicker and in the background you can hear the relay buzzing (it's the cooling fan relay). When I try to start the car, the lights go out and nothing happens, but the dash flickers to life again when I release the key.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxq8DP976Vw

OldNuc, I checked the connections and there was a bit of corrosion around the positive terminal. I cleaned it off, and the lights don't flicker on and off constantly like they used to. Now they do what's in the video - they flicker and then stay on.

I can hear the starter go for a split second sometimes, but the engine never turns.

Even when the key is out of the car, sometimes there is a light tapping sound coming from the area of the radiator (as best I can tell). If I disconnect the battery, all sounds stop.

Is it even possible that this has anything to do with the starter, or is this something else?
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Old 03-05-2010, 12:00 PM   #4
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

Its an electrical problem. Most likely not the starter. Both the positive and negative battery cables need to be clean and uncorroded. You can gently peel back the plastic covers after removing the bolts and check the condition of the crimp at the cable. They corrode inside this crimp connection and you have the problem you are experiencing. Your problems are almost always at the battery cables or the battery itself. This may also be caused by a bad ground at the battery negative terminal so check it also.
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Old 03-05-2010, 12:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

Thanks for ruling out the starter. I would have wasted a lot of effort replacing it.

I'm going to do as you say and clean all the connections thoroughly. You lost me when you started talking about gently peeling back plastic covers.

Both cables are disconnected from the battery, and I can clean the exposed metal. They're protected by a rubbery/plasticy covering (red and black) that looks permanent to me, no way to gently peel back anything. Am I misunderstanding you? It is necessary to remove this covering to clean the connections completely?
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Old 03-05-2010, 12:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

Don't answer - I got the bolts out. I had to be vigorous, in fact, rather than gentle, but they came out. Thank you, and I'll keep you posted about how the cleaning goes.
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Old 03-05-2010, 02:17 PM   #7
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

I cleaned the battery connections, and things are better still. The lights still flicker a bit, but when I try to start the car I get a firm clicking sound. Once it even clicked a couple times.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmI-deN_DCk

Knowing of nothing else to do, I'm going to jump the starter.
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Old 03-05-2010, 02:28 PM   #8
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

I'm replacing the starter.

It made a series of steady knocking sounds when I jumped it, then it went "click" and stopped. It's locked up. It's a Bosch with a lifetime warranty, so I'll get it replaced tomorrow when I'm able to drive again.

Thank you, OldNuc, as always, for your patience and for sharing your wisdom.
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Old 03-05-2010, 02:56 PM   #9
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

The flickering lights are not cause by the starter. The starter could also be defective. As it is a Bosch starter it is immediately suspect. The light issue in just the on position and not crank is a problem.
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Old 03-05-2010, 04:38 PM   #10
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

You're right, of course, as usual. My problem is that I'm also taking advice from my father-in-law, who is also is usually right (about cars), and he insists it's simply the starter. Since I get a new one for free, and I don't mind doing the work (I like gaining the experience), I'm just going to replace it and go from there.

The flickering lights are worrisome, though. It's nice that cleaning the connections helped, but I don't know where to go from there. Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.
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Old 03-05-2010, 07:10 PM   #11
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

Hard to tell without looking at it but the ignition switch is one place. After it gets dark see if the dash lights flicker if you just turn on the parking lights with the key OFF. If they are solid when the parking lights are turned on with the key off then it is probably the ignition switch.
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Old 03-06-2010, 11:38 AM   #12
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

Things are looking up. I put in the new starter and the car starts now, but only when I jump it. Pep Boys tested the old starter and it was dead - it wouldn't do anything but make a loud click when they tried it.

Here's the theory: The starter died and somehow took the battery down with it. (It's a cheap Walmart battery that's over four years old.) Thus the dim, flickering lights and, as you said, OldNuc, the relay not getting enough voltage. I'll test it today with a good battery, and if all is well, I'll buy a new battery and call it a day.
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Old 03-06-2010, 06:05 PM   #13
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

The only part left is the battery. If you get it to start with jumper cables then you have proved the battery bad as you have cleaned the cables.
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Old 03-06-2010, 06:54 PM   #14
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

New battery, new starter, everything is good as new.

The reason the diagnosis was confusing was because I was assuming only one thing broke - either the battery or the starter. It was both.

Hooray for happy endings.
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Old 03-06-2010, 10:15 PM   #15
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

It is entirely possible to have multiple failures. Now that you have a good battery run by the parts store and get the alternator tested in place. A bad alternator will kill la good battery and then you get to buy both of them.

Now you can at least drive somewhere and get back.
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:56 PM   #16
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Default Re: Buzzing relay

My fuel pump relay sometimes makes that sound in my 95 SL2.
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Old 03-08-2010, 04:39 PM   #17
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Buzzing relay

There is a failure that occurs to the I/P fuse panel that will cause that. Check the dome lamp by leaving the door open when you flip the key to on and see if the dome lamp is also dim or flickering.
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