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Old 05-17-2009, 03:06 PM   #1
jdustinstone
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1998 SL2
Default Can't find the answer - 1998 SL2 stalls abruptly (randomly)

First off, I know this is my first post, but i have searched extremely extensively for answers to this problem and so far, no joy. First, i'll state the problem and then i'll state what i've found by searching that might be the cause. Please let me know what i've missed, I'm sure the answer is out there.

My wife drives a 1998 SL2 with approx 140k miles on it. She was driving about 35 mph yesterday when she said the car abruptly quit, no sputtering or gradual loss of power, just stopped running...no lights on the dash, nothing. It was as if she had turned the ignition off. She coasted to the side of the road, tried to immediately restart and the engine cranked, but no ignition. Sat for a few minutes, and then tried again, at which time the engine did fire and the car idled for about 10 seconds before abruptly shutting off again...again, no sputtering or hesitation, just died. At this point I'm thinking maybe a CPS sensor. I drove to her, trader her cars and then i sat in hers. Started it up, it idled just fine for about 10 minutes. I revved it a little, no problems, ran like always. then, out of nowhere, while idling, it just quit. This time though, the dashboard lights stayed on, so it was getting power. I DID notice that when i tried to crank it up again, it clicked like the battery wasn't charged up enough, but eventually engaged the starter. Cranked for about 10 seconds and no fire. At this point I'm thinking maybe a bad alternator, or a loose battery connection. I waited 5 minutes, then tried again, and she fired right up, no problems. I decided t risk it, and got back into traffic and exited the highway, and miraculously made it all the way home with no problems. I haven't tried to drive it today, been researching all day on what could be the problem. Other things I've considered are the following:

CPS (but from what i've read, this only affects trying to start the car again after already being warmed up, but has no effect on it if the engine is already running - waiting on car to fail again to do the spark test on the ignition module)
Fuel Pump (but i hear it running when i turn the key to ON)
Fuel Pump Relay (could a bad relay cause the engine to abruptly quit with no sputter or hesitation?)
Loose wire to the PCM (read somewhere that this could be a cause)
ECTS (read that this needs to be upgraded, but not sure if it applies to this problem)

The only things I have replaced in the past are the O2 sensor (before catalytic converter) and the water pump. I really feel like this is an electrical problem and not a fuel problem, due to the immediate nature of the shutdowns, but my shadetree mechanic status reminds me of a Charlie Brown Christmas.


I'm about to buy a bunch of stuff at the parts store and just start replacing things, because i have so little time to get this fixed.. Any ideas are so much appreciated, I am trying to avoid spending more than the car is worth at this point. Thanks so much.

Dustin

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Old 05-17-2009, 04:51 PM   #2
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Default Re: Can't find the answer - 1998 SL2 stalls abruptly (randomly)

1-Replace the ects if the original one is still in there. Pictures are in the How-to library to compare the old one with the brass replacement. It doesn't have anything to do with the engine dying but is important to a reliable engine, for starting all year and for better fuel economy.

2-The fuel pump relay isn't going to fail randomly but you can simply replace it with either a new one or swap it with another relay nearby like the horn(?) relay.

3-A fuel pump can be a possibility but very difficult to prove other than leaving a fuel pressure gauge semi-permanantly hooked up to the fuel test valve and monitoring it while driving around. You'll prove it failed only if the pressure suddenly drops followed by the engine dying. It won't be the fuel pump if the engine dies and the pressure remains.

4-The cps failing intermittently can be tested using the spark test at the moment the engine dies.

5-PCM wiring is usually not an issue since its the main computer and put in a place where its least disturbed. If the various sensors fail, the PCM will act as if it was the cause of the problems when its more likely the sensors causing it. The ects and cps are examples of sensors affecting PCM operation.

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Old 05-17-2009, 05:28 PM   #3
jdustinstone
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Default Re: Can't find the answer - 1998 SL2 stalls abruptly (randomly)

I did run across one other possibility, that being either a bad ignition module, or a bad coil. I have taken those out to try and find a place to test them.

Would a faulty CPS cause an engine to quit suddenly at the time of fault, or would that only affect starting the engine?

I was thinking about the battery situation and how it was acting like it was dead when i tried to restart, before engaging the starter.. I wonder if I have a short somewhere that would kill the engine when it's actually shorting out. That might also explain why it acted like it was dead and not engaging the starter. Does this era or Saturn (1998 SL) have a history of shorting out anywhere? If that's what's happening, it's just a matter of narrowing down a location.

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Old 05-17-2009, 05:53 PM   #4
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Default Re: Can't find the answer - 1998 SL2 stalls abruptly (randomly)

You're over analyzing issues. A power problem related to the battery would be the battery, battery cables, and their connections. Simply put, what's the age and state of the battery? Has it been tested if its over 4yrs old? Inspected the battery cables for any kind of corrosion? Removed the cables to clean them off and if severly corroded, cleaned them with a baking soda solution mixed with warm water using a toothbrush to dissolve and neutralize any powdery deposits? Then peeled back the terminal covers to reveal whether or not the copper wires have been eaten away from a prior/present battery that has a cracked side terminal leaking battery acid into the cables? Inspected the other ends of the battery cables for corrosion? This is battery and battery cable maintenance. If you suspect a power problem, this is what you'll have to do to eliminate 12v power distribution. Next is the alternator and the belt system. Systematic methods are needed to isolate problems with a plan in place.

An intermittent cps can and does fault out in many instances. Read past threads in the S-series and L-series forums for just this scenario. The intermittent nature of a failing cps is the worse type of failure as it occurs randomly. Usually its heat related as it begins to falter. Heat, cold, and vibration affects everything. The spark test when the engine dies can verify it otherwise it may be cheaper to replace it outright. Check prices online before going out to your local store and paying higher prices. Some cps' are less expensive than others. My L300 cps is over $100 .

Keep in mind that there's always a possibility of more than one problem.

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