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Old 10-12-2009, 06:42 PM   #1
kmancrx
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Default Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

98 SW2 5sp. So after being back and forth with the mechanic we replaced the multicontrol light switch. I did the job yesterday and the car seemed to run okay except it stalled once and the odometer did not light up. Then today she took the car and made it too work but then when she tried to come home the car would not start if any of the lights were engaged (brake, headlight etc). It would start if the lights were off but as soon as you hit the brake or the put car was in reverse it would die. So I pulled the light fuses and we made it home with no lights (I was driving behind her). When I got home I hooked up the jumper cables to my car (the acura) and it started fine and did not die when I used any of the lights. One other thing...the low coolant light has been flashing but the car has coolant and the temperature guage reads a normal temp. Any ideas? What a headache.

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Old 10-12-2009, 07:33 PM   #2
SLCraig
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

Wow, that really sounds like some messy wiring problem...

Have you ever had a problem with the ignition? Often, when the ign switch goes out, it burns up the ground wire and from what I have read on here, in some cases, takes out some of the other surrounding wires.

Not sure that would affect the coolant level light, that could simply be a dirty sensor or fouled connector, I'd take off the expansion tank and clean it up, shake the tank for the click in the float.

Hope that gives you a baseline to start with..

...
1996 SL2 5MT
1997 SL1 5MT
2000 SW2 5MT
All gone, but not forgotten.

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Old 10-12-2009, 07:58 PM   #3
Tofutti
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

In addition to the above post, a bad/burnt ground will also force current through other electrical systems' grounds, shorting them of power, as different wire gauges/sizes are made to only carry certain amounts of amperage. Certainly a good starting point for investigation.

Work right from the battery. Check the Negative wire there at both ends. (on the battery and on the engine block) Also check any wires that spur off, like if there's one that branches off to an inner-fender or strut-tower, etc. Then somewhere in there there might/should be something connecting from the block or maybe even the tranny to the sub-frame, either a heavy cable almost the same size as what comes out of the battery or a flat, weaved, ribbon-style, bare-metal sort-of cable. (I'm not intimately familiar with Saturns specifically, but most all electrical systems I've worked on are mostly the same.) Any fault in any of these cables can and will cause issues, especially when the problem is near the source (the battery). As all of the vehicles systems are demanding power, that power is forced to route around the problem (the path of least resistance) and those pathways may not be adequate enough to handle the current, forcing less-demanding systems to starve.

Just my two cents. Disregard if you please.

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Old 10-12-2009, 08:30 PM   #4
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

We started pulling all of the light fuses and adding them one at a time. If you run only one headlight the car will stay on. If you run two the it dies. The rest of the lights will also kill the car. When all of the light fuses are pulled the corner marker lights are on but only very dim. I am getting very frustrated with this junker.

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Old 10-13-2009, 12:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

There seems to certainly be an issue with the vehicle getting power. Have you also checked your alternator? If it's just not putting out enough and the battery can't handle it either (from not getting charged by the alternator) then these things can/will happen. If you put a DVOM (Digital Volt-Ohm Meter) on the battery terminals while the car runs on it's own, without jumpercables , you should get at least 13.7volts. Try that and see what happens. It will either be the battery or the alternator. In the worst case, if all is OK, you will be stuck chasing ground wires around like I said earlier.

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Old 10-13-2009, 05:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

I will hook up the voltmeter later this evening an see what I get.

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Old 10-13-2009, 09:46 AM   #7
SoCol
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tofutti View Post
There seems to certainly be an issue with the vehicle getting power. Have you also checked your alternator? If it's just not putting out enough and the battery can't handle it either (from not getting charged by the alternator) then these things can/will happen. If you put a DVOM (Digital Volt-Ohm Meter) on the battery terminals while the car runs on it's own, without jumpercables , you should get at least 13.7volts. Try that and see what happens. It will either be the battery or the alternator. In the worst case, if all is OK, you will be stuck chasing ground wires around like I said earlier.
Alternator is what I was going to sugges, too. Sounds like possibly you're getting just enough juice to run the engine, but when anything else draws power it dies... Have you tried other accesories?? Will it stay running with the stereo on, or A/C, rear window defogger, etc....?

Keep us posted, especially if you figure it out! Could help if someone in the future has a similar problem..

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Old 10-13-2009, 09:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

I hooked up the voltmeter. The voltage between the battery terminals checked out good (12.75 off and 14.4 off). The voltage between the battery/body and battery/engine all checked out good (12.75V) when the car was off. So I don't think it is a ground wire issue.

To address the other posts. It does not die when the other components are used (ie. stereo, wipers, AC). It only dies when the headlights, backup light or breaklights are engaged. Like I stated before we replaced the multifunction light switch. So I am at a loss. Thank for the input so far.

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Old 12-25-2009, 07:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

Yes it's been a while since I've been back here, but still curious, have you found the issue? At the point where the thread left off, it was beginning to go beyond my scope of knowledge specific to Saturns. I was going to suggest maybe checking the wiring from both the leads (+) and the grounds on both headlights back to whatever fuse/junction box they get fed from. A ground fault in that area *could* also cause similar issues without letting you see it while checking block/chassis etc. Try reading impedance from the ground pole of each headlight connector back to the battery ground. In vehicles that don't negative ground-switch there should be close to none. (again, not familiar with Saturns, may be they do this. If you find they do, then check (+) pole back to (+) battery) Also, if the main leads to the headlights have been chaffed/worn in any place where they pass through/along/by other metal parts of the car, they can "ground out" causing a massive current draw, and if for some strange reason it's not blowing the fuse when you activate the circuit (turn them on), that would also starve the car of power and present with same symptoms. Keep us posted!

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Old 12-26-2009, 01:00 AM   #10
stevestar99
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Default Re: Strange Electrical Problems... Any Ideas?

This is going to sound stupid, but you may have a shorted tail light. (I had one and I wouldn't have believed it until I pulled the bulb out and it stop killing the car). Pull the tail light bulbs out and see what happens.

Last edited by stevestar99; 12-26-2009 at 01:05 AM..

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