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Old 01-17-2021, 09:49 AM   #1
Nigey
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2007 AURA XE
2002 SL2
Default Saturn Aura -not starting, checked threads, but questions....

First, thanks to the many people who post invaluable knowledge on these boards. My 2007 3.5L Saturn Aura didn't start yesterday. The symptoms are just a click when I turn the ignition key, with the engine not turning over. Lights come on, and I also tried a portable car starter to make sure it's not an issue with providing enough electrical power to the car.

Looking through the threads on this forum, the general opinions seem to be a seized engine (gulp!), bad battery or alternator not charging battery, faulty starter, faulty ground connection, bad transmission gear selector switch or faulty relay (or bad connection).

My question is:

If I hear a noticeable click, can I safely assume power is getting to the starter? I.e. can I discount all other issues excluding a bad starter?

I bought a starter motor as my first thought was this was the issue. However, if I can confirm it's something other than that, then clearly I don't want to install it and I can take the part back for a refund. My current approach is the following:

i. check battery voltage -though I tend not to think this could be an issue as I tried a portable car starter
ii. check engine is not seized -check oil, attempt to turn engine over at crankshaft pulley (I'm very hopeful this isn't the problem, but for a couple of minutes it's worth checking)
iii. check relay for starter and test
vi. remove battery terminals and clean and test
v. check ground connection -though I'm loathe to remove and clean it if it looks OK, sometimes I think you can cause more issues by attempting to clean and reinstall electrical stuff.
vi. check connections to starter and test (though I would think if I hear the solenoid click connections are ok).
vii. install replacement starter and test!

If anyone has any comments or advice on this approach, I would appreciate it. I will post back with results.
...
2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 L LZ4 V6
2002 Saturn SL2 1.9L (manual)
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Old 01-17-2021, 10:29 AM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn Aura -not starting, checked threads, but questions....

There are several assumptions made for the following definitive test of a faulty starter; battery, battery cables and their connections (red cable to engine fuse box and starter, negative cables to chassis and engine block). Anyone can test battery and starter without the ignition key; bypassing the ignition switch and electronics by simply shorting two terminals on the starter - the small 'S' terminal to the large terminal with two wires (red battery cable and fusible link wire going to the alternator). Every 12v starter can be tested easily this way whether using a remote starter switch with a pair of alligator clips or using a screwdriver/needle nose pliers/any steel tool to short the two closely spaced terminals on the starter solenoid.

Jacking up the front left or right side to crawl under and locate the starter requires engaging the parking brake and xmission in park. Assured the xmission is in park position to prevent vehicle movement when testing a starter, there's an element of risk here. A remote start switch with a 5 or 10 feet length of wires and alligator clips can make this safer. A homemade switch with lamp cord (18 gauge) with or without a momentary push button can work. Alligator clips connected to each wire is clipped onto the starter terminals, the other ends stripped to expose 1/4 inch of bare wires (each twisted) and touched together acts as a manual power switch - applying 12v from the starter red battery cable to the smaller 'S terminal. The S terminal connects to the starter solenoid to power it immediately, beginning the starter sequence of engaging the starter gear to flywheel then powering the starter motor when two large internal electrical contacts close to send battery power to the starter motor. This all occurs immediately as soon as the two remote start wires are connected together or a screwdriver shorts the two terminals together. Every experienced garage mechanic knows this trick when short cutting troubleshooting a no start problem. A few diyers know this too. Bypassing the ignition switch and wiring associated with the igntion switch, electrical and electronics, to manually test battery and starter can eliminate many things to unfamiliar diyers.
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Old 01-17-2021, 11:10 AM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn Aura -not starting, checked threads, but questions....

Thanks for the response fdryer. Wayyyy back in my youth I tested this way, but given the location of the starter, I thought it was safer and almost as easy just to install a replacement.

However, do you know if a click is not indicative of a faulty ground, transmission switch, relay etc? I'd be curious to know (see my next post).
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2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 L LZ4 V6
2002 Saturn SL2 1.9L (manual)
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Old 01-17-2021, 11:25 AM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn Aura -not starting, checked threads, but questions....

OK, the car is started.... How did I get there? Here is a cautionary note:

First, let me say I'm a big believer in don't do all the work for something until you are pretty much 100% sure or have no other options before you commit.

Based on that, I tested the battery -it was less than 10v using a multimeter. This made me pause for thought; I really thought the battery would be OK and my first guess would be the starter motor. Next I clipped on my portable starter, fully expecting the voltage to be north of 12v. It wasn't....

This now really puzzled me -I knew the portable starter was fully charged. I tried wiggling the clamps, and.... voila, all of a sudden I could read 12.5-12.6v. I jumped in the car, turned the key, and the engine started up no problem. I removed the portable charger and left the car running to charge. Keep in mind I'd tried twice the previous night with no success, but my paltry excuse is that it was dark.

Anyway, the moral of the story is try to get a voltage reading as opposed to just thinking you are getting power. I also tried the voltage reading when the alternator was under load and got 13.6-13.9v indication, so I'm guessing at least my alternator is fine.

So next up is if I need a new battery, have a troublesome short or don't need anything at all*. I've left the car in the driveway and will see if I can start it tomorrow after a fairly mild New England winter's night. I looked very carefully to make sure there were no interior/exterior lights on. I'm not entirely sure if I need a new battery* so we'll see how it holds its charge.


*my kids drive this car, and have a horrible habit of putting the interior light on and texting on the phone when they pull into the driveway or changing the lights from auto to on. You can imagine what happens. They said they didn't but, well, let me just say I'm not 100% convinced even though no lights were on and the lights were on auto when I looked at the car. I've also seen one of my kids get out of the car and leave the car door ajar without realizing. Yeah, I know....
...
2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 L LZ4 V6
2002 Saturn SL2 1.9L (manual)
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Old 01-17-2021, 02:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn Aura -not starting, checked threads, but questions....

Your only clue to avoid the under car starter test was rechecking battery voltage again. Anytime battery voltage drops below 12.5v is cause for concern. Power starts at the battery then flows thru cables to the starter from electrical/electronic controls. When you checked battery voltage again and measured 10.5v, the battery is suspect. Alternators always supply higher than battery voltage in order to recharge it while simultaneously supplying all the electricity for the vehicle. The test not suggested unless well versed in electrical applications of disconnecting battery negative right after engine startup either results in the engine continually running from the alternator or the engine dying immediately from a dead/faulty one. It's not recommended but can be an alternate troubleshooting method if a multimeter isn't available. Normal alternator output between 13.5v-15v with an average of 14.5v is considered a good alternator. Output below 13v is cause for concern for the alternator and drive belt tension.

The best way to determine if your battery is good is measuring battery voltage the next day before starting. Any charge should have held at 12.5v. Below 12.5v is an indication of either a dead/dying battery or its deeply discharged and needs recharging before testing it again. Preferably by auto store battery load testers deliberately loading a battery to test its ability to output current. Good batteries measure the same voltage prior to load testing while end of life batteries drop voltages below 11 volts. A load test is around 100 amps applied for around 15-30 seconds then measuring voltage as the battery recovers itself. The starter test is everyone's diy home test without familiarity with how batteries can be tested in other ways. This assumes battery cables and connections are clean, secured and free of corrosion.
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