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Old 04-24-2015, 07:18 PM   #1
jvarnes
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1999 SL2
Default Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

Hey Saturn Fans! So I have a 1999 Saturn SL2 and I'm having some starting issues as you can tell from the title LOL.

I'm a bit uneducated when it comes to auto stuff, but thanks to YouTube videos and such I've managed to roll my sleeves up and get dirty when needed and save myself very much needed cash over the years so I'm hoping I can do that again. ANY help or advice is GREATLY appreciated by me and my family. (You know how it is to live paycheck to paycheck sigh)

Anyway I have a bad habit at lunch time of shutting the car off, setting the key in run, rolling down the windows and listening to the radio for 15 minutes or so each day. The other day the car didn't want start after "lunch" - it just clicked. Waited a bit and to my relief she started up. Figured I was draining the battery down sitting around listening to the radio so I decided I better watch that. Well this morning I had to stop at a store and when I came out damn thing happened again so I thought "well crap now the battery is shot". Waited about 15 minutes and she started up again. Battery sticker was dated 9/13 so I figured I better go get a new battery asap. Went to Wal-Mart, they tested the battery and said it was bad - I'm still (just) under the 2 year warranty so they gave me a new battery. No cost to me. Great!

And I stopped at the store again on the way home and once again the #%$# thing wouldn't start. Brand new battery - no start.

So symptoms - well it clicks. I can sometimes wait and I get it started. Sometimes not. Waited a half an hour and it wouldn't turn. Tried cleaning and tightening the battery terminals (they are front mount and had a little white on them but not really very bad). After cleaning and tightening VROOM instant start no troubles. Turned her off and on several times. Took it for a drive. Third time today to the store (aren't they lucky). Car started fine even coming out of that accursed store. Got home and thought "hmmm lets just try one more time" shut it off and I'll be damned if it won't turn over again. FML, but at least I made it home.

I tried moving (not removing them just shifting them around) and tightening the terminals again and it struggled for a sec but did turn over. Shut it off and it's dead. Played with it some more but it won't turn over now, but does click. Figured I'll let it sit and jiggle more wires, but damn it I need to figure out if:

A) I got another bad battery (come on? really? I doubt it)
B) I got a starter going bad - though it does click...
C) The wires on the starter side are maybe loose/bad? How can I check?
D) I got an alternator going bad and it's draining the battery (how do I tell??)
E) Something with the passive security system since the battery was removed? It seems weird that this would work sometimes and not others. Shouldn't it just lock me out and that's it until I reset it? And the book says reset is turn key to on, remove key and wait 15 minutes. Is that seriously the reset?? I did turn the lock on my radio off with the code. I always have to do that whenever the battery is unhooked. Can't ever remember the starter security feature coming on in the past though...

or

F) Some other thing I dun even know about

So HELP!? What should I try or look at? I don't have many tools or much experience, but I'll unhook, wiggle, jiggle, or reseat anything you tell me to (if I can reach it and turn)

Thanks guys! I'm a fish out of water here.

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Old 04-24-2015, 07:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

If this is the original starter, replace it. Your descriptions and detailed starting situations points to a worn out starter.

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Old 04-24-2015, 07:41 PM   #3
jvarnes
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Default Re: Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

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Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
If this is the original starter, replace it. Your descriptions and detailed starting situations points to a worn out starter.
Thanks! I forgot to mention I had one of those ODB code readers I picked up last year and I plugged that in and no codes.

Would a failing starter (or alternator, etc) throw a code that the ODB reader would pick up??

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Old 04-24-2015, 08:00 PM   #4
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Default Re: Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

There are no known error codes for starter or alternator failures. There are still many areas that aren't covered by using a reader. Starters have no bearing on emissions control, the main reason for OBD I & II.

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Old 04-24-2015, 08:09 PM   #5
jvarnes
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Default Re: Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
There are no known error codes for starter or alternator failures. There are still many areas that aren't covered by using a reader. Starters have no bearing on emissions control, the main reason for OBD I & II.
Ahh I see. Well I went out and she started up on the first crank. So while it's working I went to the local autoparts, left it runnig while I went in and grabbed a starter. Almost out of daylight today so think I'll try my hand and replacing tomorrow morning. Off to find some YouTube videos. Thank God for the internets LOL.

I'll report back on this thread my success (or failure) for future generations

Thanks for the help!

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Old 04-25-2015, 01:46 AM   #6
PeterA
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1999 SL1
Default Re: Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

I've done three starters on my '99, two in the past year. The reconditioned one I bought last August failed after five months and was replaced under warranty. My best advice is to use a six inch extension on your ratchet for removing the upper mounting bolt. Put the socket on the extension and try to engage the bolt by hand with it, then attach the ratchet and loosen. Once it's a little loose, I switch back to turning the extension by hand until the bolt is out.

When you install the new starter, install the lower bolt first. Then, use a little piece of duct tape to hold the upper bolt in your socket and hold the extension in hand to guide the bolt into the hole. Once it's threading, remove the duct tape and continue threading the bolt in by hand. Add the ratchet for the final tightening.

It's not an easy or fun process getting that upper bolt in and out but it's doable. Good luck.

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Old 04-25-2015, 02:16 PM   #7
jvarnes
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Default Re: Click click no start for you - How do I tell if it's starter, alternator, or ???

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Originally Posted by PeterA View Post
I've done three starters on my '99, two in the past year. The reconditioned one I bought last August failed after five months and was replaced under warranty. My best advice is to use a six inch extension on your ratchet for removing the upper mounting bolt. Put the socket on the extension and try to engage the bolt by hand with it, then attach the ratchet and loosen. Once it's a little loose, I switch back to turning the extension by hand until the bolt is out.

When you install the new starter, install the lower bolt first. Then, use a little piece of duct tape to hold the upper bolt in your socket and hold the extension in hand to guide the bolt into the hole. Once it's threading, remove the duct tape and continue threading the bolt in by hand. Add the ratchet for the final tightening.

It's not an easy or fun process getting that upper bolt in and out but it's doable. Good luck.
Got the new starter in and tried it a couple times with no problems turning the engine over. I'll wait a few days to be certain this was the fix, but looking good so far.

As noted the top bolt was a ***** to remove so if you are like me and a "do it in your driveway" sort of guy be prepared and do yourself a favor:

Get you a decent ratchet or at the very least a good 13mm deep well socket (craftsman?) I tried using my crappy Chinese ratchets and BROKE the damn socket trying to loosen the top bolt - which is awkward to get to and you cannot visually see it.

Open your hood for light from above and detach the battery (obviously)

Put it up on ramps or jackstands and use safety to secure the car (put in park, engage emergency brake, chucks/wood behind the wheels, etc etc)

Under the car is real uncomfortable and depending on how much trouble the top bolt takes you may be down on your back for a bit. You'll be doing "car yoga" too with your arms because there' not much room and you have to twist your hands and arms all jack eyed to get the bolts out. If you have big hands or forearms I feel for you - on the plus side you'll have the arm strength to losen tight bolts so I guess it's a wash.

There's only two 13mm sockets that hold the starter in. The bottom one you can see and get to with just the socket, but I would loosen and leave it in and focus on getting the top out first.

The top takes a deep socket and a medium extension. It's awkward so I would try to use a straight single extension instead of a couple of smalls attached together. You need straight on leverage on it to loosen it up.

There are also 2 smaller nuts on the rear of the starter than attach wires to ? (battery? alternator? ground?). One is 13mm and the other is 10mm or 11mm. Remember how those wires go back on and move em to the side before you remove the bottom bolt.

When putting it back in PeterA's duct tape trick is a good one. Helps keep that bolt in place while you guide it in. Put in your bottom bolt first to hold the starter, but don't tighten it all the way down (just hand tighten) and then guide your duct taped bolt into the top hole and get that one all in and snug. Tighten your bottom bolt and then put those wires back on the way they were and tighten their nuts and you are good to go. Maybe 5-10 min or less once you know what the hell you are doing LOL

Good luck

Thanks to you guys that responded! You helped me get it back on the road. Many kudos and beers all around.

Now onto other problems (she's had the blue smoke oil burn blues for a while now wheeee!)

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