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Old 09-02-2018, 12:17 AM   #1
GSmithFL
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2000 SW2
Default '98 SL mystery dead battery or bad ignition?

Hi! Before I begin, I'll say that I'm bringing the car to AutoZone in the morning to have the charging system and battery checked. But I wanted to run this by you all.

Drove the car 90+ miles from Tampa to Orlando in the morning with one stop, no issues.

Left work in the afternoon, drove to local tire shop, then out to Orlando suburbs to family member's home, no issues.

Load toddler in the car tonight and head home to Tampa, no issues.

Stop at Wawa to get a soda on the way home. Turn key to start, there are idiot lights and a cranking starter for 1/2 a second and then all goes dead. No idiot lights, no cranking, no clicking, nothing.

Try to pop-start the car by rolling it backwards and popping the clutch. Not even a lurch or slight hint of a struggling starter.

Take the keys out, push the car back into a space, and call for rescue.

Nice couple in a '01 VW vr6 van (haven't seen one of those in years) hook up their cables and charge my battery for a few mins.

Here's where it gets weird: I go to put my key in to start the Saturn and I can't push it in. It's like the tumblers had a revolution. I turn the key over, try to insert it again, and finally wiggle it in after a few seconds. The car starts and stays running.

We let it run for a bit, and then shut it off. The it restarts just fine. Family members arrive for rescue, decide to drive the Saturn back to their house while they follow. While the car was idling, the "Service" light came on (never saw that lit, ever). Dash lights are bit flickery, but just a bit.

Drove car to the house, back it into the garage. Shut it down. Restart immediately and the car turns over fine. Service light is gone.

Theories:

1) Regulator is bad inside alternator and it is charging battery sometimes and not so much at other points

2) The ignition switch is going bad and, even though the key turned, no power was getting past the switch.

Thoughts?

...
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Old 09-02-2018, 08:46 AM   #2
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Default Re: '98 SL mystery dead battery or bad ignition?

Do just that, take it in and have the alternator and battery checked before doing anything.
How old is the battery and the alternator?
How many miles on the 98?
Are the battery terminals rock tight and any outward sign of corrosion?
Just guessing here but most batteries live about 5 years before shutting down.
Some fail earlier, some later but all eventually fail.
Have Autozone check your system out and go from there.
A weak battery, or one with a single cell bad will not provide enough current to start a car, and a bad connection or loose battery connection will also.

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Old 09-03-2018, 11:58 AM   #3
GSmithFL
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Default Re: '98 SL mystery dead battery or bad ignition?

Battery tested at 12.5v

Alternator tested at 13.4v, even under load

The ignition almost didn't want to release the key when we were at the Advance Discount Auto, so I suspect the ignition/ignition lock is going bad and wasn't letting power through the other night. I lubed it up with spray white lithium grease so it doesn't try to eat my key again.

The car has started 8-10 times now, including a flawless 85mi trip from Orlando to Tampa.

Will order the lockset and ignition module this week. Unless someone has any other idea??

Thanks!

I

...
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Old 09-03-2018, 02:15 PM   #4
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1998 SC2
Default Re: '98 SL mystery dead battery or bad ignition?

Your alternator is no good and grease in the lock is a slow moving disaster so replacement is required unless you want to pull it out and clean it properly. DB Electric also sells alternators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iLPpXVElU0

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Old 09-03-2018, 02:36 PM   #5
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1995 SC2
Default Re: '98 SL mystery dead battery or bad ignition?

Did anyone try checking the battery terminal wires for stripped threads?

Have you tried checking your ground wires for corrosion or loosened wires?

Has the starter recently been replaced?

Is the cigarette lighter used frequently for charging cellhpones, an RF transmitter, or a GPS charger?

Flickering dash lights are a symptom of a failing battery connection, starter wire connections, bad ground connections, or a defective cluster.

Considering this is with a "no-start" condition, I would start with the wiring.

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