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Old 01-28-2015, 03:47 PM   #1
Bentley8
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Default 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

I know everyone is thinking, "Ugh, not an intermittent problem, those suck", but here I am.

99 Saturn SL2. Manual. ~170,000 miles.

Every now and then the car will not start. Cranks with no issue, but will not catch. This first time happened about a year ago. When it happens, if I just wait a minute or two and try again, it will start up fine and run fine. The problem would return again say a month or two later. Usually it would start within a couple of minutes of trying. That is, until yesterday, when I tried for 20 minutes and it just wouldn't start. I wasn't constantly cranking, just trying to crank for a few seconds every minute or so. I didn't want to be too late to work so I just used my spare Saturn and drove to work. When I got home yesterday afternoon the car started perfectly on the first try. Ugh.

Yesterday morning I did check what I could in the short time I had. No codes. Fuel getting to the fuel rail. No fuses blown. Air intake not plugged.

The non-starting issue occurs when the car is either hot or cold, recently driven, or sitting overnight. Hot outside temperature or very cold. Full tank, empty tank. Battery and EGR valve have been changed since this started, but it made no difference. ECTS replaced with brass years ago. No other chronic issues with the car except for typical high oil consumption.

At this point, I just don't trust the car. A 2-minute delay is acceptable, but I could see myself being stranded for hours. Not good.

I don't have the money or time to throw parts at the problem.

Any ideas?
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Old 01-28-2015, 05:30 PM   #2
tj599
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Try changing the ect sensor and plug for under 20bucks, and odds r its your problem
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Old 01-28-2015, 06:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by tj599 View Post
Try changing the ect sensor and plug for under 20bucks, and odds r its your problem
I'll check the plug when I get home. Don't want to change it unless it's corroded/green. Any way to test the plug?

I changed the sensor to an all brass one about 5 years ago. It reads fine and if it's not leaking, why replace?
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Old 01-28-2015, 09:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Checked the ECTS plug and it's not green or corroded. Wires look fine.

I picked up a fuel pressure tester and checked it, just to see if it's a fuel pump or regulator issue. Came out to be 48 psi, so that's not it.

Car started right up, though. So, maybe when it's having one of it's moments, the fuel pressure would be different.

Hard to troubleshoot starting a car when it's starting fine. LOL

I was hoping someone here would be able to go, "A-ha! I know exactly what it is!" I've looked all over the forum, and haven't seen anyone with this particular problem before.

Don't see how it's the CPS.

Or the ECTS.

Fuel pump and filter/regulator seem to be ok.

Checked the battery connections. No corrosion, and nice and tight.

Maybe the F5 problem? Loose connection on the block, sometimes it works, sometimes not, causing fuel pump to cut off?

Except this doesn't happen when I'm driving. Haven't had it cut off on me while it's running. If it was the F5 problem, it should hit me at some time other than when I'm trying to start the car, too.

Just doesn't want to start once out of a hundred times, but when it's running, it runs great. Great idle, no roughness, smooth accelerations, zip zip zip.
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Old 01-28-2015, 10:53 PM   #5
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

The way to check it is I find I flood start will let you knw fairly fast push the gas pedal down to the floor start the car if it starts then change the sensor besides it takes me less then an hour including getting the part lol think it takes like 20mins in total piece of cake
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Old 01-29-2015, 01:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Bentley8, you have age (170k Miles) announcing itself and may have to spend time checking things. No one guarantees a fuel pump, catcon or other long term parts will last after the factory warranty so doing some things can help find an intermittent problem. If a fuel pump issue, leaving the pressure gauge connected can help, better if you can have the gauge visible while driving. If its a catcon, banging on it may reveal broken cat guts floating around, randomly blocking exhaust flow. There's a probe hole to stick a multimeter test probe into in the console fuse panel to monitor the 12v pump control signal coming from the pcm; the pcm sends this signal for 2 seconds at ignition ON if the engine isn't started or its on during starting/engine running. This allows a multimeter to monitor for the pump control signal. Pump power is monitored by pressure gauge and more troubleshooting if its an intermittent pump issue (random pressure loss).
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Old 01-29-2015, 12:55 PM   #7
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Is there supposed to be a certain voltage I'm supposed to find in that test hole on the fuse block? It's supposed to be 12 volt, but if it's less than a certain number should I be worried?
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Old 01-29-2015, 01:08 PM   #8
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

It must be 12 volts (@ign ON, for two seconds) or 14+ volts with the engine running. No less.
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Old 02-02-2015, 11:42 PM   #9
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

The past few days every time I tried, it started right up. I figured eventually it wouldn't cooperate and then I'd be able to zero in on the problem.

This evening it wouldn't start. So now that it's not cooperating, I tested the fuel probe and I was getting 11.8 volts for the 2 seconds when I first turn the ignition to the on position.

I can clearly hear the fuel pump priming when I turn the car ON.

I can't check the fuel pressure when I crank it as I don't have a remote starter.

What should I check next?
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Old 02-03-2015, 12:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Its one thing to hear the fuel pump cycling, its another to see fuel pressure; depress the fuel test valve on the fuel rail (capped by a large black plastic cap). You should see fuel spray out (a rag covering the valve for safety). Fuel pressure is seen as spray or with a pressure gauge. Fuel is only one part of the EFI system. Ignition/spark is the the other part. We'll presume air is being ingested into the engine.

A spark test may be intermittent here so keep this in mind. After noting firing order, remove coil wires and have someone try starting - you should see spark across both coils. Faulty ignition can be as simple as corroded coil connections, worn plug wires, worn plugs, corroded mounting bolts holding the ignition control module to the engine. Most here buy a used ignition system (icm and two coils) from junk yards as opposed to expensive new parts.
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Old 02-08-2015, 10:41 PM   #11
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Removed the wires from the coil packs and had a friend try and start it.

No sparks across any of the posts.

Removed and tested the coils, and was getting about 8100 ohms on both of them.

Installed a junkyard ignition control module, but used the original coils. The original bolts weren't corroded so I reused them. Polished the back of the junkyard ICM with some very fine sandpaper; the connecting points on the transmission were not corroded at all, nice and shiny. It started up, but ran rough for the first 10 minutes or so, but then ran smooth.

Interestingly, the wiring harness going into the original ICM wasn't pushed in all the way. Didn't notice till I removed it and the harness came off too easily. There was dust inside the port on the ICM, so I'm wondering if water got inside and damaged it, or there was a bad connection. Any way to test and ICM?

Anyway, I'll see if my starting problem comes back.
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Old 02-08-2015, 11:05 PM   #12
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Water intrusion into electrical connections on our cars tends to allow corrosion to form over electrical terminals. There are many terminal cleaners as well as using some elbow grease and soft wire brush to clean/polish terminals. Dielectric grease can help prevent future corrosion too. You can always try reusing the original icm after ensuring starting/running problems are gone.
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:02 PM   #13
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Bad news.

Car wouldn't start this morning. Started fine yesterday morning and ran around all day and had no problems.

Doubt it's the ICM and coils, then. I don't have anyone to try and start the car while I look at the coils for sparking, though.

I was getting a spray of gas when I hit the schrader valve at the fuel rail. Confirmed it twice, so I'm getting gas.

Thinking it may be something with the battery, I swapped it with my SW2 battery. Didn't help any.

Checked the air intake even, it's all clear.

The starter is turning like a champ, everything seems GO, but it just won't catch.

This really has me stumped. I've got gas, spark, and air. Or do I?

How do I confirm the fuel injectors are doing their thing? And how do I confirm that the ICM is getting the right instruction?

I did notice that now I seem to be having this problem mostly in the mornings when it's real cold, like below 30 degrees.
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:14 PM   #14
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

If you had those 3 things it would at least fart. So you don't. Check the plugs and see if they're wet. If so you found the trouble. No spark. If not (wet) than injectors not firing
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:23 PM   #15
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

I guess it could be some kind of intermittent failure of the CPS.

I'll swap it out tonight. Might as well replace the starter, too, since it's still the original starter with 168,000 miles on it.
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:38 PM   #16
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bentley8 View Post
.....How do I confirm the fuel injectors are doing their thing? And how do I confirm that the ICM is getting the right instruction?
Remove spark plugs after several failed starts - they should be wet or wreak of fuel. Ignition and timing is all electronic - spark test is simple and effective for checking spark. If you are alone, either remove a plug and reconnect the plug to its wire and hang it high enough to see from inside the car. Wire a ground between the plug base and the chassis or engine block. With a plug in view, turning the ign switch to START should show spark.

This problem seems to be intermittent and going it alone can make troubleshooting difficult. You'll just have to try harder and be a little more creative because EFI systems isn't rocket science. What is common to lack of injector operation (dry plugs) and lack of spark? The crank position sensor hiding behind the starter.
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Old 02-17-2015, 01:22 PM   #17
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Ok everyone. I replaced the CPS and it started fine. Started even when it was very cold, which is when I couldn't get it to start just a few days ago.

Actually seems to run better, too.

I did replace the starter as it's 16 years old, figured it was going to go out on me soon enough, and I was under there anyway.

I'd like to test the CPS and see if that was really the problem. I measure the resistance, right?
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Old 02-17-2015, 01:39 PM   #18
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

deleted for stupidity reasons
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Old 02-17-2015, 03:25 PM   #19
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Default Re: 99 SL2 Intermittent Starting problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bentley8 View Post
Ok everyone. I replaced the CPS and it started fine. Started even when it was very cold, which is when I couldn't get it to start just a few days ago....Actually seems to run better, too....I did replace the starter as it's 16 years old, figured it was going to go out on me soon enough, and I was under there anyway....

I'd like to test the CPS and see if that was really the problem. I measure the resistance, right?
The crank sensor can fail three ways; outright, intermittently when the engine reaches operating temperatures (hot/cold cycling), and failing to insert it completely into its hole resulting in erratic engine running. Heat, cold, and vibration; three failure modes found by members testing their crank sensors.

Resistance should be between 700-1200 ohms, ambient temperature. Immerse it in boiling water and measure. Rap it against the table end to duplicate engine vibration and measure. Mine failed from normal engine heat with a very high resistance. One member didn't believe his broke until he rapped it against the table a few times. Thee are no moving parts in cranks sensors. If you really don't believe it was a faulty crank sensor, put it back and see............. You have a new one for comparison.
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