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Old 01-29-2008, 03:00 PM   #1
Tyrant_007
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Default 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

Hi, I'm having a bit of trouble with my Saturn. I'll list the symptoms and what I've done. Any input is appreciated.

While I'm driving the car it will sometimes sputter and I hear the fuel pump relay turn off and on. Sometimes it dies and won't start for 10 or 15 minutes. Sometimes in the morning or after the car has been off for hours it won't start at all. When you turn the key over, all the electronics work just fine. The car tries to start (it cranks), but never fires. There are no check engine lights and a scan gun reads clean. I've even paid for a couple hours labor for the GM dealership to try and reproduce the error and had no luck there. I have surfed the internet for hours and I'm currently contemplating on whether to buy a fuel pump to see if that works since I had similar issues with one of my Hondas...

...I have replaced:

Spark plugs, tested wires, tested coil packs, installed new starter (it died, separate issue), replaced battery (After starter killed it), new pcv valve, new coolant temp sensor, new fuel pump relay, new fuel filter, I change the oil, it's filter, and the air filter regularly, and I'm sure I'm forgetting more, but the problem remains.

Side note: I noticed the coolant level light flicker and the temp guage jump a few times so I replaced the coolant temp sensor and topped off the coolant. It seems fine now, but the car sputtering, dying, and not starting isn't fixed.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You!

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Old 01-29-2008, 03:18 PM   #2
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Default Re: 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

You might have a fuel pressure problem but, before you run out and get a fuel pressure gauge. Let me give you a couple quick cheap tests.

Check the vacuum hose on the fuel pressure regulator for fuel. It shouldn't even smell like gas.

When it's not starting, pull the plug wires off one of the coils (1/4 is easiest) and have someone crank it. You should see an arc between the coil towers. If you don't, your CPS is toast. This doesn't sound like your problem but, it's worth checking.

Turn the key from off to run a couple times and push the schrader valve on the fuel line under the hood in. It should squirt fuel. If it doesn't there's something going on with the fuel pump.

...
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Old 01-29-2008, 03:21 PM   #3
webbkarz
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Default Re: 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

Outside of the fuel pump, have you checked the crank sensor? If you have a scanner that can read rpm while cranking you can tell if it's malfunctioning. If you get an rpm signal of around 200rpm, check it a few more times. Sounds like it may be your culprit. Then again, it could also be a few other things, i.e. fuel pump, filter, pcm, underhood fuse box, etc. I'd check the crank sensor first 'cause it's cheap and easy to replace.

...
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Old 01-29-2008, 05:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrant_007 View Post
...... Sometimes it dies and won't start for 10 or 15 minutes. Sometimes in the morning or after the car has been off for hours it won't start at all. The car tries to start (it cranks), but never fires . There are no check engine lights and a scan gun reads clean. I've even paid for a couple hours labor for the GM dealership to try and reproduce the error and had no luck there.
I'm reluctant to disagree with B-O but the highlighted portion of your description simply says cps fault/failure, depending on if or when it decided to work again. Its faulty if the engine runs but then again when it doesn't run at all but drain the battery while attempting a re-start w/o ever firing up, its a failure. I wholly agree with B-O's suggestion of the coil test to determine the spark/no spark verification of cps operation. I would highly recommend this test immediately if not sooner as you'll know in one second after having someone crank the engine while you observe under the hood. However, there may be sparking occurring and this may be another borderline intermittent failure of the cps, the worst kind of fault. It will work just as you describe, the engine will run then die, not start at all or randomly start up and run only to die somewhere and then make you wait for however long it takes to fire up again. Not a good place to be without tools, a replacement cps, and a change of clothes to fix this on the road. The cps is located behind and above the starter and mounted with one 10mm bolt. It will take longer to find it than to replace it. If you are determined, you'd have the car temporarily jacked up with one wheel under the car placed strategically in a safe position in the event if the jack fails and the car falls on the wheel instead of you while replacing the cps. In the rain, soaking wet. You'll fix the car and be on your way. Maybe you can avoid this scenario by testing at home to confirm the faulty part before another breakdown on the road. Personally, I would choose the home testing and immediate replacement rather than the possibility of on-the-road-repairs.

What's very puzzling is that the GM techs couldn't take your description and use it for a basis to recommemnd the cps as a possible intermittent fault or outright failure. Its a relatively inexpensive part. The outright failure will be where the starter is cranking away till either the battery dies or the starter burns out and the engine never fires up. By this time the engine will be flooded. Consider this; w/o the cps outputting signal data as the engine rotates, there won't be any fuel pump running, no ignition for spark, and no injection pulses. The cps is the heart of the EFI system. You heard correctly as the cps intermittently worked/failed simultaneously when the fuel pump relay clicked off then on.

...
*The CPS is the heart of the entire EFI system. No cps = dead EFI system*
*There's more to a/c than just a few cans of refrigerant*
*There's more to brakes than just replacing parts*

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Old 01-29-2008, 07:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

You're not disagreeing with me fdryer. I recognized the CPS as a possibility but, he's not talking about a hot failure. Sputtering rather than just dying. Hard to cold start but, it starts other times. It not your typical CPS failure, if that's what it is.

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Old 01-29-2008, 08:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

I guess we'll have to wait and see then, from results of the OP's tests. The cps, as the cause of previous failures/intermittent faults, doesn't fail hot all the time but at any given moment. Its occurred in early morning cool starts where the car owner has had to wait for the morning sun to warm the car before being able to start. Strange as it may be, this was the experience of at least one owner. The randomness of the failure to start, while sputtering to a halt or never being able to start, in my opinion, seems to fit another faulty cps. The OP has stated the morning failure also occurring goes along the lines of this electronic sensor just opening at random without regard to temperature, once the failure begins.

...
*The CPS is the heart of the entire EFI system. No cps = dead EFI system*
*There's more to a/c than just a few cans of refrigerant*
*There's more to brakes than just replacing parts*

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Old 02-06-2008, 12:07 PM   #7
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Default Re: 96’ SL2 Sputters/Dies/Won’t start

Well...I'm thinking it was the CPS afterall!

It decided to work for a few days then it crapped out for the longest it ever had. I didn't get any spark when I pulled the plug, placed it in the wire, and tried turning it over. I put in a new CPS and it started right up, and has ran good the last day and a half so far. Time will tell for sure, but I'm pretty confident this fixed the problem.

Thanks for your troubleshooting help guys. Very much appreciated!

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