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Old 05-08-2008, 05:38 PM   #1
flamesrock
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Default Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Hi guys,

I'm having a bizarre problem with my Saturn.
Whenever you hit the brake for more than a couple seconds, the RPMs just bottom out and the car stalls.

Also, (sometimes) when the car is first started, the RPMs are are in the 2-3k range. The problem disappears with a little voodoo - applying gas, restarting, and when the RPMs are really high, some black smoke from the muffler etc.

Back in December, when the cold hit, the car simply would not start, no matter how much you cranked it. We replaced the fuel pump (from the wreckers) and fuel filter. Eventually, after cleaning something out or messing around under the hood, it worked magically. The car ran like a dream for a few months, until the high RPM/stalling problem started. The problem was fixed for a couple weeks by flooding the carburetor with carb cleaner, but returned shortly thereafter. Flooding with carb cleaner no longer has an effect.

We replaced a bunch of sensors, as well as the idle air control valve with no effect.

So far, I've been told by one mechanic that there's a leak in the intake air manifold gasket (you can hear a hiss at high RPMs), and by another that it's either the security system, BCM, flasher stick in the wheel or maybe something else altogether - he has no idea.

I'd like to get the car fixed, but trying all of these different things could cost more than the value of the car, and possibly not even solve the problem!

Anyways, it's a '92 SL2. Any ideas on what the problem could be? Someone mentioned something in passing about a fuel relay switch or the PCM sensor on the transmission. Could that be it?

-Thanks in advance
flamesrock

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Old 05-08-2008, 06:50 PM   #2
virnin
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Lets eliminate things from his list:

1) a '92 does not have a BCM
2) The security system would simple kill the engine, not make it run bad
3) 'flasher stick in the wheel' - I have no idea what that means

4) Diagnosing an intake gasket leak means spraying carb cleaner where the manifold meets the cylinder head and watching for a change in the RPM.

The "puff of black smoke" means the mixture was VERY rich. That can also lead to hard start. First place to look is the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor or ECTS as that is the most common cause. It has also been responsible for high idle which you are also seeing.

Since it happens somewhat at random, be sure the connector is free of corrosion and the wires aren't damaged. The ECTS is the sensor with TWO wires to the connector. The other sensor is for the temp gauge in the dash and has only one wire. The one wire sensor has no effect on engine operation.

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Old 05-09-2008, 09:25 AM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

My money's on the brake booster vacuum line leaking, or the booster itself. Super-high idle is typically a vacuum leak, and it would tie together with the stalling on braking.

Does this happen even if you just press and hold the brake, even if the car isn't moving, in neutral?

Find out (I don't remember offhand; sorry) which fuse energizes the brake lights, and remove it. Start the engine and hit and hold the brakes again. If the engine still stalls, it's almost guaranteed to be related to the vacuum and the brake power booster. There's a little check valve at the end of that vacuum hose, that plugs into the booster, that may be faulty.

If, by chance, the problem goes away with removing the fuse, AND it comes back when you reinstall it, then the brake light circuit is either drawing too much power, or shorting something out.

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Old 05-09-2008, 10:38 AM   #4
froggy81500
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
My money's on the brake booster vacuum line leaking, or the booster itself. Super-high idle is typically a vacuum leak, and it would tie together with the stalling on braking.

Does this happen even if you just press and hold the brake, even if the car isn't moving, in neutral?

Find out (I don't remember offhand; sorry) which fuse energizes the brake lights, and remove it. Start the engine and hit and hold the brakes again. If the engine still stalls, it's almost guaranteed to be related to the vacuum and the brake power booster. There's a little check valve at the end of that vacuum hose, that plugs into the booster, that may be faulty.

If, by chance, the problem goes away with removing the fuse, AND it comes back when you reinstall it, then the brake light circuit is either drawing too much power, or shorting something out.
I was thinking the brake booster also. It would explain the stalling when stepping on the brake, but not the high idle. It would either idle high from that vacuum leak, or not idle at all. I think the booster could be the cause of the stalling. You can disconnect the vacuum line from the booster and cap it off. Take it for a drive and see if it still tries to stall when you brake. Be careful though the brakes will take more effort without vacuum assist. Its been a common occurance for people with a leaking booster to hear a hiss from under the dash when stepping on the brake pedal.

The high idle, I would look at a vacuum leak somewhere else. A vacuum line perhaps even the pcv hose. Another common place is the Throttle body base gasket. Can't be too big of a leak or else it wouldn't stay running.

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Old 05-09-2008, 10:54 AM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

If the diaphragm in the brake booster has a hole it will be a vacuum leak. The brake boost will also be reduced. You will also end up with brake fluid being sucked into the intake if the master cylinder is sufficiently worn when you use the brakes. That will make black smoke.

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Old 05-09-2008, 11:37 AM   #6
twhitney
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

This is really simple, and most likely is not the problem, but thought I'd throw it out there... before I had the problem of the engine either stalling or ALMOST stalling whenever I braked, and it turned out that my battery terminal was loose, so not enough current was getting through... it would spark and arch every once and awhile, until one day I could not start my car, I'd turn the key and nothing at all would happen, almost like I had no power... so I popped the hood real quick and sure enough the battery terminal had come almost completely off, Im not sure how long it was loose nor why... but it was an easy 2 minute fix....

As for the high idle, I had the high idle around the same time as my brake problem, but they were not related... the high idle turned out to be my ECTS (I think) because I replaced it and it never happened again since.

After checking these simple cheap things, then I'd go on to the more complicated ideas that this very well could be.

...
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Old 05-09-2008, 12:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Quote:
Originally Posted by twhitney View Post
This is really simple, and most likely is not the problem, but thought I'd throw it out there... before I had the problem of the engine either stalling or ALMOST stalling whenever I braked, and it turned out that my battery terminal was loose, so not enough current was getting through... it would spark and arch every once and awhile, until one day I could not start my car, I'd turn the key and nothing at all would happen, almost like I had no power... so I popped the hood real quick and sure enough the battery terminal had come almost completely off, Im not sure how long it was loose nor why... but it was an easy 2 minute fix....
That, too, is very likely. everything is fighting for current at the same time, suddenly you apply a high load, like the brake lights, and suddenly the coils have no juice left to spark, and blah stalled engine. Other issues should surface if that's the case, like dim headlights.

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Old 05-11-2008, 12:54 PM   #8
flamesrock
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Thank you all sooo sooo much.

Well the most bizarre thing happened yesterday. After idling high for a bit (1.5) it came back normal. Now the brake thing is temporarily working (WTF?!), so no possibility of testing that. This happened two weeks ago - it worked for two days, then started acting like a ***** again (been broken for two months). The only difference is that then, we topped up the antifreeze and the weather was warmer, as it is now. Also, even when I'm not driving very far, the heat indicator goes just below half... Leading me to think that the temperature sensor is the problem.

Then again, maybe the warmer weather is expanding the material in the vacuum enough to seal up the leak. But since there's no way of knowing until it breaks again, I'll change the temperature sensor for now.

Again, thanks very much to everyone who took the time to reply. I'm truly grateful!

Quote:
Does this happen even if you just press and hold the brake, even if the car isn't moving, in neutral?
At first, I'm pretty sure it didn't happen in park, but now it happens in any gear. Since trying it yesterday, putting the car in neutral makes the idle go a bit higher, and changing it to reverse or drive makes it go temporarily lower before popping back up.

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Old 05-12-2008, 07:23 PM   #9
twhitney
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Quote:
Other issues should surface if that's the case, like dim headlights.
yeah, for what its worth, before i found my terminal problem, my headlights dimmed all the time... pumping the radio, even braking... it was so frustrating, and it turned out to be just the battery terminal, I was happy to have such a simple fix

...
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:35 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn stalls on brake? WTF

Quote:
Originally Posted by flamesrock View Post
Also, even when I'm not driving very far, the heat indicator goes just below half... Leading me to think that the temperature sensor is the problem.

Then again, maybe the warmer weather is expanding the material in the vacuum enough to seal up the leak. But since there's no way of knowing until it breaks again, I'll change the temperature sensor for now.
That is normal temp gauge behaviour for most S-Series. Now that the weather is warm, it is up to normal operating temperature in less than 5 minutes.

Not to say that the ECTS isn't bad since the PCM and the temp gauge each have their own, independent sensors.

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