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Old 12-15-2008, 02:03 PM   #1
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Default Cold weather start problems

Hi everyone. I was here around this time last year with some battery issues. I first thought it was the anti theft device that was draining my battery, so I finally had that disconnected around March and went from there. It was just starting to get warm out and the car started with no problem all summer.

The car has been dead twice in the last 3 days. I'm just starting to think it's the cold weather. When we jump it, it starts right up, no problems. We've had multiple diagnostic tests run on it. The basic and electrical tests turned up no problems. We've got it in the garage right now. We're going to leave it in there overnight and see if it starts in the morning.

It's a 2002 SC2 with about 78k on it. Does anyone else have issues starting their Saturn in cold weather?

Thanks!

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Old 12-15-2008, 02:22 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Has the battery been replaced? Slow drain on the battery can lead to a damaged cell that no longer holds charge.

Also during the no start situation, is there spark? Variations of temperature have lead to a non working CPS and/or non working ignition coils.

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Old 12-15-2008, 02:38 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

The battery was replaced twice back in Feb/March of this year. I'm afraid that it may have drained a cell again.

I haven't checked for a spark. I'll do that and get back to you.

Thanks!

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Old 12-15-2008, 03:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Simplest "test" in this situation is to disconnect the negative terminal while the car is parked. After the expected run-down period, reconnect and attempt to start. If it starts, then the car has a parasitic load (removed during the test). If it doesn't, then the battery lost its charge on its own, probably as rc said, a bad cell.

'Course, one question that hasn't been asked/answered -- after a jump start, and running the engine a while, shutting it off, will it start again right away?

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Old 12-15-2008, 03:54 PM   #5
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

I'll add an obsevation to this that may help the OP. My 98 SC2 has a newish battery that is above the stock cold cranking power. However, that being said, when it s really cold, near zero or below, it has trouble starting, i.e. that it will turn over and catch, but it is really rough at first. It sounds like it is frozen in place, j/k. But basically it sounds like until the oil pressure comes up, or something, the engine has a slow rough idle until about 20-30 seconds have elapsed, then it runs fine.

I'm going to switch to some 0w30 synthetic oil asap. I just hate to start it under these conditions, because it sounds like it is having such a hard time. Once it is going, then it is fine. It sleeps in a garage, so that helps in our sub zero temps, but it is in the weather all day, so I am anxious to solve this and the OP's problem.

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Old 12-15-2008, 04:28 PM   #6
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Simplest "test" in this situation is to disconnect the negative terminal while the car is parked. After the expected run-down period, reconnect and attempt to start. If it starts, then the car has a parasitic load (removed during the test). If it doesn't, then the battery lost its charge on its own, probably as rc said, a bad cell.

'Course, one question that hasn't been asked/answered -- after a jump start, and running the engine a while, shutting it off, will it start again right away?
I'll have to try that, too.

Yes, if I jump it and turn it off, it'll start right away again. On Saturday, I jumped it and ran all my errands. It started without issue. Yesterday it was a little rough, but it started and today nothing.

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Old 12-15-2008, 04:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

i'm currently having this same problem with my 93 sc2 something is putting a slight drain on the battery while the car is parked and its old so it goes flat pretty fast when it's not getting charged (dies if i don't drive it for a day or two but if i do drive it around it has no problems) and its been about 25-30 here at night and thats been making the problem worse

since your battery is fairly new i would say either you have as said a parasitic drain a small short or a radio upgrade or something that is pulling power when the car is off

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Old 12-15-2008, 04:56 PM   #8
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

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Originally Posted by 93SC2'in View Post
i'm currently having this same problem with my 93 sc2 something is putting a slight drain on the battery while the car is parked and its old so it goes flat pretty fast when it's not getting charged (dies if i don't drive it for a day or two but if i do drive it around it has no problems) and its been about 25-30 here at night and thats been making the problem worse
That's no "slight drain"; either you have a severe parasitic load (aftermaket stuff?), or your battery is extremely tired. 25-30F is NOT "cold". I can leave my car for 6-8 days, when the HIGH is no more than 20F, and after plugging the block heater in for an hour, it'll light right off. Two days at 25-30F shouldn't tire even a middle-aged battery. This may be apocrypha, but I've heard that it's mostly the heat of summer that "kills" a battery wrt. longevity, but it doesn't manifest itself until the cold of the following winter.

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Old 12-15-2008, 05:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
That's no "slight drain"; either you have a severe parasitic load (aftermaket stuff?), or your battery is extremely tired. 25-30F is NOT "cold". I can leave my car for 6-8 days, when the HIGH is no more than 20F, and after plugging the block heater in for an hour, it'll light right off. Two days at 25-30F shouldn't tire even a middle-aged battery. This may be apocrypha, but I've heard that it's mostly the heat of summer that "kills" a battery wrt. longevity, but it doesn't manifest itself until the cold of the following winter.
Yeah, it's only about 38 at night here. But I don't have anything aftermarket on the car. The only thing that was aftermarket was the secondary anti theft device, but I disconnected that back in March. The cd player is the original factory system, along with the sound and there are no after market alarms added. My door locks stopped working last summer. I've wondered if that was part of the issue.

The heat thing may be a pretty good reason. It can get up to 120 where we are and my husband would have to park outside for hours on end when he goes to work. The car would stall sometimes when I started it in the summer after it had been sitting in direct sun for a bit. Could that have anything to do with it?

Oh... and the battery is dead again. The dome light won't even turn on this time. I'm going to have to take it tomorrow to get a new battery, but I'm really tired of this game. I took it to Saturn in March, they said it couldn't be a short, because they've never had that problem.

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Old 12-15-2008, 05:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

When you go to buy a battery if you can afford it buy one of the AGM batteries. That would be something like an Optima or Exide Orbital. There are several brands so you do have a choice. They take heat and cold better. You may also have a weak alternator. So, if you buy a battery at someplace other than Advance or AutoZone etc they will be able to test the alternator for proper output.

If you think that you have an electrical problem it might be a good idea to find it before letting it kill a new battery. If you have a DVM you can do it yourself. You need to measure the current load on the battery with the key in off, all doors and lights off. Remove the positive battery cable and connect the DVM between the battery positive and the battery cable positive contact pad. Use the 10amp range to start. The positive lead is connected to the battery positive and the negative is connected to the positive battery cable contact patch. If the reading is less than 300ma then you can switch to the 300ma range and see what the load is. If you do not start on the highest range you will either blow out the meter fuse or burn out the meter if the current is higher than the scale maximum.

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Old 12-15-2008, 05:32 PM   #11
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Uh-ohh, you're baaack!? I just read the past threads and see that you were given a new Die-Hard from Sears? This battery shouldn't have died in such a short time and I'm beginning to think this dead battery problem is leaning towards either faulty battery cables, alternator or belt drive slipping. Have any good mechanics you trust out there to measure battery voltages besides repeat the standard battery/alternator tests? The voltage readings off the battery terminals may give some clues; cables corroded/loose, serpentine belt loose allowing belt slippage or a faulty alternator not supplying all the electrical needs of the car and charge the battery, leaving a partially charged one that finally dies later down the road - now 9-mos later.

Battery voltage should be around 12.5v+ with the engine off, engine idling 13.5v+, 14.3v+ above idling speed. The last two voltages indicate that the alternator's regulator is automatically adjusting the output but if voltages are lower, there's either a problem with the alternator or the belt drive system isn't allowing the alternator to operate properly. All the electrical connections from the battery cables to the alternator needs to looked over carefully too.

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Old 12-15-2008, 06:02 PM   #12
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

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Uh-ohh, you're baaack!? I just read the past threads and see that you were given a new Die-Hard from Sears? This battery shouldn't have died in such a short time and I'm beginning to think this dead battery problem is leaning towards either faulty battery cables, alternator or belt drive slipping. Have any good mechanics you trust out there to measure battery voltages besides repeat the standard battery/alternator tests? The voltage readings off the battery terminals may give some clues; cables corroded/loose, serpentine belt loose allowing belt slippage or a faulty alternator not supplying all the electrical needs of the car and charge the battery, leaving a partially charged one that finally dies later down the road - now 9-mos later.

Battery voltage should be around 12.5v+ with the engine off, engine idling 13.5v+, 14.3v+ above idling speed. The last two voltages indicate that the alternator's regulator is automatically adjusting the output but if voltages are lower, there's either a problem with the alternator or the belt drive system isn't allowing the alternator to operate properly. All the electrical connections from the battery cables to the alternator needs to looked over carefully too.
Haha. Yeah. I'm baaaack. The car was great through the summer. No issues and then bang. It gets a LITTLE cold out and the car doesn't start. My husband's been trying to figure out what's been going on for months.

The only people I would really trust to test it would be the Saturn dealership. And they are pricey. I'm afraid I'm just going to have to put the new battery in, pray for the best and go back after the holidays.

I just don't understand why it worked fine throughout the summer, but now, it's back to being a pain in my butt. So frustrating.

Thanks for all the input, everyone, I really do appreciate it. It'll help us narrow it down.

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Old 12-15-2008, 06:09 PM   #13
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Like old nuc said . remove terminal and place a voltmeter between the cable and the battery(or a test light if you don"t have a volt meter). if the test light comes on you have something draining the battery. To find what s draining the battery start pulling fuses, when the light goes out you have found which circuit is causing the drain. try checking the trunk light , if it doesnt go out with the trunk shut, that will cause a dead battery.

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Old 12-15-2008, 06:12 PM   #14
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

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Like old nuc said . remove terminal and place a voltmeter between the cable and the battery(or a test light if you don"t have a volt meter). if the test light comes on you have something draining the battery. To find what s draining the battery start pulling fuses, when the light goes out you have found which circuit is causing the drain. try checking the trunk light , if it doesnt go out with the trunk shut, that will cause a dead battery.
It's not the trunk light. We've tried that one.

If we disconnect the door locks, will I be able to manually unlock the car without the horn sounding?

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Old 12-15-2008, 06:27 PM   #15
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

Don't know about those high tech door locks. What you want done is the parasitic load measured in ma (milliamp). The dealer can do this and any decent garage can do this. Actually, for less than half of what the labor charge will be you can go to Radio Shack and buy and auto ranging DVM with a separate 10 amp jack on it. Then you will have a new tool.

Using the instructions above you can measure your own. You will need the meter to fix it anyway.

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Old 12-15-2008, 06:53 PM   #16
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

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Don't know about those high tech door locks. What you want done is the parasitic load measured in ma (milliamp). The dealer can do this and any decent garage can do this. Actually, for less than half of what the labor charge will be you can go to Radio Shack and buy and auto ranging DVM with a separate 10 amp jack on it. Then you will have a new tool.

Using the instructions above you can measure your own. You will need the meter to fix it anyway.
Everytime I go someplace to tell them I think I have a drain, they look at me like I'm crazy. Now I know exactly what to tell them to do. Thank you!

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Old 12-15-2008, 07:13 PM   #17
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

You will probably find that a high percentage still look confused, parasitic has more than 2 syllables. It is best to measure it first as locating it will be a bit of a pain. You will need a meeter for locate it. Let Santa buy you a new tool. Its also cheaper than replacing the battery every 6 months....

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Old 12-15-2008, 07:36 PM   #18
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

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You will probably find that a high percentage still look confused, parasitic has more than 2 syllables. It is best to measure it first as locating it will be a bit of a pain. You will need a meeter for locate it. Let Santa buy you a new tool. Its also cheaper than replacing the battery every 6 months....
Haha. So true.

I'll relay this all back to my husband and he'll take it from there. Thanks everyone!

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Old 12-15-2008, 08:27 PM   #19
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Haha. So true.

I'll relay this all back to my husband and he'll take it from there. Thanks everyone!
Another great source if he has time is the auto hobby shop on base. They had one back when I was at the "Stumps" so I'm sure they still do. Most of the time they have a couple of NCOs that check the tools in and out, and most of the time they are car guys. Chances are they can get you the tool, and show you how to use it too. And if they can't, someone else in there can.

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Old 12-15-2008, 08:57 PM   #20
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Default Re: Cold weather start problems

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That's no "slight drain"; either you have a severe parasitic load (aftermaket stuff?), or your battery is extremely tired. 25-30F is NOT "cold". I can leave my car for 6-8 days, when the HIGH is no more than 20F, and after plugging the block heater in for an hour, it'll light right off. Two days at 25-30F shouldn't tire even a middle-aged battery. This may be apocrypha, but I've heard that it's mostly the heat of summer that "kills" a battery wrt. longevity, but it doesn't manifest itself until the cold of the following winter.
yeah as i said i have a old battery that drains down fast i'm gonna buy a new one soon here, the previous owner had a amp and big speakers and **** in there i've been slowly ripping out all his crap wiring i thought i got it all but there might be something i missed putting a drain on the battery and we did just go through a HOT summer so mabey that is true

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