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Old 04-13-2009, 01:54 PM   #1
Retrochick44
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Default Bad PCM?

Recently my 2001 SL2 died while I was stopped in traffic. I got it started after a couple tries and managed to pull off the main road but it died again. Got it started and got it home. The mechanic tells me the PCM is no good. After a lot of looking I found a couple used PCM's and was told by 6th Planet Auto Parts and an individual seller that I would not have to do anything to the used PCM I was installing in my car. Well, it's in and the car won't start at all. I called the dealership to inquire about reflashing it but he says they won't because of liability. Am I doomed to a $700 new PCM?

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Old 04-13-2009, 04:28 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

It is very, very unlikely that your original PCM was bad. If there is one bullet proof part of these cars, its their PCM's.

6th Planet should of known that. But do a search of their name here. The responces will speak for themselves.

Your replacemnet PCM doesnt or wont work for several reasons. It probably worked in the car it came out of, its just not working with your car. Who knows if the options match what your car has. And who knows if its the correct year. 6th Planet doesnt know the difference between a SOHC and DOHC A/C bracket, I doubt they could get this right. Also when installing a replacement PCM, assuming the year and options programmed within are correct, the BCM has to be reprogrammed.

If anything, 6th Planet should of sold you a PCM the same year as your car, with the same options and sent the BCM along with it.

But then agian, your original PCM is most likely fine anyway.

...
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Old 04-13-2009, 06:32 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

As mentioned, PCM's hardly fail and you do not have an expensive repair ahead of you if you are able to perform some basic troubleshooting to separate a fuel issue from an ignition issue. There are plenty of posts describing each test to find the fault. Using no tools but simple powers of observation. Repair costs will be less than $50 if that much.

A fuel test consists of turning the ignition ON and locating the fuel rail that feeds all the fuel injectors. On the fuel rail is a test valve (resembling a tire valve) capped with a black plastic dust cover. Remove the cap, cover the valve loosely with a rag and depress the valve stem, expecting a healthy spray of fuel. This spray of fuel indicates fuel and pressure available to the injectors. Little to no fuel spraying out would mean a possible fuel system problem; the fuel pump fuse, fuel pump relay, wiring from fuel pump relay to fuel pump, wiring from the fuel pump to ground, and the fuel pump. So either fuel is available to the injectors or not. No tools needed.

An ignition test consists of removing the coil wires, noting the firing order, and having someone crank the engine while you watch for sparks jumping across the coil towers. A working ignition system will cause sparks to jump. The lack of sparks would indicate most likely a crank position sensor (CPS) failure. Its the main electronic component crucial to electronic fuel injection (EFI) operation. No cps = no fuel pump, no ignition/spark, and no injector pulses. It located above and behind the starter, mounted with one 10mm bolt. Buy it from any auto store stocking it. If replacing it be absolutely sure its seated (use some oil) completely because the tip must be in close proximity to the crankshaft before it can operate correctly.

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Old 04-13-2009, 06:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Well, that's a bit of a relief. I did not get the part from 6th Planet...I spoke to them about options and found a cheaper part. I was told by many that as long as the part # matches (which it does) then it should be fine. It sounded a little too easy.

My next question....any idea what else may be causing it to be unpredictable? Sometimes it starts and runs fine, sometimes it starts and dies, sometimes it doesn't start at all. I've already replaced many things...Intake manifold, starter, radiator, even the engine.

I had a mechanic come run the diagnostics, and that's when I was told it was the PCM. The computer read "no fault" when the engine ran fine...but when it wouldn't start he couldn't even connect to the computer.

Thanks for your reply!

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Old 04-13-2009, 07:25 PM   #5
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

A very good mechanic would understand what's written and run with it. Good mechanics may be hard to find as they can either specialize in one brand of car and be a master of this to the exclusion of other cars or work on many different cars but never a master of any. Its not easy being a very good auto mechanic for every car. Most have to work at it to be very good and the best never let you know about them. Their customers do all the advertising. Perhaps you need to find someone that knows Saturns. Electronic fuel injection isn't rocket science but can be difficult to those not well experienced in EFI systems.

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Old 04-13-2009, 07:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Retrochick44 View Post

I had a mechanic come run the diagnostics, and that's when I was told it was the PCM. The computer read "no fault" when the engine ran fine...but when it wouldn't start he couldn't even connect to the computer.
You wont be able to get real time diagnostic info if the engine isnt running.

All your issues could be caused by something as simple as a bad temperature sensor. A $10 fix.

I really hope you didnt replace all those other things as a way to solve this problem.

...
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Old 04-13-2009, 08:50 PM   #7
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Low Saturn View Post
You wont be able to get real time diagnostic info if the engine isnt running.

All your issues could be caused by something as simple as a bad temperature sensor. A $10 fix.

I really hope you didnt replace all those other things as a way to solve this problem.


Oh no...the things I replaced were needed and way before this problem. I just threw those out to maybe eliminate some possibilities.

Thanks for all the advice guys, I'm definitely going to look into the mentioned options.

If anyone knows of any Saturn "specific" mechanics in Honolulu please let me know.

Mahalo

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Old 04-13-2009, 11:47 PM   #8
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Retrochick44 View Post
Well, that's a bit of a relief. I did not get the part from 6th Planet...I spoke to them about options and found a cheaper part. I was told by many that as long as the part # matches (which it does) then it should be fine.
I would strongly suggest loosing the phone number of that salvage yard. Think of the worst kind of people that could be selling used saturn parts over the internet. Some businesses rely on distance customers because they won't show up on their doorstep trying to get their money back.

Is your check engine light on?

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Old 04-14-2009, 04:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by velleguy73 View Post

Is your check engine light on?
Yes it is...and I also noticed that the hand brake light stays on now as well...regardless if it is engaged or not.

After reading all of the mixed reviews about 6th planet I will not be using them.

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Old 04-14-2009, 04:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Sigh.

That RED light is NOT, primarily, a "hand brake" light. As has been the case in every car sold in the United States since we kicked Dick Nixon around, that light is the BRAKE HYDRAULIC FAILURE WARNING LIGHT. When that light is on, DO NOT DRIVE THE CAR unless you know for sure that your brake hydraulics are sound.

Did the mechanic who claimed your PCM is bad tell you the code(s) associated with the SES light? If not, don't go back to that mechanic. Find a local auto parts store that will scan your car and give you the CODE(S) (not just the descriptions trying to sell you parts), or buy yourself a cheapo scanner. Then post the code(s) here.

Was the brake failure warning light on when you brought it to that mechanic? If so, did s/he not tell you what it might mean? If not, then DEF'ly do not go back to that menace.

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Old 04-14-2009, 05:08 PM   #11
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Stay AWAY from Sixth Planet...unless you have money to pay for parts that you will NEVER see!

Get the codes read at your local parts store if you don't have the codes yet. They can be read for free.

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Old 04-14-2009, 07:57 PM   #12
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

KISS principle.

When the car will not start:
Is there fuel pressure?
Is there spark?
Are the injectors firing?
Coolant temp sensor and connector ever replaced? Likley not the problem but it may be contributing.
Passlock problems--not likley to be the cause of the stall but may be the cause of the car not starting now. Especially if the engine will start and run for a second or two.

...
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Old 04-14-2009, 10:56 PM   #13
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Sigh.

That RED light is NOT, primarily, a "hand brake" light. As has been the case in every car sold in the United States since we kicked Dick Nixon around, that light is the BRAKE HYDRAULIC FAILURE WARNING LIGHT. When that light is on, DO NOT DRIVE THE CAR unless you know for sure that your brake hydraulics are sound.
If you can't already tell...I'm pretty new to all this. I don't know if this has anything to do with the above quote but about 2 months ago I had my rear wheel cylinders replaced and was actually scheduled to have my front rotors replaced (they are rusted) before it died on me.

The mechanic did not give me any codes. All he told me was that when the car started he got a "no fault" code which he said meant there were no errors registering. He said when it wouldn't start he didn't get any codes.

Right now I put the original PCM back into my car and it won't start at all now. It was stated in an earlier post that if the engine isn't running then they won't be able to get real time codes so I don't know if posting them here will be a possibility.

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Old 04-15-2009, 01:38 AM   #14
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

You won't get real time engine running data if the engine won't start. But if it threw a code and turned on the SES light, it WILL be stored, whether the engine starts or not.

"Menace" is starting to sound like an understatement, wrt the hack who is telling you this nonsense.

"The plot thickens" with the recent brake work. Key question - when did the BRAKE warning light go on?

Sorry my last post sounded so stern, but that BRAKE warning light is a life-or-death thing, and you won't have been the first person to post here to demonstrate that, evidently, they no longer emphasize this in driver's ed. Not your fault, of course, just a sad comment on how we prepare people for the driving world.

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Old 04-15-2009, 08:56 AM   #15
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

You may want to put up your general location. there may be people that can recommend a good mechanic near you, or help you run throught this basic troubleshooting below
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssicarman View Post
KISS principle.

When the car will not start:
Is there fuel pressure?
Is there spark?
Are the injectors firing?
Coolant temp sensor and connector ever replaced? Likley not the problem but it may be contributing.
Passlock problems--not likley to be the cause of the stall but may be the cause of the car not starting now. Especially if the engine will start and run for a second or two.
This is a good start, and all the above checks are free (replacing the ECTS is about $10). I'd add checking your air filter and tube for obstructions (I've found entire bird's nests in a daily driven car).

There may also be someone near by you with a similar car that would be willing to swap their PCM with you for testing just to rule it out. If their car starts with your PCM, your problems aren't PCM related (pretty unlikely as Lowsaturn says)

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Old 04-15-2009, 01:09 PM   #16
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

[QUOTE=madpogue;1434394]

"The plot thickens" with the recent brake work. Key question - when did the BRAKE warning light go on?
QUOTE]

It went on the day before it died. I had called up Lex Brodies (they did the brake work) and they said they would take a look at it but it died before I got there!

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Old 04-15-2009, 01:51 PM   #17
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

So the BRAKE light was off for some time after the brake work? Still, it could be related. If a hydraulic banjo bolt wasn't snugged down all the way, it could cause a slow leak that could take several days for the fluid level / pressure to get to where the light would go on. Does the brake pedal feel especially spongy? Too little effort, or too much travel? Oh, have you checked the brake fluid level in the reservoir?

This is unrelated to your SES light or your PCM, by the way. Couple of "brute force" preliminary no-start tests:

* Spark test. Remove the bolt (8mm head, if memory serves) holding the clip, which in turn holds the #1 and #4 spark plug wires onto the coil they share (it's the one closer to the passenger side of the car). Unplug those two wires, put the clip and bolt back on. This exposes the #1 and #4 "towers". Have an assistant turn the key to START while you observe. As the engine cranks, you should see spark jumping across the two towers.

* Fuel test. Turn off the HVAC fan, the radio, anything nearby that makes noise, and turn the key to RUN (but NOT to START). Listen carefully behind you as you do so. You should hear a faint "whrrr" for 3 seconds or so. That's the fuel pump priming the system.

There are more conclusive tests to do, but start with these; report the results here, and we'll go from there.

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Old 04-18-2009, 11:41 PM   #18
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

Hi Everyone! I have good news...my car is running again! We tried starter fluid and it started right away but died again of course....replaced the fuel relay and voila! The strange thing is that when it first happened I replaced the relay and it didn't work. I'm going to take it to Checker (we don't have Autozone in Hawaii) to run some codes to see if there's any other problem so I will post them if so.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions!

Oh yeah and I'm going straight to Lex Brodies Monday to have that brake light checked out, since they were the last ones to do my brake work.

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Old 09-18-2012, 11:19 AM   #19
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

This is my first time here so pardon me if this post is in the wrong place.

I've got a 1996 SL 5-speed manual with 280K km. I've had this car for 7 years and other than really minor things (bulbs, cigarette lighter fuse, headlamp replacement) this car is a real gem. I top up the AC every season and although barely adequate, it's enough.

Recently, I realized my fan wasn't working. We had a week of high temperatures and noticed the fan didn't behave. I checked the fuses and nothing seemed out of place. There's a backyard mechanic down the street and he wired the fan directly to the battery with a switch under the dash. That's fine (well, not really) but the complicating issue is that the temp gauge seems to be stuck in the "straight up" position. As soon as the car starts, the gauge indicator immediately goes vertical. So driving on the highway is fine but once in traffic and with the temp around 75, I flip the fan on. No problems but still a pain.

The other issue that occurred at the same time as the fan failure is the engine idle. My SL (Sally) has always increased its rpm upon startup and would then settle down to idle after a minute or so. Now, there is no warm up period.

I've been told these are signs of a bad PCM but after reading through the forums, it appears to be unlikely.

Not being a mechanically inclined person (spark plugs, air filters, etc., are the exception) how can I go about finding the problem?

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Old 09-18-2012, 11:30 AM   #20
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Default Re: Bad PCM?

the ECTS (Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor) has failed, $10 part. when you replace the sensor make sure to check the plug for corrosion, if the plug is corroded it will have to be replaced as well.

this video will show you what needs to be done:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cucm7QGlsYs

FYI, you'll get quicker and better responses if you start your own thread instead of replying to one.

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