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Old 08-30-2010, 05:22 PM   #1
98Saturn
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1998 SL2
Default 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

I have a 98 SL2 with a manual trannsmission that is experiencing starting issues. On a few occasions (all when leaving work) my car will not turn over. When I switch the key on, all of the electrical items seem to respond as normal, but when I turn all the way, absolutely nothing. No click, no dimming, etc.

The battery, starter, alternator, ingnition coils/module and CPS are all just over 3 years old. The car has 125k, about 30 k of which has been added since the battery, etc. were replaced.

Reading through the last few years of tech forum threads, it appears that the likely culprits are the rke relay (I never lock with the key fob), the clutch switch, and the ignition switch.

The reason I mentioned that this only occurs when I try to leave work is that it seems to be related to the temperature inside the car. This is the only place that my car sits in the sun and soaks for hours. The following scenarios deal when the car interior is HOT (mid-atlantic this summer with no shade = well over 100 degree interior). The car will push start fine. If I run it for a few minutes and turn it off, I have to push start again. If I let the AC run for about 10 minutes, I can turn the car off, and it will start just fine.

Does anyone have experience with which may be the most likely problem child? After watching Richpin's video on replacing the ignition switch, I don't look forward to that being the likely cause, but you all have helped me tremendously in the past, so I'm hopeful that you can help me again.

...
98 SL2 w/130k miles driven and another 30k+ towed with my RV
Purchased new in South Carolina, survived 9 years in Vermont, now putting up with traffic in Northern VA.

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Old 08-30-2010, 05:50 PM   #2
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

Look for the starter relay interrupt buried in the driver's side dash harness. Its just a common 87A relay used everywhere else. Try using your remote again to Unlock the doors while simultaneously enabling the relay otherwise rap the relay a few times to allow the internal contacts to make again. Pins 30 and 87 are used to complete the starting circuit between the ignition switch and starter. In sequence; ignition switch, starter interrupt (theft deterrent) relay, clutch safety switch and starter solenoid (pink wire). You can always bypass this relay by splicing the above two wires together from their corresponding relay pins.

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Old 08-30-2010, 06:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

That is a classic symptom of a bad starter.Sometimes when it is acting up, you can bang on with a small pipe through the intake and get it to work. I believe the temp correlation is merely coincidental. I know you said yours had been replaced recently, but those rebuilt units don't have a very good track record. Also check your battery cables and connections including the ground.

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Old 08-30-2010, 07:10 PM   #4
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1996 SW2
Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
You can always bypass this relay by splicing the above two wires together from their corresponding relay pins.
Or, more "reversibly", unplug the relay and construct a jumper with a piece of wire and two male terminals, and plug it into the corresponding 87 and 30 terminals of the connector.

Hot interior hint - get one of those fold-out reflectors for the inside of the windshield. Not only keeps the interior cooler, but reduces the chance of your dashboard top cracking over time.

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Old 09-06-2010, 11:57 AM   #5
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1998 SL2
Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

I have finally gotten the time to start troubleshooting, so I looked at the clutch switch. My Haynes manual says that the switch is normally closed (clutch not depressed = continuity), and that with the clutch depressed, the switch should open. Is this correct? It seems "bass-akwards". I'm going on the the relay next, but it was easier to get to the clutch switch, so I thought I would check the easier piece first.

Thanks.

...
98 SL2 w/130k miles driven and another 30k+ towed with my RV
Purchased new in South Carolina, survived 9 years in Vermont, now putting up with traffic in Northern VA.

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Old 09-06-2010, 02:16 PM   #6
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Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

Its the other way around; clutch pedal not pressed down/switch open, clutch pedal pressed down/switch closed. Logically the starting circuit as a safety measure needs the clutch pedal pressed to ensure the transmission isn't enaged to allow safe starting so it makes sense to disable the starting circuit if the switch is closed/clutch pedal out.

Jumpering this switch will allow troubleshooting the START circuit all the way to the small purple wire on the starter solenoid. Be careful when checking this; pull this wire off the starter for your safety when troubelshooting. Someone turning the ignition key to START will have power going to the starter..............so leaving this wire off for checking is the safest way.

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Old 09-06-2010, 02:35 PM   #7
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Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

Thanks for the help fdryer. It looks like the clutch switch is good, I jumpered the relay, but that didn't work, and I am now going to pull the starter off and check that. As I recall, the starter and solenoid are replaced together, so I will pull that and take it to the local AZ for a check. I will probably replace the 30A fuse because it looks a little funny. It isn't burned out, but there is a little discoloration on the S-bend, so I don't think a new one will hurt. I assume the only thing left after those is the ignition switch, which I am praying I don't have to do. Richpin has a great video, but it still looks like a royal pain.

...
98 SL2 w/130k miles driven and another 30k+ towed with my RV
Purchased new in South Carolina, survived 9 years in Vermont, now putting up with traffic in Northern VA.

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Old 09-06-2010, 10:05 PM   #8
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1996 SW2
Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

Haynes was probably referring to the clutch switch for the cruise control on '91-'95 cars.

Pretty simple way to test whether it's the starter or the ignition switch. Put a voltmeter on the purple wire at the starter, and turn the key.

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Old 09-06-2010, 10:36 PM   #9
98Saturn
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Default Re: 98 Saturn Intermittent Start issue

Thanks for the tip, Madpogue. I went ahead and took the starter off and had it check at AZ, as expected, it passed their tests. I reinstalled it and of course the car starterd right up. Since this had been intermittent to start with, that was just par for the course. I'll just park on a hill for the next few days, so that I can push start it if I need to. The next hot day I get a chance, I'll try the voltage on the starter wire, to see if it is an ignition switch issue.

...
98 SL2 w/130k miles driven and another 30k+ towed with my RV
Purchased new in South Carolina, survived 9 years in Vermont, now putting up with traffic in Northern VA.

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