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Old 09-17-2010, 05:30 PM   #1
Salshoes
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Mad '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Howdy all -

Thanks in advance for your help - there seems to be quite a bit of expertise on this forum.

Here's the story. For the past few months I've had intermittent starting problems (no cranking, no power at all). I finally narrowed it down to the Instrument Panel Junction Block (the interior fuse box on the passenger side below the radio). At first I thought it was a specific fuse, pulling them, checking them, and reinserting them usually allowed it to start. After a while, though, pulling fuses didn't fix it, but putting my hand on the side of the whole fuse block and pulling it toward the passenger seat while turning the ignition allowed it to start. My mechanic thought the fuse box itself was bad and needed to be replaced. BUT, considering it was going to by $175 for the part, plus a few hours of labor, I wanted to check it out further.

Yesterday, however, when it didn't start immediately, I pulled the fuse block, and that still didn't help. I finally pulled the cover off the driver side so I could look and get in behind the fuse box. That's when I narrowed the problem down even further. There is one red wire (one of three red wires that are much thicker than the others) that seems to be the culprit. With the key in the ignition and turned all the way to start, I can fiddle with this one red wire, pulling it towards the rear of the car, and get it started. It's like the wire needs to be bent a little, because if I just let it go, the wire moves and the car will stall out after a minute or two unless I sort of keep it wedged in a certain position. (The fuel pump relay and another fuel pump fuse are in that fuse box, so I was wondering if it could be that wire). Also, I can see a little spark as I fiddle with that wire (with the key in "start"). That leads me to believe it's possible that the wire I'm playing with is the one that supplies power to that whole fuse block.

So - my questions are manifold -

1. Does this sound like it's an issue with the fuse block itself?

2. Does it sound like the wire I'm using to start the car goes to the fuel pump? (I guess it could go to the starter, but there's not a fuse for the starter in that fuse block)

3. Does it sound like that wire is the one that supplies power to the fuse block?

Lastly, while I have the fuse box diagram (on the panel cover), how can I tell which wires in the back are connected to each fuse (or control which components)? The Haynes book deals with 8 years (1991-1999) of ALL Saturn models. The electrical diagrams don't make a lot of sense to me, and the diagrams of the IPJB in the book don't match up with what I'm looking at. Is this a case of getting my hands on an FSM so I can have accurate info?

My plan for the weekend is to pull out the radio, heater and center console cover so I can really look at the back of fuse block and experiment with what's going on back there. I've got a multimeter to test wires, so hopefully that will come in handy (do I need to have the meter connected to bare wire, or can the leads just be clamped over the wire's plastic coating and get the same result?)

Any advice or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. I've got a 35-mile commute to work each day, and the lack of reliable transportation is making a me a little crazy.

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Old 09-17-2010, 08:49 PM   #2
OldNuc
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Default Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Black 68 pin plug, terminal F-5. It is a funny shade of red and a large wire. If this is the source the chime, radio and dome lamp will not function either. To work on it safely you disconnect the battery, negative first then positive and reconnect positive and then negative. Loosen the center bolt and the connector will walk part way out. Clean carefully the pin in the IP panel and if you look on the rounded side of the front of an individual connector that forms a tang that springs up into a recess that prevents the connector from sliding out the back. This sheet metal will depress it and the connector will come out. Re tension it and re spring the tab. Clean inside also. Reassemble.

The cause of this is aftermarket electronics powered from the I/P panel. Provide direct feed from battery. High powered aftermarket radio will cause this also and using cigarette lighter socket as power plug for powering accessories.

You did not mention it but do you have electric door locks. Loss of power to the RKE module will keep the starter from cranking. That would be the terminal F-5 also. If you Do Not have electric door locks, remote keyless entry then take not of what does and does not work. As you have traced this down to the I/P panel it should be the F-5 terminal issue. Before disassembly be sure to disconnect the battery as some of the feeds are direct from the battery.

The pins are numbered and lettered along the edges, bright light required.

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Old 09-17-2010, 09:18 PM   #3
Salshoes
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Thumbs Up Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Old Nuc -

Have had my flashlight charging all day in preparation for tomorrow.

And yes, when I fiddle with that wire to get the car to start, the chime begins to ding when I get contact. I do have power locks, and they don't work when I can't start the car - but I don't have RKE (which, based on some of the other issues I've read on the posts, seems like a good thing).

I'm going to try and follow your directions and clean and reassemble this tomorrow - and, indeed, ic an trace the beginning of this problem to when I installed a new radio in the car about a year ago, that's when I began having issues with that IPJB.

Thanks for the directions -

I'll disconnect the battery as you suggest, but when you say "loosen the center bolt," are you saying that that F5 terminal has a center bolt, or just the center bolt on the whole IPJB? perhaps it will be clear when I get back there and take a look at it.

I'll let you know how it goes and may have more questions as I start looking at it.

Thanks!

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Old 09-17-2010, 09:30 PM   #4
OldNuc
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Default Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

There is a bolt that holds the entire black 68 pin connector in place. That is the one to loosen.

Aftermarket radios are powered backwards from Saturn. The I/P panel was designed to supply memory/preset power only and main power came from the ignition. The aferemarket is backwards. Just move the wire connected to the I/P panel to a direct fused feed from the battery and it will be fixed. Getting the terminal out is a bit of a pain and using a screwdriver will mangle it. Very narrow flat blade. You can grind down an X-Acto knife blade and that works. Has to be narrower than the total opening. Look into an empty one in the plug and you will see how they work.

The RKE controls a security relay in the starter circuit and when the F-5 fails to make contact then the relay does not close and the starter will not run.

The offending wire/pin is on the lower portion of the plug 5 up 6 over or 6 up 5 over. I forget. When you pull the plug you will see it and if it has been hot enough the connector will slide right out of the 68 pin plug.

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Old 09-18-2010, 09:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Well, loosening that center bolt didn't really do much. I even took out the bolt on the front face of the fuse block (where the fuses are seated) and that didn't help either. I didn't want to get in there with anything sharp to try and pull it out for fear of damaging some other wires or the connector itself. Is there a trick to sliding it out? Otherwise I can't see how I'd pull that wire and clean the connections.

It's definittely that red wire at the F5 terminal though (and it's 6 over and 5 up, btw). It's the only wire with any play in it - you can feel it push and pull into and out of place.

BUT, not being able to pull it out, i just sort of pushed it hard into place, bent the wire a little so as to hold the connection, and car starts and runs fine. I'd be much happier, though, with getting it solved more permanantly.

Thanks!

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Old 09-18-2010, 09:50 AM   #6
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Default Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

You need to be at the backside of the fuse block, where the wired connector is. Loosen the center bolt in the connector, the bolt stays in the connector, you just loosen it enough turns to pull the connector out of the fuse block. Once the bolt is loose, pull where the wires are taped together in the harness, it should come out easily.

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Old 09-18-2010, 09:58 AM   #7
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Default Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Put the front bolt back in. There is a bolt in the center of that black plug. As you loosen it the black plug will be forced off of the pins. Then the plug will still be tight, you can see it moving as you unscrew the bolt. When the bolt is truly loose then you can unplug the black connector.

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Old 09-18-2010, 01:08 PM   #8
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Dizzy Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Well, I consider myself a strong individual, but I'm having no luck pulling that plug out.

I put the fronts-pde bolt back in (on the fuse side), than came around to the back, loosened the center bolt until it started "clicking," and first tried gently to pull using the wires from the harness, with no luck. I didn't want to do any further eletrical damage.

Then I took some needle-nosed pliers, and tried pulling the plug out both by the center bolt itself, as well using them to grip the side of the plug and pull it out.

Would it be wise to maybe spray some silicone in between the outer plastic adge of the plug and the plastic housing I'm trying to pull it out of? I'm not sure how much the electrical contacts would like that if it got on there.

I was pulling pretty forcefully, but again, didn't want to destroy stuff in there by pulling too hard.

Any more advice?

Thanks!

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Old 09-18-2010, 01:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: '99 SL2 - Frustrating Electrical/Fuse Box Issue

Don,t spray anything in it. Take a small screw driver and work around it top/bottom/left/right. It takes a bit of doing to get it out of there the pins are about 1/2 inch long and the plug body fits tight into the panel. If the center bolt happens to have had the clip on the side you can not see slip then it will not pull it out far enough. Don't pry too hard as something will break. Just apply tension on the wire bundle and wiggle it with the little screw driver.

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