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Old 04-18-2016, 11:46 AM   #1
Clarkenice
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Default 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

1997 Saturn SL2 . manual transmission. 270k miles. Forest Green (for what it's worth, lol)

On warm days it won't start. Fuel pump will prime, I can hear it. Relay clicks once, fuel pump primes, relay clicks again. Eventually it will start but then die a few miles or minutes later, depending on outside temp.

The engine cranks though. What could be the problem?

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Old 04-18-2016, 02:28 PM   #2
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

Mind sharing some car history? Maintenance done, parts replaced? A fuel pressure gauge is more accurate if the pump is original and may be on its last legs. Fuel filter?

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Old 04-19-2016, 09:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

Well no recent maintenance. Bought the car a few months ago. I've done nothing to it since. Another weird thing it's doing is the automatic door locks will start making strange noises almost like it's trying to lock itself...or unlock itself...I can correct this by pressing unlock/lock button.
This whole problem started once my girlfriend ran out of gas about a month ago, well almost a month ago. The car died she eventually found some gas to put in it and drove it to where I was the next morning I drove it and I ran out of gas in the middle of a parking lot so I was able to put a little bit of gas in it to drive it to the gas station and I put more gas in it it's started just fine I drove about half a block and the car died. I sat there for about 2 minutes start the car back up it started just fine. drove it about 7 miles and it died again comma in the middle of traffic. I was able to let it Coast to the side of the road. I checked the Schrader valve to see if any gas was squirting out and gas came out but not sprayed out...instead it kind of oozed out. So I primed it about 10 times and it started up I drove it 2 miles down the road it died I was able to Coast it into a church parking lot. I sat there for about 3 hours. I was able to start the car but he would die after about 1 minute of idling. I checked the fuel filter and it was clean. I was able to get it started and I let it sit for about 10 minutes and it didn't cut off. So I drove it home no problems. The next day and pretty much every other day since then until a couple of days ago it would maybe die or not start once or twice a day but that was it. It wasn't until recently that it's been having serious issues starting and dying.

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Old 04-19-2016, 10:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

270k miles and very little history of maintenance to me means checking everything. How you can tell a fuel filter is clean is beyond me as normal steel filters are sealed and cannot show whether the filter is clean or clogged. The best way to check a fuel possibility is with a fuel pressure gauge after initial test valve checks shows less pressure. Always assume the worst case scenario like a clogged fuel filer and worn out fuel pump with a high mileage engine without any history to show receipts for repairs. This way no one is disappointed when parts are shown to fail as a normal part of wear and tear. A fuel pressure gauge is recommended instead of guessing. 40-55 psi is expected as soon as the ignition is turned ON - fuel pump runs for 2 seconds, long enough to pressurize.

You can check other systems too, to collect more info for yourself as well as posting results here. A battery voltage check before starting and after starting will show whether or not battery or alternator are outputting correct voltages. Standby battery voltage should be at least 12.3v. Engine idling should show the alternator outputting at least 14 volts at battery connections. This presumes the serpentine drive belt isn't flopping loosely from a worn out belt tensioner that should be keeping the belt taut.

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Old 04-19-2016, 10:49 PM   #5
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

Well the fuel filter was detached because I was able to get underneath the vehicle. I was able to disconnect the hoses attach to the fuel filter and I was able to check if there is any dirt or anything pouring through the fuel filter. It may not be a thorough check butt wouldn't there be dirt or something pouring out of the fuel filter? I actually didn't do it a Good Samaritan drove by and help us out he had all the equipment in order to get the car jacked up and to get underneath he actually did this all I was right next to him watching every step. He also blew into the fuel line back toward the fuel pump and nothing would happen then suddenly he was able to blow through as if whatever was clogging it suddenly cleared out of the way. And he could hear bubbles in the tank. According to him at least.

I will check the voltage like you recommend.

Would a bad Fuel Pump not work properly when it is hot outside?? (Low 80 on recent days it caused problems)
Because like I said; at night I have no problems.
On that first day that all of this started happening, I was able to eventually start the vehicle and it never died after that. It was in the evening when the sun started going down and it was cooler outside.

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Old 04-19-2016, 11:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clarkenice View Post
Well the fuel filter was detached because I was able to get underneath the vehicle. I was able to disconnect the hoses attach to the fuel filter and I was able to check if there is any dirt or anything pouring through the fuel filter. It may not be a thorough check butt wouldn't there be dirt or something pouring out of the fuel filter? I actually didn't do it a Good Samaritan drove by and help us out he had all the equipment in order to get the car jacked up and to get underneath he actually did this all I was right next to him watching every step. He also blew into the fuel line back toward the fuel pump and nothing would happen then suddenly he was able to blow through as if whatever was clogging it suddenly cleared out of the way. And he could hear bubbles in the tank. According to him at least.

I will check the voltage like you recommend.

Would a bad Fuel Pump not work properly when it is hot outside?? (Low 80 on recent days it caused problems)
Because like I said; at night I have no problems.
On that first day that all of this started happening, I was able to eventually start the vehicle and it never died after that. It was in the evening when the sun started going down and it was cooler outside.
You did run it out of fuel, that can really **** up a fuel pump. The fuel pump is cooled and lubed by the gas (like oil in a engine), and without gas you can overheat the pump and ruin the sleave bearings, also the impeller can spontaneously shatter (the reason why they put Kevlar on the inside of pumps). You have more than likely trashed the pump.

Other then that you could have a crap ton of air in the system, but that should all cycle (turn key on to let the pump prime, when done priming turn key off and restart from the top) on the return style fuel line, return less you have to bleed the fuel till bubbles stop coming out.

My hypothesis on ambient temp. could be the bearings not seizing up due to it being cooler or seizing when hotter. I forget if 97 has the pressure reg. or variable pump, if it pressure reg. It's constant speed, no real way to test it. The variable pump could be testable by making it work at peak power (WEP/WOT) when everything is up to temp.

Last edited by Medtactics; 04-19-2016 at 11:11 PM..

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Old 04-20-2016, 09:52 AM   #7
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

Could be the crank position sensor. Search CPS for more info.

...
97 sl2 a/t 104 K
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Old 04-20-2016, 11:11 AM   #8
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

I'll check out the crank position sensor. Do you think that the Heat mean outside temperature could affect the CPS?

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Old 04-20-2016, 11:31 AM   #9
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn sl2 won't start sometimes..and dies while driving

Another thing I want to add..
So even when the car won't start the fuel pump still makes that pumping noise when I Prime.. Even in warm outside temp.
Sometimes when I prime it 8 - 10 times in a row it will start. But the other day I primed it like 20 to 30 times using intervals and trying every 10 x it still didn't start. I had to completely wait for it to cool down

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