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Old 07-21-2007, 12:17 PM   #1
brian75
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Default Unsteady idle, trouble starting - fuel pump regulator?

Hi all,

This is my first post here, and I'm pretty much a neophyte when it comes to car maintenance. I have a Saturn 95 SL1 with ~145k miles on it. For the last 6 months or so, it's been idling in different states - a high state of ~900-1000 rpm, and a low state of ~600 rpm. Sometimes it mainly stays in one state, other times it's changing frequently between states (which means if I'm at a stop sign and it's at 600 rpm, I'd better have my foot hard on the brake in case it suddenly surges up to 1000 rpm!). The frequent changing back and forth, and a couple cases of stalls, were mainly a problem over the winter (I live in Chicago). Since spring, most of the time it's in a high state when the car's first started up, and once it's run for a good while, it'll drop back to the low state. Sometimes the "check engine soon" light comes on, but it never stays on so I haven't been able to get it read.

Yesterday (Friday), though, my wife took the car on a short trip, and when she tried starting it again an hour later, it wouldn't start. AAA towed it to a mechanic for us, and the tow-truck driver actually managed to get it to start at the mechanic's by pumping the gas a lot first - when it started, there was a strong smell of gas fumes in the car. He also thought the gas pedal felt "soft". His take was a clogged fuel filter, or maybe clogged fuel lines.

The mechanic, who I have trouble understanding but who seems honest and helpful (had good experiences with him in the past), says it's not the fuel filter and that he doesn't have a full computerized system to do the diagnosis. He says he'll have to try a few things to figure it out, or I can take the car to a dealer instead. He first wants to try replacing the fuel pump regulator and something else (a valve?), and if that fixes it expects the cost to be ~$350.

What should it cost to replace a regulator? My feeling is we should take the car to someone else with better capabilities to diagnose the problem, but I'd like to have a better sense of what I might be dealing with first. Any ideas on what the problem might really be? Or recommendations on mechanics in the Chicago area? (how is Saturn of Oaklawn's service department?)

Thanks!
Brian
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Old 07-21-2007, 12:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Unsteady idle, trouble starting - fuel pump regulator?

Have him change the two-wire engine coolant temperature sensor only, if possible. It's a five minute job and very inexpensive at $10-$20. Look in the How-to Tips library's first two posts about the infamous engine coolant temperature sensor and corroded wiring connector. I don't think it's the fuel regulator. Hold off on this replacement.
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Old 07-21-2007, 12:57 PM   #3
1999greenSL2
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Default Re: Unsteady idle, trouble starting - fuel pump regulator?

You're bound to get a lot of people saying to replace the ECTS. It will cost no more than $20, and if you have a 13mm deep socket, you can do it yourself very easily.
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Old 07-21-2007, 08:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: Unsteady idle, trouble starting - fuel pump regulator?

would very much agree with that for the weird/high idles...

also, you mentioned the hard starts/stuttering? My guess would be that if the mechanice thought to replace the fuel pump regular (which I would guess is what I could Fuel Pressure Regulator) because of having to pump the gas to get it to start, I wouldn't be surprised if it were your EGR valve. My check engine light came on and off when I had a bad EGR system. replacing it fixed that and the stuttering. this is just a guess though with no error code to work off of. Perhaps pay the dealer to just give you a PCM diagnosis? ODBI reader is all it takes for the codes, or if you're feeling handy go to the How-To section and search for how to use a paperclip to check your PCM readings.
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:24 PM   #5
brian75
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Default Re: Unsteady idle, trouble starting - fuel pump regulator?

Thanks, everyone. I took the car to a different mechanic today - one with a full computerized diagnostic system - and the word is I've got 3 broken sensors: engine coolant tempature, throttle position sensor, and idle air controller. So they'll fix those and hopefully that will be it (or, with those working, I'm afraid something more might pop up in the diagnostics).

I really wish I could do some of this work myself, but it's not really practical where I'm living. Someday...

Thanks again, I'll keep you posted on how it goes.
Brian
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