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Old 04-24-2009, 11:58 PM   #1
CoolATIGuy
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Dizzy Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Ok, so '98 Saturn SL2 worked fine this morning when my wife dropped me off at work. She drives home, parks, and when she goes out to the car to come pick me up this evening the keyless entry works fine just as before, but when she goes to turn the key, everything comes on and goes right back off in like half a second. After that, it is completely and utterly dead, no lights, power, anything. Only a rapid clicking noise coming somewhere from the rear (possibly passenger side?) of the car.

Borrowed a car, and when I got home, the headlights were on very very faintly, and when I opened the trunk to get jumper cables, that was very dim as well. Hooked it up to jump it thinking maybe the battery was just low on juice, and I when I got in to start it, it acts completely fine, from opening the door with the dome light on to turning the key to start the radio. Only when you turn the key all the way to make the engine turn over does it just completely die, rapid clicking in the back starts again, and now the key doesn't do anything at all. I tried cleaning the positive battery connection with a wool pad, checked some possible fuses (didn't see any blown), and it does the same thing - everything normal until you try to start the car. I tightened the positive battery connection down all the way and hopped in to try it one more time, and low and behold, it starts and runs. I turned it on and off several times, seems fine, *except* that the remote entry fob doesn't work anymore (might be a dead battery, but it's worked for quite some time and seems a bit cooincidental).

I'm very wary at this point, since it was fine this morning and fine now, with it completely dead this afternoon. I don't want to live with the threat hanging overhead - what might be the issue in play? I don't know much about starters going bad, but do they work intermittently when they are going out (fine then dead then back to fine, flaky like that)? Could it be a short somewhere? Is it a fuse or the battery connections? It's strange that after firing up and dying completely, somehow if you wait it may bring back all the power (that is, until you try to turn the engine over again).


???

Last edited by CoolATIGuy; 04-25-2009 at 12:06 AM.
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:11 AM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

I would check both battery cables for corrosion. If that does not do it then have the battery and alternator tested. Also check/clean the positive connection to the UHJB.
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:17 AM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Starters can be flaky like this. Is the starter original?

How old is the battery?
Spark plugs/wires?
Alternator? Serpentine Belt?

It sounds like your starter, but check your other electrical things as well.

If you have a voltmeter, check the voltage with the car sitting. It shoud read 12V.

Start the car up, turn lights, heater on....check voltage with car running and it should be 13-14V. This will tell you the status of the alternator.

Check the how=to....The starter needs to be replaced, but check the other electricals first.
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:18 AM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Sorry to be dumb, but is that connection the the small cable that spits off the positive battery terminal main cable and bolts into the top back of the fuse box under the hood?
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:22 AM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

There's two bolts on the battery terminal. Undo them with a socket (IIRC it's a 5/16" socket, I'm not for sure) and check them out. The terminals on the bolts should be copper all around (except on the bolts.) If they appear to be some other color than copper, then it's corrosion. An alternative would be while undoing the bolts, if you hear a crunch-crunch-crunch noise, then you most likely have a corrosion problem. You'll need to pick up some corrosion cleaner from AutoZone (it cost me $5) and a wire brush to clean it off.
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

You can also use a baking soda/water mixture to cleanup the acid buildup (White Crusties)...make sure the mixture is cleaned up good and your battery terminal is cleaned up well.

A 5/16 will work or you can use an 8MM to undo the battery terminals.
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:33 AM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolATIGuy View Post
Sorry to be dumb, but is that connection the the small cable that spits off the positive battery terminal main cable and bolts into the top back of the fuse box under the hood?
Yes, that is the one. that provides power to the entire car except for the starter. You do not need to scour off the tin coating on the ring terminal, just get the rust of of it and put it back. The directions below will work for battery cables. If you use soda water only about a tablespoon in a half gallon of hot water will do the job.
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Old 04-25-2009, 09:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

I've had that happen to me twice but, knock on wood, never on my Saturn.
The first time it was the battery. (Apparently a battery - even a newer one - can just suddenly fail without any warning)

The second time it was a bad engine ground (where the negative battery cable connects to the engine block. When that happened to me my car did the same thing you describe.

Do what the guys above say to do first. They are a lot smarter than I, and have taught me a lot about my Saturn.
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Old 04-25-2009, 10:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Ok, interesting update - when my mechanic went to start it and pull it into the bay to look at it, it worked fine, so they just tested the battery and alternator - said both have great output. I went out to the car to start it, it hesitated then turned on fine, so I turned it off and tried it again while I was still in the lot; lo-and-behold, it totally died again with the clicking sound from the rear! I traced it back to the wheel well, pulled off the trim, and found a wiring harness attached to a small black box labeled "Saturn Security System". The clicking was emitting from inside, so I opened it up and found a circuit board - felt like it was 3 relays inside that were doing the clicking.

I read online and called the Saturn Dealer, and it looks like the car has a anti-theft system that will disable the starter - when tripped, the car turns on and right back off (just like it did for us). I do have a remote entry dongle, but no alarm button on it and when I programmed it ages ago turned the alarm feature off. Haven't ever had a problem until now.

Furthermore, the clicking from teh "Saturn Security System" box would cease if you pressed the brake pedal or opened the trunk (possibly other things that triggered something electrical). When I unplugged the box, the car was still completely dead, as well as after I plugged it back in again. He also tried turning the key over and over and at some point got a sound from the dash/wheel column area I haven't heard before - I don't know.

He took off both battery connections, cleaned it with a wire brush, then touched them together (he said it was an old GM trick that wipes the onboard computer and resets the memory). After putting the connections back on the battery, he started the car and it has worked fine since then (although it died the 1st time he dried to start it - he said that wasn't uncommon after you wipe the computer).

We also tested the battery in the remote entry dongle (just in case it was low and sent a bad signal to the car), it was fine, and after putting it back together, it worked as well.

So were back to being fine again, although I really don't like having the threat of the car dying again. He said if it happens taking the connections off the battery and putting them back on might/should fix it.

So I suppose if the security system is tripped (not sure what made it happen seemingly randomly), the car seems fine, it starts then immediately dies, and it cuts all electrical power to the car, period. That's a semi-educated guess. :-)

Any ideas on the "Saturn Security System", the clicking, the problem, etc with this new information? Is it doing exactly what it was supposed to do, how does the security system work/get reset normally, and is the black box busted or fine? A short somewhere else?


Thanks for the input!!!
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Old 04-25-2009, 10:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Yes, do you have remote keyless entry (RKE)? The stand alone security system was integrated into the RKE in 95/96 and there is a stand alone version if you do not have RKE for later cars. The starter disable relay is up under the dash right over your right kneecap taped up in the wiring harness. It can be bypassed.

If you have RKE a dirty door switch will continuously cycle the thing and it will drain your battery.
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Old 04-25-2009, 10:57 PM   #11
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

You mean the remote entry dongle I mentioned above? Yes, I have keyless entry. It's working at the moment, I just don't know what instigated it and will it happen again.
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Old 04-25-2009, 11:02 PM   #12
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

I just cleaned up that post above. But you answered the question. Its part of the RKE and you probably have a door switch that is misbehaving. A door switch will get it to chattering. Also, RKE is not real smart. If you lock the car with a key you have to open it with a key and if you lock it with the remote you have to unlock it with the remote. I do not have this "feature" so that is not the exact sequence that sets it off but its close and it will keep you out of trouble.
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Old 04-25-2009, 11:19 PM   #13
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Does post #5 of this relate: http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...y+system+power

Or "CHIME fuse. Or perhaps the CHIME module"?
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...y+system+power

Or possibly "RKE not giving the starter relay it's ground to the coil side!"?
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...y+system+power

Trying to figure out options...

Last edited by CoolATIGuy; 04-25-2009 at 11:29 PM.
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Old 04-25-2009, 11:46 PM   #14
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

fyi, I did just take out the chime module - looks fine, chimes fine, no charring or anything, one pin looks like it's missing but the circuit board has a funny solder that makes me think that's the way it's supposed to be.

The chime fuse prongs looked a little bit under par but nothing horrible.

Can you explain where/what it is your are talking about in the 1st link above? I'm a little lost..
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Old 04-26-2009, 12:33 AM   #15
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

Are you talking about the F-5 terminal issue? Its on the other side of the CHIME fuse and it is where the continuous battery power enters the I/P panel. Take off the drivers side kick panel and look in there at the back of the I/P pnl. Its in the black plug on the left, towards teh front of the car. Loosen the bolt and work the plug off of all the pins and inspect the F-5 terminal and connector in the plug. The letters and numbers are along the side. If that terminal decides to periodically open you have problems. F-5 is along the vertical edge and 5 up from the bottom. Has the big red wire in it, blank in F-4 and pink in F-6. The connector in the plug can back out from overheating and that will do it.

If still not clear let me know. Its a bit
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Old 03-18-2014, 11:14 PM   #16
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Default Re: Saturn SL2 Fine, then completely dead, then fine again??? <electrical>

OldNuc you have the best advice. Today I did what you mentioned above, about checking the terminals inside the interior fuse box. Found the problem that plagued my car. The anti-theft disable that kept recurring now and then on my 2002 Sl2. The 12volt red wire to the fuse box was loose and wasn't giving power to all the circuits including the BCM. As soon as I touched that red wire, the door chimes started (had key in ign and door open), and the anti-theft dashboard flashing stopped. After securing that red wire, I can now drive the car.
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