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Old 09-14-2022, 02:06 AM   #1
Vellyn
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1997 SW2
Wrench 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

The car just recently got a new battery (for the 4th time). Now has a new alternator (2nd one so far), a new starter, a new master cylinder, and new bolts for connecting the cables into the battery. As well as a new air filter. And new spark plugs.

Just recently, for no obvious reason, the lights started going dim inside the car, then flickering, then the gauges started going haywire, the battery light was constantly flickering. The rpms went up but the car was barely getting up and going (basically like it was being pulled backwards while you are trying to go forward) shifting hard at times.

The alternator is brand new, just replaced. The battery is brand new as well. We have new spark plugs and air filter... all the fluids are at the point they need to be...

What is going on? We really don't want to sell it but we are stumped as its electrical or not? Bad ground? A short? Fuse? Relay? Sensor?

Open to anything we can test and/or try at the very moment. We need every bit of advice possible!!!!
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Old 09-14-2022, 06:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

You'll need a dc capable volt meter at the very least, that specific of a device is rare but digital multimeters are super common and cheap (example). If the alternator is working properly it'll give a steady voltage reading from 12.9v to 14.2v.

It's possible, with all the wire and part changes, a nut came loose somewhere. GM batteries are very picky about the torque on the battery terminal, about 11ft/lbs otherwise it either strips the battery threads or loosens on it's own.

The large positive battery cable goes from the battery to the starter, then another wire (technically a "fuseable link") goes from the starter to the alternator. The smaller positive battery cable just goes straight to the fusebox next to the battery. The battery and fusebox terminals use a 8mm hex head, the rest are IIRC 13mm hex heads. You'll need ramps or jack & jackstands to check the alternator/starter ends of the cables, they're buried too much for most folks (including myself) to reach from above.

Was the alternator actually new-new or reman-new? Do you know the build date of the SW2? '97 is an alternator change over year, Napa used to post the VIN on their site, with all the '97's I've had it was roughly a Dec-Jan build date. Up until the changeover they used the good alternator, same as the '91-'96's; after the change it's a smaller unit with a different harness plug.

A lot of people have been very happy with DBElectrical alternators and starters, this new one is for the '91-'96 models: https://www.dbelectrical.com/product...400-12137.html

A video on how to use the multimeter, it probably focus's on "around the house" checks but it's mostly the same for automotive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciyWwcKmPC4
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Old 09-14-2022, 11:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

Oh, it's and electrical problem; and sounds like it has been around in one form or another for quite a while. Hence throwing all the batteries and alternators at it. Are you doing the trouble-shooting personally, or taking it to a shop? If you are using a shop, you need to find a new shop. If it is DIY, then we need to help you learn better skills.
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Old 09-14-2022, 02:27 PM   #4
Vellyn
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1997 SW2
Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
Oh, it's and electrical problem; and sounds like it has been around in one form or another for quite a while. Hence throwing all the batteries and alternators at it. Are you doing the trouble-shooting personally, or taking it to a shop? If you are using a shop, you need to find a new shop. If it is DIY, then we need to help you learn better skills.


We have been seeking help from my dad (who is a mechanic. He is just thousands of miles away from me) We have been getting help here, advice from different shops. Mostly doing it solo because the car has a bunch of issues and we know a shop will withhold her. It has been wrecked before we bought it. 3rd owners or 4th owners for us.
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Old 09-14-2022, 03:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

I'll take that to mean you want to learn more about DIY. Do you have an electrical multimeter and know how to use it? What make/model is the meter?

Like your dad, will have to be using you as our hands and eyes. Following our directions and reporting back accurately will be crucial o our being able to help. Proof-read what you write before posting to prevent typos. Typos, or any other inaccurate info you post will cripple our attempts to help.

Don't be discouraged, frustrated, or confused if some of us (including your dad) seem to be asking for redundant tests or seem to be heading you off in a completely different direction. All of us are acting in good faith, but there will often be different opinions on what is the best procedure or sequence for trouble-shooting. All tests, if results are reported correctly, are useful to some extent. Most can not hurt anything other than chew up a bit of your time. If one of us sees a post that does seem to involve some risk to the car or you, they will post a "dissenting opinion" or a caution on what the risks may be.
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Old 09-14-2022, 04:21 PM   #6
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1997 SW2
Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

Quote:
Originally Posted by billr View Post
I'll take that to mean you want to learn more about DIY. Do you have an electrical multimeter and know how to use it? What make/model is the meter?

Like your dad, will have to be using you as our hands and eyes. Following our directions and reporting back accurately will be crucial o our being able to help. Proof-read what you write before posting to prevent typos. Typos, or any other inaccurate info you post will cripple our attempts to help.

Don't be discouraged, frustrated, or confused if some of us (including your dad) seem to be asking for redundant tests or seem to be heading you off in a completely different direction. All of us are acting in good faith, but there will often be different opinions on what is the best procedure or sequence for trouble-shooting. All tests, if results are reported correctly, are useful to some extent. Most can not hurt anything other than chew up a bit of your time. If one of us sees a post that does seem to involve some risk to the car or you, they will post a "dissenting opinion" or a caution on what the risks may be.
We have a cheap one, doesnt provide much in ways of it's just volts not amps. We will be getting a new one soon however.

I had a question. 1 problem is the rpms go up but the car is slow/wont accelerate much. Would that be something to do with a clutch/clutch plate? I'm literally chasing everything right now �� We have checked fuses, made replacements and triple checked every new part, new hook ups, every connection.

We just got a new battery and once we hooked it up, it's already basically dead. Even got new cables for it. The alternator is new as well. Triple checked those connections as well.

I grew up with my dad so I know a good chunk as well as learning more from people like you and him. Me and my partner just need this car to run �� and avoiding a shop is our current plan as those get expensive really fast.

Also. I have been told to check the fuel filter and fuel pump
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Old 09-14-2022, 05:01 PM   #7
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

If the battery is going down, be sure to keep charging it; never let it get below 11.5V and stay that way for a few hours. I assume you have a standard lead-acid battery, and those can be damaged by leaving in a discharged state for an extended time.

Is the battery going down when the car just sits, or is it only going down as you drive?

This is a manual 5-speed trans, correct? Yes, if the engine revs up but the car doesn't speed up proportionally, then the clutch must be slipping. If the car didn't move at all, then we would have to consider a problem with the trans or axles; but that isn't the case, correct?
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Old 09-14-2022, 05:53 PM   #8
Vellyn
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

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If the battery is going down, be sure to keep charging it; never let it get below 11.5V and stay that way for a few hours. I assume you have a standard lead-acid battery, and those can be damaged by leaving in a discharged state for an extended time.

Is the battery going down when the car just sits, or is it only going down as you drive?

This is a manual 5-speed trans, correct? Yes, if the engine revs up but the car doesn't speed up proportionally, then the clutch must be slipping. If the car didn't move at all, then we would have to consider a problem with the trans or axles; but that isn't the case, correct?

We got the battery, hooked it up, tested everything. It drained pretty quickly. It is currently at 11.87. My partner disconnected it to hopefully prevent it from draining anymore, since we don't know what is draining it. If i am not mistaken, it drains both, when driving and when sitting. We haven't driven it in 3 almost 4 days because it just wont function. If we try to drive it, not even 5 minutes into driving, the car lights inside start to dim, the battery light starts to flicker, the car rpms go up and the car will hardly accelerate. The gauges also start to fluctuate and go haywire.

No, it is an automatic. The car will move, if the battery ever will stay charged but it wont drive far before it starts acting up. And we don't want to risk moving it too much and making matters worse.

The alternator was replaced again and as far as we know it works. The last battery drained too, but we aren't sure it would be the alternator yet again unless there is a messed up connection we are overlooking. But we have checked everything, several times. The car does move, just wont keep going as it starts to struggle to speed up, like it is begin pulled backwards while you are trying to drive.
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Old 09-14-2022, 08:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

Recently had a similar issue with the alternator dying quick. The power steering had a leak and I believe that is what was killing it. Changed all of that and now have issues with the car not accelerating while warm. If I figure mine out I will post back and please keep everyone posted about yours
...
if you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it again?
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Old 09-14-2022, 11:23 PM   #10
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Default Re: 1997 Saturn SW2 (HELP)

Vellyn and Roofcock.

Indeed, your trans problems seem very similar. So, my advice here is the same, disconnect that 10-wire cable on top of the trans and see if R and one forward gear work fairly normal. Certainly the car should move in R or D without the engine revving up much past 2500 rpm until the car is going about 50 mph.

Disconnecting that cable removes all electrical "influence" on the trans, so if the engine does not seem to be connecting properly to the wheels, then either the trans or an axle has problems. If it was an axle, I don't think the car would move at all, and there would probably be some loud ugly noises.

My understanding is that neither of you is reporting noises or total failure for the car to move; just that the engine has to rev up a lot to get even slow motion of the car. Correct?

Vellyn,

You need to get a meter that will read at least 10 DC amps, but 20A is becoming common and would be safer (for the meter). Use that to find out what parasitic current draw is when the car is at rest and everything is supposed to be powered down. You do that by putting the ammeter in series with the negative battery cable. Do not try to turn anything on with the meter in series, especially cranking the engine! Wait about 15 minutes and then read what the current is. It should be in the 50-100 milliamps range (0.100-0.050A). If it is greater than that, tell us what it is.

You have two threads going on the same vehicle. Perhaps you could stick to one? There seems to be two different problems, but I may get lost flitting back-and-forth between your two and roofcock's similar one!
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