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Old 11-12-2013, 10:32 AM   #1
Rileysowner
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Default Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

99 Saturn SL1. Yesterday I stopped at a store late in the afternoon. When I finished there I came out and saw the lights were on. When I entered the car it smelled of burning wires and there was smoke coming from around the steering column just behind the steering wheel. Most of it seemed to be coming from the side where the light switch is. The high beam indicator light was on as well, although I am fairly sure the lights were not on as the daytime running lights would not shut off. The smoke started to diminish and since I was far from home and the car was running I decided to head home. By the time we were on the highway home the smoke had stopped, the high bean indicator light had turned off, and all seemed fine.

My question is what do I need to do to fix this? Are there any good videos of writeups on it as I don't have a repair manual as up to this point I have not needed one as the repairs have all been normal wear and tear (brakes and the like) not any wiring issues. Is this a common problem? Will I have to take the steering wheel off or just the shroud behind it?

I probably won't be able to get to this until later in the week as we had our first snow fall and it is miserable outside. Things are supposed to melt in the next couple of days and warm up as well making this a much more comfortable fix to do.
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Old 11-12-2013, 10:56 AM   #2
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Quit driving the car and disconnect the battery until you replace the ignition switch. You can completely burn up the interior wiring harness. As a minimum you will have to open up the wiring loom that runs from the switch and inspect and repair burned wires.
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:16 AM   #3
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

No plans on driving the car until this is fixed. I wouldn't have driven it when it started except I had to get home. Thankfully we have a van and that will be what we get around in until this is fixed.
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:22 AM   #4
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Disconnect the negative battery terminal so it does not continue burning. There are how-to posts relating to changing that switch on here.

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=181310
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Old 11-12-2013, 12:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

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Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
Disconnect the negative battery terminal so it does not continue burning. There are how-to posts relating to changing that switch on here.
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Thanks for the link. Is the only possibility the ignition switch or could it be the multifunction switch controlling the lights?
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Old 11-12-2013, 12:38 PM   #6
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

It might be but if you look there are only 8 wires from the switch and it is the black one that burns up first. The ignition switch is the common failure, actual inspection will tell what fried.
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Old 11-13-2013, 11:57 AM   #7
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

From a curiosity standpoint, why does this happen. If it is the ignition switch, is the switch failing that cause the problem or is it something else causing the switch to fail? Weather is warming up, the snow is going away, so hopefully I can get to this in a couple of days.
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:08 PM   #8
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

ALL things get old and worn out
...
'05 ,2.2L, FWD,5-speed stick with transaxle death rattle is history,,,
'17 Suby Forester

245216 mi. VUe is off to the dealer auction
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:35 PM   #9
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rileysowner View Post
From a curiosity standpoint, why does this happen. If it is the ignition switch, is the switch failing that cause the problem or is it something else causing the switch to fail? Weather is warming up, the snow is going away, so hopefully I can get to this in a couple of days.
The switch fails and the rotating set of contacts over travels and shorts the battey direct to ground through that black wire.
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Old 11-13-2013, 02:39 PM   #10
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

If the high-beam indicator was on, the multifunction switch is probably affected as well.
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Old 11-13-2013, 03:45 PM   #11
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
The switch fails and the rotating set of contacts over travels and shorts the battey direct to ground through that black wire.

Is there a way to tell this is happening before you have a car-b-que?
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Old 11-14-2013, 09:24 AM   #12
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
The switch fails and the rotating set of contacts over travels and shorts the battey direct to ground through that black wire.
Ok, that was the answer I was looking for. It is supposed to be a little warmer today, so hopefully I can get things open at the very least to see what is up. I am guessing if it is the switch some replacing of wires along with it will be necessary. Is there anything special I need to know to open the column behind the steering wheel, or is it pretty straight forward? All the stuff I have seen so far has that section open already.
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:06 AM   #13
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

You have to get the lower cover off to look and the upper to fix. These show how and what to use to get a look at it, you do not have to pull the cylinder. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt8wnj4qHoc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz3UIzmK7T8
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:15 AM   #14
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldNuc View Post
You have to get the lower cover off to look and the upper to fix. These show how and what to use to get a look at it, you do not have to pull the cylinder. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt8wnj4qHoc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz3UIzmK7T8
Thanks. That was just what I wanted.
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Old 11-15-2013, 10:27 AM   #15
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Got the cover off after having to grind down one of my sockets to fit up in the holes. I still need to grind it down a little more as even now it gets stuck and I need to push on the bolt to get it out so re-installing would be an issue. Sadly it got too dark to see anything so I had to stop with just getting the cover off. Hopefully today I will have some time to look and find the burned wires.
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Old 11-15-2013, 10:49 AM   #16
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

I took a look this AM, but can't see or at this point smell any burned wires. Baring hooking the battery up again and driving around with the cover off until the smoke starts coming again, where exactly does the burned wiring show up? I'm not even sure you can help me here. I really don't want to pull the steering wheel, but it seems that to find the problem that will be the next step just to get things out of the way.
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Old 11-15-2013, 02:41 PM   #17
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

usually if it smoked there will be discolored wire(s). Look at all of them that are on the switch and column. The black wire from the ignition switch is the one that burns up and they will get to the smoke point in the loom first. Remove tape from end of loom and just peel it back then inspect the wires in the bundle.
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Old 11-15-2013, 04:27 PM   #18
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

After a bunch of searching I found it was the plug into the multi function switch. Wires are all fine, now I have to figure out what is causing the issue.
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:09 PM   #19
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

Which one? How many wires and how many pins?
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:17 PM   #20
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Default Re: Smoke from Steering Column mainly Light/Signal Switch side

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Which one? How many wires and how many pins?
The one that plugs in where the light/signal switch is. Only one pin is burned. I will get a pic when I get the chance. Lots of other work to do. Just to see I hooked up the battery with the cover off and checked the plug. Drove around a bit and checked it. No extra heat or anything. Only thing I didn't do was turn on the headlights other than the daytime running lights. I hate intermittent electrical problems. I figure it is either the light switch, the plug, or something downline that is shorting out intermittently.
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