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Old 09-22-2021, 12:29 PM   #1
Sachem
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Devil Gas gauge empty, stalls, steering brakes hard to manage, starts up afterwards

Hi folks,
I know there have been a number of threads about problems similar to these and the only thing I have done for this 2001 Saturn SL is add fuel booster and premium gas. The scanner code is PO446 (evaporative emission, system vent control, circuit). The problems we have been having is that ordinarily the car is going slowly or about to stop and then the car stalls and the gas pedal will not work, gas gauge says empty, steering and brakes are not as functional. After I stop the car and turn off, it turns on easily. Today I was going 30mph when it just went on the fritz and the gauge said empty and other symptoms. I pulled over fortunately and restarted the car and it had 1/4 tank of gas.
The mechanic is unwilling to do anything until it happens enough that we know what it is and they said code was connected to a gas cap and or sensor possibly in the fuel tank which is hard to get to? They call the car the demon. This problem was happening intermittently but more often recently and I do not want to be in traffic going at a speed and have this happen. If you have any suggestions given these symptoms I would greatly appreciate it. I am an auto ignoramus housewife trying to sort through forum threads to know where to begin and would appreciate any help as the car only has 80k miles on it and I have purchased winter tires and it has had a lot of work done on it the past 2 years so I would hate for this problem to nix our ability to drive around town. Thank you in advance!
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Old 09-26-2021, 02:22 AM   #2
PrestonIII
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1994 SL2
Default Re: Gas gauge empty, stalls, steering brakes hard to manage, starts up afterwards

I imagine that engine vibration at lower speeds is causing a loose cable or cable connection to go open-circuit and thus you loose power as if you turned the key off.

When I was a mechanic, this was common on all brands of cars when a novice would install aftermarket stereo equipment and didn't put the wiring back on the connectors quite right or tight enough.

Check for corrosion at each end of the battery cables, both where the connector attaches to it's mount, and where the cable goes into the connector. Do this at every BIG wire you see under the hood.

The other thing might be a failing ignition switch due to age, overload, or too heavy a key ring hanging on the ignition key. Replacing the ignition switch is easy. Try turning the key around 180 degrees on the key ring, especially if you have a key with the hole drilled off-center. This will cause the weight of your key ring to pull differently on the key as it rides in the ignition switch cylinder.

If these things don't cure your problem, then you're probably looking for a bad connection within the workiings of a fuse box either under the hood or under the dash.

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Old 09-26-2021, 01:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Gas gauge empty, stalls, steering brakes hard to manage, starts up afterwards

Save money by not throwing it away on fuel booster and premium gas. Fuel booster does absolutely nothing plain regular gasoline already does. 87 regular gas is perfect for everyday driving. You're not driving a high performance engine with several hundred horsepower or high end cars like Ferrari, Land Rover, turbo charged engine, Audi, etc, requiring premium gas. If you're not street racing using an aftermarket turbocharger to boost your engine from factory power to add another hundred horsepower, stop using premium. There's absolutely no benefit of using premium gas in cars set-up for regular.

Repair shops make money from hourly labor rates and marked up parts. To stay in business and pay their overhead costs, we pay a lot of money to keep them in business whether or not they fix problems. If you ever hear or read any repair shop or new/used car dealer refunding money because they didn't fix a problem, please let everyone know. Good repairs are fixed the first time. Poor repairs may take another visit or third time to fix, often increasing the original repair bill, indicating the repair wasn't corrected the first time and a second try, adding to the bill, may fix the original problem or 'another' explanation is used to justify added repair costs. Dishonesty runs everywhere. The reputable repair shops fix things once.

P0446 is either a simple or difficult repair because of the emissions control system used. Many parts are involved along with rubber or nylon hoses used for vacuum control to extract fuel vapors from gas tanks, storing vapors in a charcoal canister. When an engine runs, the evaporative emissions control system is tested at startup to ensure engine vacuum, solenoid valves, sensors and tank don't have any pinholes anywhere. pinholes or rotted rubber fittings/hoses prevents vacuum from operating. Sensors check fuel vapor pressure and vacuum during tests on every engine startup and while driving. While driving, the fuel tank and vapor lines are used to extract fuel vapors from tank and charcoal canister, feeding vapors into the engine for burning along with fuel. Electronics controls the evaporative emissions control system. Diy familiarity or expertise in emissions systems are required to diagnose, troubleshoot and repair faults. This isn't for the average diyer to troubleshoot unless willing to learn and crawl around under the car to visually inspect rubber or nylon hoses, sensors, solenoid valves and make measurements to solenoid valves, inspect for wiring damage, etc.

Knowing how evaporative emissions control systems operate and getting hands dirty along with some basic electrical and electronics knowledge can help diyers perform diagnosing, troubleshooting and repairs.

There may be two problems here, the engine randomly stopping and the P0446 error code. I agree with PrestonIII about inspecting battery connections being clean and free of corrosion and connections not loose. Side terminal batteries are prone to over tightening, damaging the battery. Older top post battery terminals never suffered damage from over tightened connections. As mentioned, the other ends of battery connections need to be examined too for possible problems that may contribute to the random engine die off unless there are other issues not brought up; lack of maintenance like oil and air filters, replacing spark plugs periodically, etc.
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