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Old 01-10-2022, 10:23 AM   #1
stalemate666
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Default Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

So my car has been having intermittent problems starting for awhile, the first time I broke down pretty far away from home and thought my starter went so had to tow it to a mechanic to get it replaced, it worked for like 10 days then went again, replaced the starter under warranty and got a new battery and it went again in like 2 weeks, brought it back to the mechanic but it was working while he had it and he couldn't find the problem he replaced the safety neutral clutch switch because it looked like it was going I guess and when I got it back again it worked for about 2 weeks and now it's causing issues again.

I'm 90% sure it's the wire between the starter and the battery at this point my dad says there's a fusible link in it and I got it going the most recent time by fiddling with that wire. I'm sick of bringing it into the mechanic away from me only for him to not fix the problem and charge me for parts I don't need but I've looked online and I can't really find any guides on how to replace the wire or what I need to remove to get at it.

I'm wondering what parts I'd need to fix it or if there's any other potential problems. Should I just bite the bullet again and tell the mechanic to fix the wire while it's still under warranty and what do you guys think the chances are that that is the problem?

Another piece of information that might be useful is when it's not working the power being drawn from the battery is less than it should be.
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Old 01-10-2022, 11:40 AM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Should be 1 solid 6awg cable from the battery to the starter, then a fuseable link from the starter to the alternator.

If the problem seems to be at the starter end, you might be able to get away with cutting off the end that's on there and clamping on another one. Due to the size of the cable you probably can't do it with a standard handheld tool like smaller wires. Something https://www.amazon.com/SELTERM-Marin...dp/B073Y9NVHQ/, should be able to get it from the local parts store as well just be sure to get it in 6awg (though I'd suggest getting 3 sizes, 8, 6 and 4 in case I'm wrong). I'd also get heat-shrink tubing for it.

Should be able to crimp it with something solid underneath, a hammer and a punch then slide the heat shrink on and heat it to keep road debri out.

If you want a pre-made cable, I'd get this for the negative side and this for the positive side. Yes, for both cables Amazon says they won't fit but the only issue I can see is they're probably too long (possibly the bolt that goes into the battery as well, but that's easy to fix with the ones you have already). Your local parts store might have similar parts in stock that they claim fit properly but I'd be happy to have cables too long.
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Old 01-10-2022, 07:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

In addition to above suggestions, examine both battery cables for severe corrosion, sometimes obvious and other times hidden under the heavy duty terminal insulation on side terminal batteries. Corrosion would be a blue powdery substance, dried battery acid that eats copper over time. A solution of water and baking soda with a toothbrush dissolves it with a plain water rinse. If the copper wires are eaten away, the starter won't be able to pull as much current needed to run and start the engine. You may have to disconnect both battery terminals to examine each one carefully. Disconnect battery negative first, reattach last. Peel back the heavy insulation to examine the terminal and copper wires. If they're fine, examine battery negative to chassis for corrosion and another negative cable from chassis to engine block. Current flows from negative to positive. Battery positive usually corrodes more but years of neglect sometimes allows corrosion to erode connections leading to mystery problems like yours.

The fusible link wire goes between starter and alternator. It's fine otherwise you'd get a battery light on and kill the battery. This fusible link wire supplies voltage to the alternator. If this wire failed, the battery light would turn on and the car runs off the battery until the car dies (less than a hour of driving). Discharging a battery completely this way won't power the starter and jumper cables or battery boost pack is needed. The large gauge red cable to the starter should be free of corrosion and fastened securely on the starter among wth the smaller gauge fusible link wire on the same starter terminal. The other small gauge purple wire is the ignition switch 12v START voltage to power the starter solenoid. This wire is on a separate small terminal on the starter.

Unfortunately, there are repair shops that line their pockets using 'replacement artists' that either know full well what they're doing or don't have a clue; both simply replace parts until the problem goes away. Personally, I think you were soaked by an unscrupulous repair shop.
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Old 01-10-2022, 07:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

So itís have to be the wire between starter and battery thereís no other possibility?
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Old 01-10-2022, 09:06 PM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

That's a blanket statement and you may be missing the big picture of a typical 12v starting circuit with several wires. The battery cables are large gauge because the starter requires anywhere from 50-150 amps from the battery. Those wires can be considered the main power circuit - between battery positive and starter, between battery negative chassis/engine grounds to starter frame. The primary circuit is the ignition switch START/12v signal to the starter purple wire that begins the starting sequence when the ign switch is turned to START. Four wires in all.

If you're comfortable under the car and can disconnect one wire from the starter terminal (after disconnecting battery negative first), disconnect the small gauge purple wire on its own terminal on the starter. Reconnect battery negative and have someone turn the ign switch to START while you measure this loose wire for 12v. A 12v bulb will do with the purple wire connected to the side of the bulb and the base touching engine block. As long as the ign switch is held in START position, 12v should be on this wire and can be repeated as many times as necessary without draining the battery. Release the ign switch and 12v goes away. This verifies the primary starting circuit. After verifying this primary starting circuit, disconnect battery negative so you can reattach the purple wire back to its small terminal on the starter then reconnect battery negative. This covers wiring related to the starting circuit. Checking the starting circuit and battery cables/connections should reveal something as this is about as complete for examining and testing the starting circuit (ign switch and wiring to starter, battery, battery cables, their connections and starter. Presuming the most expensive parts were the battery and starter, all that's left are wiring. This should have been the first things to check by a competent and experienced mechanic or vehicle electrical technician. It's not rocket science but unscrupulous repair shops take advantage of customers. As diyers here, we share as much as we know to anyone willing to get their hands dirty to reduce maintenance costs at the hands of dishonest repair shops.
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Old 01-10-2022, 09:35 PM   #6
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

He's been losing money honoring the warranty even paid for it to be towed back to his shop once so I don't think he's done anything malicious since he's not charging me for labor. I am annoyed that he missed the problem several times though and is basically just guessing what part is wrong is swapping it out.

The other problem is the problem is very intermittent, it works for weeks on end and then dies out of nowhere and when it works everything bench tests fine and I can't make it not work. But he had it twice when it didn't work and missed the wiring issue because swapping the starter worked so he's obviously not the most competent.

So bench testing is only going to work if it stops working and I just looked at the weather report and the weather doesn't permit me working on it anytime soon and my dad moved so I can't use his garage/tools like I used to which is a big part of the reason I relied on the mechanic in the first place this time and it looks like I'm going to have to do it again even if I'd rather fix it myself, I just can't work on wiring outside in the rain.

If I get him to replace the wire between the starter and the battery it should work right?
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Old 01-10-2022, 10:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Again, no single wire is the obvious problem here; there has to some competent trouble-shooting done or you may continue throwing parts at it.

Do I understand correctly, this is a "no crank" issue, not a "cranks but won't fire"?

Being intermittent, the best thing I can suggest is to add a long wire to the small stud on the starter, the stud with the PPL wire connected to it. run the other end of that wire up where you can touch the end to the + battery terminal. Strip the insulation off that end and then tape it up so it can't make electrical contact with anything; and secure the wire end near the battery so it can't fall down while you are driving. The next time it won't crank, take the tape off that wire end and touch it to the battery + terminal. If that results in cranking, then we have just eliminated the starter and all the power/ground wires.

I gotta ask... when it won't crank is there any sound at all? A big "thunk", or a "click-click-click", or a "whirring"? Any motion of the engine at all?

Do you have and electrical multimeter? Testing the beast "on the road", when the problem pops-up, is often essential for solving an intermittent problem.
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Old 01-11-2022, 09:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

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Again, no single wire is the obvious problem here; there has to some competent trouble-shooting done or you may continue throwing parts at it.

Do I understand correctly, this is a "no crank" issue, not a "cranks but won't fire"?

Being intermittent, the best thing I can suggest is to add a long wire to the small stud on the starter, the stud with the PPL wire connected to it. run the other end of that wire up where you can touch the end to the + battery terminal. Strip the insulation off that end and then tape it up so it can't make electrical contact with anything; and secure the wire end near the battery so it can't fall down while you are driving. The next time it won't crank, take the tape off that wire end and touch it to the battery + terminal. If that results in cranking, then we have just eliminated the starter and all the power/ground wires.

I gotta ask... when it won't crank is there any sound at all? A big "thunk", or a "click-click-click", or a "whirring"? Any motion of the engine at all?

Do you have and electrical multimeter? Testing the beast "on the road", when the problem pops-up, is often essential for solving an intermittent problem.
Yeah it's a no crank issue, it makes a single click sound and there's no motion from the engine at all. I don't have an electrical multimeter however it broke down once at my work and when trying to jump it one of my bosses used one on the battery when I was trying it and it was drawing power from the battery just not enough.
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Old 01-11-2022, 01:43 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Did the boss measure voltage, or was it current? Was it at the "donor" battery/cables, or at the car battery/wiring? This is sounding like a simple problem with the big power/ground cables, but we need to keep an open mind until more is known.
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Old 01-11-2022, 02:08 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

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He's been losing money honoring the warranty even paid for it to be towed back to his shop once so I don't think he's done anything malicious since he's not charging me for labor........so he's obviously not the most competent.

So bench testing is only going to work if it stops working and I just looked at the weather report and the weather doesn't permit me working on it anytime soon and my dad moved so I can't use his garage/tools like I used to which is a big part of the reason I relied on the mechanic in the first place this time and it looks like I'm going to have to do it again even if I'd rather fix it myself, I just can't work on wiring outside in the rain.

If I get him to replace the wire between the starter and the battery it should work right?
Being caught between a rock and a hard place isn't fun. My fuel pump died out of state, the insurance covered the tow but the out of state tow company at first refused after I arrived to meet the tow driver. A few calls later and a change of heart. Perhaps I helped this reluctant tow company when calling my insurance company. Towed back to my designated repair shop, a new pump fixed the problem. It was estimated I saved between $450-$600 in towing fees including bridge tolls. Fast approaching seven decades, I'm not dropping a fuel tank to work on it.

Most diyers aren't aware of jumper cables. The main problem with them is infrequent use so buying an inexpensive set seems appropriate until a problem occurs. Most cars with dead batteries still have a charge in them but not enough for starting. This plus an inexpensive set of jumper cables uses the boost battery and dead battery to allow almost an immediate jump start. Now comes the reason cheap jumper cables are worthless. A truly dead battery can't help with starting so the cheap jumper cables begin overheating as the boost battery is the only power trying to feed amperage thru cheap low gauge jumper cables, failing to start the engine immediately. This means the boost battery needs the engine above idling to help recharge the very dead battery for minutes before both batteries start the engine. Quality jumper cables are large gauge, 4 or even 2 gauge, almost approaching welding gauge wires that supply all the amperage from a boost battery immediately. Welding gauge wires work on several hundred amps for all day welding. I permanently borrowed a relative's very old and still flexible set of jumper cables from 40 years ago. It lets as much current as needed for starting without waiting, never overheats and is a hand-me-down to another relative.

There are at least three wires to consider. The battery positive cable between battery and starter that also branches off to feed the engine fuse panel, battery negative cable between battery and chassis, and negative cable between chassis and engine block. Guess who has to look and do the work? Incompetence still means it's coming out of your wallet despite not charging you for labor since this repair shop is still making money from you on marked up parts. Don't assume he's taking a loss. No business loses money when "they're in business to give you the business". The consumer always pays otherwise business dies from lack of customers.
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Old 01-11-2022, 09:57 PM   #11
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

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Did the boss measure voltage, or was it current? Was it at the "donor" battery/cables, or at the car battery/wiring? This is sounding like a simple problem with the big power/ground cables, but we need to keep an open mind until more is known.
It was volts I believe and it was my car battery or the wire right next to it.

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Most diyers aren't aware of jumper cables. The main problem with them is infrequent use so buying an inexpensive set seems appropriate until a problem occurs. Most cars with dead batteries still have a charge in them but not enough for starting. This plus an inexpensive set of jumper cables uses the boost battery and dead battery to allow almost an immediate jump start. Now comes the reason cheap jumper cables are worthless. A truly dead battery can't help with starting so the cheap jumper cables begin overheating as the boost battery is the only power trying to feed amperage thru cheap low gauge jumper cables, failing to start the engine immediately. This means the boost battery needs the engine above idling to help recharge the very dead battery for minutes before both batteries start the engine. Quality jumper cables are large gauge, 4 or even 2 gauge, almost approaching welding gauge wires that supply all the amperage from a boost battery immediately. Welding gauge wires work on several hundred amps for all day welding. I permanently borrowed a relative's very old and still flexible set of jumper cables from 40 years ago. It lets as much current as needed for starting without waiting, never overheats and is a hand-me-down to another relative.
Huh didn't know that, I'll have to look into what my jumper cables are. However I'm sure the battery isn't the problem among other reasons because I've gotten it to start while draining the power more to charge my phone after it wasn't starting.

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There are at least three wires to consider. The battery positive cable between battery and starter that also branches off to feed the engine fuse panel, battery negative cable between battery and chassis, and negative cable between chassis and engine block. Guess who has to look and do the work? Incompetence still means it's coming out of your wallet despite not charging you for labor since this repair shop is still making money from you on marked up parts. Don't assume he's taking a loss. No business loses money when "they're in business to give you the business". The consumer always pays otherwise business dies from lack of customers.
Again he paid for a tow back to his shop, that was an expensive tow, he also lost money when he replaced the started under warranty because I didn't pay a thing, he obviously made money off replacing the starter and didn't even check to see if the problem was elsewhere and he probably made money off the clutch which may or may not have been going. When I talked about replacing the wires he didn't even mention looking at them just replacing from A to B to see if that'll fix it... so yeah that seems to be the mindset there just swap until fix I don't think he's malicious but they should've looked at the wire. But I can't do it in the rain and replacing A to B should work, if it doesn't fix it this time I'm done I at least know how to make it reliable now.
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Old 01-11-2022, 11:11 PM   #12
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Charging a phone battery may take up to 2 amps. A dead battery can still charge a phone battery. Starters take anywhere from 50-150 amps+. Dead batteries or discharged ones having less than a full charge may not be able to supply large amounts of current. Batteries with less than a full charge are often heard as slow starters with slow cranking speed just before the battery dies yet can still charge phones.
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Old 01-12-2022, 12:13 AM   #13
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

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Charging a phone battery may take up to 2 amps. A dead battery can still charge a phone battery. Starters take anywhere from 50-150 amps+. Dead batteries or discharged ones having less than a full charge may not be able to supply large amounts of current. Batteries with less than a full charge are often heard as slow starters with slow cranking speed just before the battery dies yet can still charge phones.
Yeah but if you take a battery that can't charge the starter and drain it more it's not going to suddenly start the starter.
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Old 01-12-2022, 01:00 AM   #14
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Any clue what voltage your boss found at the car battery, when trying to crank with jumper cables to another battery? I understand why you feel the battery is OK, I'm not questioning that right now. I just want to understand why your boss concluded that the starter was "drawing power, but not enough".

There is not a single "A to B" wire, there are several that need checking. The definitive way to do this is with a voltmeter; but it has to be done when the no-crank is happening. In the meanwhile, careful visual checking of the wiring is the only action you can take other than random parts-changing.

Your mechanic failed you when the voltmeter wasn't used to find the root problem when the car was in the shop in "no-crank" condition. Even if all future parts and labor are free to you, your time/worry during this trial-and-error diagnosis is a cost to you. Have a serious talk with the mechanic about what is going to be necessary to solve this, like maybe leave it in the shop for them to drive until it hits another no-crank episode, and see if that is acceptable to you. Will they give you a loaner car or pay for a rental until they make good on the "warranty"?
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Old 01-12-2022, 01:43 AM   #15
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

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Any clue what voltage your boss found at the car battery, when trying to crank with jumper cables to another battery? I understand why you feel the battery is OK, I'm not questioning that right now. I just want to understand why your boss concluded that the starter was "drawing power, but not enough".

There is not a single "A to B" wire, there are several that need checking. The definitive way to do this is with a voltmeter; but it has to be done when the no-crank is happening. In the meanwhile, careful visual checking of the wiring is the only action you can take other than random parts-changing.

Your mechanic failed you when the voltmeter wasn't used to find the root problem when the car was in the shop in "no-crank" condition. Even if all future parts and labor are free to you, your time/worry during this trial-and-error diagnosis is a cost to you. Have a serious talk with the mechanic about what is going to be necessary to solve this, like maybe leave it in the shop for them to drive until it hits another no-crank episode, and see if that is acceptable to you. Will they give you a loaner car or pay for a rental until they make good on the "warranty"?
I don't remember, I know he gave me numbers but I wasn't really thinking clearly at the time but it's a place that installs truck accessories so I trust his judgement on it.

I tried leaving it in the shop until the no crank happened last time i was in there for a week and it didn't happen (this was right when it died after work, it was the third time in 3 days and first time I couldn't get it started by myself, had to get a push and pop the clutch) and it worked for 2 weeks after I got it back, that's when he replaced the clutch randomly. It seems every time I drive the car on the highway it becomes reliable for awhile after that (ie. to and from the mechanic) and it usually dies when I'm out doing errands, smaller rides with random but relatively short intervals between them. Last time I was buying boots and in the store for like an hour and I can't get a loner car because they have a deal with a rental place but the rental places closes at 5pm and I work till 4:30 and can't get there till like 5:15 at best (they close at 6) and it'd cost me out of pocket the warranty only covers labor and faulty parts.

Anyways I don't think it'll ever die if it's working and just sitting there honestly I just want to wash my hands of this mechanic an fix it myself but I barely have any tools since my dad moved and while I have to buy them sooner or later with the ****ing rain I just can't do it, I don't trust the mechanic to diagnose anything anymore but I need him to switch the parts that's why I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with it now so he can just swap it and I can be done with this bull****.

I think the most likely problem is the positive wire between the battery and the starter since that's the wire I wiggled to get it working last and in general positives have more issues than neutrals.
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Old 01-12-2022, 06:01 PM   #16
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Here's a corroded positive side terminal from the underside. You might not see this on the front side. GM uses heavy duty battery terminal covers that can easily hide corrosion.

If you can, disconnect battery negative first, using an 8mm open/box wrench, adjustable crescent wrench, 8mm socket wrench or vise grip pliers. Side terminal batteries use short bolts, to prevent puncturing the battery with the wrong replacement bolt(s) or stripping threads, ruining a battery. Very little tightening used to secure these bolts. Once negative is disconnected, peel back the insulation and examine it. The disconnect battery positive and examine it too. You're looking for powdery blue residue, dried battery acid from either normal venting or damaged threads. Corrosion is cleaned a with a mixture of warm water and baking soda, using a toothbrush to dissolve and neutralize acid. Plain water rinse.

If you're lucky, this may be the problem. There's canned battery terminal cleaner/lubricant made for this. Be sure to examine the crimped terminals for looseness from missing clutter strands eaten by acid as this leaves a weak mechanical and electrical connection. Re-crimping may fix a damaged one permanently or replacement.
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Old 01-12-2022, 09:45 PM   #17
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Now I'm just praying for a sunny day so I can actually look at it, I thought my appointment with mechanic was this Friday but apparently it's next which is just pissing me off more, if there's a sunny day I'm going to look at it.
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Old 01-13-2022, 04:43 PM   #18
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

Got "lucky" and got a bit of sunshine but couldn't even get my battery disconnected because the vice grips I have weren't doing the trick and I couldn't find my adjustable wrench and it's already raining again...

not having proper tools is ****ing frustrating.
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Old 01-14-2022, 10:59 AM   #19
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Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

I changed my mind I'm not talking it into the mechanic he just switches out parts randomly, I bought a volt meter and some adjustable wrenches, will probably get a socket set and toolbox down the road, I'm going to need these tools eventually so better to start now. If my car dies again on the go then I'll bench test it with the volt meter and pop the clutch to get it running (even if I have to tow it to a hill) and if the weather clears up I'll check the battery for corrosion, if I absolutely have to take it in I'll take it in to a different mechanic and pay for it.
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Old 01-14-2022, 02:27 PM   #20
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Saturn SC2 1996 Intermittent starter problems

If you can find it in stock, Home Depot has a Husky 270pc tool set for $100. 2 styles, 1 sorta requires the Husky "Connect" box's and the other has it's own case. Not impressed with the standalone case myself but Gearwrench and most others appear to use identical ones with differing tool selections. The tools are fine, nothing wrong with them, it's just the flimsy case they're in.

Often times a FLAPS has socket sets for rent. This can get you by for the weekend if truly spending the money for whatever set you can find locally isn't an option (you get a full refund when it's returned, usually working condition isn't required but makes the counter person happier).
The S-Series is 100% metric bolts and mostly 8-19mm (8, 10, 13, 17, 19 specifically IIRC) so if the rental set is "used" check those for abuse first.
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