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Old 07-21-2009, 10:17 PM   #1
SaturnHusband
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Default 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

I've been reading these forums for awhile and picked up on some quirks and common problems with these cars, but this is my first time posting. My wife has had her 97 SL1 since it was new. I met her a few years ago, and recently sold my car. So we are sharing this for the foreseeable future ( mostly due to lack of resources for obtaining any other options).

The car recently hit 150,000 miles. It's had it's share of annoying issues ( particularly the intermittent start problem), But I am really hoping we can get at least 2-3 more years with only minor repairs. We only drive 5-6k a year at this point. We just need something for Point A to B with reliability.

I don't know anything about cars, and if I did I probably would not do well at fixing them. I change air filters and have changed a battery. That's the extent of my car repair ability. But I am willing to learn, and my Father-in-law and/or his mechanic friend can help out some. I also have no money, so DIY can be helpful. So here's what's going on:

Today I was driving approx. 2 miles from home when the car died at a red light. Nothing happened. It just shut off. It would not restart. I eventually got out and pushed it into the intersection and off on the shoulder. I waited a few minutes and the car started again. I drove home immediately and the car ran fine. After I got home, I looked around the car, checked fluids,etc. I started it a few more times at home just t see if it would start right away and it did. Engine light did not come on at all.

My wife took the car to the store 4-5 hours later. Store is approx. 15 minutes away. She made it there fine but on the way back it died slowing/stopping for a turn a couple miles from home. I talked her through getting it restarted again. She didn't report any unusual signs or anything. She tried a few times and nothing, I had her wait 10 minutes and it started. She only got about a mile down the road when she said the car started acting funny, the Engine Light came on, and "gauges were going wild"- I think she means the RPM-Tach moved significantly. She pulled over and turned it off. It wouldn't restart.

I was eventually able to retrieve the car, start it and get home. When it started the RPM went up really high ( close to 4) and it sounded very rough. Then it dropped back down where it normally is ( a little under 2) and I drove home. It made it OK. The engine light was on. When I parked in the driveway and put on the brakes it again revved up really high and made a noise but then settled at the normal idle.

Here are some things that have happened or been done recently:

Filled with gas yesterday, but the low fuel light did come on first.

A couple weeks ago the oil was changed, 2 new tires, and something loose on the exhaust was fixed.

6mos/3000 miles ago I got a "tuneup" which included new plugs and wires. I also changed the battery when I was trying to figure out why it wouldn't start then. Got a new muffler approx. 6000 miles ago.

I have been told the car has always had a problem with not starting until the 3rd or 4th try. Seems to be a common problem. Recently I have been turning the key on first without starting, hearing the fuel come on, and then start.

I know that the ETCS was replaced at some point. Not sure when, but it may have been as long ago as 2001. I have the old part and the package for the new part dated 2001.

I don't think the CPS has been replaced. I see this part is a common issue. Could it be that?

Any other things I should check out? Thanks.
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Old 07-21-2009, 10:38 PM   #2
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1997 SL2
Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Every time you try and start it, do you get your dash board lights, radio, etc. then start it and nothing? if so, either the battery terminals are corroded, or the alternator may be going bad.

Is your service engine soon light on while your engine is running? If so, get the codes read at autozone or something and post them here. Are any other lights coming on while the engine is going?

Check the ECTS connector for corrosion/loose connections. It also wouldn't hurt to replace the thermostat as well.

If your tachometer is going wild (eg: RPM dropping to like 300-500 then going back to normal, etc), your IAC valve may either need a cleaning, or it's time for it to be replaced.

BTW, these cars are EASY to work on, and we have a WEALTH of information in our how-to library. It's like a gold mine.

Good luck with it.
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Old 07-21-2009, 11:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Right now I'm not really having a starting problem except right after it dies- which started today. I admit I probably wasn't paying enough attention to what was going on when i tried restarting right away, but I believe everything starts to go but it just doesn't start all the way ( normal noises of starting, but doesn't go all the way to actually start). The battery terminals were fine when I changed it recently. I could always look at things again.

My engine light was on the last mile home. I did have the codes read when i got my tuneup. They claimed that shouldve taken care of everything, but I wonder if there was something then that could be an unresolved issue. I believe I wrote them down on the invoice and will try to find. I was hoping I could narrow it down so i could work on it here without driving anywhere again until after I've tried to fix it. It's possible I could get in somewhere to get the codes read again, but I really don't want to stall in that intersection again.

Not really sure where the ECTS and Thermostat are or how involved but I guess I can find out here.

The RPM was going way up and then dropping to normal tonight, but I did notice a few days ago an odd drop and then it jumped back up. This was while I was driving and nothing else happened until today.
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Old 07-21-2009, 11:49 PM   #4
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1996 SW2
Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

If it's cranking, but not starting, and needs to wait a while, PRIME suspect is the CPS - crank position sensor. Known to fail when hot.

Two ways to verify, not absolutely conclusively, but to point pretty strongly at the CPS: WHEN the no-start is occurring, while turning the key to START, observe the tach. No tach movement hints at a bad CPS. Also, try removing the #1 and #4 spark plug wires from the coil they share, and observe while an assistant turns the key to START. Normally you should see spark jumping between the exposed coil towers. If you don't, that's further evidence against the CPS.

Fix is MUCH easier if you can get it cooled off and started. Then you can pull it up on ramps for better access. Visit our How-To Library and search on "crank" or "crankshaft" (stupid forum FAILS on three-character searches, such as "CPS" ). Also link from their to the awesome youtube video library of member richpin06. Dunno for sure, but I'd be surprised if he did not have a video about replacing the CPS.
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Old 07-22-2009, 11:25 AM   #5
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Will a bad CPS cause the car to die while on the road?
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Old 07-22-2009, 11:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaturnHusband View Post
Will a bad CPS cause the car to die while on the road?
Yes. The CPS, as one member's sig puts it, sets the "heartbeat" of the engine. When it fails, the PCM (computer) doesn't sense that the engine is turning, and shuts off spark.
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Old 07-22-2009, 03:18 PM   #7
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1997 SL2
Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

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Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Yes. The CPS, as one member's sig puts it, sets the "heartbeat" of the engine. When it fails, the PCM (computer) doesn't sense that the engine is turning, and shuts off spark.
I believe that would be FDryer. and the CPS is the heart of an EFI system.
...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

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Date Obtained: 7/6/12
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Old 07-22-2009, 04:33 PM   #8
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Quote:
Originally Posted by adventureoflink View Post
I believe that would be FDryer. and the CPS is the heart of an EFI system.
Actually, the CPS is more critical to spark than fuel. Yes, SPFI fuel systems rely on crank position, but TBI and non-sequential MPFI systems don't. My '89 Colt had MPFI (don't remember if it was seq or not) and didn't even have a CPS; it had a mechanical distributor.

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Old 07-22-2009, 11:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Thanks for the help. I am going to attempt to replace the CPS and see what happens. I have looked at How-to videos and if i can't do it myself I should at least be able to have someone help me if I get the part.

What I am looking at now is which part I should get. I was searching and I came across a Delphi # SS10092 on rockauto.com. I also came across several others on other sites with different part numbers. Does anyone know if this sounds like the right part and if that site is reliable?
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Old 07-23-2009, 08:10 AM   #10
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

The cps is the electronic equivalent of the heart beat for EFI systems using it. The cps was one of the last electronic sensors to replace outdated distributors when they originally used mechanical contact points/cams succeeded by optical switches and finally succeeded again by magnetic Hall effect transistors before retiring this subsystem with the simple crank position sensor.

Rockauto.com is one of this sites sponsors so they would lose face if any parts ordered from them is incorrect. Prices are reasonable and they offer many similar replacement parts including OEM so you're given a platter to decide which similar part you're interested in. All good parts from several suppliers.
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Old 07-23-2009, 10:10 AM   #11
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Default Re: 1997 SL1 Died 3 Times Today, Starts after 10 min.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaturnHusband View Post
6mos/3000 miles ago I got a "tuneup" which included new plugs and wires.

Any other things I should check out? Thanks.
Since it was 6 months ago, I'm probably way off here:

Is spark plug wire** routing correct?

Why I say ^this^:
My dad's '98 SW2 was running fine, then quitting. It was the plug wire routing.
These cars will actually run with wires going to the wrong plugs

**AKA ingition cables
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