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Old 11-10-2008, 08:20 PM   #1
Cortana
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2001 SC2
Default Start... and dead

This has been going on sporadically for a couple weeks now. Tonight I almost had to call a tow truck.

The car will start normally. No dimming lights, no extra cranks, no wheezing, whining, or other abnormally sounds. However, instead of idling, the engine just keeps dropping and quits. Generally, after a few attempts it will stay running, and continue to operate as if nothing was wrong at all. There are no performance issues.

Once warm, the symptoms do not seem to persist.

There are no engine codes. All dash gauges are reporting normally (including temp). There are no signs of the battery being weak or worn.

If I try and hold down or press the gas to start it, it seems to drop quicker, as if being choked.

Nothing abnormal that I can see under the hood but a squeaky belt.

2001 SC2, 100k miles.

Ideas?
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Old 11-10-2008, 08:32 PM   #2
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1994 SL2
1999 SL
Default Re: Start... and dead

I would vote early signs of a bad alternator or bad starter...

how old is the battery?

Are the alternator/starter original?

Even though you don't have any warning lights...these items can sometimes go even before the warning lights get an opportunity to warn you.

Best to get them checked at your local autozone or advance, etc.

They can run a test on the battery and alternator while they are in the car.

Just my thoughts.
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Old 11-10-2008, 09:33 PM   #3
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

Battery is a bit dated, but it's not outside it's life. The electrical system is sound as far as I can tell.

I started it ~14 times before it finally took today. The 14th start was just as crisp as the first.
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Old 11-10-2008, 09:43 PM   #4
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Default Re: Start... and dead

This happens on cold starts and warm starts? Does it happen on every start?

How's your air filter & is there any obstruction to the intake? Is the gas fresh?

Cold climate?
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Old 11-10-2008, 09:56 PM   #5
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

An engine will run if it has spark, air, and gas. I think it has air and I suspect that the spark is OK also, that leaves gas. I would first off check fuel pressure at the rail before the start and right after. Then I would clean out the MAP port into the manifold.
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Old 11-10-2008, 10:21 PM   #6
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Default Re: Start... and dead

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveInGA View Post
This happens on cold starts and warm starts? Does it happen on every start?

How's your air filter & is there any obstruction to the intake? Is the gas fresh?

Cold climate?
It doesn't happen every time. It's happened 4 times in the last 2 weeks. Today was the first time it didn't go in under 3 starts.
Air filter is fairly clean. I though of this actually, and tried starting it with the entire intake removed. No change.

Gas is not fresh. Symptoms started halfway into the last tank. I put 89 in this tank to see if it might be a gas quality issue (I'd not purchased speedway gas in a while). I'm now about halfway through this tank.

It IS cold, and has been getting colder; however I couldn't draw any direct relation to temp/starting ability as of yet, as it's been screwy on warmer days and started fine on colder ones.

I don't have anything to check fuel pressure with, but I'll check and clean the MAP sensor.
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Old 11-10-2008, 11:18 PM   #7
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

AH-Ha, 89 octane is the 10% ethanol blend. If there is any water at all in your tank and with old gas there should be, the water/ethanol and the fuel have separated into layers and water/ethanol goes to the bottom and does not burn. There is NOTHING that you can buy and dump in the tank that will fix this either.

How much gas is in the tank?

You need to get a 5 gallon can of the high buck high test 91 octane stuff and a bottle of Sta-Bil.

But first, how much is in there now? the reason is there are a couple of ways to go after this problem and the amount of crappy fuel in the tank is a critical item.

Also, how old is the fuel filter and is it Saturn or aftemarket?
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Old 11-10-2008, 11:32 PM   #8
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

Tank is just under half full when i finally got it started earlier, now sitting around 1/4th

No idea on the fuel filter, I've not changed it since I bought it used at 73k miles. It's probably the original, knowing the dealer I bought it from.

I should point out here that the car, once started, runs fantastically in any gear, with good acceleration, great response, and no signs of power loss of abnormal behavior. It's been a bit perkier too since I put the 89 in; so a clogged fuel filter isn't likely.

However, I see your line of reasoning here. If there is something settling in the tank, it lines up with the symptoms nicely. I think I have an old 5 gallon tank of 87 floating around for the generator/lawnmower, but nothing better and I'm not remotely close to a gas station If I can get it started, I'll top it off with the good stuff and pick up some sta-bil or similar on the way home.
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Old 11-10-2008, 11:55 PM   #9
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

Yes, If you can get it started the crap quits freezing in the filter/regulator and adding the 91 octane or even fresh 87 after a couple of tanks of 91 and the 1 to 2 ounces of Sta-Bil will get the water/alcohol mix out of the tank and it will be fine. keep the tank full and this will not happen. The water freezes in the regulator orifice thats why it dies. My Jeep used to do that every winter and I am all too familiar with the symptoms. One or 2 drops of water will seperate the alcohol out of the gas and it will freeze in the filter and clog it. As soon as flow stops it melts.

somehow I have the impression you are located where the temperatures are dropping into the low 30s high 20s now.
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Old 11-11-2008, 10:42 AM   #10
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Default Re: Start... and dead

Oh I think we are on the wrong track. The 10% alcohol will prevent the water from freezing to temperatures well below 0 F. Water and alcohol don't separate either, (does the alcohol settle to the bottom of your beer bottle?) And in my experience the car wouldn't restart right away if it was freezing.
Any chance you have been buying 100% gasoline? ie No Ethanol?

Sounds like the computer is starving the engine. How is you ECTS? There could be a "Flat spot" in that sensor that is effecting you now that the mornings are colder. I'd also check all the vacuum hoses. And clean the throttle body.
As the car runs well when it is warmed up the problem must be in one of the systems which activates in the start-up/warm-up mode.
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Old 11-11-2008, 11:46 AM   #11
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrenchtnr View Post
Oh I think we are on the wrong track. The 10% alcohol will prevent the water from freezing to temperatures well below 0 F. Water and alcohol don't separate either, (does the alcohol settle to the bottom of your beer bottle?) And in my experience the car wouldn't restart right away if it was freezing.
Any chance you have been buying 100% gasoline? ie No Ethanol?

Sounds like the computer is starving the engine. How is you ECTS? There could be a "Flat spot" in that sensor that is effecting you now that the mornings are colder. I'd also check all the vacuum hoses. And clean the throttle body.
As the car runs well when it is warmed up the problem must be in one of the systems which activates in the start-up/warm-up mode.
Go buy a quart of 10% ethanol blend. Add several drops of water. Shake and let it sit. See what is on the bottom? Suck it out with a turkey baster. Put it in the freezer. Then come back with that theory.

In a gas tank that has been setting half full you will find more than a couple of drops of water.

Last edited by OldNuc; 11-11-2008 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 11-11-2008, 12:46 PM   #12
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1996 SW2
Default Re: Start... and dead

89 Octane does NOT automatically mean 10% ethanol (and 87/91 certainly do NOT mean no ethanol). Here in WI, virtually ALL of the 87 octane gasoline has 10% ethanol. 89 octane is somewhat LESS likely to be 10% ethanol. 91 octane is USUALLY, but NOT always, 100% gasoline.

The "half full tank" is the key here. Esp. in wintertime, you should ALWAYS drive on the top half of the tank. And DEFinitely don't park it for long periods on less than half a tank. Consider the other half-tank an emergency reserve. If you need to, tape over the "E" on your gauge, and make an "E" sticker and put it over the "1/2" indicator.
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Old 11-12-2008, 11:51 PM   #13
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

It's not failed to start once so far. But I deviated a bit from oldnuc's plan.

The car started without incident. I drove it to a gas station, filled two 5 gallon tanks with BP 93 octane, and distributed a bottle of sta-bil between them.

I then drove it to work like normal. Then back home, then back to work again (all perfect starts) until it was hovering over the E. Between each trip the car has sat at least 8 hours outside with no shelter or heating.

I've now dumped the 93 in, and drove it home. Still no issues. While I'm glad it's running great, this doesn't line up with the bad gas or freezing theory. It's been colder than the day I posted, yet this hasn't had any affect on the car's performance.

I guess I'll have to wait for it to start acting up again before I'll know more
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Old 11-13-2008, 12:04 AM   #14
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1998 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

The 93 octane and Sta-Bil will allow the water/alcohol to mix and burn. that is how you get it out of the tank. When 100% crud (water/alcohol) transitions from a small diameter line and expands into the filter can the temperature drops. this make ice crystals that clog the filter. Once you get the concentration down the problem goes away. keep the tank full.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:11 AM   #15
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Default Re: Start... and dead

Ok, update.

On friday, it started acting up again. It refused to start after work (After sitting 8 hours). I ran a few more checks and tests.
- The SECURITY light flashes whenever the car was in RUN position, regardless of the alarm settings.
- The car would crank normally, start, and promptly cut out as previous.

I tried disarming/rearming the alarm to no end, then I tried removing the battery terminal, draining it, then starting. None of these had any effect.

After around 10 minutes of fiddling, it started normally and ran fine.

On sunday it started fine twice to move the car out of another's way.

This morning, it won't start. However, the symptoms have degraded further.

The first attempt (This restarts after sitting ~5min) it will start, then immediatly shut off before even hitting 300rpm. After this, it won't even turn over. The starter continues to function, with no signs of it slowing down, but the engine simply doesn't start. It 'jumps' now and then as if a cylinder randomly fires and catches, but that's it. The security light isn't flashing anymore.

I've tried several times, and continue to get the same results.

I also noticed that the starter didn't seem to be cranking with the same gusto it usually does. However, regardless of how long it ran, it never slowed down any further nor showed any of the usual signs of a dying battery.

If I try to tie this into the previous issue, I wonder if it's possible for a battery to maintain a full, consistent charge but output sub-par voltages? I'll be running a volt meter against it to check, I just don't know how plausible that is.

To put the gas issue to rest, I'm on my second tank of 93, it's 3/4 full.
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:26 AM   #16
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Default Re: Start... and dead

I never had a car with a security system but check out this post.
http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=129465
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Old 11-24-2008, 11:44 AM   #17
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Default Re: Start... and dead

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cortana View Post
...The SECURITY light flashes whenever the car was in RUN position, regardless of the alarm settings.
- The car would crank normally, start, and promptly cut out as previous.

I tried disarming/rearming the alarm to no end, then I tried removing the battery terminal, draining it, then starting. None of these had any effect.

After around 10 minutes of fiddling, it started normally and ran fine.

This morning, it won't start. However, the symptoms have degraded further.

The first attempt (This restarts after sitting ~5min) it will start, then immediatly shut off before even hitting 300rpm. After this, it won't even turn over. The starter continues to function, with no signs of it slowing down, but the engine simply doesn't start. It 'jumps' now and then as if a cylinder randomly fires and catches, but that's it. The security light isn't flashing anymore.I've tried several times, and continue to get the same results.

I also noticed that the starter didn't seem to be cranking with the same gusto it usually does. However, regardless of how long it ran, it never slowed down any further nor showed any of the usual signs of a dying battery.
Put the gasoline issue aside as this isn't causing the problem. Do you have the factory Passlock anti-theft security system or not? Factory meaning the back of the remotes have GM.... embossed labeling to indicate the remote keyfob enables and disable the factory Passlock anti-theft system otherwise its an aftermarket system. There's also a security icon of a car with an oversize padlock superimposed over it that's in the speedo or odometer for indication of a factory anti-theft system. Aftermarket security simply uses a flashing LED in your favorite color placed anywhere conspicuously for the vandal to see. Which one is it?

If its Passlock that's flashing, you were made to wait the mandatory 10-minutes one time before it allowed you to re-start and drive. This is part of GM's wait feature of security - who's gonna' wait around if you're trying to steal a car? The other occurrence of not starting again without the flashing security light is another problem altogether different and may be fuel pump related but is confusing since the symptoms change, insofar as having the security light flashing on one time while off the next? Doesn't follow a pattern that makes this strange to pin down. This may require that the battery needs to be fully charged to pursue this troubleshooting in order to keep the battery from discharging down where you can't turn the engine over.

Passlock security must be off (the indicator) during starting otherwise its enabled; it disables the fuel pump from running so the engine can crank all day but with no fuel available the engine will never run. With the ignition in the ON/RUN position you should be able to hear/feel the faint hum/hiss of the fuel pump running for 2-3 seconds before shutting off. Find the fuel rail's test valve and press the valve stem expecting a healthy spray of fuel to verify that the fuel and pump are available and pressurized at the injectors.
...
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Last edited by fdryer; 11-24-2008 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:37 PM   #18
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

The security is factory. The key fob is the standard GM one, and the security light is coming from a built in light in the instrument cluster (Though it literally says 'SECURITY', it's not a padlock). I don't see any embosses GM logo, but the sucker has been beaten to hell and back.

I've not changed the way in which I lock/unlock the car or set the alarm (it's just lock twice). The only thing that has changed since this started is that the factory stereo has gone in and out (back in while my aftermarket JVC was in for repair, and back out to put in the new Pioneer they replaced it with). I didn't see any wiring on the harness related to security, so I'm not so sure that it's related (Also, what kind of twisted logic locks the car down with a stolen stereo? If they were going to take the whole car, why yank the stereo first?)

Is there a way to completely disable passlock? I expect it to be designed to be hard to disable, but it would make testing a lot easier.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:56 PM   #19
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2001 SC2
Default Re: Start... and dead

(can't edit my old message)

From what I've dug up, passlock should have been resetting itself after the 10 minutes. I notice the wiring diagrams for passlock systems include the door jam sensor, which gets fumbled around during the stereo install. I wonder if I pinched the wire

Disabling it looks like fun. Diagrams. I don't suppose anyone has a more temporary solution? I can probably dig up the parts I'm just not really in the mood to wire it all in below freezing weather
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Old 11-24-2008, 05:58 PM   #20
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Default Re: Start... and dead

Heh-heh, the radio isn't part of security and this lets the thieves take the radio if anything. Passlock can be disabled (temporarily) - just never use the keyfob to enable it. By using the keyfob to unlock (and disables Passlock) the doors but never use the fob to lock the doors, Passlock stays disabled. You'll have to lock the doors using the doorlock button on the door/console, manually so Passlock is never enabled. You can try this for a few days or longer to see if this doesn't interfere with starting.

By leaving the anti-theft system disabled as long as needed you'll have time to isolate any other problem without the anti-theft system adding to it. Hopefully you can have the car locked in safe places where you won't have to worry about needing the anti-theft system.
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