Tip & How-To about 1998 Pontiac Sunfire

What to do when you car wont start

First, let's look at the obvious: the battery. When the battery is run down, but the headlights seem to shine at full strength, usually the starter makes click-click-click noises. That usually means you need a jump start. Of course, if the headlights are dim or off entirely, the battery is the most likely candidate.

A clicking noise from the starter indicates (usually) a dead or dying battery, and (sometimes) a dead starter. This may be a common problem on 3.3 family engines as they grow older. A single click from under the hood on an attempted start could mean a bad starter relay. Jump starts do not always work; poor quality cables can prevent enough power from being made.
If the battery's in fine fettle, there are a few other problems that could cause your car to refuse to start. First, check the gas.
One contributor noted (this relates to older cars, as newer ones do not have distributors or rotors):
A perfectly running, recently tuned car died and would not restart. It turned out to be the ignition rotor. The bad rotor was only a couple weeks old and looked perfect. There was spark at the spark plugs so that test alone is no indication. There were no codes set in the computer and I tested everything in the ignition and fuel system. I discovered it was the defective rotor, partly by luck.
It is impractical to carry all kinds of spare parts in your car, but carry at least a rotor ($8) and probably a cap ($10) as those are cheap and very easy to replace, under 5 minutes. Your rotor, no matter how new or perfect looking, can fail any time and leave you stranded, as it did to me. It is your $8 insurance against at least one reason why you might need a tow.
If you car is not starting or stalling and you are about to pull your hair out, try a new rotor and a new cap, even if the ones in the car are very recent. It just might do it, and it is a cheap fix.
This also emphasizes the need to really dig into the basics of ignition before proceeding with more exotic tests. In my case, cap, rotor and wires were brand new, but don't discount the possibility that some of those may be defective, even if they look perfect. Some tests can be unreliable and insufficient, as I learned from the spark plug test that looked okay despite the bad rotor. Next time you do your tune up, keep your old cap, rotor and wires, that you know are working, to try in case something is wrong and quickly eliminate many possibilities.
If the engine was wet, dry it, separate the wires, and try again, Use silicone spray or "wire drier" and, if that works, replace your wires with really good ones ($25-$60 mail order). Dan Stern recommended Whitaker's Multi-Mag, which look like the original wires, but uses the spiral-wound construction of modern, high performance wires: lower resistance, but no irritating radio noise. They have a lifetime guarantee and don't cost more than regular carbon-string type wires. The Slant-6 wire set (32605 for pre-1975) has the correct one-piece moulded plug boots. They are also sold under the Borg Warner/BWD KoolWire name.
Many have found that automatic-equipped cars would not start in Park, but will start in Neutral. Bill Watson suggested that the shifter linkage might be out of adjustment, very slightly.
The linkage from your steering column attaches to an "arm" that sticks out from the ****** on the driver's side (console shifters are similar). Get under the car while someone moves the gearshift linkage. This way you will be able to determine which way it goes when you put it into park.
What you do is place the car in park, loosen the bolts to the "arm", push the arm all the way in the direction park is engaged. Then push your gear level all the over the left - as far into "P" as it will go. Then tighten everything up.
The problem could also be the neutral safety switch, if it will not start at all:
To find the neutral safety switch, look for a small wire attached to your starter solenoid that leads down under the floor toward the transmission. You will find the neutral safety switch at the other end of it. [This switch may simply be dirty]. ... John Smith had starting problems, mostly when cold, on his 250,000 mile Dodge Spirit. He found oil in the neutral switch next to the transmission dipstick. Cleaning the connection seemed to fix it.

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1 Answer

it want start

First, let's look at the obvious: the battery. When the battery is run down, but the headlights seem to shine at full strength, usually the starter makes click-click-click noises. That usually means you need a jump start. Of course, if the headlights are dim or off entirely, the battery is the most likely candidate.
Jump starts do not always work. I used to find that cars with larger engines usually worked the first time. The quality of the jumper cables was also an issue. I tried jump-starting with cheap cables and it rarely worked. That was back in the old days, when I drove 1970s cars with V8s. Now, alternators are generally better, you may have more success.

Read more at http://www.allpar.com/fix/nostart.html

Sep 27, 2010 | 1999 Saturn SL

1 Answer

car will not run with headlights on but will run

check the alternator an battery again, is seem leke the car is running on battery power, thats why is shuts down when the heavy drain lights comes on

Jul 18, 2009 | 1998 Chevrolet Prizm

1 Answer

electrical issues (2 or 3) with Mazda Tribute 2002

hello there, there is a way to check if the alternator works, just start the engine and run it at idle for a minute or so just to get the engine warmed up. while the engine is running, try to remove the positive terminal cable from the battery (note: no lights, radio, or any accessories operating). the alternator should be sufficiently providing power to the engine. if it dies down the charging might be weak. another way is purchase a digital multimeter and setting it to dc voltage testing. put the tester prongs on the correct terminal( positive to red positive and negative to black negative) test the voltage prior to starting. usually it shall read 12. 3 or a tad higher. remove the tester prongs from the battery terminal and start the engine. then place it back on. the reading shall read 14V plus without any load. sometimes it might read 15V w/c is usually over for certain cars. then turn on all accessories: headlights, aircondition/heater and etc. if the reading on the tester indicates 12.8V and above 13V your charging system is ok.(all this test is on engine idle)

For the battery, my experience is that 2 years of battery duty is quite good already. unfortunately, during these span of duty the battery might give a 12V reading but its strength is not enough to sustain the load. the voltage of the battery is the physical attribute so to speak and ampere is the power or strength of the battery.

for your accessories that died, I think something tripped when you jump started it. but the accessories are easily traceble. I think what's important is keeping the engine in tip top condition and won't let you down during hard times.

hope some of this helps you.

May 04, 2009 | 2002 Mazda Tribute

1 Answer

headlights shining high are the bulbs upside down

it's very difficult to install them upside down,but i guess anything is possible. wait until dusk,shine the lights on a flat surface and attempt to adjust until the lights look like they are shining in the center.

Apr 29, 2009 | 1998 Plymouth Voyager

1 Answer

electrical issues

How have you determined that the alternator (generator) is working fine?

Whilst the engine is running you need to see if there is at least 12 volts (usually 13.5V) across the battery using a voltmeter or similar tool. Also, whilst the engine is running, what happens when you turn the headlights on? (Does the car stall or try to stall?) This would affect night driving using headlights.

Most importantly, you run the risk of damaging the diodes on the alternator whilst running the
engine with a flat or undercharged battery.

There is also a regulator that controls the voltage from the alternator.

have you checked all fuses, including engine fuses located under the bonnet?

Sep 16, 2008 | 1999 Chrysler 300M

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