Question about 1996 Pontiac Grand Am

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I have a 1996 grand am 2.4 with about 133,000 miles on it. I will be driving down the road and all of a sudden the car will shut off and I will have to guide it to the side of the road. This has happened to me multiple times. When I try to start it back up it won't crank over and my gauges go haywire. If I leave it for 30 minutes it will fire up again. Every time I have towed it to my mechanic it has worked perfect for him and he can't find anything wrong with it. Just today I was on my way to work and my heat stopped working. I try to move the heat switch to the highest setting and nothing but alittle heat coming out. I could really use someones help on this one.

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Since you can't find the problem, try this & hopefully as you go through the steps, the problem will be identified. It's hard to find & test something that isn't showing up !

Everything comes from the Battery (+) terminal and branches out, but only if the (-) cable has a proper connection as well. There are a couple of ground wire locations located throughout your engine compartment that you should remove, clean, cover with a light coat of vaseline or grease, make sure the mounting location is clean & greased as well then reassemble. There is usually one from the firewall to the engine (Intake area) and the main ground connection is very important so you'll want to inspect that area as well. Sandpaper/emery cloth can be used to prepare the mounting surfaces if any rust or corrosion exists. Any weak ground will cause low voltage just like a bad positive connection can cause low voltage. You should do this to those (+) cables also, battery/solenoid/starter as these wires are the most likely to have that kind of problem if the battery & terminals are verified as good.

While working on the starter connections, grab each wire & bend it a few times, listen & pay attention to if it appears to bend normally. Sometimes there will be corrosion so bad inside of a wire that you can hear it as you bend it, if so, the wire will only work sometimes & those wires need to be replaced. You do need a digital voltmeter for sensor & computer connections if you go that far but a good 12 Volt test light that you can hook to a ground and easily reach most electrical connectors with the tip for testing is the best for starting problems, which I suggest is where you start. It works backward also, hook the clip to the (+) side of the battery & test your ground connections too.

The next time you have a problem you should be to take a test light & test the connections on the starter, in the fuse box, and the fusible links to try and find where the break in current is. Once you find the break in current you can work back towards the battery to identify why there is a break. You may find after cleaning all of your terminals & connections that this problem has dissapeared but I'm not counting on it, just going through the normal process. Don't overlook one other possibility-and that's your battery. I know it sounds far fetched, but batteries have forever perplexed man with the ability to not work at times, and work perfectly at others. I'm not talking about the terminals you hook the cables to either. The truth is, there are plates that can touch & lose the ability to work, for whatever reason, a bump, heat, cold, the battery fairy show up & the battery will work perfectly. I saw a wharehouse filled with several thousand batteries that were similar, it was amazing.

I wish I could give you more info but with electrical unknowns, you have to search until you find them. At least with the test light, if your car won't start & your light says you have power to the starter, you will have started to isolate the problem.

A starter that quits working when it is hot (due to warpage & yes, sometimes this will happen) will still be getting the current, just won't turn & sometimes won't do anything until it cools and everything shrinks back into position.

If you have no current to the starter solenoid switch, the small wire when you have this problem and the switch energized & it won't start, then that will tell you that there's a problem with the ignition switch, the wiring leading to the starter, or a computer related issue so every time you have a problem & rule out one thing, you should be getting closer to the problem.

Good Luck

Posted on Feb 01, 2010

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That's a tough one without looking at the car but it sounds like a major
bad ground somewhere like the ground from the battery to the motor, you need to have a voltage drop test done especially on the battery cables, a corroded cable or connection will get worst when the heat from the motor increases the resistance of the cable or wire.

Posted on Feb 01, 2010


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