Question about 1997 Saturn SL

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97 Saturn SL2 (dual overhead cams) - All of a sudden, car is having trouble starting. It won't turn over and will only give a click or two that seems like it is comming from under the motor, which happens to be where the starter is. I replaced the starter, starter relay and battery cables. There is no electric at all when the car is not running (lights, radio, dinging when the door is open, etc...). I am able to push start it and it runs great, until I turn it off. I checked all of the fuses and am still having the same problem. I hooked a cheap handheld scanner to it while it was running, but it did not return any codes. Some of the recent repairs I've made are as follows: Replaced Starter, starter relay, alternator, battery, battery cables, fuel pump, fuel pump relay, and all fuses (under the hood and under the dash). I am stuck and running out of options. I am still able to push start it, but it really isn't much fun. Any ideas what could be the cause? Thanks, in advance, for any advice or suggestions.

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  • mrbios Nov 26, 2008

    I have a 1997 Saturn SW2 (W=wagon) dual overhead cam.  I have owned my car since it was new and it has never had this problem until today. The car has 128,000 miles on it. 

    After work I parked at the grocery store.  When I came out and turned the key all the power went out.  The batter was replaced about 6 months ago and is working fine.  The radio lost it's presets and and the clock reset.  The headlights would not work, the horn etc.  No power at all.  I checked the fuses and they were ok.  I waited a bit and everything was back to normal and the car started right up.

    When I got home I turned the ignition key slowly and it started 4x in a row.  But then it happened again everything normal until I turned to the the position where the starter spins and everything went black.

    I changed the passenger side CV axle last week and the manual transmission oil ( I used gear oil instead of atf).  I spilled a bunch of gear oil and maybe that is getting on the ground in the starter area.

    I will post an update.

  • free-2-be May 12, 2009

    I have exactly the same problem. Some days, starts fine. Other days no power when the ignition is turned. Replaced starter - no change. Find it hard to believe the battery is bad because it doesn't happen every time.

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The negative terminal on my battery was loose.  I cleaned it and greased it and the problem seems to be gone just the guest pointed out.

Posted on Nov 26, 2008

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You should check all of your frame ground connections and check for parasitic draw.

Posted on Dec 04, 2010

I have had a problem that I think were attributed to some loose wires or corroded wires attached to the starter. All power was gone when the trying to turn over the engine, but there wasn't even a click.

The first time this happened, I thought it was going to be the battery or alternator, but the mechanics were able to just reattach or re-clip the wires so they didn't short out.


Posted on Nov 06, 2008

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Hi Jason_F150,

Everything you've described points to the battery.

You said it was recently replaced. By a new one?
If so, then the battery problems are the more visual symptoms of the real problem (we'll get to that).

Symptoms Walk Through:
If there's no power when the engine is off - Battery problem Normal power when it's running - Alternator OK.

That clicking sound? Starter solenoid's click like that when underpowered - Battery Low - not completely dead

If the charging system is working, the battery won't trigger an error.

Check it: Get a volt meter.
While it's stopped, check the battery. Is it Low?
Now start it. Check again. +13V?

Questions:

  • Does the battery, even for a short time, hold a charge?
  • Specifically, after running for a while, will it restart?
  • If not, the battery is now bad. Replace it (should still be under warranty)
Batteries (especially new ones) don't just die.
The real question:
What is killing your battery?

With the ignition off, ensure the systems that should be off actually are off. For example: does the radio still come on? Wipers? Etc.?

In the same vein, has anything new been installed lately? (Like aftermarket radio, etc)

The next test is to track a power drain. You will need a test light, needle nose pliers (to pull fuses) and the proper tools to remove the negative battery terminal.
  • Ignition off
  • Remove the cable from the Negative battery terminal
  • Hook one end of your test light to the Negative battery post
  • Attach the other end to the cable you just removed
  • Again, double check connections to recent installations (radio, GPS, etc)
  • It will light up, this is the normal drain of the clock, plus the extra drain. The brighter the light, the bigger the drain.
  • Find your instrument panel fuse box
  • While keeping an eye on the test light, pull the fuses one by one. Replace the one just pulled before going to the next.
  • When the light goes out (or dims), you will have narrowed the drain problem to a specific system. Check the legend on the fuse box for the offending system.
At this point there are too many 'What if's'. Which system has the drain will determine the next steps to be taken.

These procedures will allow us to focus in on the problem area. Let me know what you find out. We will take it from there.

This will help

Mike




Posted on Jul 29, 2008

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