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1987-1991 Parley with regards to your 1987 to 1991 Bonneville, Olds 88 or Buick Le Sabre Please use General Chat for non-mechanical issues, and Performance and Brainstorming for improvements.

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Old 02-10-2004, 03:28 PM   #1
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Hey all. My mother in law'* '90 olds 88 is doing this thing where it will crank and crank, and you can hear it fire a few times, but not close to actaully starting. She'* gotten it to start a few times by sitting out there and cranking it for an hour or so. Once it'* been started, it runs and drives fine. Also if she goes outside and starts it every few hours, it will continue to start fine.

My bro in law looked at it and tried some new plugs and *I think*, some dry gas. That didn't do it, so a while later, she took it to the local shop, where they put in a starter. A starter!! Like I said, it was cranking just fine. Obviously, that didn't do anything.

So we don't know exactly where to go from here. It'* not throwing a light, and it runs fine when it runs. I can hear the fuel pump run when you turn the key to run. Unfortunately, she'* 2.5 hours south of me, and I can't afford to be driving back and forth trying to heal her gremlins. Or would I be trying to kill her gremlins? Anyway, any help you can give will be very much appreciated.
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Old 02-10-2004, 08:34 PM   #2
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To me the way to start is with a scan tool, a dvm, a pressure guage, (pump may be running but does not mean you are getting gas, I usually pour about a half ounce into the vaccuum connection on the top of the manifold - incidently I need a couple of those four way thingies, anyone have a source ? - and then crank. If fires and stops the problem is fuel related. Could even be a blocked fuel filter or a thoroughly ex sock.).

The first split is fuel and fire (can assume you are getting air) and the method above will eliminate lack of fuel. For the description it sould like you are getting fire at least sometimes. Good indicator is if the car has a tach, does it wiggle while cranking ? No wiggle and is probably either crank sensor or ignition module.

Fire is harder other than the tach trick - cam sensor will set a code but will usually start, crank sensor will just not start so you need to go through the eight page "cranks but does not run" section in the service manual. Is really the only method other than just throwing parts at it and sounds like someone is already doing that.

If it were me I'd take along a whole spare ignition and coil module, and a spare ECM. Both take seconds to swap and eliminate large sections of possibilities.

But first I'd pop on a fuel pressure guage to the fuel rail (why there is a fitting onnit) & if is under 25 psi while cranking, there you are.

Seems like this happens often enough that it should be part of a FAQ.
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Old 02-11-2004, 03:51 AM   #3
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Thanks for the ideas, Padgett. While I don't have a fuel pressure gauge, scan tool, spare coil pack, or spare ECM in my garage, I do have a few ideas that I can pass along to my bro-in-law, who is closer and better able to try them out.

Sadly, the car doesn't have a tach (it'* an olds, and they didn't believe in gauges much beyond speed and fuel back then. we're lucky that the fuel gauge wasn't replaced by a dummy light. ).

They tell me now that the shop wants to try new plug wires, but i've never known plug wires to fail and work perfectly at random. Does any other component here have the tendency to work at random? The car doesn't stall or run abnormally once it'* started. It'* just that most times, it refuses to start.
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Old 02-11-2004, 10:25 AM   #4
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"The car doesn't stall or run abnormally once it'* started" - highly unlikely (never say never) that it is ignition. I'd be looking for a clog (fuel filter ever changed ?) or erratic pump in the furel system, or even just water in the gas (why one of the first things I do in a case like that is to introduce some known good gas into the system and see what happens. Takes no tools at all (but a small funnel & hose helps)).

For example the Equus 3640 (http://www.iequus.com/item.asp?cid=30&pid=3640) that I have has been seen at Sears as low as $29.95 or if really cheap can make one from an old oil pressure guage, a short piece of hose, and some fittings. Not rocket science.

Modern cars are not as simple as they used to be and there is no substitute for proper instrumentation. Problem is that the good mechanics, the ones who understand electronics, have mostly found clean jobs on a test bench in an air conditioned room that pays better.
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Old 02-11-2004, 02:07 PM   #5
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fwiw - the place she took it to said today that the problem was the spark plug module and ignition coil... i told her to make sure that she brings the old parts back so we can take a look at them when it'* all said and done. i'm not sure if they're just picking at straws, but they sure are taking her for a ride either way.

starter, spark plug module and ignition coil - over 600 big ones.

makes me sick.

also makes me want to change jobs. of course, most mechanics see 12-15 an hour of that...

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Old 02-11-2004, 02:25 PM   #6
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oh, and to throw in a little somethin, here'* my casual observations:

once the car is finally started, it can be turned off and re-started with no problems whatsoever (and it starts faster than my series 2 no less - you can barely touch the key before it'* running)
once it'* running, there'* no intermitant misses - it'* all smooth power with no hiccups.
there'* gas in the cylinders - when i pulled the plugs, they reaked of gas (not just reaked of gas, but had gas dripping on them - in my mind, now you're talking ignition, cause you know there'* wet gas on the end of a plug...)
the old plugs were pretty shot, but prolly had some life left in them
didn't have a proper test light to check for all of the wires sparking when i was down there, so can't say whether or not the wires were all 100%
no multimeter, so i have no idea what the coils were putting out, or if the wires were completely up to spec

all that said, with it just randomly working properly, i'm guessing they were on the right track with the ICM, but i don't think that the any of the coils were bad - cause again, once it started working properly, it kept working - and strong.

in any event, i just called and they're finishing up the car as i type, so we'll see what happens...

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Old 02-11-2004, 02:41 PM   #7
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Prolly too late now but if replacing both ESC and coils, I would change to the Delco version with individual coils - still in use & a plug in.
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Old 02-11-2004, 03:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padgett
Prolly too late now but if replacing both ESC and coils, I would change to the Delco version with individual coils - still in use & a plug in.
would have loved to have done that, but unfortunately, she'* a good 2 hours or so from my house :( so i haven't been able to be around to check things out. last time i left her house everything was firing fine.

oh welll...... so it goes. now we just find out whether or not this actually fixed the problem. hope so...

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Old 02-12-2004, 02:33 AM   #9
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Just so none of you are confused by all of the above, let me fill you in that mkaake IS my bro-in-law. And he is, in fact, trying to fix his mother'* (my mother-in-law'*) olds. Since he'* a whole 1/2 hour or so closer to her than I am, he gets to do most of the hands-on fun stuff.

Welcome to the club Matt. Do I get a bonus or something for getting a new member to sign up?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Does $600 seem a tad bit high for a starter, spark plug module and ignition coil? I read that and nearly fell over. Ugh...

After all of that, it'll probably turn out to be a loose connection somewhere between the computer and coil. Not that a repair shop would ever be honest enough to say so.

Matt, we should have her get the old ignition parts back from the shop. I can test them on my car some time and see if she got taken.
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Old 02-12-2004, 09:29 AM   #10
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Well if WOW show chrome plated or Canadian dollars maybe. Haven't looked under an Olds of that vintage but on 90 Bonneville, swapping a starter is a 1/2 hour job and ESC/coil module with disassembly/reassembly, 20 minutes (probably 2hours/1hour by "the book".

Where they probably got you is on the piece prices: GM list for an ESC (24503623) is U$245 and the coil (12353801) is U$125 - see www.partsvoice.com, they list older parts that GMPartsDirect doesn't - so they have you for $400 right there. Add $100 for the starter (rebuilt) and about $150 labor and you reach the high side of U$600 real quick.

This used to bother me until I realized that a) most people are not mechanically minded and b) even at those rates I like working on computers more.

So having 3 vehicles with essentially the same drivetrain, I just keep common replacables on hand. The problem is all of the parts I have for cars I no longer own.

Know anyone who could use about two pickup (or one real) trucks full of V-8 H-body parts: 4 speeds, posi axles (note the "*") and a bunch of unobtainable stuff like 13" Snowflake wheels ?
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