Big problems... won't start and sometimes dies. - GM Forum - Buick, Cadillac, Chev, Olds, GMC & Pontiac chat


1992-1999 Series I L27 (1992-1994 SE,SLE, SSE) & Series II L36 (1995-1999 SE, SSE, SLE) and common problems for the Series I and II L67 (all supercharged models 92-99) Including Olds 88's, Olds LSS's and Buick Lesabres Please use General Chat for non-mechanical issues, and Performance and Brainstorming for improvements.

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Old 03-18-2003, 07:01 AM   #1
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Default Big problems... won't start and sometimes dies.

Sorry this is so long but I'm trying to be as detailed as possible as the problem is very strange.

I have a 1996 SSE. I've had this problem since I got the car (used) about 2 years ago and it keeps getting worse. The very day I got the car I was driving it around (doing a little speed testing too). I got home after an hour or two of driving. I turned the car off and went inside... about 10 minutes later I go back out to move the car and it wont start. I try a few things to no avail... A mechanic told me that it was most likely the fuel pump and I seen a few places online that suggested the same thing. I had the pump replaced which cost about $300 & a tank of gas all together. When they put the new pump in... the car would still not start... They pulled a few fuses... reinserted them and then it fires up.... and works fine for about 6 months.

Recently I have been having problems with the car not wanting to start again after being driven a while (about 10-20 miles) (same as before). I checked the valve thats on the fuel rail and sometimes fuel will squirt out when cranked and sometimes nothing. (the car DOES crank when trying to start).

Sometimes when I get in and try to start... it will run for a few seconds and then sputter down and won't start again.

I played around with some fuses and found a combination that will reset something in the motor. (I can hear a pump or something clicking off/on) I pulled the two fuses under the hood for the Ignition Switch. Then inside the car on the passenger side fuse box... I pull the 6, 7, & 8 fuse spots (fuel pump, ignition, misc. engine controls.) Then I reinsert them in the same order I pulled them.... after I put the last one back in (misc. engine controls) I hear something in the engine kick on or reset. After that the car will fire right up. I've been doing that as NOBODY seems to know what the actual problem is to fix it.

Now the problem is getting worse and sometimes the car will just die... right in the middle of an intersection maybe at 40 mph... everything but the radio & ac goes out.... power steering, power brakes... very dangerous.

I had the car in the dealership for about 2 weeks and they could not find out anything. They ran diagnostics on it @ $75 an hour but only charged for an oil change since they didn't find anything (thank god).

I get the car back and it starts acting up again after driving it for an hour around town. The first time it wouldn't start... I turned the key on for 3 seconds and then off and listend for a whining sound from the engine (like the dealership said to do). Sure enough... the car starts up after a few times of doing that. The car did this a few more times on later dates and I fixed it the same way.

Now I am to the point where that won't work and my ghetto fuse pulling won't work either. I got the car to run for about 20 seconds and then it sputtered down again.

I have called around a few places and I have checked on google for my symptoms and a few things keep shoing up.

1. Ignition Module
2. Anti-theft relay
3. Cam shaft sensor
4. Coil Modules
5. Crankshaft sensor
6. Check Fuel Filter for clogs.

1. I took my ignition module into auto-zone and they tested it.... It tested ok even after about 20 testings to get it nice and warm. It got a little hesitant but he said it was good enough that it shouldn't be the problem... the new module is $159 anyway and with no returns, that is a little extreme for now...

2. I then got an OEM replacement Anti-Theft Relay to try since that will shut down a lot of things if it'* not working right... One problem though... I can't find out which one of the relays is the anti-theft relay. Any help on that would be nice.

4. As far as the coil module packs... the guy said that the would only cause random misfiring if they were bad. I don't think they are bad.

5. The fuel filter is in the gas tank (correct?). If so... it was replaced along with the pump less than 5000 miles ago. I think the engine is getting enough fuel though so I don't think that is the problem.

As far as the other suggestions... I have not tried yet and was looking for some insight here. One think that also happens after driving it a while... the oil pressure will drop down into the red and the car will ding 3 times (usually when stopped or decelleratting) then it will go back up to about 20. (when I got the car the pressure level stayed steady at about 40) I was told that this is the sending unit going out. This scared the bejesus out of me the first 10 times it happened and I would pull over and turn the car off and check the oil levels (all were fine). Once I get an oil change, this problem goes away and will start again (very seldom) after about 500 miles or so and gradually keep getting worse until it does it at about every stop light.

I have no idea how the previous owner treated this car (I think he was a drug dealer and the car was a police seizure). It booked for 12,000 when I bought it (for 8,000). I knew it would not be perfect but I just thought the problem would be FIXABLE.

Any ideas will be greatly, greatly appreciated! Sorry for such a LOOOOONG post but I'm bored and want to be descriptive as pissilbe about the problem.
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Old 03-18-2003, 10:44 AM   #2
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I have a 1996 Bonneville SE and it has been doing the same thing as yours for about the past 8 months or so (minus the oil pressure dropping). Sometimes it won't start even when the motor is cold, but if you wait about 30 minutes or so it starts right up. And it also has a tendancy to just die at anytime in traffic no matter how how fast I'm traveling. Usually, though, I'm lucky enough to just put the car up in neutral and start it right back up without any trouble. It also idles very rough when I first start it up, but it usually clears up after about a minute or so. The check engine light is on, and the only code that came up on it idicated a problem with the crankshaft sensor. Since that sensor was only about $30, I bought it and am going to get it changed within the next few days. Hopefully that will correct theh problem. I'll let you know.
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Old 03-18-2003, 11:34 AM   #3
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Very descriptive post. Good to have.

I can maybe help with a little of it.

1) Coil packs - Your right, the chances that they are the problem are very slim. If one were bad it would still run but extremely poorly. You would most likely get SES light that indicated misfires and such.

2) Low Oil Pressure - Did a mechanic check out the sending unit? I am asking because I have read a few people here had to change out their oil pump due to exessive wear causing low oil preassure.

3) Crank Sensor and Ignition Module - I had some problems with this stuff not to long ago. Instead of me retyping it all here is the link to all the information on it.

4) Fuel Filter - I believe there should be a fuel filter in-line underneth your car. My '95 has it on the rear passenger side right in front of the tire. I know some years had them in diffent locations such as by the passengers feet. Maybe someone with the same year as yours can chime in here and verify it and it'* location.

5) Tune-up - How are your plugs, wires, fluid levels, air filter, etc... These may not be the cause of the whole problem but they can deffinetly contribute to poor performance.

You said that the fuse pulling helped for a while but not anymore. You also stated "I checked the valve thats on the fuel rail and sometimes fuel will squirt out when cranked and sometimes nothing". These two things make me think that it has something to do with the PCM or some controling module. It appears that when the car is turned on that the signal to turn on the fuel pump is not being sent. Does this sound right to you?
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Old 03-18-2003, 04:28 PM   #4
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If there is fuel coming out of the check valve on the rail, that'* a serious issue. It is not likely that it is related to a PCM problem, but it could be the cause of everything. Have you had your fuel pressure tested? If this valve is leaking, then the injectors may not be able to fire when the PCM requests it. Removing and replacing the fuses would cause the fuel pump to reset and run to bring the system up to the proper PSI. This is the sound you are hearing. If the valve is going, it will get worse as time goes by, eventually failing all together. If it is just loose, a set of fine needle nose pliers can be used to tighten it.

This valve is called a Schrader (SP?) valve and its the same type that is used on your tires. You can you this connection to attach a pressure gauge. I will bet that the valve is either loose or failing. Good luck!
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Old 03-18-2003, 06:40 PM   #5
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note: fuel only comes out when I push the valve in... Other than that it'* fine.

As of today, I push the valve in without cranking and no fuel comes out... none either when cranking. Pretty sure the fuel pump is not coming on. Seems like no pressure in the rail. I have not had the pressure tested recently... when it was in the shop to replace the pump was the last time it was checked and it tested in the normal range after the repairs.

I went to a salvage yard and pulled a couple ignition modules (one from a 92 sle... it look like it had been replaced as it was cleaner than the one in my car.) The other one I dont think im gonna try because it looks pretty corroded.

I tried the ignition module from the 92 sle and out of stupidity and rush... I forgot to connect the plug wires before cranking sparks hopping from the coil pack wire posts... (hope I didn't fry those now)... reconnected them and still no luch starting... still no fuel in rail. I'm gonna try my fuse pulling again... it'* been a day since I tried that last.

Let me know how that crankshaft sensor turns out.
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Old 03-18-2003, 07:28 PM   #6
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No luck... fuse pulling didnt work still.

I was wrong about the fuses under the passenger side.. I have been pulling 5 6 & 7 (not 6, 7, &

5. Misc. Engine controls
6. Fuel Pump
7. Injectors

(8. is for the powertrain module)

I pulled both of the ignition swith fuses under the hood and those 3 fuses under the passenger side fuse block and turn the key on & off (trying to start car).. (obviously doesn't crank). Reinsert two under hood and then 5, 6, & 7 inside car... try to start... nothing


Does anybody know which relay the Anti-theft relay is? They are all the same exact relays.
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Old 04-05-2003, 03:02 PM   #7
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My wifes 92 does a similiar thing. I just posted my questios regarding this. the (VATS) system or anti theft system is activated by that little thing on your key. This chip on your key is a resistor. if the VATS does not pick-up the corect resistance it will shut down the fuel injectors for up to 10 minutes and the it may work or may not if the resistance is wrong again. What mine is doing is sometimes it will not start, if I wait 5-10 minutes it will, sometimes it just stalls while driving and if I wait , again it wil start. when I check the codes by jumping the plug under the dash, I get the code for the cam position sensor which is also tied in to the fuel injection system. i have narrowed it down to these two things. the cam positon sensor is about 25$, if it is the VATS then it may require a new igntion and keyto match the frequency which could cost up to 200$. I did read about a way to disable the VATS sytem by checking your key'* resistor with an ohm meter and going to radio shack, finding a restor of the same value and instaling it between the two wires going to your ignition.
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Old 04-05-2003, 05:53 PM   #8
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About VATS. I installed my own autostart and I did have to test the resistance on my key with a multimeter then go to Radio Shack to get the resistor to put in-line under the dash. You can insert the resisitor to either of the white wires runnin under sterring column which are wrapped in orange skin. The car needs to detect the resistence to start but I am unsure if it needs to continue to read it to run. Somebody who knws jump in
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Old 04-22-2003, 03:33 AM   #9
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Default GOT IT FIXED!

FIXED! I had it towed to the dealership after a week or two of trying different stuff... I was starting to think that it was wiring related.

The dealership got it working and I haven't had a problem with it yet.

Here is what the bill says they did...

"Customer states engine won't start. All 6 spark plugs fouled out with oil. Replaced all plugs and pcv valve then had no fuel pressure. wires going to fuel pump not routed right. replaced fuel filter and fuel pump relay. OK now but may not be fixed. May be wiring problem"

And I have noticed that the thick white puff of smoke that would accompany each cold start is now gone. Oil pressure guage still drops down to red zone (under 5) when hot idleing (at a stop light or something) but it is rare. I did notice that my display panel says to check the rear tail lights but they all seem to be working... hmm... hope wires are not shorted out somewhere.

ANYWAY... I just thought I would respond back here now that it'* working... I will let you all know if this keeps working after a couple more weeks or not. Thanks for your help so far and for any future help.
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Old 04-23-2003, 04:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jr's3800
The VATS system will also keep the car from starting.. If there is a problem in the system the car most likely will not start... That also means the fuel system will not operate, as well as the PCM if memory serves..
Just to set the record straight in this thread (and I know the car seems to be fixed now anyway): VATS will keep the car from starting by killing the Starter Enable and Fuel Pump circuits if the wrong ignition key resistance is detected, but once the car _is_ started, VATS will not shut it down.

So if the starter cranks the engine over, you do not have a VATS problem there.
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