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Old 07-29-2015, 01:53 AM   #1
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Default electric smell, then no running car

Driving home from hospital with 87 yr old Mom fresh from operation her car died on the hottest day of the year. It was a bit of a night mare but all worked out and we road home in tow truck. She is one tough old lady who handled it all in stride but she wants her car back running and I need some help.

It'* a 98 Buick La Sabre Limited, 60k miles on it, 3.8 v6 sfi. While driving, the car died completely, all electric stopped. I had noticed before this a familiar smell but couldn't place it until it died, I then recognized it as an electric smell (ozone and melting insulation). I towed the car home and first checked all the fuses under the hood and under the dash and looked for a fusible links and found nothing wrong.

Condition
has electricity and works:
-power windows, locks, seats
-headlights, turn signals and parking lights, interior lights
-heater and ac controls, radio, wipers.

not working:
-the run position doesn't light the check engine or oil light (the ones in the upper dash that would normally light as you start the car).
-the starter position of the ignition doesn't engage the starter or any of its relays.
-the dash gauges are not powered, with no lights or movement in the gauges.

I have dismantled the steering wheel and replaced the ignition switch with a dealer bought one and it had no effect. I have dismantled most of the dash and have inspected much of the wiring system (fuse block included and behind the radio and glove box) and have found no burnt wires.
I'm not as young or healthy as I once was (fat too) and hanging upside down half off the front seat with flash light in the mouth and tester in my hands is hard to do. I've not completely removed the harness from under the dash yet and have not dismantled or inspected the wiring up through the steering column as I wanted some professional Buick advice before I went that far. I appreciate and thoughts on the problem. Thanks for your time and consideration.
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Old 07-29-2015, 09:18 AM   #2
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Quite honestly, you will need to dig around with a test light and find out where you are not getting power. I would start under the hood and work from there. Check the power distribution blocks as well and power feeds. You may need even need to pull the distribution block apart.

Thankfully, this issue is concrete, and pretty easy to track down, and from what you are describing, should be immediately obvious once you find it.
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Old 08-01-2015, 03:05 PM   #3
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There is a cover over the relays behind the engine, above the firewall, one nut and a couple of twist locks (which are very easy to pop lose from the cover and down on the engine). You need to remove the cover and start inspecting the wiring and relays there. Since that is close to the air intakes; it probably brought the smell into the cabin through the vents.

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Old 08-01-2015, 03:29 PM   #4
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Not sure GM used to have fusible links in the wires I don't know when they stopped using them .
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Old 08-01-2015, 03:43 PM   #5
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Thanks Kimberly, I have inspected each and found none of the fuses bad and nothing that appears to be burnt. I haven't tested the relays thinking that a bad relay wouldn't give off the smell. I also forgot to mention that when i plug in the obdII that it can't connect or won't "link".

I assume I'll have to keep digging but weather has kept me out of the car. I was hoping that the list of what was working and what was not working might give a "Sherlock Holmes type with a great knowledge of the wiring in a 98 buick" enough information that they could tell me the most likely place to start. "Elementary, my dear Watson." lol
Power to the key to engage the windows and the other accessories, but no power to the starter and ignition system parts I was hoping would be a fusible link on the way to the starter relay or something like that. I have tried to figure it out with the few wiring diagrams could find on Google but I just can't see it.

Thanks for the quick responses, and the time you've given me so far. : )

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Old 08-01-2015, 03:52 PM   #6
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This is where the GM shop manual on the electrical systems would come in handy. You can probably find one on eBay. I have yet to obtain the service manuals for my 98 LeSabre.

The OBDII scanner probably can not connect to the PCM because the PCM is not receiving power. When I was working on the evap problem with my car, it appeared the PCM was in a box sitting above the evap canister in the engine compartment; at least some type of control module is sitting in that box.
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Old 08-01-2015, 10:07 PM   #7
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Good advice from the guys.....

You said you checked the maxi fuses, and other fuses in the I/P fuse block?

How did you check them? By sight or with a test light?

Did "ALL" the fuses show power on both sides with a test light?

I am thinking ignition switch(or one of the leads off it), if you check the I/P fuse block and some fuses have power and some don't......they should all have power with the key in the "run" position.....
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1998 la sabre, failed ignition, short circuit, wiring

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