Randomly fails to start after being driven for varying lengths of time.

Tiny
JCSTILLINGS
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 SATURN SL2
  • 150,000 MILES
I drive an automatic SL2, am the original owner, and have kept up with all required and recommended maintenance. Over the past 9 months, I've been having problems with the car not starting. It starts just fine when it sits overnight or for a period of time. For example, I'll drive it to the commuter lot in the morning with no problems. When I get back to it in the evening, it starts right up, I drive home, and park it. If we head out after that, sometimes it doesn't start at all. When I turn the key, there's no sound or action whatsoever. Trying to jump start it doesn't do anything. All the lights and electrical work in the car just fine. It simply doesn't start. This doesn't happen all the time though. It will go days to weeks between occurrences. If I let it sit anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours (or overnight) it starts up just fine.

The same thing happens if we are driving around town running errands. The car starts just fine when we leave the house and even when we start it up at a few stops, and then suddenly it doesn't stop. It doesn't matter how long we've been driving it or letting it sit.

No for the challenging part. I can't replicate it, and the repair shop always says they can't find a thing wrong with it because it starts right up for them when we've had it towed to the shop. They've kept it overnight, driven it around, and every time it starts up just fine for them. They've test the battery, starter, cables, and who knows what else and haven't been able to find the problem. To make matters worse, we've never been able to get it to a mechanic when the problem is happening because it's always happened after mechanics hours or on the weekend and when a mechanic does get to take a look at it, the car starts right up.

The problem is happening more and more frequently with the gap between occurrences getting shorter.

Any suggestions or ideas are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
John
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Saturday, September 24th, 2011 AT 12:32 AM

9 Replies

Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Do you have a test light or multimeter to do some testing?Sounds like a bad starter really common on those cars the solenoid on the starter gets hot and fails to start. Can be very random no starts.
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Saturday, September 24th, 2011 AT 2:03 AM
Tiny
JCSTILLINGS
  • MEMBER
Sorry for the slow reply. Yes, I have access to a test light and multimeter for testing.
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Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 AT 1:59 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Next time the starter is inop see if you have power to the small purple wire at the starter with the key in start position. If its a automatic transmission make sure the car is in park when testing. If its a manual transmission make sure the clutch pedal is fully depressed when checking. If you have power to the purple when the starter is inop then you have a bad starter. Let me know what you find.
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Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 AT 3:27 PM
Tiny
JAMESDAVE2
  • MEMBER
I checked the TSB's for this specific problem because my girl friend's had the same problem. It stated that you should replace the coolant temperature sensor (kind of random I know) but, I just replaced yesterday and her car is already running much better. Will keep you updated though if the problem reoccurs.
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Friday, September 30th, 2011 AT 6:38 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
This asked question is for the starter inop meaning a no crank no start. Not like you had a crank no start that has been a problem with the coolant temp sensors from the first year of the S model saturns.I remember the first coolant temp sensor I found bad long before the bulletin came out it was intermintant surging dieing no starts. Thanks for the input though.
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Friday, September 30th, 2011 AT 8:00 PM
Tiny
JCSTILLINGS
  • MEMBER
It turns out the starter had a dead spot on it. Replaced it and we'll see how it does now. Thanks for the help.
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Friday, September 30th, 2011 AT 11:29 PM
Tiny
PAX79
  • MEMBER
I have a 1993 sl2 and I have the same problem I got this car 5 month ago I found than when I fill and over flow my tank with gas sometimes it don't start I have energy everything works but when I turn the key on I don't get any sound of the starter or engine nothing and I found by hiting the starter it start rigth away, my starter is good and look brand new but my theory is there is a hose should be a vacun or over flow small hose than run from the engine on top of the starter to the idle(the area than you let the air go into the engine)they are 2 or 3 small vacun hose on top you can see then right from the top, if gas if falling on the starter is stoping it from working (i think so not sure) but if you still have the same problem with the new starter find the way to hit it and you will see runing right away, you have to take the air intake out to hit the starter is really easy to do after you learn how to. Explain your mechanic this and see if changing this vacun hose might fix the problem
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Saturday, October 1st, 2011 AT 2:19 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
I disagree with your theroy if you have to hit your starter to make it work then you have a bad starter.I dont care how new it looks what happens is the starter solenoid sticks thats why you cant hear it click when you turn the key to the start position. Then when you hit it it comes unstuck. As far those vacuum lines above your starter one goes to your throttle body for vacuum the other one goes to the charcoal canister. Your canister purge solenoid controls the vacuum to pull thru your charcoal canister which pulls fuel vapors from the gas tank only no raw liquid fuel.I have been working on saturns over 18yrs and iam factory trained saturn tech that trained in spring hill tennesse by the plant where they were made. So I know these cars very well.
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Saturday, October 1st, 2011 AT 2:40 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
Keep me posted on how that new starter works out for you.
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Saturday, October 1st, 2011 AT 4:45 AM

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