No start

Tiny
MONTRY81
  • MEMBER
  • 1991 BUICK RIVIERA
  • 3.8L
  • V6
  • FWD
  • 179,000 MILES
Wife just bought a 91 Riviera. Ran fine for the trip home and one trip out. When wanting to come home, the car would not start. No crank, only power to the console. I have replaced the ignition cylinder, the ignition control module and coils, the starter solenoid and checked all the fuses. I am out of ideas on what to check next. I seem to have exhausted all possible solutions found on Google. Can anyone help me get this car running before she takes a gun to it? Help!
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 3:52 PM

14 Replies

Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
All "crank, no start" conditions are approached in the same way. Every engine requires certain functions to be able to run. Some of these functions rely on specific components to work and some components are part of more than one function so it is important to see the whole picture to be able to conclude anything about what may have failed. Also, these functions can ONLY be tested during the failure. Any other time and they will simply test good because the problem isn't present at the moment.
If you approach this in any other way, you are merely guessing and that only serves to replace unnecessary parts and wastes money.

Every engine requires spark, fuel and compression to run. That's what we have to look for.

These are the basics that need to be tested and will give us the info required to isolate a cause.

1) Test for spark at the plug end of the wire using a spark tester. If none found, check for power supply on the + terminal of the coil with the key on.

2) Test for injector pulse using a small bulb called a noid light. If none found, check for power supply at one side of the injector with the key on.

3) Use a fuel pressure gauge to test for correct fuel pressure, also noticing if the pressure holds when key is shut off.

4) If all of these things check good, then you would need to do a complete compression test.

Once you have determined which of these functions has dropped out,
you will know which system is having the problem.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 5:14 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
There's two good suspects. GM is famous for their anti-theft systems keeping owners from driving their cars. That system is part of the starter system, but it's in the starter relay's control circuit. Listen very carefully under the hood when the problem is occurring and a helper turns the ignition switch to "crank". If you hear the light click of the starter relay, the anti-theft system is not causing this problem. There may be other things clicking at the same time. To avoid confusion, put your finger on the starter relay and feel for the click.

If the starter relay is clicking, the more likely suspect then is the neutral safety switch. If you can shift to "neutral", then the engine will crank, suspect this switch.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 5:33 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
I guess I misread this Doc. I thought it was a Crank, no start. There will be a flashing security light if there is an issue with Passkey.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 5:37 PM
Tiny
MONTRY81
  • MEMBER
Starter is active during the ignition cycle, however the car won't crank in park or neutral. Should I change the park/neutral switch? Do you know where the switch is located?
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:22 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
What does that mean? Is the starter engaging and rotating the engine?
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:25 PM
Tiny
MONTRY81
  • MEMBER
Starter is engaging but not rotating the motor. When I had it out to replace the solenoid I examined the gears and they appeared to be in good condition. No metal shavings or chunks missing in the teeth. Odd right?
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:31 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
I'm still not real clear on what you have. What exactly is the starter doing? Is it grinding? Is it spinning free wheel without engaging the flywheel? Please be more specific. Things are getting lost in your terminology.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:34 PM
Tiny
MONTRY81
  • MEMBER
Sorry wrenchtech. Starter is not grinding, though it does not appear to be engaging the engine. I am not a mechanic, but I am usually a good part changer once the problem is diagnosed. I now know it is no longer a vats system issue, which is a plus. But getting the motor to crank seems like a losing battle.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:45 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Sorry about butting in earlier. Didn't mean to do that.

What about a cracked flex plate?
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:47 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
If your starter is really acting that way, then there isn't much question that you have a bad starter and possible flywheel damage. I really think you should have a professional look at it to verify that. A lot gets lost in translation.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:48 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
No problem Doc. You read the question better than me.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:49 PM
Tiny
MONTRY81
  • MEMBER
Thanks a bunch. Never had a flywheel issue before. I'll pull the starter and have AutoZone test it. I can tow it to a nearby shop if it tests good to have the flywheel inspected. Maybe I just need a new starter, and that I can do myself. :-)
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:52 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
Tye flywheel needs to be checked while the starter is out. Those bench tests of the starter aren't always conclusive because they have no load on they starter.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 AT 6:55 PM
Tiny
MONTRY81
  • MEMBER
Thanks Wrenchtech. You were right, of course. Soon as I changed out the starter it fired right up. In a couple of weeks I'll have to change the neutral safety switch, but I located it and it appears to be pretty simple and straightforward. After that, all I will have left to do it the rear brakes which will require one caliper to change out and new pads. Without your help I'd only have a pile of scrap metal sitting in my garage. So, thank you very much. My wife is now a happy camper.
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Saturday, January 2nd, 2016 AT 7:16 AM

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