Sorry about the un-timely reply, but I wanted to wait a few days to see what would happen.
Since the BCM costs $350-$750, and a re-built starter costs $110, I decided to tackle the starter problem first.
Thinking that the parts store (NAPA) would be more interested in selling a starter, no matter what condition mine was in, I took the starter to a local garage I sometimes go to when I have a few extra bucks and don't feel like doing it myself (or don't know how/don't have the proper equipment).
The solenoid was OK, in that the gear engaged, but the motor didn't turn. He then pulled off a cover and showed me a couple of contacts that were badly worn. He said that 90% of the time the contacts were the problem. He gave me a couple of new contacts to replace, told me to clean up the copper contact disk on the armature with a wire wheel, re-install the starter and see what happened. If it worked, I owed him for the contacts. If not, he wanted the contacts back:-). No Problem.
Went back to my shop (I have a small Swiss screw machine shop), cleaned it up, installed the new contacts, put it back on the motor, and WaLa! That puppy works like a brand new starter!
Funny part is. Since then, I haven't had a single problem with the gauges, locks, or lights flickering! Absolutely no problems of any kind.
Now, the problem with the gauges/locks/lights started right after I had it smog tested. It seemed like something was loose. So I went back to the smog dude to find out where he connected his equipment, thinking that maybe something had been bumped, or wasn't re-connected properly. This guy seemed to know quite a bit about auto computers, and explained that they can be rather sensitive and that my gauge/lock/light problem could be caused by a bad ground or a short somewhere.
After I pulled the worn contacts out of the starter, and before installing the new ones, I cleaned a lot of copper dust (most of it was blackened, or burnt) out of the cavity and off of the base plate (for lack of a better description). The only thing I can think of is that perhaps the copper dust was causing an occasional short between the always hot lead from the battery and the other contact, or maybe the armature.
With full amperage from the battery, any copper dust would get instantly fried. But you would have a momentary short that may have caused the BCM to freak out, making my lights go out, gauges drop, or locks cycle. Maybe? I don't really know for sure, but it sounds good:-)
All I know is that everything has been working just fine since rebuilding that starter.
Joe, I thank you for all your advice. Money is tight, and I couldn't make a donation to this site, but if you ever need any machining done (have mostly small production machinery, but I do have a nice toolroom!), I owe you one.
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 AT 12:13 PM