Electronic Gremlins - Electrical Problems That Are Driving You Crazy



  • crashtestdingocrashtestdingo Member Posts: 81
    Hi, all. I have a maddening problem with my 1990 Olds (Toronado) Troféo. Here's what happens when the problem manifests itself: The gages (as GM calls them) on the instrument panel, except for the tach, don't work. The digital display (trip computer & odo) on the instrument panel is off. The "SERVICE ENGINE SOON" indicator light stays on. The display of the climate control system shows only three dashes where the temperature readout should be. Air blows from the defog/defrost outlets at the base of the windshield, and pressing the "OFF" button has no effect. The lights in the buttons of the trip computer, the climate control system and the radio, the lights around the transaxle shift handle and the lights on the door armrests for the power window switches, etc. are out. The radio still works, though.

    This used to be an intermittent problem. It would show up only when I started the car, but not every time I started the car. When it did manifest itself, it would go away eventually if I drove the car long enough. Driving the car over bumpy roads didn't make the problem go away, so I guess vibrations had no bearing on it.

    I took it to a neighborhood independent mechanic and he guessed it could be the body computer module. I looked up some wiring diagrams in the Haynes manual I have (it's for the Toronado, Riviera, Eldorado, Seville and Deville) and discovered that all the gages but the tach get their data from the BCM. And due to the intermittent nature of the problem, I guessed it happened only when the car was cold. But sometimes the problem would not manifest itself even though I hadn't driven the car in a few days. I guess in those cases the car had been sitting in the sun and the BCM had warmed up.

    On the advice of an online friend who's an auto tech, I removed the glove compartment to get at the BCM. When I did this, the problem wasn't manifesting itself. I pulled the rightmost of the three wiring harnesses going into the BCM to see what would happen; the result was somewhat similar to but not the same as the problem. I couldn't get enough leverage to pull either of the other two wiring harnesses. My test leads me to believe that it's not a loose harness.

    Now, with the weather having gotten cooler, the problem seems to be permanent.

    The mechanic I took it to said he would try to find a BCM from a junk yard or, failing that, a new BCM, but he hasn't called me back, even after I went back once to remind him of my plight. I took it to an Olds dealer, but this service department was so busy that it required appointments. I asked to speak to a service advisor because the problem was intermittent (still, at that time) and I was afraid it wouldn't manifest itself on the day of my appointment; he insisted that there was something wrong with the instrument panel. So I won't be going back to that dealer. I guess I'll try to find another dealer to go to, but I thought I'd post here, too, to get your thoughts. Thanks in advance.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yeah, it's probably a bad coupling or plug somewhere. I've heard of Trofeos "blinking out" before. I think your problem is not so complex but finding it could be a real bear for you or the mechanic. What I think happens is that the plugs and/or clips or push-in connectors just corrode over time.

    What you are experiencing as well as everyone's reluctance to tackle the problem. Maybe some more poking around in there will produce results for you, hope so.
  • evathornevathorn Member Posts: 1
    I have a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am that has recently started having problems with the dashboard lights. In the mornings, when I turn the car on and push the headlight switch, the headlights come on, but not the dash lights. Sometimes I have to wait a few minutes. Sometimes, I can touch the radio or the windshield wiper buttons and the dash light will come on. The dash lights will come on if I've driven somewhere (to dinner or the store) and already had them on once, but not if the car has sat for a couple of hours. Can anyone help me?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Have you tried turning the headlights on and off frequently? I'm wondering if you have heavy resistance in the headlight switch. You might also check your fusebox schematic and see which fuse controls the dash lights and pull it out and push it in a couple of time. Make sure this fuse isn't going to screw up your radio code, etc.
  • teemu312teemu312 Member Posts: 5
    I'm having problems with my 1990 Corolla. It seems that my brake lights, my parking lights and most gage lights are all working at the same time. For example, when my headlights are off, my brake lights work fine. But my parking lights and gage lights come on when I apply the brakes. The big problem is when my headlights are on and of course my parking lights and gage lights are on, my brake lights stay on constantly. They only brighten a little when I apply the brake. What could this be and is it expensive to fix?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It might take time to track this down, yes, and that could be expensive in labor. One place I always start for weirdo stuff like this isthe wiring at or behind the fuse box. It would be interesting to notice if the fuses for these various devices are adjacent to each other.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    Many cars brakes lights go through the 'multi-switch' on the 'stalk' that may control turn signals, highbeam flash, who-know-whatever controls. Brake lights are usually also the rear turn signal lights.

    This switch would be the first place I would look.

    Does your center, eye level brake light work correctly? If so, then the switch is probably the problem. The center light is usually directly controlled off the brake pedal, while the left/right brakes light go through the switch....
  • teemu312teemu312 Member Posts: 5
    the center brake light also stays on when the parking lights and everything else is on.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    too bad, that was a good idea he had.
  • mrholtymrholty Member Posts: 10

    I'm going to ask this here.
    Last Feb, my serpentine belt broke at 1 am on way home from aiport. Got towed to local station. Fixed next day. Summer comes and I try to turn on A/C. Doesn't work, just blows air, does not cool. Take it to dealer, also ask them to fix passenger side window (doesn't work). Pick up car next day, told me compresser broken in a/c and never fixed, would take a week to get part. schedule appointment for next week, I get to car to go home and window not fixed, they said they replaced motor on driver side because that wasn't working. (Side note: It seemed underpowered occasionally.) After I fought with them that they did not fix anything I left, and was out the money, drivers side window still underpowered. Finally last week take it to a different dealer, they troubleshoot it and tell me compressor bad, same as other dealer, however the computer also tests out bad. They tell me the computer is perfect except for the a/c portion. How can this be. They said that they will replace compressor and then see if computer works, but not to be optimistic. Well, I get compressor replaced today $675, and computer tests out bad. Tell me new computer is $875 + labor. Will replace tomorrow. My question is how can a computer be only bad for one part or the car and work on the rest?

    Can i get a used computer for less at a junkyard or anywhere?

    Another side question, since this summer, the passenger window and the rear passenger window now do not work. I have no idea why, I don't use the windows much, and the drivers side window seems underpowered (takes a long time to go up and down, especially in wet or humid weather). Any ideas or help.

    After getting my A/C finally fixed to the tune of $1,600 can i fix the window issue myself? I pretty much of a know but I can follow directions.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well you could pop the door panel off and see if anything is binding or if the window frame is loose. Sometimes the weather stripping frays or bunches up in the channel where you can't see it.

    If you do this be SURE to replace the plastic moisture barrier (tape it back in place).
  • damnfordsdamnfords Member Posts: 1
    I have a 88 mustang that has almost the same problem. It drives fine, but when I turn on the headlights my gauges go haywire. my temp gauge goes up, an my battery gauge goes down. I can't use my headlights and windsheild wipers, and cd player at the same time, they just don't work. I've traced the wires, changed the alternator and now I'm about to replace the turn signal switch. hopefully it works. My interior lights don't work either.
  • oldpaseooldpaseo Member Posts: 1
    I have 93 Toyota Paseo with strange electrical problems. When the lights are off and I step on the brake, the left turn signal light on the dash lights up faintly (but the signal doesn't go on). If the left signal is on and I step on the brake, it starts going really fast, but it's at normal speed when my foot's not on the brake. If the lights are on and I put on the left signal, the highbeams come on (regardless of whether my foot's on the brake). When I step on the brake, by backup lights come on faintly. I don't think it's a ground problem, because i connected a jumper cable to the neg on the battery and to a ground, and the problem persisted. Any chance the problem is with the switch inside the turn signal lever on the steering column? Is that an easy fix for an amateur? Thanks for any help!!!
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Check the bulb socket for any corrosion. Sounds like the bulb isn't grounded.
  • greg3815greg3815 Member Posts: 15
    hey i got a 2000 chev cavilar an by mistake i lefth the window down an it rained on in it now my horn dont work what should i do any help
  • ljr327ljr327 Member Posts: 1
    At the 90,000mi(dealer)service, I mentioned that the Low Fuel Light wasn't working. At the end of the day, the fuel gage had been "shorted out" trying to diagnose the original problem. End result,no low fuel indicator AND no fuel gage. Techs replaced combination meter,which fixed nothing. Techs even tried putting in working combo meter from one of the new cars on the lot, shorted out that meter too. Techs in touch with Honda, told to retrace all wiring again(3-4 times already). Other issue, rear passenger-side quarter panel damage (included buckle in trunk floor), fixed but no one seems to think that it would have anything to do with the low fuel light problem,even tho it stopped working at about the same time. ANY IDEAS,ANYONE!!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    1.check the fuse for that circuit

    2. Take the horn button off or steering wheel off and clean the "grounding plate" that completes the horn circuit when you press on it.
  • greg3815greg3815 Member Posts: 15
    ok ima try that if it dont work what do i do the car is already 5 months past due for inspection
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I guess you could wire up a horn button temporarily, just to get you through inspection.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    The 2000 Cavalier has a driver side airbag which must be disarmed by a qualified person prior to working around the horn switch/contact area, then rearmed after repairs are made. Accidental deployment will spoil your afternoon.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Thanks for that reminder. I always assume that people know this but I really shouldn't. Probably the temporary rig for a horn button, that is, routing some new wires from the horn relay to a remote button somewhere--this could be done safely without worrying about the air bag. But anything involving removing the steering wheel, of course, needs to pay attention to the disarming procedure.
  • 4pep4pep Member Posts: 2
    I am seeking some advice to solve this electrical problem that is constantly draining my car batteries. My battery problems started in 2002 after relocating to another state. My vehicle has only been serviced at certified GM dealerships; however, over the last two years the Cadillac dealership has been unable to successfully identify and/or repair this problem. My battery just dies without any warning leaving me embarrassed, stressed, and sometimes without the use of the On-star service.

    My once reliable, exciting, and powerful car that I once loved and enjoyed driving has become a great looking car all dressed up and can not or may not go anywhere.

    Less than a month ago I had my Catera inspected, and did the normal 45,000 preventive maintenance, and had to have my sun roof serviced. This weekend my car battery was dead again (twice). On Friday I had it jump started by Cadillac road service, and on Saturday I had it towed by Cadillac roadside service.

    Once more I have had four batteries installed, relays replaced, and something is still draining the power. Please help.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    You need another dealer. In two years, they should have found this.

    You have a bunch of fuses in the car. It is simple to pull a fuse and put an ampmeter across the fuse contacts and see if there is a large current flow. Doing this for each of the fuses will rather quickly find the fuse/circuit with the current drain.

    It then becomes more difficult. But with the factory manuals, which show each component and connector, a knowledgeable tech with some basic electrical skills can dig into this circuit, unplugging components and connectors, to isolate the drain to a certain place.

    Since this started when I expect the car was under warranty, it should be continue to be serviced under warranty.

    Also, I think there was a TSB about a problem with the Onstar circuit in certain year/s which caused current drain and killing the battery. I don't know if it pertained to your car or not.
  • 4pep4pep Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for responding to my "dead" batteries problem.

    After exactly 2 years and five months I was told on today that I needed a positive battery cable. Of course I was told that neither the part or labor was not covered under my extended warranty that I purchased. Also, my factory warranty expired about five months ago. The service rep at the dealership did tell me that he would try to get some of this repair cost covered under the factory warranty. Needless to say, I will also have to cover the cost of a rental vehicle (4 days).

    The part is expected to be delivered to the dealership on tomorrow, and my vehicle should be ready tomorrow afternoon. I have decided to trade in this vehicle for a new vehicle as soon as possible, and to also find another dealer.

    Thanks again.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    What a bunch of dummys at this dealership. If, in the 2+ years, they had done as I said, pulling fuses and checking current flow, they should have found 'none'. This should have immediately told them the current draw is 'upstream' of the fuse box. They then should have pulled the positive cable and checked here for current drain. If there was a drain, it tells them it is between the battery and the fuse box.

    Duh. The positive cable is probably the main thing between the battery and fuse box.

    I think paraphrasing some of these things, and also directly telling them that this problem has been worked on for 2 years, should lead you to a demand for a cable replacement at no charge. And for a loaner car for the replacement time.

    Have you paid for 4 batteries also? I would be taking some very firm discussions with this dealership, progressing into jumping up and down rants and raves......
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Exactly. When a dealer hangs the "Cadillac" sign in front of his store, legally speaking he is supposed to know what he is doing.I realize that hindsight is always 20-20, but the battery cables popped into my head after the first few words of your complaint.
  • hotmagic9hotmagic9 Member Posts: 3
    I have Ford ZX2 1999. I have no voltage to my AC compressor. Any suggestions please! [email protected]
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Could be low on freon, and the system will not allow the clutch to engage. Could be a fuse. Could be the dash control.
  • hotmagic9hotmagic9 Member Posts: 3
    Freon is good. Fuse is good. Dash Control is possible but when turn AC on fan starts but compressor don't. Is there something between dash control and compressor? Compressor relay?
  • mareshelmareshel Member Posts: 1
    While traveling in our '94 Jeep Cherokee, the headlights went out, but would react to some jiggling of switch. Also noticed burning smell.
    I replaced headlight switch, but then tail lights went out. Took it to a shop, and they replaced the dimmer switch. Two days later, it blew a fuse. Has been okay for about one month, but now while in a bodyshop, they say no voltage is going to headlights. That sounds like a switch has blown again. If so, any ideas on what could be blowing them?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    How do you know freon is good?
  • hotmagic9hotmagic9 Member Posts: 3
    I'm not a mechanic but I had a family friend that is one to work on my car. He said there was nothing wrong with the freon. He is one that told me about this website and want me to ask here about my problem. He just thought that there might be something between the dash control and compressor that was bad. If you need anymore details let me know. Thanks
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well the freon content needs to be checked professionally. There is a cut off relay that will prevent compressor engagement if freon level isn't right.

    You could possibly test to see if current is going to your AC compressor clutch with a test light. You would pull off the plug at the clutch, move it safely out of the way. Attach a test light with ground, and then start the car and see if the light goes on. At least that would tell you if the clutch is any good.

    I don't know on your specific car, but you can jump the cutoff relay and see if that starts the AC compressor. But where it is, I don't know on your car.
  • boli61boli61 Member Posts: 1
    i'm hoping somebody out there can offer some help!

    i'm having a unique problem with my 96 4runner headlights. when it's raining and i go to shut off my headlights, they stay on. i have to remove the fuses for both headlights in order to shut them off. i naturally assumed something was getting wet so i took it to both a mechanic and an auto & body guy. they both couldn't find where any water would be getting in. has anyone had a similar problem that could shed some light? thanks
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Very weird. I'd have to suspect the headlight relay although I have no theory as to why it would happen when it's raining. The relay could just be sticking when it gets wet outside...I dunno...also the headlight switch is suspect, although less so.
  • rdperrinrdperrin Member Posts: 1
    I have a 1993 Volvo wagon. About a month ago while driving on the expressway, it began to behave as though the alternator had died (lights dimmed, engine slowly died). My mechanic replaced the flywheel sensor, and the car was fine for another week. Then the engine died abruptly as I was backing intoo a parking place. My mechanic spent a week trying to track down the problem, but the engine never died again. I had a voltmeter rigged to the light in the glove box so that I could check voltage to make sure the battery was okay (checked cold) and that the alternator was charging it. The battery is always fine before starting (12.5 volts or over). It'll run for weeks with the alternator charging up around 13.9 or 14.2. Then abruptly when I go to start the car, it starts fine, but the battery charge drops to 11.6 and stays there after starting. I had the alternator replaced last week figuring it was the voltage regulator (which is combined with alternator) or the alternator itself. Last night when I started the car, the battery dropped to 11.6 and stayed there. The only other thing that's going on is that my airbag system is malfunctioning, and the light on the dash for SBS has been staying on. Does anyone have a clue as to what's happening? My mechanic doesn't. Thanks.
  • rfeltyrfelty Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2003 jeep liberty driver side head lamp acting up. the passenger side has 12v on red wire when light is on dim orange wire has 7.5v while on dim. light is bright working good. On bright the passenger side light the red wire has 8.5v the orange 12.v

    Now the kicker driver side 12.v dim purple wire .21v green bright purple .17v green 12v.

    If I put my lights on bright the left turn signal indicator on the dash comes on while on dim if i turn the fog lamps on the signal indicator comes on. while on dim everythings ok but passenger side light is still dimer.

    Also the turn signal flashes faster when light up.

    Please info on this Ron
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I'd replace the battery if it is more than 4 years old and the battery cables as well, and also carefully check the engine to chassis ground cable.
  • lolakanalolakana Member Posts: 3
    Recently my sunfire started blowing an interior fuse, the hazard/turn signal/ABS fuse. About every third time I start the car it blows and after it blows my turn signals don't work and the ABS warning light comes on. What could cause this fuse to constantly blow?
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    If I had to guess, the ABS. These systems go into a self test when you start the vehicle and it sounds like that is when it happens. Not familiar with this vehicle, but others have problems with the multifunction switch (turn signals) going bad or a wire short in the column from abrasion. You could isolate the two functions with a seperate fuse for the ABS or unplug the ABS for a while and see if the problem goes away.
  • lolakanalolakana Member Posts: 3
    how would i go about unplugging the ABS system since the turn signals and the ABS are both the same fuse?
  • lolakanalolakana Member Posts: 3
    Also my horn has gone out and I went to the dealership to get it fixed and they tried to charge me about $350 to fix it because they said it would take more time because of an aftermarket CD player, is that resonable? It seemed way expensive just to get the horn fixed on the sunfire.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    The plot thickens. Anytime someone has been under the dash there can be wiring problems. I know people that have had heaters worked on and electrical stuff still doesn't work. They just give up going back to the dealer. The price may not seem fair, but I wouldn't start the job unless you committed up to that amount. I would think that the horn and CD are big clues. The ABS under the hood usually has a connector you can pull out. These connectors have locking tabs, don't break anything you don't have to.
  • mlane2mlane2 Member Posts: 4
    1993 Nissan Quest. Four-ways work, blinkers work, third brake light works, tail lights work, rear brake light will not work when the brake pedal is depressed. I checked the brake switch and checked to see if power goes to the brake switch. Both checked out ok. Why won't the brake lights work? Thanks
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    You might have a bad ground back there. Take the bulbs out, test them and clean them up.
  • mlane2mlane2 Member Posts: 4
    I installed new bulbs and the sockets look clean.


    Any other ideas?


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Can you test with a friend and a test light if you are getting current back there when someone steps on the brake?


    Can you look at the fuse diagram and see if the brake lights run on their own circuit?
  • mlane2mlane2 Member Posts: 4
    Thanks for your response. I checked the current with a test light. I do not have current at the bulb. I checked the fuse it also is good. I do not have a diagram. Thanks
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Hmmmm....a diagram would be good, so we could know if the brake light circuit routes through something else prior to its trip backwards, or perhaps routes through a junction or coupler. I suppose if you get desperate you could run a new line back to the brake lights.
  • tigercat21tigercat21 Member Posts: 28
    Not sure if your system is same as mine but I had problem with rear brake light and it was caused by turn signal mechanism. It cancels brake light on side where turn signal is activated ( its suppose to or signal wouldnt show with brake light on). Something happened inside turn signal unit and it wouldn't let brake light come on at all on one side. Have someone try signal switch while you watch brake lights and see if it works in certain positions.
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