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Saturn S-Series Starting Problems



  • Manual transmission. No remote keyless entry.

    Car has started slowly (cranks for a few seconds before turning over) for several months ... not always, but regularly. Then, yesterday, nada.

    Lights and everything work (but we tried jumping, just for fun, with, not surprisingly, no luck).

    Checked the battery connections, and they seem fine. Fuses all seem fine (both under the hood and near the glove box).

    We were able to push start the car.

    When the key is turned to "ON," all of the display lights come on. They do not go off when it is turned to "Start." Car is currently in the garage, and with the garage lights off and the car headlights on, I do see a VERY small dimming when I turn to "Start." Also, if it hasn't been turned to "Start" in at least 15 seconds or so, when you first turn the key to "Start," there is a faint whirring noise. If you immediately try to start again, this noise does not happen.

    Thoughts on why? I looked around the web trying to find a way to tell if it was the starter or ignition switch, and the lack of significant dimming of the lights seems to point to ignition switch, but there is some dimming. I tried to look for an easy well to tell if the ignition switch was working, but did not find one (could certainly be that I am looking in the wrong place).
  • Turned out it was the starter.

    I decided to take the starter in and have it tested (it was tough to remove for a realative novice with no good vehicle tools, but it was doable ... there is a great how to video on You Tube that I found in another post on one of the forums here).

    They tested it, and it passed. Then the person told me that the test does not test the solenoid. Sigh. But I heppened to be speaking with the parts manager, and he agreed to let me bring it back if a new starter didn't solve the problem. So, I figured worth a shot. And it worked!
  • Been having problems with our 95 SL1 Saturn it was starting after several tries. Spoke with auto zone suggestion was changing the starter. The batt will stay charged I know it's not that, when it was starting before it would make a metallic spinning noise then after a few tries would start. Sometimes it would start on the first try. So now I purchased a new starter today and installed and all it did was spin and spin and then finally wouldn't spin at all. Now when I try to start it nothing happens at all. Please if anyone can help please respond
  • 442dude442dude Posts: 373
    What do you mean when you said that the starter "spun and spun"? Was the engine turning or just the starter? If the starter wasn't engaging, then its a starter issue. (Also, check your flywheel...are you missing a couple of teeth?)

    Not knowing your answer yet, it still sounds like a starter issue to me. Maybe you got a bad one?
  • on and off for the last few months my saturn sl has been having starting problems. It turns over but just doesnt ever start up. All the dashboard lights turn on and the headlights are on as well. The wierd part is that the dome lights and the radio do not work?, I ve checked the battery, and took and the starter in and it passed just fine.. does anybody have any ideas >>
  • help! have a 95 sl-2 that stopped running last night. driving 45mph when engine just stopped. no warning or sounds. Have power to all lights but cannot turn over even when jumped. starter tries to engage. Pushed in drive to check for seized motor and it rolled a few feet no problem. Any ideas?
  • Would love to hear what others have to say. My Mother has a '99 Saturn SC-1 coupe and has recently experienced the same problem - the car just dies on her as she's driving down the highway. It does it about once a week, with no rhyme or reason.
  • timtim Posts: 1
    I read you message. I have the same problem. I put a new starter in this morning. I start the car let it run for 5 seconds turn it off and the start kept running. It stopped after 30 minutes and now it will not start. I turn the key and nothing happens. My old starter I took out this morning and tested it at auto zone. The solenolds were bad and the gear would not enage nor would it turn.
    Any ideas?
  • sdsunsdsun Posts: 13
    I have a 2001 SL. It has been a good commuter car.

    Back in october iI had problems starting the car. All lights would be on in the car, but when I cranked it, nothing. I know when starters start to die, they make a sad little noise.

    I replaced the battery and it solved the problem for a bit.

    On saturday (1/31/09), it died on me. This was after a short trip. I pop started the car and was fine (Yes, its a stick-real women drive sticks). I had to go to a party so after pop starting it i went to my party. Upon parking, turned it off and tried to start it again, nothing. So about five hours later, after the party i went to my car and it started. Strange.

    I left the car to sit on Sunday and used my other car.

    On Monday it started just well, same for Tuesday. Now this morning, I went to the bank, it started, then went to get gas, and it died. So i had some nice guys help me pop start it.

    Now, all my lights turn on, when I have had alternator problems in the past, I had no interior lights and even the radio wouldn't turn on. When I turn the ignition to start, there is no noise.

    I am in San Diego, and its been hot lately :shades: , so cold weather is not an issue.

    Any ideas?
  • I recently purchased and inherited (yea... ain't I lucky!) the starting, or more precisely, the "not starting" problem that seems inherent in the late 90's Saturn SL series. My specific issue is that the engine will not turn over even tho the battery is charged, lights and radio work, etc.. I turn the key and nothing happens. You wait an indeterminant amount of time and eventually it decides it's ready to run again! Very frustrating on my 17yo duaghters car! What I have found thus far in this forum are a few suggestions which, sadly since it's an intermittant problem, I can't confirm as any real cause or solution. #1 - The fuel pump relay is one suspect - it seems some have swapped out the fuel pump relay and the HVAC relay (they are identical and in the inside fuse box, center console, pass. side). I swapped mine out and thus far, no new problems (again... it's an intermittant problem and it's only been a week or so...). #2 - The other suspect is the crankshaft position sensor (CPS). Check out this link that some blessed soul put on YouTube to determine if your CPS is working properly:

    Again, I'm a backyard mechanic, at best, so any and all suggestions would be appreciated. I'd rest a whole lot better if I were confident that when my daughter started her car, it wasn't a crap shoot to see if it would start or not! Thanks all.
  • bunt2bunt2 Posts: 3
    I have a similar problem. My saturn starts good in the morning and when i drive for ten fifteen mins ,shut it off then it's hard to start, like it is flooding. Would appreciate some help.

    got a lot of info for you
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  • bunt2bunt2 Posts: 3
    I would like an answer to my problem with my 95 saturn. It starts good then after a short drive and shut it off, it will not start right away ,it floods and hard to start.Would appreciate any ideas Thank You
  • At this time, it appears that my issue was a "flat spot" on the starter. I pulled the starter out at the suggestion of a local car parts store whom I trust and the thing almost blew up on them (sparks were flying!) when they bench tested it. Having replaced the starter a week ago, it's not malfunctioned since. FYI - the swap out of the fuel pump relay and the HVAC relay didn't do the trick for me and I found out that if your car is simply not turning over at all (like mine), the crankshaft position sensor (CPS) is not the problem. I'll repost if this fails to be the final resolve of this issue. Sometimes sticking with the basics makes sense ... fuel, compression, spark ... or duh ... car won't start? Heh, how about checking the STARTER?!?
  • Whenever i try to turn on my car it makes the chugging sound and it doesnt turn on. This happens about 60% of the time and 40% of the time it starts fine. and most of the time just to get it to start i have to pump the gass alot before i start it. It still wont turn over sometimes. and when it does turn on it has a wierd nasty smell. . . . . I recently got a new starter around 4 months ago. can anyone help me???? :cry:
  • sdsunsdsun Posts: 13
    My car sometimes wants to start and other times wont start. But after about 2 hours or so will start. It checked out ok at the mechanic. Could it be the ignition? My car has 165,000. Its a very good commuter car, but this issue is getting to be a problem. I can't run fast errands to the store. I have to leave the car running to fuel it up otherwise it won't start. I can get it push started, but its kinda embarrassing asking guys to help me push start the car.

    I get power inside, just when I turn the key, no go. The starter won't even start. I've tried pumping the clutch in case my clutch sensor is going bad. No start. Its like when you start it without engaging the clutch, no noise nothing.

    The no starting is random.

    But if i drive home, turn the car off and then try to start it, no start. But it will start a few hours later.

    Any ideas? I really don't want to get rid of this car.

    thanking you in advance for your courtesy.
  • ymmot11ymmot11 Posts: 8
    My car is now having this problem. Saturn said it was a fuse which they replaced for the low low cost of $99, plus labor! Then less than a week later car won't start and it has the same symptoms. What ever happened with your situation?

    Thanks, Tom
  • ymmot11ymmot11 Posts: 8
    I'm having the same problems you had. We've replaced everything for a lot of money and no solution. What ended up being your issue?

  • sdsunsdsun Posts: 13

    I tested my starter to make sure it wasnt the starter, checked all my fuses. Finally then I changed my ignition. The key wears out the ignition and creates a short. Did you ever notice that your key would get hot. So when it did get hot, it wouldn't start? That is what happened to me.

    its a cheap part but a pain to replace.

    I hope this helps! :)
  • I took our 94 saturn in for it's smog check this morning and as soon as he was finished running it on the dyno it overheated and blew water out of the coolant bottle cap. The car was running at the time and he backed it out of the shop right away and then shut if off. We finished the paper work and when we went to start the car there was nothing. The idiot lights come on but not the stater wounldn't turn not even a click. The guy at the repair shop says we needed to let it cool down and it should start. My wife said this happened a couple of times before and it started after it cools down. Her daughters have Saturn and it has happened to them also. Well it has been 5 hours since this happened and still nothing from the starter. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!! Not sure if it's actually the starter or something else.
  • bunt2bunt2 Posts: 3
    Re problum 1997 Saturn, after a lot of grief it turned out to be a heat sensor and cost me $14.95, worth checking. Hope this works for you.
  • johnbarjohnbar Posts: 1
    I have exactly the fault on our Saturn 2000 SL1 my manual gave me some good tips to help find the problem. There are four basic parts the 30 Amp fuse under the bonnet, the key, the switch behind the key on the columb, the soleniod and starter.
    Run a wire (15 amp capacity) from the "S" terminal on the soleniod up to the battery terminals (do not connect).
    Run the car till fault appears ie starter does not turn. Put a meter from the wire to the ground battery terminal (black). (If you do not have a meter connect 12V bulb) Turn the ignition switch to start if the meter reads or the bulb lights power is getting to the soleniod. If this is happening (on my car it did not) then use the wire (with the ignition switch turned on) , holding it with pliers hold it on to battery positive terminal (make one good contact or it will spark quite well). If the starter motor does not turn have it checked, if engine starts, you have reduced the fault to, ignition key, ignition switch or fuse. Use meter with power off to check on resistance reading in thoes area's.
    Mine the engine started and now I am chasing the fault in thoes curcuits, when I find it I will let you know.
  • sdsunsdsun Posts: 13
    I changed the starter (finally got a new one-still had original one---2001 model) and changed the ignition switch.

    So far, so good. My car has not abandoned me. It came out to about $245.00 through my wonderful mechanic. Saturn wanted close to $800.00 for the repairs. :shades:

    Through Saturn there is a bulletin on this problem. What happens is that there is a problem with the solenoid in the ignition switch that get worn with time and use.
  • I have got to ignition switch wire harness I can take off harness but how do I get switch out do I take whole assy or just back part of switch I have a no start electrical situation key is working lights come on but no start:::
  • Did you ever resolve the shut off while driving problem for your 95 SL Saturn? I have the same problem. Thanks
  • Did you ever resolve the shut off while driving problem you had with your 99 Saturn. I have the same problem. Thanks
  • Hi all. I am at my wits ends with a problem with my saturn. i have owned it for 4 mths now and this problem i have been having has been about 3 mths now. let me start with my symptoms...
    i have RKE and i lock the door, come back to the car and the RKE isnt wroking. The stereo has no power, no interior lights, no real power for extras. but the car tries to start. i can get it started but it stalls shortly after and runs with a bad shake. im gathering that the "no power" is affecting the fuel pump too. throughout the day i get this several times and i can tell when its going to start happening because i start getting shocks whenever i get outta the car. which gets stronger and more annoying throughout the day. if i push around on the fuse panel, i can usually get all the symptoms to go away and the car starts running like nothing ever happened. i have changed the battery, starter, disassembled the fuse panel and did not see any problems. my hubby and i have spent many hrs going trough wiring looking for any open wires and still the problem persist.
    any ideas would greatly be appriciated!!
    thx in advance
  • I have a 99 sc 1.9 doc that has a ongoing starting problem or multiple problems. It use to start just fine in the morning. After shutting it off it would not restart without waiting 5 - 10 min or if I gave it a shot of starting fluid it would start. This was more of a pain in the *** but dealt with it for a while.
    Then the idle was running high, especially when in drive and started having stalling problems. Reading through the forums there are many answers leading to the ECTS and dirty EGR valve.
    So I purchased the sensor and connector from the dealership. Installed and soldered the connections, cleaned the egr valve which was dirty. I also, cleaned the throttle body while the car was running with valvoline carb and throttle body cleaner. Car started and ran well. Filled the tank with 93 gas and a bottle of Chevron fuel system cleaner.
    Car ran great for 2 days. Then we had a cold night (28 is cold for florida) I went to start the car in the morning and it barely turned over, did get it started with jumper cables. Put in a new battery, couldn't get it started. I checked for spark - none.
    Again, reading the forums I picked up a Crankshaft Position Sensor and installed it.
    Cleaned the battery cable connections at the block and fender, also the positive connection at the fuse panel on the fender. Change the oil and filter to 5w30, I was running 20w50. replaced the spark plugs with autolite plugs.
    I removed the spark plugs and connected the plug wires to them and rested the tips on the exhaust manifold. Getting spark on all cylinders.
    Looking down in the cylinders with a flash light I could see all the piston tops are wet and all the spark plug tips are wet.
    There is a popping sound coming through the intake tube every 3 -4sec while cranking.
    Someone recommended I switch the new autolite plugs for ngk plugs.
    I did and no change.
    There is less visible spark with the ngk compared to the autolite plugs.
    When cranking the engine the starter seems to bind for a second then continue.
    We removed all the plugs again ( they were wet) and cranked the engine, trying to dry out the cylinders. no change.
    Removed the hose that runs from the air cleaner to the throttle body. no change
    while someone turn the key I gave it blast of starting fluid in the throttle body.
    It shot a flame back out at me. (I will not try that again)
    Here is the latest scan info
    P0107 MAP/BARO circuit low input
    P0336 CKP A CKT range/perf
    DTC that caused freeze frame P0336
    Throttle Position 0.0%
    Engine rpm 132 rpm
    Load value 0.0%
    Map Sensor 99 kpa
    Coolant temp 46 f
    Long term fuel trim 1 0.0%
    short term fuel trim 3 50%
    long term fuel trim 3 -38.3%
    Please Help!!
    Thank You
  • Daughter is a single mother, no money and just moved home to get back on her feet. Blew the engine on her old Neon and was beyond fixing. We were totally shocked to see how much cars with 160,000+ miles were going for. We found this '99 SL1, 116K miles, one owner car that was really clean and within our limited price range. Drove it around in a snowstorm, seemed like a really nice car, bought it, drove it home and the right front wheel bearing howled beyond belief. Cost us $350 to fix it. The first time she went to go somewhere, it wouldn't crank at all. It has a Loctronics ignition immobilizer that I hate but ruled out because it will start with a jump. I came home, it started right up. Worked fine for about 2 weeks and then left her stranded at the doctors office with her 2-year old. Wouldn't crank. Popped the clutch, started right up. Wouldn't crank the next day. Took out battery, had it tested and failed. Bought new battery, good for about 2 or 3 weeks, then won't crank. Had starter, battery and alternator tested in car, tests good. Good for a few days. This time, wouldn't jump. Parked it until I can look at it tomorrow but would try to start it every once in a while and this afternoon, it cranked right over and started 6 times in a row. She has no confidence at all in taking the car anywhere and we are all extremely frustrated. There are some good ideas posted here about about ignition switches, starter flat spots, etc. Sometimes, the key / switch does seem a little weird. I am in New England, working outside and can't even see the starter from the top. Any suggestions about the most logical place to start troubleshooting, especially now that it is starting like a normal car?
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