[Stacy*M] (blackshimmer) wrote in garage,
[Stacy*M]
blackshimmer
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It's not the battery, it's not the starter...

Probably time to just get a new car but that's not really an option right now. My 2001 Pontiac Grand Am SE-1 won't start again. It worked just fine on Tuesday night but on Wednesday morning when I went to leave for work it wouldn't start - and I'll preface that by saying that it was plugged in all night and it has been any where from the high minus teens to low minus 30's Celsius (so 1 to -22 Fahrenheit) lately. The battery is fine, the starter spins but it doesn't seem to be catching. The spark plugs, spark plug wires and battery are all relatively new (less than a year old) and the fuel and air filters have also been recently replaced. I do have gas in the tank (about half a tank) and have tried both boosting the car (even though I didn't think it was necessary since the battery is working - but my dad insisted I atleast try) and I tried putting a bottle of gas line anti-freeze in and that didn't work either. Then I read online about this car's problems with the passlock system so I tried the 10 minute trick where you leave the key in the on position for 10 minutes, then turn it off, and then try starting the car. Still nothing. Any more perspectives on what could be going on? I've been without a car for a few days now and would really like to be able to do somethings around town tomorrow because with these temperatures plus the wind chill we're having it's way too cold to walk. I was supposed to be taking it in to get a Command Start installed on it but it kind of seems useless when the car won't start to begin with - any ideas on whether a Command Start system might actually bypass the seemingly mysterious starting issues I'm having?
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wxgeek

January 2 2009, 23:51:49 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  January 2 2009, 23:52:14 UTC

Question One: Do the car's dash lights + radio turn on when you insert the key*?

* - and turn it to the 'on' position?
Yes they do, I've tried starting it with them turned off but I get the same results whether they are turned on or off - even trying to start it several times doesn't seem to be draining the battery at all.
Alrighty. What happens next depends a lot on how mechanically apt you feel.

What I'd do is pull a spark plug out, (I believe you have a coil-on-plug setup, but I could be wrong), leave it out - rest it on the frame of the vehicle, preferably an unpainted part - and have someone try to start the vehicle. Listen to (but do not touch) the spark plug. It should be going *snap!snap!snap!snap!*, and you should be able to see the spark go off.

Question Two: When attempting to start the car, does it go *REV!REV!REV!REV!REV!* or "r..r...rrrEV. r..rrr.rrrREV!"?

Also, make sure all your fuses are good.
ok I can give that a try, I do believe they are the coil on plug set up too - and it does go "REV!REV!REV!REV!REV!" so I'm always so hopefully because it sounds exactly like it's going to start but then it never does it just keeps reving until I take the key out. The fuses might be a place to start because I've never had to even look at them so unfortunately I don't know where to find them (and the last owner of the vehicle was kind of enough to not leave me with the manual... who does that? sells a car to a used car lot and keeps the manual? annoying...)
bwahaha. goofy manual. :)

Speaking of which, if it gets too much more ridiculous, you'll want to go down to o'riley's or advance auto parts or autozone or $store and buy a Haynes Service Manual. They're absurdly useful (though they typically don't hold a candle to the Factory Service Manuals, which can often be found on the internet.)

so, yeah. fuses. then check for spark. you need three things: fuel, spark, and compression to start an engine.

I bet you're not getting spark. I bet you're not getting spark because your ECU/ECM/computer/whatever_the_hell_GM_calls_it has just taken a crap due to the sub-zero temperatures. I could be wrong. If you have it towed to the dealership, they can test it for what is, I'm sure, an entirely reasonable fee. *rolls eyes*.

they'll need the car.
It's just weird because this is the third winter I've had it, the first winter it never had a problem starting, second winter it needed a boost once and that was it - started the rest of the winter even though the -50 C/-58 F days and now this very bizzare thing out of no where, I mean it's not even THAT cold for up here, it's started in much much colder circumstances but I'll give those a try and go from there, thanks!
which reminds me, you don't have any check engine lights normally, do you?

also, below zero is COLD. it's currently 64F.

/northwest florida.
the only lights I normally have on are the ABS and Traction control ones, because they keep malfunctioning. We replaced the entire hub that they connect into and about a month later the lights came on and the mechanics at two different garages said well if you don't want ABS or Traction Control, that's fine, you definitely don't need them if you know how to drive and said to not worry about them, so I haven't.. because I hate ABS and Traction Control.

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these are all possibilities as well. I was hoping to work from the cheap an' easy solutions first. ;)

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And getting spark would rule out a bunch of stuff. :)

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Sure it could. But the only way to check that for real is with a fuel pressure gauge, or unhook an injector from the fuel rail ;) it's easier to pull a plug and go from there.

She COULD listen for the whirrr of the fuel pump when she turns the key to on. I can hear mine loud and clear, but I've got mine swapped out for a z32 pump, and have a LOT of acoustic insulation removed. She might not be able to hear it -normally-.

spark is not subjective. :)
I also don't always count on someone that doesn't know the sound to be able to identify the fuel pump. Unfortunate since it's so easy to check for... even with insulation, just go sit next to the fuel tank and have a friend turn the key to the on position and it should be easy to hear.

I think it'll be spark though, there's more things to go wrong with spark delivery.

Later.
should. but my stock fuel pump was quiet enough that if you didn't know what you were looking for, you could miss it.

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I can definitely hear the fuel pump.

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though I don't quite understand why a sensor failure wouldn't throw a CEL?

I drive and maintain a couple pre-OBDII cars in a no-inspection state, though, sooo imho, if the car runs, CELs just build character. ;)
The battery is fine, the starter spins but it doesn't seem to be catching.

Didn't even have to read the rest after that. Sounds like a bad starter solenoid. Try replacing the starter.

Sorry if I'm repeating anyone else's advice.

Later.
Nevermind, interpreted "not catching" as referring to the starter, not the engine. (Glad I decided to read the other comments heh)

In that case the answer is less simple. As explained above, easiest is to check for spark, then for fuel. Both could have outages in cold weather.

My girlfriend's Volvo was recently having a lot of trouble starting when it was "cold" (similar, turn it over as much as you want, it won't even begin to start - cold is relative, because here it rarely gets very close to 0 C heh). Turned out to be a relay that was keeping the spark from firing. Might have been assisted by a distributer cap leak.

Later.
btw, want an FB to drop a turbo II motor in?
If it's that black FB on your journal page, I would take that any day. Unfortunately Florida is a bit far, and chances are someone wants a ridiculous amount of money for it (I would).

I think I'd keep it NA smooth though. My FC needs to be retired, but the engine in it seems strong.

That's one awesome looking FB though... oh, money.

Later.
That's the one. Doesn't run, for unknown causes. Owner wants $650.
I was just going to say that cold is relative, I live in Saskatchewan and someone in say the northern most part of the Yukon might find our cold alright in January - my whole thing is, it has started in much much colder situations without a problem so I'm not thinking it's the cold alone that is causing the failure.