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car won't start.... sometimes

Old 12-14-2011, 02:03 PM
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Default car won't start.... sometimes

This has me stumped.

My girlfriend has an older car that won't start..... sometimes. About once a week it just won't start. Turn the key and all of the accessories work and everything electrical comes on, but you get nothing out of the actual ignition. We took it in and they did their hundred and something point inspection and said everything looks great and the starter is fine. This is getting to be a real pain in the A$$ though when you're sitting in the wal-mart parking lot and it doesnt start. Usually if you give it an hour or so and come back to it then it fires right up. Last week she had to call a tow truck; and when the guy got there he put the keys in it and it fired right up.

When it happens there is no noise whatsoever which leads me to believe it has to be either the starter or some electronic unit between the key and the starter. Anyone ever had this happen? What do you do in a situation like this where they can't duplicate it at the shop?
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:31 PM
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What kind of car is it? Sounds like it might be a gm product with a resistor chip in the key blade that is making intermittent contact. Those are a real pain in the butt.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:33 PM
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In an older, non-computer-controlled car, I'd say the starter solenoid is shot and nobody can hear the "click" over the sound of the radio. BTDT. Next guess, the Bendix is shot.

On a computer-controlled car with the magic coded keys, it could be many things, including the car security system. Darn hard to troubleshoot until the problem can be reproduced.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:36 PM
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what kind of car ?
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:40 PM
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Doesn't sound like the solenoid to me, I'd think you'd hear something. I've had it in the garage and had the radio and A/C turned off listening for things.

It is a 98 Saturn LS. It's definitely time for a new car.... It shouldn't have a bendix right?
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:42 PM
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Just fixed a similar problem on my wifes old car. It was the starter solenoid as mentioned above. The electrical components/brushes wear out and quite working reliably. If it happens again and you tap on the starter/solenoid and it fires right up then it is a good chance you found the problem.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:45 PM
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Make sure that the shift lever is fully in the Park position.
Actually push the lever further into Park, there is a sensor there that
may be out of adjustment.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:48 PM
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that or the ignition switch may need replacing, have had that happen before.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:48 PM
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My books show that there is no resistor on that Saturn. One somewhat common problem on some of the GM's is that the linkage from the back of the ignition lock cylinder to the actual electrical ignition switch is out of sync. If the electrical part is on top of the steering column down by your feet there is a rod that connects to a gear up behind the lock cylinder. If the electrical part moves or wears then when the key turns the rod pushes the switch to a spot where no contact is being made. Sometimes letting the key turn back very slowly will make the contact and the starter will engage. Sometimes you have to loosen the screws and move the ignition a bit to adjust it.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:51 PM
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Another possibility that comes to mind is a dead spot in the armature of the starter. It will give that same symptom. If you have her hold the key in the start position and tap the starter it should tell you. If it starts when tapped that could be it.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:58 PM
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Check and recheck your battery connections, maybe even trace the wires to make sure you don't see any corrosion anywhere.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by ryan darrow View Post
It is a 98 Saturn LS. It's definitely time for a new car.... It shouldn't have a bendix right?
A '98 isn't that old. I drive a '97 Toyota every day and a '67 Plymouth every nice day.

Don't know if that particular starter has a power-driven bendix (a.k.a., over-running clutch) but that used to be a common part in automotive starter motors. My outboard motor starters have inertial-driven bendix thingies.

FWIW, the drive clutch on my outboard starter seized, which meant, when I cranked the engine, the starter motor turned but the starter gears did not engage the flywheel. The starter motor was so quiet that I couldn't hear it turning from the helm seat- inside a quiet garage- until I took off the motor cowl.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:14 PM
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Won't CRANK or won't START?
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by beenie View Post
Another possibility that comes to mind is a dead spot in the armature of the starter. It will give that same symptom. If you have her hold the key in the start position and tap the starter it should tell you. If it starts when tapped that could be it.
Mike
That was the case with my 2001 Grand Cherokee. Totally random and if you held the key on it would eventually heat up and kick. Lived with it for over a year till it took over 1/2 hour MILES from freakin anything hunting in S Dakota.
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:16 PM
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I drive a '97 Toyota every day
there's the key word. that things just getting broken in if it's a 'yota

and sorry, it won't CRANK
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:49 PM
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Try starting it in neutral when it happens.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:17 PM
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Tried Neutral, still doesn't work. I did just get it to start though by banging on the starter while someone held the key. I guess I found the problem.

What would the world be like without forums like this one?
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:28 AM
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Originally Posted by ryan darrow View Post
Tried Neutral, still doesn't work. I did just get it to start though by banging on the starter while someone held the key. I guess I found the problem.

What would the world be like without forums like this one?
Great! Tell the girlfriend to carry a hammer- problem solved!

Just kidding- hope the repair goes well.
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:04 AM
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Yep..time for a starter.
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:19 AM
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"This is getting to be a real pain in the A$$ though when you're sitting in the wal-mart parking lot and it doesnt start."

You have bigger problems to deal with!
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