1998 SL1 electrical problem- won't start, will start, replaced fuel pump relay

Discussion in 'Saturn S-series' started by D, Aug 17, 2004.

  1. D

    D Guest

    I would like to find out what to do about my car, but I'm stumped.

    I have a 1998 Saturn SL1, reliability is key in my car decisions.

    Three weeks ago I got into my car and the clock was way off and all my
    radio presets were gone. The clock read 1:17 when it was about 10am.
    It appeared that my clock reset itself 1:17 before I got into the car
    or possible 13 hours earlier- couldn't tell. I knew I had an
    electrical problem, but everything seemed normal and my car ran fine
    for about 2 weeks. Last week my car wouldn't start in the morning.
    The clock said 1:00 and the presets were gone again. I turned on the
    ignition, but there was no noise. I called AAA, but their battery
    truck couldn't find the problem. They claimed the electrical system
    was fine, but it was only the battery truck, not a real mechanic. I
    towed the car to my local mechanic and he said he fixed the problem by
    replacing the fuel pump relay. When I picked the car up, the car
    wouldn't start. They kept the car overnight and when I came back in
    the AM it started fine when I stopped by before work. I asked what
    they did and they responded that they handn't touched it and from now
    on I needed to take it to the dealership!? (you'll have to trust me,
    I was being way too nice to those guys- they said they could no longer
    figure my car out.)

    I took the car to the dealership and the dealer kept the car for two
    days and said there were no problems in the electrical system at all
    and no reason to replace the battery. Yet everyone I dealt with had
    experienced the car being dead and unable to start!

    What could possibly be wrong with my car?

    In July I drove to North Carolina on vacation and put in about 16
    hours of highway driving. My suspicion is that I melted part of the
    covering of a wire and I occasionally get an electrical short.

    I talked to my first mechanic tonight and he said he was convinced
    SYSTEM and caused it to appear dead and suggested I never use it
    again!!! I busted out laughing- that's impossible, right?

    I did a search on Saturn Fuel pump relays and the problems are just
    like I experienced, but I'm not sure why the car was dead AFTER that
    was replaced and then mysteriously started.

    thanks for any info,

    D, Aug 17, 2004
  2. D

    Blah Blah Guest

    Yup sounds like an electrical problem. You might have some pinched
    wires. Try removing accessory fuses and relays to eliminate them from
    the circuits. Maybe check for a parasitic draw as you remove them one at
    a time. Btw what is the condition of the battery? A bad battery or one
    thats shorting out internally can cause some weird things to happen.
    Blah Blah, Aug 17, 2004
  3. D

    Kirk Kohnen Guest

    Check the easy things first - are your battery cables nice and snug, and
    corrosion free?
    Kirk Kohnen, Aug 18, 2004
  4. I'd start by checking the electrical ground connections in the car, from
    the battery to the chasss, to the engine, etc. If you lose your presets
    and time, it's because the voltage dropped low enough for long enough to
    cause the computer in the radio to do a reset.

    This might take time - it's an intermittent problem, and those are
    really hard to find. But lose of the radio, plus the starting problem,
    sugessts a common factor.

    As one other poster stated, start by checking the condition of the
    connections to the battery and so on.

    BTW - Is the radio messed up when you get into the car, or does it get
    messed up when you try to start the car?

    Fuel pump relay sounds like a shotgun diagnossis than anything real.
    Ditto for that remote control door lock (was this a Saturn system or
    third party?) Realize anything that shorts out a car's electric system
    is going to have to face the wrath of the battery, which will cheerfully
    supply lots and lots of amps to it - that's why they have lots of fuses
    everywhere on cars. If something was dead shorting the entire electric
    system long enough to kill the radio (And I haven't checked, but I'm
    guessing that'd mean a return to near 0 volts for about at least a
    second), you'd know because it'd either have popped a fuse, or smoked
    nicely. Of course, a short in the starting system (which is unfused)
    could do this, and the cables are thick enough that you might not toast
    them. So, I'd start by looking at the cabling from the battery to the
    starter and alternator, and checking it carefully for ANY deterioration.
    Philip Nasadowski, Aug 22, 2004
  5. D

    MR Guest

    It has been posted on some chevy groups that the side connectors to
    the battery can develope corrosion up inside the connectors where you
    cannot see it until you pull them open. Maybe worth a check.
    MR, Aug 22, 2004
  6. D

    D Guest

    These were all good suggestions. THANKS!

    I will check the battery very closely. The wires connecting to the
    battery in the 98 SL1 come in a cartridge-style box that fits on top
    of the battery that sheilds the whole package from rain, etc. They
    looked "ok" when I checked them out. I stopped repairing my cars
    myself about 10 years ago when things became computerized, so I'm not
    the most trustworthy mechanic.

    I visited the beach after one of these incidents (sand and salt water)
    and it rained heavily the few days before the car wouldn't start, but
    then again the car started fine in the rain later.

    I asked the dealer to do a full electrical check over two days and
    they found nothing.

    both times I noticed the radio was messed up when the key was in the
    ignition- one time the car started, the second time the car was dead
    for 24 hours before the mechanics could find the problem.

    The remote door is the original factory installation.

    D, Aug 23, 2004
  7. I'll tell you right now - this isn't going to be the fastest fix. It'll
    be simple ONCE you find it, but finding it's not going to be easy!
    Intermittent electrical problems are like that. the problem's generally
    something easy, but it's hard to find. Be persistent - it's in there.
    They gotta be clean. They can look OK and still be bad.

    Ahh, even WITH computers, a lot of the bassics still apply. The
    starting system's still the same, and the old rules about keeping
    bettery connections clean and tight still apply. Actually, they're more
    important today.
    Oh, they won't. They never do...
    I'm suspecting ground problems. Check from the battery's negative to
    everywhere where the wires go. I'd even consider removing, cleaning,
    and reinstalling (tightly, but don't blow things up!) the ground
    connections, wherever practical. While you're under there, get a good
    light and look at the thick red positive to the starter, for any signs
    of fraying, cracked insulation, exposed wires, etc.
    Ok, then it's not what did it, in all likelyhood...
    Philip Nasadowski, Aug 23, 2004
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