2000 Saturn SL Intermittent No Start

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Hi guys! I have a 2000 Saturn SL that up to now has served me very well for 11 years (bought it used in 2003). The car only has 100K miles on it and over the last day or two has developed an intermittent no start issue. Sometimes it starts and fires up no problem; other times nothing happens when the key is turned to start and the dashboard lights will flash on and off and clicking can be heard from a relay under the dash. Battery is OK and when the car does start, it cranks just as usual and runs as usual. No Check Engine light once the car is running. I know this car does have a Passlock security system and I've read about issues with those. On the Saturnfans forum there is a procedure to reset it, which requires one to turn the key to start, release and then wait 10 minutes. When I tried that, the car started! So I don't think the Passlock system is bad unless one of the Hall sensors in it is starting to go bad. I'd like to fix this myself before taking it to a shop! I posted this on the Saturnfans forum as well; apparently I've stumped them because so far I have gotten no response. Maybe one of you geniuses can help me out here! Any ideas?
 
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36,465
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ME
If you have a passlock problem the security light should be going bonkers. I suspect you have a simple battery terminal issue. Unbolt them, then wiggle the bolts out of the cables. They'll come, sometimes you have to use a flat screwdriver to "peel off" the rubber. Look all through for corrosion, reassemble.
 

raffy

Thread starter
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OK, I'll try this after work today. I should have mentioned that the dashboard lights repeatedly flash on and off and there is a periodic, repeated clicking of an under dash relay AFTER I release the key from Start to Run. If I let go of the key, it keeps on clicking and dash lights keep on repeatedly flashing. This is not a simple case of just getting a click from the starter or starter relay. The security light also flashes along with many other dash lights. Could this still be caused by a bad battery connection? Oh, one other thing I just remembered: when the fan is running, most of the dash lights go out except for the security light and maybe one or two others. And the fan seems to run slower than usual when I get the no start condition. In any case, I will remove the battery cables and clean them just to rule out that possibility. I hope that's all it is.
 
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Originally Posted By: raffy
OK, I'll try this after work today. I should have mentioned that the dashboard lights repeatedly flash on and off and there is a periodic, repeated clicking of an under dash relay AFTER I release the key from Start to Run. If I let go of the key, it keeps on clicking and dash lights keep on repeatedly flashing. This is not a simple case of just getting a click from the starter or starter relay. The security light also flashes along with many other dash lights. Could this still be caused by a bad battery connection?
Sure, your dash is 99% LED and those are driven by the body control module which might take 1/2 sec to "boot up". There are a few relays for fuel etc which are in the fusebox at the passenger knee and a starter interrupt relay under the steering column which are controlled by ECM/BCM which may need time to "think" when they get power, then whatever actually draws the power arcs your bad terminal, killing it, releasing it, and lining up for a repeat.
 
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Slimy Mudhole
When you get the no start condition you need to measure the battery voltage directly on the terminals, it sounds to me like a short circuit inside one of the battery cells, if you measure around 10.5 V then one cell is bad.
 
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NJ
My Father's Saturn had a similar problem. Dealer replaced the BCM and still had problem. Turned out to be the starter in his case.
 

raffy

Thread starter
Messages
247
Location
AL
OK, it appears, at least so far, that the problem is solved. I removed the battery cables and found a lot of corrosion between the red (positive) cable and the battery terminal. I cleaned off both cable ends and terminals and now everything is fine. The car starts and runs just fine thus far. Thanks for all the help and suggestions. This intermittent start thing happened to me one time before with an old Nissan pickup I owned years ago. However, I didn't get the funky idiot light show with it that I did with this car. And in the case of that Nissan, it was a broken battery clamp that failed due to corrosion after 10+ years being exposed to the humid southern air! This Saturn has a bolted on side post mount so I never expected this problem with it, but when corrosion sets in, even the best bolted connection can build up electrical resistance. I guess the moral of the story is always check your battery AND battery cable connections first anytime you have a no start condition and especially if you have an intermittent no start condition.
 
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