Mystery Problem (for me), Car Occasionally Will Not Start
Hi there, I recently received a Cadillac Catera 1998 from my old man, since he doesn't have a need to drive the car. Here is the dilemma, this car has had a history of not starting on occasion. No, cranking, nothing (For the record, I may be mistaken with the term usage, but there is not sound when trying to start the car). The only way to fix this problem is to let it sit, or have it jump started.
I tried going through the usual suspects via advice from my mechanic friend, testing the alternator, starter, and battery; they all check out fine. What could possibly be preventing the car from starting on occasion? I recently looked around, and kept reading, "crank case sensor". Would that be the issue?
On a side note, I recently had an oil change, and I am getting the oil light for some reason. I replaced with nearly a full jug of 4.8L of oil.
Thank you for reading this (apologies for being wordy) and I hope some one can shed light on this.
No sound when turning the key is not a sensor. No signal is getting to the starter solenoid for some reason. Since it does respond to a jump start, I would recommend a cleaning and tightening the battery connections. Do the other accessories work when you are experiencing the no start condition? --- On the oil light question, which oil light are you seeing? That car has a red oil pressure light - that's the bad one, shut off the engine. It might have a yellow low oil light which indicates that you need to add more oil to the sump. There may be a "Change Oil Soon" light that is illuminated by GM's oil life monitor. It comes on when 90% of the oil life has been used. There might be a reset for it in the fuse panel.
Thanks for the fast reply. Regarding the car starting, all of the accessories work perfectly fine, lights, radio, and etc. Funny that you mentioned cleaning and tightening the terminal cables, I took it to a shop a few days ago to get it checked out, and they pointed it out to me about the cables. They did tighten them for me free of charge. They also mentioned cleaning the cables as well. How would I go about that in all curiosity? Regarding the oil light, it is the orange light, the one at the top of the gauge. So I probably just need to add some more. Thank you for the fast reply, tenspeed.
I use a small metal brush. It's a little larger than a tooth brush with small bristles. It removes the corrosion. While you're at the store, get some dielectric or electrical grease to seal the fresh metal from the elements. -- If the negative wire is attached and your tool on the positive post makes a conductive path to ground, it will make an arc that you will never forget. Always remove the negative side first and install it last to prevent a short circuit to ground. --- Remove both battery wires. Use the wire brush on both sides of the connection until they shine. Apply grease to one surface and reassemble. Excess grease will be squeezed out. Apply more grease to the outer surfaces. I recently learned the CRC makes an aerosol electrical grease.
Thank you, tenspeed. I will take that into consideration when I go through this process. Hopefully that was the cause for the, apparent, electrical problem. Sounds simply enough for me at least. If not I can just have my mechanic friend help me through it. Aside from that, would you have any other ideas that could be a potential lead to the issue? something possibly sapping enough power to prevent the car from starting?
Sounds like a ground short to me. Check starter motor connections and trace wiring harness circuits.
What is a "ground short". I'm not familiar with the term.
So I ended up cleaning out the battery terminals today, with the help of my friend. I now have to wait to see if that fixed the recurring issue. Regarding the wiring harness, what exactly am I keeping an eye for when looking at it? Once again thanks for the leads gentlemen.
A ground short is what happens when the hot wire in a circuit grounds out against some other grounded source and not the item it is supposed to charge (loose starter connections). Do circuit tests on appropriate individual circuits that are a part of the wiring harness affecting starter moter operation.
Thanks Joseph, I'll see if I can figure it tomorrow when I look at it again with my friend. In the event it is a wiring issue, lets say it is a bad wire, would be a money sink to replace?
Not necessarily. Engine wiring harness around $150, but (there always is a "but") pulling and installing it depending on who and where you get it done could cost 2 or so hours of labor. Make sure whomever is doing it KNOWS what they are doing, e.g., disconnect the battery first and completely!
Well, I just got hold of a copy of the service repair manual for the Catera. From what you, Joseph, said and the manual is stating, I need to first identify if the solenoid clicks when I start the car during the time it misbehaves. I will assume that since there isn't any noise at all, the solenoid isn't clicking either which redirects back what you say, check the wiring harness, or as the book identifies (if I am reading correctly) the ignition switch harness. At least I feel I am getting somewhere at this point.
Disconnect battery, then check connections to to the solenoid ... may need a new one (do electronic circuit test) cost about $25 at PEP boys.
It's the sensor in the transmission shift case. Tight next to the drivers side."Neutral Position Switch" or PRNDL sensor. It over heats and then will not allow you to start the car. It acts as the mom to a kid that has been running around on a hot summer day. - " no you have to stop running before you get sick" I priced it out for mine and it was $250.00. Any how if you take off the cover on the shifter, it pulls out I think from the back to the front. Now Look down inside. See that little yellow lever? push it down. Now start your car. I hate being stuck when I ran errands on a summer day I found this work around. Good Luck!
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