2000 Bonneville SE won't start/crank after white smoke loud noise

Ursula Diane-Martorana

Asked by May 10, 2016 at 10:26 AM about the 2000 Pontiac Bonneville SE

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

2000 BONNEVILLE SE, 3.8 ltr, 6 cyl SERIES ii ENGINE

extensive white smoke coming from radiator area from under hood, with a
smell of maybe burnt wiring or a synthetic plastic smell (SMOKE, not steam!  
did NOT smell of rubber or sweet of coolant), accompanied by a high-
pitched, loud revving or almost whistling noise (but NOT a belt noise).  
instinct indicated the fans, as it came from this front area.  noise and smoke
simultaneous, lasting from 10-30 min (10 min before i left on foot to go get
help... returned 20 min later, had stopped).  did not open hood up, but did
pop the hood release.  when i returned 30 min after smoke and noise
began, car was sitting quietly, as if nothing ever happened... no noise, no
smoke (just a polluted area around it).

- 10 min after arrival from seeking help, open hood (not hot)
- radiator not leaking, level normal
- overflow tank level normal
- oil appears normal
- no leaks onto ground whatsoever
- 1 hour after incident, attempted to start car... no start, no crank
- attempted battery jump-start 3x in next 24 hours, via 3 different vehicles
(got lights to work during 1 attempt, but drained back to nothing quickly)
- battery terminals clean and clear, connection tight and sound
- all fuses (accessories fuse was blown, replaced)
- firing order/proper contact
- no sign of anything burnt or melted anywhere (from above/top of engine)
- car towed 24 hours later to my garage

(no start, no crank)
- new alternator (but old one tested fine)
- new battery (old one not holding charge after incident... new one fine)

- rebuilt motor with 65k mi and new water pump installed (Nov 2011), after
blowing original engine of 110k mi... only 15k mi added since replacement
- oil/filter change (4 mo ago, only ever fully synthetic, oil still clean)
- only ever 91 oct unleaded fuel
- new oil pan (4 mo ago)
- new oil level sensor (4 mo ago)
- new spark plugs and wires (4 mo ago... #4 was mis-firing... not sure if still
a prob)
- new manifold casing (1 yr ago)
- new radiator (1 yr ago)

after an out of town round-trip of apx 130 miles, with a 3 hour parked
layover, engine off... car ran fine there and back (flat terrain, 1/2 light city
freeway traffic, 1/2 rural, avg speed 70 mph, cloudy, light rain, temp 60-75
F, no AC or heater use)... afterward, car had been sitting all evening inside
garage for about 8 hours (outdoor temp 75-80 F, low humidity)... started it
up to leave, thought it sounded funny, ignored it and forgot about it, drove
to store 3 mi away, was in and out in 5 min.  approaching parked car,
discovered same sound, only much louder, then saw thick, white smoke
coming from radiator area of under hood.  popped hood latch from inside
car, then realized it seemed likely engine was on fire!  i immediately
abandoned ship in fear it could explode, never lifting hood from outside that
was left cracked open.  don’t recall if i had to manually open door with key
or if keyless entry remote worked (remote intermittently on the fritz).  also
don’t remember if i had interior lights at that point.  but after 10 min of
hiding behind a cement wall 25 ft away as protection from possible
fire/explosive debris while it smoked profusely and screamed in high pitch
(completely polluting the area!), i remember keyless remote incapable of
locking doors/setting alarm, as i left to go seek help about 1/8 mi away, so i
just left it unlocked.  when i returned about 20 min later, smoke/sound had
ceased.  battery jump-start attempt failed.  found the rigged speaker wire
connecting cooling fan to fuse box, frayed.  found nothing burned or
melted, as i had expected (looking only from above).  towed back to my
garage 24 hours later, after 2 more jump-start failures.  replaced alternator.
still no start, no crank.  replaced battery... have lights now, keyless remote
operating, fuel pump regulator now making usual sound, but still no start,
no crank.  HELP PLEASE!  starter?  starter location?  what burned up?  and
even a bad head gasket should at least allow the engine to turn over when
trying to start it, right?

3 Answers



4 out of 4 people think this is helpful.
Ursula Diane-Martorana

thank you joemom for your response. however, this is not condensation and this is not coming from the exhaust. this is white, thick, choking, burning smoke, and it is coming from the engine. it smelled electrical. i just went to see if it would start by miraculous intervention... but now my brand new battery is drained - no interior lights.

Ursula Diane-Martorana

no offense joemom, b/c i really do appreciate your help, but to the readers of my post, how can 4 out of 4 people find that link in his answer helpful to my situation, when it has NOTHING to do with my dilemma? i know my post is long, but i was thorough in hopes of a solution, based upon the clues. reading it through is pertinent before assessing a remedy. so if you can't at least do that, then i don't need your help, with all due respect. i'll reiterate: this was NOT exhaust. it did NOT come from the tailpipe... it was SMOKE that came from under the hood, AKA, the engine. though it was coming from the radiator area, it WAS NOT steam from the radiator. something electrical burned up, hence the smell. the engine positively WILL NOT turn over, no matter how many times i charge my brand new battery. upon a full charge, i get lights, keyless entry, fuel pump engagement, but no engine crank... dash lights intermittently (but not always) surge off and on (meaning electrical). then fully charged, brand new battery is drained again (meaning no lights, no nothing). i did once get that clicking sound from around the glove box area upon a start attempt, but nothing afterwards. ALL fuses have been checked, and in fact the "accessories" fuse was blown (but replaced). the accessories/Serpentine belt pulley was hand- cranked with a wrench, so engine is not frozen up. when i can get some assistance, now that i finally know where the starter is, am going to tap on it with a hammer, per suggestion found in research, to determine if it is frozen up (don't recall the exact terminology they used... it wasn't "frozen up"...), which i thought may have been what burned for so long, producing the white smoke. however, from its location, i can't imagine it smoking from where it did under the hood (the quickest outlet from its position underneath, would have the smoke escaping from under the car instead, and certainly the quickest route to obtain the oxygen necessary for it to burn up)... so though the starter may be incapacitated due to whatever happened, it's highly doubtful it's what burned. again, that's a brand new alternator, installed the other day (just before buying the new battery), and i had the old one tested at O'Reilly's, and it was still good (i am keeping the newly installed one though). am going to test the micro- relays today, but still looking for answers...

Your Answer

Add photo

Related Questions


Looking for a Used Bonneville in your area?

CarGurus has 863 nationwide Bonneville listings starting at $1,450.


Search Pontiac Bonneville Questions

Pontiac Bonneville Experts

#1 ticklemedaly
Reputation 350
#2 dandyoun
Reputation 290
#3 John Saffrahn
John Saffrahn
Reputation 280
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Pontiac Grand Prix"
28 Great Deals out of 4,397 listings starting at $1,972
Used Chevrolet Impala"
948 Great Deals out of 35,754 listings starting at $700
Used Buick Regal"
189 Great Deals out of 10,602 listings starting at $1,995
Used Pontiac Grand Am"
2,000 listings starting at $1,995
Used Chevrolet Monte Carlo"
16 Great Deals out of 2,070 listings starting at $2,000
Used Buick LeSabre"
15 Great Deals out of 2,572 listings starting at $1,950
Used Chevrolet Camaro"
812 Great Deals out of 38,797 listings starting at $2,650
Used Chevrolet Malibu"
1,146 Great Deals out of 72,632 listings starting at $695
Used Pontiac Firebird"
11 Great Deals out of 895 listings starting at $2,900
Used Chevrolet Tahoe"
1,057 Great Deals out of 36,219 listings starting at $1,700