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Cutting, Cutting, Cutting...off


Loungerist
03-18-2013, 06:01 PM
Hello,

My niece has a 1997 Cavalier. The car has always run bad but recently it's started cutting off while they're driving. Normally when this happens you'd have to start it back up. But today, it cut off and stayed off. When I turn the key in the ignition the lights come on and I can hear the fuel injecting, but when I turn it further to start the car absolutely nothing happens with the engine. It doesn't crank at all. Alot of dash lights come on including one that says "theft system", if that means anything. I was thinking it might be the fuel filter since I know that that can prevent your car from starting, but I wasn't sure if it could stop the engine from cranking completely.

Anyone know what this might be?

aleekat
03-18-2013, 08:06 PM
I would check all your battery connections all the way to the starter. Just because the lights come on doesn't mean they are tight and clean.

Loungerist
03-19-2013, 07:54 AM
I would check all your battery connections all the way to the starter. Just because the lights come on doesn't mean they are tight and clean.

I can see the cable going from the battery to the starter and I jiggled it to see if it was secure and near as I can tell it's on tight. I tightened it up on the battery just to cover the bases, but no change.

maxwedge
03-19-2013, 09:27 AM
Check for 12v at the starter solenoid when attempting to start engine, if you have this then the starter is bad, if not then trace all the way back to the ign switch, if the security lite stays on when the key is in the on position, (not trying to start), for more than 10 seconds you have a problem with the VATS. ( security system)

Loungerist
03-19-2013, 09:59 AM
Check for 12v at the starter solenoid when attempting to start engine

How do I do that?


if not then trace all the way back to the ign switch

Trace what to the ignition switch, the battery cable?

Loungerist
03-19-2013, 10:14 AM
OK, I just went into the car to see what dashboard lights stay on. The check engine light, check oil light, check battery light, and theft system light all remain on so long as the key is in the ignition and it's turned to the start position.

jdmccright
03-19-2013, 10:16 AM
If the car has a shift interlock, then it could be the park/neutral select switch that is faulty...it prevents the car from being started when it is in gear. A jiggle of the shifter handle while starting will determine if that is the cause. But this won't cause the engine to shut down while driving.

If it is cutting out while driving, that is a sign of faulty ignition or lack of fuel. From research, your car has two ignition coils, each servicing two cylinders. So if one were to fail, you would not necessarily stop producing power but you would get a misfire trouble code for the affected cylinders.

Lack of fuel can be caused by a few things: 1) dirty fuel filter, 2) fuel pump not running or running poorly, or 3) bad fuel pressure regulator.

As for 1), this seldom is the cause as most fuel is pretty decent but considering the age of the car, buildup can happen. It's cheap to replace.

For 2), a fuel pump can fail or start to fail, producing less than the needed fuel pressure:
41-47 psi with key on, engine off
31-44 psi engine idling with pressure regulator hose connected
42-50 psi idling with pressure regulator hose disconnected

You should be able to hear the pump when turning the key on, a faint whining noise coming from the rear since the pump is in the tank. If not, take a stick and give the tank a few medium whacks and see if it starts turning. If it still doesn't go, then look underneath and trace the pump wires to a ground bolt and see if that is corroded or loose. Finally, if the whining noise had been getting louder recently, then it could have been the pump's last song.

For 3), the fuel regulator keeps the proper pressure in the fuel lines. If it is too low, the engine doesn't run well or not at all. I've also seen instances of the diaphragm actually developing a hole and letting fuel get sucked into the vacuum lines that control it. This could also make the engine run poorly or not at all.

Hope this helps!

Loungerist
03-19-2013, 10:25 AM
You should be able to hear the pump when turning the key on, a faint whining noise coming from the rear since the pump is in the tank. If not, take a stick and give the tank a few medium whacks and see if it starts turning. If it still doesn't go, then look underneath and trace the pump wires to a ground bolt and see if that is corroded or loose. Finally, if the whining noise had been getting louder recently, then it could have been the pump's last song.

I can hear the fuel pump activating when I turn the ignition. I'll have to look into the ignition coils.

Tech II
03-19-2013, 10:55 AM
Well, this is the PassLock system, not the VATS system.......the theft light will stay on until the vehicle starts.....

You check the purple wire to the starter solenoid, for power(use a test light) with the key in the crank position.......if it lights, you need a starter....

If it doesn't light, then you have to follow the circuit backwards and check for power.....first stop is the transmission range switch.....First put vehicle in reverse(apply ebrake) and see if reverse lights are on....if ok, try to start in neutral......if it doesn't start, check the yellow wire into the switch with a test light....if it lights with vehicle in park, and the key in the crank position, but the purple wire coming out has no power(key still in crank position), then the switch is bad....if the purple wire has power, then there is a break in the purple wire between the switch and the starter.....

If the yellow wire has no power with the key in the crank position, then you have to check if the vehicle has a starter enable relay and check that circuit out.....if it doesn't then you have to check the ignition switch for power(the yellow wire out of the ignition switch goes to the transmission switch) with the key in the crank position.....

One thing....this starter circuit has nothing to do with the car stalling once started...so you probably have two separate problems.....

maxwedge
03-19-2013, 01:25 PM
Correct Tech11, I missed the change over by 2 years, but it seems we should focus on at least getting the engine to turn over.

Tech II
03-19-2013, 02:37 PM
That's true...but there is a big difference in the THEFT light, of a Vats system vs a Passlock system.....if you just turn the key to on(don't crank), the Vats system will go out in 3-5 seconds, indicating no problem.....with PassLock, the light will stay on for as long as the key is on, so there is no indication that there is a problem(unless of course, it is flashing).....it only goes out after the vehicle is started....

I agree.....the car doesn't crank....so it's either the starter, the circuit(wires, connections, trans switch, ignition switch, starter enable relay if used), or a possible SECURITY problem.....if it was a security problem, a scan tool capable of reading "B" codes would indicate this....

Loungerist
03-19-2013, 03:42 PM
I thought it was a fuel thing but from the comments it's sounding more like an electrical problem. I don't have a test light and I'm not by the car at the moment so I'll have to swing by my niece's tomorrow to test the lights in reverse and see if it'll start in neutral.

Loungerist
03-20-2013, 08:24 AM
first stop is the transmission range switch.....First put vehicle in reverse(apply ebrake) and see if reverse lights are on....if ok, try to start in neutral......if it doesn't start, check the yellow wire into the switch with a test light....

The reverse lights came on and the car wouldn't start in neutral. I'll have to look into getting a tester light.


I agree.....the car doesn't crank....so it's either the starter, the circuit(wires, connections, trans switch, ignition switch, starter enable relay if used)

Is it possible that whatever made it cut off while driving and whatever is preventing it from starting now are the same problem? Maybe something related to the engine itself?

maxwedge
03-20-2013, 08:37 AM
Electrical most likely, but if the engine will not even turn over that is not engine related unless it seized, then you would at least hear the starter try and engage.

razr_88
09-24-2013, 12:16 AM
test lights' are nice but you can accomplish the same thing with a voltmeter (the engineer in me likes all of the buttons...:D) I agree, one step at a time getting the starter motor to at least attempt to turn the engine over.

Also it seems to me that outsourcing this might be helpful, so here is a link to a fun little guide just for general testing of a starter

http://easyautodiagnostics.com/bad_starter_test/starter_oncar_tests_1.php

once you find out let us know

terrypg
10-10-2013, 11:54 PM
Check yellow wire from ignition switch to neutral safety switch or clutch switchand chech purple wire from neutral safety or clutch swich to starter solenoid(small wire)they should be hot with key in start position. If you have current at the solenoid purple wire you have a bad starter or solenoid.

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