Help Austin, My 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix keeps faking me out!
I usually try to do as many of my car repairs as I can. When I feel I got a problem I can’t tackle, then I head to the one and only mechanic I let touch my car. However, I always make sure he gives me a detailed rundown of what the deal is. But this time, I ran into one of the weirdest problems.
First, my starter, alternator, and battery all went out within the same year. Its an older car, mostly original parts, so I was basically waiting for this. I had all the parts checked to make sure they were defective, then I changed them all. Then just because I was under the hood, I changed the plugs, wires, PCV valve, belt, changed the oil and trans fluid, and replaced the air filter. Your basics.
One day my car wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t crank when I turned the key, but it did start when I tapped the starter directly. Then my turn signal switch started clicking by itself and a tiny cloud of smoke came out from under the neck of the steering column. I shut the car off and tried to troulbleshoot the problem. To make a long story short, my turn signal assembly is bad, and my ignition will sometimes crank the car over, but usually I have to tap the switches on the starter to get it to start. Before the car dies out, the lights on my dash will start to dim and my headlights will flicker.
And it will only die out after a complete stop. Once it stops, I can usually start it right up and continue my drive all the way home unless an extended stop causes it to die out. Keep in mind it doesn’t die out all the time either, and sometimes if I rev the engine a little the car keeps going. The lights will flicker, the car will start to hesitate, but then it’ll kick in all on its own and keep going like nothing’s wrong with it. My mechanic ran a diagnostic but said the only thing coming up as bad is the turn signal switch assembly. I had the starter, alternator, and battery checked again and everything came back ok. Any Ideas?
I do like the car and have done alot of work on it. The my mechanic always tells me my motor and trans are well maintained and sound strong. But for now I just got it parked in the garage and start it and move it around the block occassionally until I figure out what to do with it.
Thanks for your time. I really enjoy the website and in my opinion is probably one of the most helpful car sites online today. Any time or consideration with this EM is greatly appreciated.
Yo BIG Will!
Thanks for your email and your kind words! This is what I think of the situation….from what you have told me anyway.
1. Sounds like you have a weak starter motor…if you caught the starter in a “failed” situation and tapping on the case got it to start working, it will only be a matter of time before it does it again. So, I would replace the starter motor.
2. Smoke from the turn signal/ steering column area could have just been coincidental, but, sounds like the turn signal switch needs to be replaced regardless.
3. The last complaint about dying at a stop could be due to a dirty throttle body and or dirty Idle Speed Control Motor, both of which can be easily and inexpensively cleaned by your mechanic, and is part of regular good maintenance.
If the dash lights are dimming when you are at a stop, and the car is on the verge of dying it could be because the throttle body and idle motor are dirty and not allowing the computer to properly control the base idle speed, OR the battery and or alternator are not producing the minimum amount of electricity needed to keep the engine running.
A simple battery “load test”, AND alternator “draw” test should be able to tell you if there is a problem with the charging system.
What I suspect is happening is, the engine is not in proper idle control. If the base idle is too low the engine does not spin the alternator fast enough, thus the alternator does not produce the minimum amount of electricity the battery and engine need to keep working, so the lights are dimming and the engine is starting to die because of this lack of minimum electricity requirement.
One last thing I would make sure to inspect would be the battery cables and the small silver battery cable bolts that attach the cables to the battery on a GM vehicle. These battery bolts are notorious for building up corrosion inside the cable itself between the bolt and the cable, and these bolts need periodic tightening. A loose or dirty battery cable can do all kinds of strange things to an engine, so make sure they are clean and tight!
Keep me posted,
Austin C. Davis