1998 chevy lumina weird starting issue

Scotty

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hello ya'll. i got my friends 1998 chevy lumina 3.1L auto trans, 116K miles on it. its having a weird starting issue that i cant seem to figure out. about 2 weeks ago, the starter on this car went out. i replaced the starter and it was fine for over a week. i get a call from my friend on a sunday nite saying it wont start again. after a few mins with me on the phone it started up. it does it intermittenly and im stumped on this one. i checked the wires to the starter, and they good and tight. no corresion on any of the wires. i checked the battery cables, and they are good, tight and clean. i checked to see if the sercuirty light is going out when key is turned, and it does that. also, i started the car in neutral, and it starts up there. the key tumbler is very sloppy on this car. im thinking its a ignition switch thats going bad. im not too sure but i dont wanna tear up his car until i figure this problem. has anyone had this type of issue before?? thanks, scotty
 

Ford_Dude

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I would check the small wire going to the starter while your buddy is trying to start it. If it has power and the car is not cranking I would bet its a bad starter. Before you replace the starter load test the battery and make sure the connections are free of corrosion. On those GM side terminals you might have to pull the cable off the battery to check it.

Ford_Dude
 

Mobile Dan

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If the starter works after 'slamming it into Park' but not if you 'sneak it into Park', you may have bent or worn parts in the shifter mechanism. An adjustment may correct this.
 

billr

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Clarify: does it crank, but not fire; or not crank at all?
 

The old man

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If all the suggestion above seem to be OK, then when this issue happens the next time, you need to find out where the starter relay is. While someone in the car turns on the ignition to try to start, you hold your hand on the starter relay and see if you can feel a click. If so the ignition switch is providing power to the relay to send power to the starter.If not it could be the sloppy ignition lock, not the ignition switch. A few month ago I went through a similar issue with a 1992 Dodge Caravan. The man replaced the starter because AAA said it was the starter. He put it on and it would not start . He called me and I bypassed the starter relay and the starter started the car. I check for voltage when key was turned and no voltage. I took the ignition lock to find out that the ears on the ignition lock that engages into the ignition switch were round off and wasn't turning the ignition switch far enough to start the car because of the slop in his ignition lock. It would turn it enough to turn on the accessory and ignition run but not the start position. And if that is the case it could also be the ignition switch with a bad wire going to the relay Just a thought
 

Gus

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Does this have the PassLock or PassKey system?
 

NickD

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Figured Gus would asked that question. Not exactly like the Ford Model A where you step on the pedaled rod to push two contacts together to hook the battery to the starter.

Started of with the ignition switch, neutral safety switch, either brake or clutch pedal switched, then the anti-thief module and ever further complicated by remote starters.

One big fat series circuit that would be real easy to trouble shoot if you had all the components laid out neatly on a work bench. But as it is, have to crawl under the dash, fool around with an air bag to get to the ignitions switch, remove the console or dash to get at the anti-thief module, remove half the engine to get at the neutral safety switch, crawl all over under the hood, and be some kind of an electronic genius as to why the thief control isn't working.

Could go back to the pedal rod, but people have gone sue crazy when the idiots don't know how to start their cars and run over their own kids that are also idiots for standing behind the car when their stupid parents are leaving that resulted in a ton of liability lawsuits.

And then cars were so cheap back then, weren't worth stealing. Its not that we are getting better quality today, all that chrome was replaced by cheap plastic with 90% of the parts throwaway, all that union labor was replaced with robotics, but the price has gone up by a factor of ten. Worth stealing, so anti-thief had to be added. But certainly not because of quality or actual production costs, just getting robbed blind by buying one.
 

Scotty

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heres some answers to ur all's questions. i checked the small wire ( purple ) and its getting power there. hes got a newer battery in the car which is about over a year old and it was fully charged at 12.6 Volts. thats good there. the connections were clean as i checked them and there are on there tight. the old starter was toast. we had to hit it with a rubber mallot to get the car started and get it to his house to do the repair. the gear shaft had so much play in it and the solenold was broken where the wires connect and u and move the top of the solenold cover with ur hand. when we tapped the starter, the black top of wires was moving around. the issue is when the key is turned to the on position with engine not running, going to turn the key to start, it will do " nothing " when its turn and held in the start position. we had power to everything in the car ( lights, radio, idiot lights, gauges, etc ), but no starter cranking. once it cranks, it will run just fine like normal. i know that the car has some type of factory security system, and the key has a chip in it. when the key is in the ignition, and turned on, the light goes out after 3 seconds. im not sure which one it has, but i might ask the chevy dealership on a later date. its getting power to the solenold on the starter. something is going on from the inside the car to the outside. i looked at the wires going to the battery and starter and firewall, and no breaks, shorts or anything out of the orderary. i remembered on my sister honda, we had a problem with the ignition switch on that. it wouldnt do anything when the key was turned to start position. even try the neutral start and Nothing! so that fixed her problem. Scotty
 

billr

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One clue might be that the radio, etc. stay powered in the "start" position, is that normal? I'm thinking all non-essential loads are turned off during the actual crank/start operation... seems like your switch isn't really going to "start".
 

The old man

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The way that I am looking at the electrical drawing is that if that purple wire "going" directly to the starter is getting 12 volts, then the starter solonoid should be engaged and the starter turning the engine over. That wire would not be hot if the theft deterrent relay or theft deterrent module is bad or the neutral or park switch wasn't properly seated. If that purple wire going to the starter is really supply 12 volts it is either a bad starter or a locked up starter from being too tight. Did the starter come with shims? Try loosing up the starter bolts a little and see if anything happens.
 

Mobile Dan

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Bill...re-read what Scotty wrote. I will capitalize so it will be easier for you to understand.

"The issue is when the key is turned to the on position with engine not running, going to turn the key to start, it will do " nothing " when its turn and held in the start position. We had power to everything in the car ( lights, radio, idiot lights, gauges, etc ), but no starter cranking. Once it cranks, it will run just fine like normal."

Bill, I don't think he is saying what you think he is saying. Hopefully Scotty will clarify.

Scotty...in your initial post you wrote..."i started the car in neutral, and it starts up there." Will it still start in Neutral when it won't start in Park?

Scotty...in your latest post you wrote..."i checked the small wire ( purple ) and its getting power there." Was that test done on the old starter, or the new starter, or both? Am I correct in assuming that the purple wire has power only when the key is held at the "Start" position?
 

billr

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Yep, I got confused with the run-on posts. Let's see if Scotty will verify/clarify what is happening with the "purple wire". It's sounding like it is a bad starter/solenoid, since he isn't even hearing the solenoid clunk as it pulls in.
 

Gus

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When you say the key has a chip in it, do you mean a black resistor that you can see? If Yes, then you have PassKey I or II.....no external resistor, then it may be PassLock....doubt this is PK III....

The key here, is to make the checks when the car won't crank:

Is the SECURITY/THEFT light staying on or going off after three seconds....If it stays on, and you have a resistor pellet in the key, more often than not it's the lock cylinder(two wire harness to it, one wire tends to break over time).....if the wire breaks but the insulation is intact, this can cause intermittant problems...

Do you have power at the purple wire in the crank position? If you do it's the starter.....does it "sound" like it is properly shimmed(some cases, it doesn't have to be)....

Have you checked for codes?

When this happens, it doesn't crank in Park or Neutral?


Old man is correct, there is a starter enable relay ....not sure where it's located though....
 

The old man

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My information says that it is a passkey 11 with wires in the lock cylinder like Gus says. The Theft deterrent relay (starter realy) and the theft deterrent module is located under right side of dash, above the Glove Box.
 

Scotty

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i'll try to clarify this as best as i can. when my friend called me 2 weeks ago, he went to start the car that nite, and it didnt do anything. the starter didnt make a peep at all. i told him over the phone to try putting the car in Neutral and see if it will start, and it did crank right over. then when he got the car home from his job, it wouldnt do anything. so when i got there, i hit the starter with a rubber mallet, and it started up in park position and in netural position. we started the car 2 more times, and then it wouldnt start anymore. we kept on hitting the starter for 20 mins and nothing! it was getting power to the solenold since the metal part of my mallet hit the solenold. it wasnt making any clicking sounds whatsoever. thats when i made the decision to replace the starter. the starter didnt have any shims when i removed. its all lined up perfectly where the old one was at. after i installed it, it was fine for one week with no problems. then it did it again on sunday nite. i was at work at the time when he called me. he turned it off for a min, then it started up again. its been fine since then. the starter is cranking really good, but sometimes it wont crank, and im puzzled on it. it does this intermittenly here and there. the car does start in the park and neutral positions. it does this out of the blue. the passkey system is reading the key as the light does go out when we crank the car. it has no check engine light or security light coming on. Now that purple wire, its getting the volts and the solenold does click when the starter is engaged. when it does its episode, its not clicking. its getting power from the battery for sure. i hit it with a screw driver and it sparks when i make contact. i checked the wires going to the battery and starter and theres no shorts, damaged wire or anything out of the ordernary. they are all hook up correctly and nice and tight at the connections. this car has me stumped. the old start was shot for sure since the gear shalf was toast and had alot of play in it. the solenold was junk as well. we had it tested at the parts store and it was done for. the new one was tested and it worked fine at the store before i picked it up that day. i hope this helps clarify things up. Scotty
 
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