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'96 Oldsmobile Intermittent Start

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Feb 16, 2013, 5:25 PM

Post #1 of 2 (1592 views)
'96 Oldsmobile Intermittent Start Sign In

Hi everybody,

I have a question and I'm hoping somebody might have some idea of what to do, so here it goes...

I have a 1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme SL, it's an automatic with just over 170k miles on it. It's a good car and runs alright, but it's in need of a tune up pretty bad.

The problem I'm having is that sometimes I can't get the car to start. And by not start, I mean it will not turn over. It doesn't do it all the time, but some days it will do it repeatedly and other days I don't have a problem at all. When it has these fits, the lights on the dash will light up and seem normal, but when I turn the key to start it, nothing happens.

Since the car is capable of starting without a problem, I think it is unlikely that it would be a problem with the starter. So my guess is that the most likely cause is one of 4 things....

#1 The battery.

I haven't had the battery tested yet, but I know it's not dead because the lights turn on and do not look dim or anything, and I can usually get the car to start eventually (though sometimes I really wonder if I'm going to be stranded somewhere...), but it's possible that it might be weak, leaking, and/or not charging all the way - but why would the car start after several attempts if it's too weak to start it?

#2 The security feature.

The car has one of those security things where it has a resistor inside the key. I looked it up and I think it's called a PCM (powertrain control module). For some reason every so often the security light comes on while I'm driving but will usually turn off on it's own after a few minutes, but it doesn't seem to affect driving.

#3 Neutral Safety Switch

The car is old so I know some parts are going out and need replacing, and I heard that the neutral safety switch can sometimes cause a car not to start.

#4 Electrical issue or tune-up

I can't think of any other likely cause other than some weird electrical issue, or maybe the spark plugs and wires which need to be changed. Would spark plugs even affect the car's ability to start?

So...What do you think is the most likely cause and how do I go about testing it?

My car is not very easy to work on and I'm broke so I can't afford to take it to a repair shop for maintenance or repairs.

While I have very little knowledge about cars I'm not afraid to attempt easy to moderate repairs myself, so long as I have thorough instructions and some assistance from my fiance.

I have the car's repair manual but some of it's instructions are really vague so any tips or insight into what to do will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks everyone in advance! :)

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nickwarner profile image

Feb 16, 2013, 5:48 PM

Post #2 of 2 (1583 views)
Re: '96 Oldsmobile Intermittent Start Sign In

A tuneup won't keep it from cranking over, but not doing it will lead to a misfire that will wreck your catalyst and leave you with a very expensive bill.

A battery being able to turn your lights on means nothing. That takes very little power to do. Starters take a lot. Your battery must be tested and the contacts cleaned shiny and tight to begin to diagnose anything else. I can't stress enough how the contacts must be very good. So many no-starts and driveability issues stem from this its huge.

It is possible your Passkey needs to be relearned. Usually they act up all the time though.

If you suspect a neutral switch, try moving on the shifter while holding the key in start while it won't crank. If this gets it to crank you've narrowed down the issue.

Your car is a lot easier to work on than many of them out there that we deal with on a daily basis. If you can't afford to pay someone else to do the job, you're doing to have to get your hands dirty, pinched, cut, etc like we do or you're going to have to get some comfortable walking shoes.

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