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1995 Buick Park Avenue Starting Problems

File this under: never accept a free car.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago a friend gave away her grandfather’s car. A 1995 Buick Park Avenue with only 89,000 miles on it. Her grandparents used the car to go to and from church every Sunday.

The car has issues starting. In fact, typically I cannot get the car to start unless I leave the key in the ignition at the “ON” position for 15 seconds to 1 minute. Typically I have to wait for a humming sound (which I assume is the fuel pump) before attempting to turn the car over for it to start. Added to this, the battery indicator light on the dashboard kept flickering intermittently and the “Check Oil Soon” light remains on for a minute and goes off until the engine has warmed up.

I had a mechanic check the fuel pump and they indicated that everything was ok with the fuel pump. But we replaced the alternator, ignition coils, and the ignition control module. However, after taking the car from the mechanic the car almost immediately started again with the same issue.

For additional context the most recent oil change and filter change was last month and the car received new spark plug wires and spark plugs in 2018. The battery is also only a year or two old.

From everything I have tried to research on this issue I feel it could be anything from the fuel pump relay, battery cables, or actually an issue with the ECU.

What are your thoughts?

With a GM vehicle that old, and with the electrical problems you’re having, I’d try replacing the positive battery cable for this reason.

image

That corrosion can leach down to where the terminals are crimped onto the wires.

And when that happens, all kinds of electrical problems can come up,

Tester

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You got a free vehicle , even if a quality shop charges you up to 1500 to 2000 dollars to put this thing right where are you going to buy a decent vehicle for that kind of money.

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This is really why I am hesitant to put anything else in this car.

That alone probably ate $900.

Question to OP: what happens immediatly when you turn the key? Any noise, any attempt to start, engine cranks or total silence?

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Well, you said it won’t start until you hear a humming sound

You need to hook up a fuel pressure gauge to the fuel rail, and hook up a multimeter to the fuel pump connections

When it fails to start, I’m guessing you’ll have 0psi at the rail and also no signal telling the fuel pump to energize

To narrow it down . . .

Next time it won’t start, spray a blast of ether into the air intake

If the engine briefly runs on ether, you’ve pretty much confirmed it’s not starting because it’s not getting fuel

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When I immediately turn the key the engine cranks, there is an attempt to start.

And yes, it did eat close to $900. But I was hoping that $900 would fix the issue. Apparently not.

You said that after 15-60 seconds it starts, once it does start, how does it run? Like @db4690 suggested, has the fuel pressure been tested? A bad $45 fuel pressure regulator could be a problem.

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The mechanic where I took the car tested the fuel pressure and indicated that the pressure was fine.

But here’s the big question . . .

did he test the fuel pressure when everything was fine and it was starting normally?

Or did he test fuel pressure when there was no hum and it wouldn’t start?

I don’t know. I will have to call and ask tomorrow. At this point I’m more furious at the fact that the problem was seemingly misdiagnosed.

Oh, and as an addendum, once the car starts it actually runs fine. It scaled a steep mountain highway today when I was testing it out.

If this mechanic had you spend $900 on parts that have nothing to do with your problem, I would avoid him. It sounds like he is a parts replacer, not a diagnostician.

You gave a great clue when you said that you have to turn on the key and wait for up to a minute to hear the hum. That is why your car is not starting. Your fuel pump is not starting when it should, the hum should happen as soon as you turn on the key.

It could be as simple as the battery cable that was suggested but you need a mechanic that will listen to you and find out why the fuel pump is not energizing. There is a bad connection somewhere. There is no sense testing the fuel pressure when the pump is working.

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My experience with GM and fuel pumps is not good. Average replacement cost on my Buicks was $500-$1000. If you hear humming, the pump is running. If you don’t hear the pump running, no way it will start. The cause of it not running is another issue and I would suspect the pump itself, or could be the relay or as Tester said the positive cable causing loss of power. When pumps are replaced though the relay should be done too. I used to tape a fuel pressure tester to the windshield and a test light on the pump test terminal and drive around until it stalled to test if I lost fuel pressure or voltage.

It’s sad because I’ve had very good experiences with this mechanic before, but things change.

Before I take it back to a mechanic to get it diagnosed I am going to try replacing the Fuel Pump relay and see if that makes any difference. Otherwise I will take it back to get diagnosed. But if it will cost too much money I will cut my losses and either sell it for scrap, parts, or to somebody to put it in my hometown demolition derby.

I’m hoping that the pump is fine, but that something is simply causing it to delay. I plan to replace the fuel pump relay myself either today or tomorrow to see if that helps the issue. If not, I will take it back to be diagnosed.

Hoping it is not a fuel pump replacement as I am not willing to put that much more money into this car.

You can take a shot and arbitrarily replace the fuel pump relay. $15 and 5 minutes of work. It’s locate in the box under the hood with all your fuses. If that’s not it, I would focus on the fuel pump regulator. A little more costly and time consuming to fix.

From what you say about the starting issue you are having it sounds like once the car has been running it starts up okay the rest of the day, it is just the first start up of the day that there is trouble. If that is correct then the fuel pump relay is most likely okay. The trouble is most likely with the fuel pump. Most fuel pumps have a check valve in them to keep fuel from flowing back into the tank from the fuel line when the pump isn’t running. If that valve is leaking you will have to prime the fuel line to get fuel back inside the line to the engine. Thus leaving the ignition ON to let the fuel pump do a run cycle. That time period is usually limited and another power cycle is needed to reactivate the pump controller.

Tells me that power may not be getting delivered to the fuel pump when commanded.

Power may not be getting to other places when commanded.

Actually, the fuse panel is located beside the glove compartment and underneath everything imaginable. I had to take the sound barrier off and the glove compartment off even to get to the fuse box. What an absolutely terrible design.

Anyway, popped new relay in and currently that seems to have solved the issue. I am going to start it up throughout today and tomorrow to make sure that has resolved the issue. I also left the sound barrier off just in I needed to access it again.

Verdict is out on this is the final solution. Hesitant to declare any sort of victory without repeated testing this week.

Battery indicator light still comes on and off, but I think it may actually be an issue with the instrument panel and not anything else. I have a 2002 GMC Sonoma and the check engine light has been on since 2012.

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