CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

1996 Saturn 4d sl

My niece has a 1996 Saturn SL 4 door that won’t start. When the problem first started it did not make any noise when she tries to start it, but the clock and radio would turn on. The battery connections look clean. Now the battery won’t turn on at all. It seemed at first to make a small click sound when someone else was trying to turn it and she was outside. Do you have any suggestions?

Is this car automatic? If so, it could be that the transmission neutral interlock is not operating correctly. Sometimes you’re able to override it by inserting a key in a slot near the shifter, if it has that slot.

Or it may be the starter. It certainly is a good place to start. Get a piece of wood put that on the starter and whack the other side with the bottom of your shoe while someone else tries to start it. If it now starts, you likely have a bad starter or bad connection going to it.

It may have a main relay that’s not doing its job. Try some of the above things and report back.

A battery can have enough power to run the radio, but not enough power to kick the starter. The clicking sound is often the solenoid clicking but there isn’t enough juice to run the starter motor. The starter takes more power than anything else on the car. I suspect a bad battery, or a discharged battery as the place to start.

This has all the earmarks of a tired, weak battery. Most parts stores will test the battery and charging system for free. Start there.

Remove both battery cables from the battery.

On the positive battery cable peel back the red rubber cover to expose the battery terminals. If a lot of corrosion is found under the red rubber cover, replace the positive battery cable assembly.

Tester