1998 Chevy Lumina - intermittent starter problem

This car used to belong to my father and it was recently passed down to me after he passed on. Every once in a while (like now, when it’s parked on the wrong side of my alternating parking street) it won’t start when the key is turned all the way… no crank, just a click, all the lights are still shining.

According to my brother, who had been driving the car fairly regularly before it was passed along to me, this problem happens intermittently with this car and all he does is wait ten minutes and then try it again and it starts for him. Well, I’ve waited a lot more than ten minutes since the last time I tried to start the Lumina and it’s still not cranking when I turn the key all the way.

What would be going wrong with the starter that would go away by waiting a while and then trying it again? And is there some way I can make it work faster than my brother’s “wait ten minutes and then try it again” method until I get the starter replaced like it looks like it needs to be?


Not long after my original post, I tried to start the Lumina again so I could move it and it started up with no difficulty… go figure.

Am wondering if it’s a loose connection somewhere…Maybe between the battery cable and the starter?

Is the battery a original Delco? (10 yrs old)? You need to tell us this kind of stuff

The battery appears to be a Napa Legend 75, not Delco. Kinda hard to peer at the label on the battery when it seems to be buried underneath the windshield washer fluid reservoir… not sure how I’m going to jump start this car or someone else’s when the time comes with this design scheme, but that’s another problem for another day, I suppose.

Yea I know Lumina battery are a little hard to get to,not the worst.Does your ignition key have a computer chip? Or is the car equipped with a security system? Can you see any signs of damage/corrosion along the postive cable down to the starter? Delco batteries of that year (1998) leaked acid badly at the postive terminal. May be damage was done by a leaking battery that was not properly repaired before the new battery was installed. I have replaced many postive cables due to this acid damage.The acid can “wick” along the postive cable all the way down to the starter ,either damaging the solenoid or causing corrosion at the electrical connections.

I believe the car is equipped with a security system since one of the lights on the dashboard says “security” when the car is started, and the key does appear to have a computer chip embedded in it. I’ll check along the positive battery cable when I’m able to and report back.

Having trouble following the positive battery cable down to the starter… like I said, it’s buried underneath the windshield washer fluid reservoir and I’m having difficulty peering through to find where the positive cable is going. Another web site is telling me that the starter for a '98 Lumina should be found down between the radiator and the engine block… is this right or is this just going to steer me in the wrong direction?

Also, I’m guessing that the questions about the key with the embedded chip and the security system means that the problem could lie with either the security system or the chip?

The starter should be almost at the bottom (side) of the engine. Lie down on cardboard or tarp and look up from behind the rad, you should see it.

IF you DO decide to remove/clean and replace the positive battery cable (wrench tight) at the starter end, make CERTAIN it does NOT touch anything metal when disconnected.

You haven’t disconnected the negative cable from the battery have you?

Your key problem MAY from a worn key lock cylinder.

Why would you ask that question about the negative battery cable? I must admit when ever there is a short potential I do disconnect the negatine side. I have been doing this for years (30+) on both high-tech cars and no-tech cars,nothing has bitten me yet, what have I been missing. Some kind of spark potential warning? I do it on this exact same kind of car.

We’ve had a similar problem with our car on and off with no particular pattern. What has worked with a certain amount of consistency has been to open up the hood and slam it down fairly hard. I showed this to our mechanic the other day who was utterly baffled as to why this would work. Personally I think there’s some kind of loose connection somewhere and slamming the hood manages to shake it just enough to fix the problem temporarily.

Oh yeah - our car is a 95 Lumina.

After wiring connection points, switches and relays and solenoids are the parts which are the most common cause of poor starts, or no starts. Between the ignition switch and the starter solenoid is a ‘theft deterrent relay’, which is one suspect.

The click that you hear, when you try to start the car, could be the theft deterrent relay, or the starter solenoid. Open the hood and try to localize the click, while someone turns the ignition switch to START.

Here is the start wiring diagram to make it a little clearer: http://www.autozone.com/shopping/repairGuide.htm?pageId=0900c1528009104f Scroll down to figure 23. Click on the figure. Click on the maximize icon (the little square in the top right side of your screen) to enlarge to full page. Having a Mechanic who could put a voltmeter on different sections of the circuit, to check for full voltage (12 plus), would be great!