'94 Buick Starting Problem

I have a 1994 Buick Regal with a 3.8 V6 that has 142,000 miles on it. It’s a great car, with one significant problem that has been present since I bought it two years ago at 72,000 miles: It doesn’t always start. There’s no pattern or consistency to it at all, it just doesn’t always start. I have gone up to months with it cranking over and running every attempt. Other times, it’s acted up more than once in a day. When I turn the key, accessories work, but it just does nothing engine-wise. It doesn’t crank, click or anything. Usually within 5 minutes of turning the key over and over, I’ll get it to start. However, on a couple of ocassions, it’s taken over 30 min. for it to decide to go. It can’t be the starter because it was the first thing we changed a couple years back when it first did that, and it didn’t make a difference. I’m just scared to take it in because you never know when it’ll do this too. Yet, I’d like to be able to trust it every time I turn the key. Any ideas?

This should be a pretty easy problem to find. I assume the vehicle has a automatic transmission. One common spot for trouble like this is with the neutral safety switch. The switch allows the starter to work when the shifter is in the Park position. First try moving the shift lever around in the Park position while trying to start the car. If that works then you may need to have the switch adjusted. If that doesn’t work then try starting the car in the Neutral position. If that works then replace the switch.

The other possibility is there is a fault in the wiring between the ignition switch and the wiring going to the starter solenoid.

It is also a good idea to check for internal corrosion in the battery cables and clean the battery connections with a battery brush.

Thanks for the response. I’ve tried it in park and neutral, and when it’s acting up, it won’t start in either. I also don’t think it’s the battery terminals. They are clean and connected tightly. Part of me wonders if it’s something with the electronic system and that little chip on my ignition key.

I would not rule out the batter contacts quite yet.  Make sure you check the other ends of the cable first.  Also don't rule out that neutral switch that easily either.  That might move it down the list of provables but not eliminate it.

One thing you should have checked is the adjustment of the ignition switch itself. It is mounted under the steering column and is activated by a rod when you turn the key. If it gets slightly out of adjustment, when you turn the key the rod will not actually activate the switch. This can be a very intermittant thing and takes about 10 minutes to adjust. I had that problem on my Riviera.

I’ll have to check into that. Do I access that rod below by removing the panel below the dash just past the steering column?

Yep, it should be on the left side of the column or on top. Kind of a rectangular box if I remember correctly. There is a procedure for adjusting it but I’d just try moving it a quarter or eighth of an inch and do a little trial and error.

I too have a 94 buick regal, and I as well have the same problem , it could be poor copper contacts in the electronical ignition switch in the top base of the collumn if you dry air and spray it,because the dust and the grease mixed together cause poor conductivity which causes no power or slow cranking of the engine. this is caused by the tilt wheel, everytime you tilt the wheel up and down, dust slides down the starter shaft off the ignition switch mechanism. try it and see if it works. I came to that theroy on my own vechicle.

I have same problem on 91 Park Avenue. Usually about 30 minutes before the tow truck arrives, it starts! I think it has something to do with the wiring connection through the firewall. Anyone else have this problem. whatever it is it shuts off the juice to the ignition as well, you can bridge the starter selinoid the motor spins but it won’t fire. A mechanic told me there are a lot of Buicks in salvage yards with this problem!!

My first thought was a faulty or mis adjusted ignition switch until you mentioned the pellet in the key. This may sound odd but I would bet you have a faulty key and tumblers. Before everyone thinks I am crazy hear is how it works.
there are to white wires that run from the VATS (Vehicle Anti Theft Module up to the key and tumblers. They fasten 1 to each side of the lock cylinder. The pellet in the key is a resistor. The VATS module sends 12 volts to one of the wires. When you put the key in the power goes through the resistor pelt back to the VATS module. If the voltage it correct the VATS module will allo starter engagement. If it is not correct it will not. The problem is the little white wires break away from the lock cylinder and you can never guarantee you will get a proper voltage reading. To repair is a little complicated. The steering wheel, lock plate, and turn signal cam need to be removed from the column. From under the dash locate the two white wires and unplu them from the VATS module. Tie a 36 inch long thin piece of string to these wires. Remove the retaining screw from the lock cylinder and carefully pull it out of the column. Take care not to pull your string into the column as you will need it for re-instalation. After removing the old cylinder attach the wires of the new switch to the string. Working under the dash gently pull the string back out of the column bringing the lock cylinder wires with it. Reassymble the cloumn. Now the difficult part. The lock cylinders are commonly available at auto parts stores. The local Schucks get $40 for it. Before installing the lock cylinder it will be neccessary to make a trip to your local GM dealership. Go to the parts counter and give them the ignition key for your vehicle and the key that came with the new lock cylinder. They well measure the resistance value of the key. Get a key blank with that value and cut it to match the dummy key that came with the lock cylinder (cost appox $60.00). Once everything is put back together everything will work perfectly. If your ever in Southwest Washington let me know I do these all the time runs $200.00 parts included.

I hate this system it keeps logging me out. If you have any questions about my post let me know I will be happy to help.

The VATS system not only disables the starter it also cuts fuel so jumpering the starter will not help.

The situation is worse in vehicles with tilt because every time you move the column it pulls on the VATS wires and they are very sensitive.

Look at 1998 Buick replys. Maybe the solution is contact cleaner in the key slot? Solved most of my problems. Worth a try.

I am going to try changing both the neutral safety switch and the ignition switch. Hopefully this solves the problem. If anyone has any further suggestions for my starting problem, please post them for me to consider. Thanks.

The problem persists! My dad and I decided rather than change the neutral safety switch and the ignition switch to make some adjustments and spray cleaner on just about every connection we could find on the car. We used a special spray specifically made for electronic cleaning. anyhow, I was optimistic, but it was only a matter of time before I was let down again. So, I’m asking once again if anyone out there can help me out. I may have to follow through on changing the switches. Really, this whole thing is just so incredibly frustrating!

Once again, I am posting on this problem. If anyone can help, please do. I keep writing what’s going on because I would think the more info I give, the better odds are it’ll be solved. So, here’s the latest on my Regal’s starting problem:
In August, my dad and I cleaned just about every electrical connection on the car in hopes that that would help. It didn’t. Then I made an appointment to have the neutral safety switch changed. My luck seemed to have turned as it actually acted up while at the shop! The mechanic checked a couple things and came to the conclusion that it was a bad starter that was giving me intermittent problems. They changed the starter and it seemed to have been cured as for about two months, it started just fine. But, to put a long story short, the problem returned. The starter was changed again, it acted up again and then the neutral safety switch was changed. Later that same day, it refused to start yet again. I’m really stumped. The only remaining thing I can think of is the ignition swith on the steering column. Could this be he answer? Anyone have an idea to what it might cost to have it changed? It’s tough ceause the car is in real good shape, even though it does have 166,000 miles. But what do you do with a car that doesn’t always start? There has to be something that can be fixed somehere on this car to solve it. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.