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'94 Oldsmobile 88 Won't Start

My car is a 1994 Oldsmobile 88 Royale with only about 75k miles on it

Recently I was driving my car and it slowed to a stop on the freeway. The lights were still on and the car would still function so the battery and alternator are out of the story.

When I try to start the car all I get is a grinding noise, she doesn’t turn over she just grinds until I stop trying to start the car.

She was low on oil but I never got any sludge in my coolant, or any mixing. The coolant is still full, I’ve filled her with oil and checked her transmission fluid those are fine. She wont start with a jump I still just get a grinding noise.

Could it be the starter? Hitting on the flywheel?
Or the Ignition switch?

How low was the oil? Was the engine making any unusual noises or was there a loss of power before it quit? Did the engine stop suddenly or did it sputter as if it were running out of fuel? Was it overheating?

Worst case possibility: the engine is seized. The starter gear is grinding against the flywheel because the engine won’t turn.


26 yrs old. 3k miles/yr? How often were you changing oil? Yearly? More?

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The oil was low but not low enough to cause problems. She made no noise when she dies. No it wasn’t overheating.

The oil wasn’t dark or milky, she was a little low, but not low enough to cause problems.

Grinding noise: the same rrr-rrr-rrr you always get when you start the car? Or a noticeably different sound - maybe metal on metal screech?

She doesn’t turn over: do you mean the starter motor keeps running but the engine does not start and run?

how many quarts did you have to add . . . ?!

Ask your mechanic to verify it’s possible to rotate the engine manually, with a socket/ratchet on the crank pulley bolt. If that’s ok there may be an electrical problem, maybe with the battery itself, or something is preventing the battery from fully charging. A discharged battery could power the dash lights and the radio, but might not be able to crank the engine properly. That can cause the starter to engage and disengage rapidly with the key in “start” and result in weird buzzing noises that some might describe as “grinding”.

Asking a shop for a battery/alternator test makes sense as a first step too.

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The big issue is whether the grinding noise is the normal noise of the starter. If so, there is nothing wrong with the electrical system or the starter. The trans has nothing to do with the car stalling. One thing though is I believe that there is a shut off on the oil pressure sensor that will shut the fuel pump off if the oil is too low. So I’m thinking the most likely cause is a fuel pump or something like the crank sensor. It really needs to go to a shop though for testing. No if the engine is not being rotated (turned over) with the starting motor and you get a horrible grinding noise, sure the engine could be seized. Either way a shop is going to have to do a diagnosis.

It is not the regular grinding. I’m gonna take her to the shop when I get my tax return. It grinds really low not like when I am trying to start her.

I put in about a quart. She wasn’t that low. But I should have gotten an oil change, I don’t think oil is the problem.

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Please note that the car DID NOT make any noise when she died on me, and the grinding noise is NOT the normal noise. I had to add one to one and a half quarts but she was still over the first notch in the dipstick. I don’t think it’s the oil at all.

Well, when the timing chain strips the sprocket, you can get a weird sound when you crank the engine over. But yeah time for a shop to look at it. One thing you can try is to have someone run the starter for a few seconds and take a look at the engine to see if you see the belt and accessory devices (alternator, etc.) moving. That will tell whether the engine is seized or not. Also if you really try, someone can look though the oil filler hole to see if the lifters inside are moving when you run the starter motor. If not, it suggests a timing chain problem. Been there is how I know.

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I definitely need to get her into the shop but checking to see if everything is running is a good idea. Thanks I’ll try both to see if I can get an idea for what info and research I’ve done to give to the mechanic.