Cad start

						Oct 21, 2011

Car Talk Plaza
Box 3500 Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA 02238

Dear Tom and Ray,

I have a very disconcerting, anxiety-generating problem with my 2001 Cadillac DHS. It has been a very good car for the past 85,000 miles. I am 86, and I wish to drive it until I am bound, at some time, to fail state driving test.

For approximately a year, when attempting to start the car in my garage or anywhere driving about, the car will fail to start when simply turning the key in the ignition. For no apparent reason the engine fails to start. After many, many attempts to start the engine with the key, there is nothing there. It may take one or two extra turns of the key or many times, approximately 8 times more or less, before it starts. It has never failed to start eventually even after using the second and third original equipment key.

My Cadillac dealer has not been able to diagnose the problem because the car computer has never shown a fault of this nature. Consequently they have been unable to resolved the problem. I have in one instance, after the car failed to start, had them send a mechanic with the necessary equipment to read the car computer, and he could not locate anything. And with the first turn of the key, by him, it started. The problem is additionally concerning when I have friends with me going out for dinner at a distance from home and not having confidence in getting home safely.

I have not been able to get any information from General Motors World Headquarters and other local Cadillac dealers. I left the car with my Cadillac dealer to test it off and on for four days and with no discernible fault occurring.

It would be helpful if someone would be able to give me advice on how to proceed.


H. James Thrall

I think a good independent mechanic is what you need. It could be as simple as a bad battery or bad connection on the battery cables. Those connections will not throw a code. Do you have to have your foot on the brake to start the car? Seems in fuzzy memory some Gm cars were set up that way.

Thanks for your comments I think the battereis ok but will have them check them again…My memory is fuzzy too as I’am 86 but will try on and off too. Thank

Take apart the battery cables to make sure there are good clean connections.

When you make these 8 attempts at starting the vehicle. DOes the engine Crank over or “Turn Over”? Or do you not have any mechanical movement after you turn the key? I BELIEVE that you are stating that the engine is actually turning over but not Firing up and running. Is this the case? I will proceed as though this is true.

You may be having a fuel pump issue. I know it is difficult to hear but Cadillac’s have a very distinct fuel pump “hiss” sound when they are running. To the trained ear it is easy to hear. If you had an independent mechanic come to see the vehicle I would suggest to him that the fuel pump may be suspect…so that he can bring a fuel pressure gauge to test this theory.

If you were located in the Philadelphia area I would come out and take a look. Let me know if you are close enough to my area.

Thanks for your comments but when I turn the key I get no indication of any thing. I just repeat again and again and then the engine starts up. Thanks. Jim

Could be in the ignition switch itself.

Ah…hah… Then it does point to the ignition switch itself Sir. Just as Goldwing states

Thanks again for your help. My dealer checked all suggestions then ordered and installed a new fuel pump costing approx. $800. Then several days later the car failed once again to start. Just contacted dealer and now am considering replacing ignition switch costs approx. $325. Plan to proceed in next few days. Do you have additional comments and suggestions.

Before doing anything else have them check the condition of the battery and check to make sure all the connections are clean and tight. It only takes a loose terminal at the battery, starter, or ground, or small amount of corrosion on the battery posts/terminals to prevent getting enough electricity to the starter to turn the engine over. I agree it could be the ignition switch, but no need to spend the money replacing it if 15 minutes of checking and cleaning will fix the problem.

You won’t get Tom and Ray here but you will get an assortment of mechanics and DIYers who try to assist as much as possible even though it can be difficult sometimes without having car in hand.

Seeing as how there is stone silence when this problem occurs my first suspect would be the neutral safety switch. (This switch is what allows the car to start in PARK or NEUTRAL only.)
The next time it acts up you might shift into NEUTRAL and see if it starts.

Other possibilities could be a security system fault, bad ignition switch, or a corroded or scaled over junction terminal if so equipped. I do not know if your car has the junction terminal or not but many GM cars do have them. It’s very easy to check and clean if necessary as it would be located near the positive terminal of the battery on the chassis of the car underneath a small plastic cover.
Hope some of that helps.

Thanks to all for their excellent help. Starting problem has now been finally solved. In short, the problem was the starter #REM904867. Total cost ended up being $420.88. Great to have the car back working well. Much do to your cooperation and advice. Thank you.

I hope you got the dealer to un-do the charge for the other expenses that are the result of an incorrect diagnosis.

Diagnostics are done to narrow down a problem. MOST good dealerships WILL take out anything they put in that does not resolve the issue, or refund the charges. You will pay what the correct diagnosis should cost, as well as the parts that were needed.

If they refuse to do THAT, then calmly suggest that only parts and labor should have been charged, and request a refund of ALL diagnostic fees, as they did not correctly determine the problem.

The customer is not always right, but the customer should not pay for what is not needed. VERY few parts need to be installed, to then determine if there is another issue. MOST issues can be measured electrically, after the trouble codes are pulled. PINPOINT DIAGNOSTICS are what you paid for, not reading a code and tossing parts at the problem.