My 2000 Saturn SL2 doesn't like to start

I have a 2000 Saturn SL2 and am having trouble with it starting. First thing in the morning the car starts up about as well as can be expected for this model this age I suppose. As the day goess on is when I have trouble. If I drive somewhere, a store for example, park and come back anywhere from minutes to hours later the car barely starts. When it does start the RPM?s are very low and it kinda chug chug chugs up to the regular idol. Other times it won?t start at all and I have to put my foot on the gas and turn the key at which point it revs up really hard. If I let my foot off the gas it wants to die out on me so I have to keep the RPM?s at about 2000 for a minute or two at which point I can let it go back down to idol and it will run regular. When this does happen I get white colored exhaust and it smells strongly of gasoline.

Any ideas on what could be wrong and how I could fix the problem?

Any number of things could be wrong. You fix them by taking the car to a mechanic, who will be able to diagnose the starting difficulties and fix them.

I’m guessing the biggest problem is lack of regular maintenance.

You’re describing an engine that is flooded when you go to restart it. Especially with the white cloud out of the exhaust with the gas smell.

Leaking fuel injectors or a leaking fuel pressure regulator can cause this, or a defective coolant temperature sensor for the computer can cause this flooding condition.


Now it doesn’t start at all.

Like Tester said - it sounds a lot like a flooding problem. At this point you need to have the fuel delivery evaluated - and as mcparadise said it just sounds like you need to get it to a shop. Any regular maintenance items should also be taken care of then.

If you must start the engine, to take the car to a mechanic, you might get it started by: Holding the gas pedal to the floor while cranking the engine. As the engine starts, ease up on the gas pedal. Drive directly to mechanic.
If the above didn’t start it, remove the spark plugs, wipe the spark plugs clean, reinstall the spark plugs and try starting again (with gas pedal held down to the floor).
You may need a boost battery/car to recharge the battery, to crank the engine fast enough.

ou might get it started by: Holding the gas pedal to the floor while cranking the engine.

Will that work on a 2000 Saturn?

As far as I know, all modern cars (even fuel injected ones) are designed to cut fuel when the gas pedal is held to the floor during cranking. This, then, helps to flush excess fuel from the cylinders.

I have to agree with McP. The symptoms here are too wide renging and the information too sparse to even be able to say it’s ignition related, fuel starvation, of fuel metering. My wild guess would be fuel starvation, but it really needs a look-see to determine what path to pursue.

My wild guess would be a bad fuel pressure regulator.

Is there any additional information I can provide that could help diagnose this problem on here?


First: you say “it doesn’t start at all.” Does it crank and crank and crank and just won’t fire up? If not, what exactly does it do? Do you smell gasoline?

If you don’t smell gasoline: turn the key to start, but no all the way until it cranks over (just to where all of the dash lights come on). When you do that listen for a faint humming sound - anywhere from 2-3 seconds. Do it again if you hear the humming. Then do it again. Then do it one more time. Now crank it and see what happens. Report back. Any humming? Any fire? If you hear no humming you need to check the power supply to the fuel pump and may need to replace the fuel pump if it gets proper power.

If you do smell gasoline: pop the hood and look on top of the engine for a metal rail that runs parallel to the windshield - look at both ends of the metal rail for a little metal canister with a piece of black tuning attached to it. Pull off the black tube and look for liquid gasoline. If this tube has gasoline in it then you need a new fuel pressure regulator.

If it crank and hums (or even if you’re not sure about the humming), but the key on/key off cycle does nothing, and there is no gasoline coming from the fuel pressure regulator get a spark tester or a spare plug, and use it to find out if you have spark. If you don’t have spark then you need to troubleshoot the ignition system.

Report back. Report especially on the smell of gasoline, if any. Also report all of your basic maintenance items and the extent to which they are or are not up to date.

The simple solution is: check the fuel pressure at idle and at higher power levels. This one, simple, procedure saves all the other steps which have been listed. Can you do it, or, do you need a mechanic to do it?

You have a faulty (Water Temperature Sensor). Need to replace it. This is how it looks (2 Wires-Yellow & Black) sensor on the right side of your engine located right below where the radiator hose connects to the engine. That is why you have to wait till it gets cool down and start again.