Puzzling Electrical Issue for Saturn 2008 Vue


#1

Hey, folks. my first post. I’m not expecting miracles, but maybe a little perspective and ideas on what to pursue.

2008 Saturn Vue with 80000 miles on it. It started acting weird right after I had the oil changed and a headlight replaced at a local Jiffy Lube. It wouldn’t start without a jump, so I got a jump start and went to a Western Auto and had a new battery installed. Ran fine for 3 weeks after that.

One wintry Friday night after work I turned the key in the ignition switch and instead of turning over, the car was dead.No lights, no warning bing etc. So I called the tow truck and while I was waiting…the dash started blinking and the car radio came back with the default time. I turned the key and the car started up. Drove it to the dealer, told them my issue, they said they would look at it.

3 days later: Service manager said they had tried the engine once an hour every hour and it started every time. And they can’t run their diagnostics, etc, until they can reproduce the conditions. So I take it back and it works fine for two weeks.

Then in the parking lot of a convenience store, I see a weird “blink” in the dash as I pull the keys from the ignition, and the car goes dead - no flashing light in response to the key fob, etc. BUT…the key is stuck in the ignition and won’t turn, dash panel is blinking and the lights in the driver side door in time with those lights.

After about 10 minutes, things seems to “reset”, the dash clock comes back and says it’s 2007 again, and the car starts, Then it runs fine for another 2 weeks,

And three days ago, it happened again, the same way.

It seems as if my best choice is to wait until it happens again and DOESN’T ever 'reset" and then take it to the dealer. But that could happen in an unsafe place or just maybe quit in the middle of traffic or the highway.

Is there anything proactive I can do or try? Anything I can suggest to the dealer’s Service Manager? (There’s only one dealer with a Saturn technician in town that I know of, so I am sort of stuck with them).

Or should I just start saving for a replacement?

Any enlightenment would be appreciated. Again, not looking for miracles, just ideas,

Thanks in advance.


#2

I would say the most important piece of information here is “battery was replaced”.

My neighbor had similar issue and asked me to help. I found that after battery replacement, chain-store guys did not bother to clean neither new battery terminals, nor the leads on the wires. Car would start and not start erratically. Upon my check, battery posts had slight dark-lead oxidation, but most importantly, compression fittings on wires had substantial oxidation they did not care to clean at all. I used 600-grit sandpaper on both, then lubricated with petroleum jerry (did not have that “special grease” you can get for $1 in autoparts store), assembled: started right away and neighbor says it was OK ever since.


#3

Agree with above. BTW, was the battery removed to replace the headlight? Usually the headlight that is on the side of the vehicle where the battery is located is so close to the battery, the battery has to be removed. This could have started the battery problems.


#4

Bad battery connections are one of the most common issues on vehicles and one of the easiest to fix. If cleaning the battery connections doesn’t correct the issue then there is a pretty simple way to hunt for the problem.

Power to the distribution panel under the hood is usually connected from the battery via a smaller wire on the positive battery terminal. There should be a main fuse inside the panel that the wire ties to. That fuse then supplies power to the other fuses inside the panel. Most, if not all of the fuses inside that panel have power on them at all times. Since the memory power is being affected, the trouble is most likely between the battery and that panel. If the wire connection from the battery isn’t causing the problem then suspect the connection to the main fuse itself. If that okay then check the connections going to the other fuses after the main fuse. You might be able to find the trouble by tapping on suspected areas using a screwdriver handle. Having a test light probe to check for power would be good to have for testing connections to see where power is getting to. The smaller ATM type fuses can be checked by placing the probe tip on the slits on top of the fuses. A good fuse that has power getting to it will have power on both sides of the fuse.


#5

That sounds like it’s worth a try. In their defense, the chain-store guy had to replace the battery outside the store in the parking lot on a wintry November day, so haste and sloppiness were the order of the day. Thanks!


#6

Thank you, that is very helpful.


#7

Thank you all!


#8

You know, I’ve been wondering about that. The replacement headlight from Jiffy-Lube sucks anyway, barely shines at all compared to the original. I have been trying to find a rationale for it causing my engine problems.

Thanks for your helpful reply!


#9

Most headlight problems are caused by a bad connection in the connector tor light itself. They can get burned due to the high current needed by the bulb if there is a resistance at the connection. If it is bad you can purchase a pigtail connector and replace it. The trouble could be somewhere else possibly. You should at least get a test light probe to check the voltage getting to the light. A voltmeter would be even better. The lights are on a different circuit and can’t cause a starting problem. At best, they could just drain the battery so there isn’t enough reserve battery power to run the starter.


#10

Not sure if anyone is still tuned in to the issue, but hoping someone can shed some more light; wondering what outcomes everyone here had.

My wife has an '08 Saturn Vue Redline. Here’s what happened:

About six months ago, we noticed that the headlights and radio would flicker—a hardly noticeable dimming while driving. One night, we were running errands and after our last stop, we came back to the car, turned the key and nothing—NOTH - ING. No sounds, no dash lights, remote didn’t do anything, like the battery was gone. We got out and called AAA, and while we waited I would try the remote every couple of minutes to see if it’d do anything. After about 20 minutes, the remote worked, and the car started like nothing was wrong.

The next day, I took the car to my local car part store for diagnostics on the electrical system, and they said everything was working properly, and the battery was good but it needed a charge. I put it on a trickle charge overnight, and the car was good for another 2 months.

Two months later, same thing. I took the car to my mechanic who I trust, and he said it was the battery. One new battery later, the car was good.

Was good for another two months. Last week, same thing. After a full week in the shop, diagnostic test drives, and a thorough going-through, all he could find was bad wheel sensors. We did have a minor issue with the Stabiltrack and traction control dash lights intermittently coming on, but still doesn’t sound to me like it would be the culprit.

Something is draining the battery only while it’s running. From a past experience from a rental car, I get the impression cars now have a powersave mode that saves power for… well… I have no idea why. At least with old cars you could tell how much juice was in the battery by how fast the starter cranked.

Any insight—from anyone would be greatly appreciated.


#11

This post is a little old now.

Power isn’t getting to the ignition switch. The first thing to do is check the battery connections. Make sure the connections are clean and snug tight to the battery posts. If that is okay then you need to check power to the panel under the hood. Check the connections going to the panel for any issues like a loose connector. Power to the ignition switch should come from that panel and then power go to the panel under the dash. It would be good to have at least a test light to see where power is getting to when the problem happens. If things like the dome light and brake lights work the you know that power is getting to the main panel under the hood at least.


#12

The remote doesn’t do anything so it sounds like total loss of power and not just ignition switch. Checking integrity of battery cables would be first good step. They may be corroded under the post covers so inspect carefully. Also check chassis and engine grounds. Remove chassis ground and inspect lugs and chassis metal for corrosion.


#13

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR RESPONDING! Yes, the very first thing I did was check the battery connections—cleaned, tightened and greased. The car did it once again last week. My mechanic says he can’t diagnose it until it acts up in his presence, and therein lies the problem; it won’t do it for him. I tried starting the car, letting it idle for about 30 seconds with lights wipers, and air/fan on high—did this about a dozen times in a row to try to max the drain on the system. Still nothing.This is a Florida car, so no cold or salt issues, everything looks like new. Chassis ground is a good suggestion—that’ll be my next attempt but right now, the car is at a body shop because it got rear-ended. Maybe the impact fixed it. ; D I’ll let you know any updates.
THANKS AGAIN.


#14

Well, it happened again. Took it back in to have the ground-to-chassis looked at, but they said it was fine. Battery connections are good. I will check connections in the box on top of the battery and fuses, but this exercise sounds like one of the first things a mechanic would try. The biggest obstacle is that it’s intermittent, and apparently can not be duplicated on demand. So that means the next time it happens—likely at night when my wife is out running errands or shopping in a month or two—I’ll need to go out to the car. But history tells me the car will “come back to life” by the time I get there. Wish I knew how to use a voltage meter.


#15

Happened again on a Saturday in the parking lot of a Village Inn. It’s my wife’s car, and can’t tell you about the call I get when this happens. Car goes dead—can’t even get the key out of the ignition, no dome lights, no sounds, nothing, like the battery is missing. Let the car sit for 20 minutes, starts right up like nothing happened. They seem to be getting more frequent now, so maybe I’ll be able to get a mechanic to get it to act up for him.


#16

This vehicle is 10 years old and if it was my wife I would have her in our other vehicle or replace it . My getting stranded someplace is bad enough , I do not want my wife stranded anywhere if it can be avoided.


#17

My first thought when this happens is the side terminal battery connections. They use a tiny 5/16 or 8mm bolt and ere seldom tight enough or if they are tight enough they are corroded. Many times you can get the car going again by grabbing the red cable and twisting it sideways against the bolt.


#18

I KNOW! Thing is, this vehicle is a big step up for us, as we really can’t afford a brand new car. And, we’re not the type to not disclose the problem, so we’ll lose big money on the car. We bought this car because it had low miles, the owner was a friend of ours and bought it new, and used our same mechanic so we knew the history; I doubt if anyone has had more positive criteria than that before buying a car.

UPDATE: SOLVED! I ran down to her and the car while waiting for AAA and popped the hood. After staring at the inside the engine bay, I focused on three plugs that went into some kind of module that sits atop the battery cover. I started wiggling them, and everything powered up—and the car started and ran normally. Today, I’m going to inspect them, clean them, add a thin coat of dielectic grease to the pins. Hopefully, the curse is over. I’m so sick and tired of all of the electronic stuff that has been added to today’s cars—it adds expense and is more to go wrong, and harder to diagnose and repair. I see no need or redeeming value to any of it over cars of the 50 years ago.

But thanks for the concern and response.


#19

Yeah—first thing I tried. Problem has since been solved—see response to Volvo_V70. But thanks for the response.


#20

@Paul_Orlando
Older cars can also have similar electrical problems. My dad’s department head had a similar problem with his 1939 LaSalle (No, I am not making this up). LaSalle wouldn’t start --he would go for help-- help.would arrive and LaSalle would start under its own power. I have no idea 70 years later what the solution was to this problem.
Electrical problems in cars have plagued motorists for years. My dad had a 1939 Chevrolet where occasionally the headlights would go out. Then the lights would come back on. The mechanics couldn’t duplicate the problem, so my dad had a foglight installed on a separate circuit. If the headlights went out, he would switch on the foglight. The problem with the headlights was finally traced to a bad connection at the dimmer switch.