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Shorting Out the Starter?

Hi. My “piece of junk” (as my husband refers to it) 2002 Chevy Venture broke down on me last year. It felt and sounded like a tire blew. There were no warning signs. It was very sudden. I had it towed to where I was buying it and they told me the motor was blown because I had let it run out of oil. I knew this wasn’t the case (letting it run out of oil) and so I brought it home. My husband discovered the oil pump was not working but before I could afford to put one on to see if this fixed it, it was repo-ed as I had lost my job for no transportation. For about a month, the car lot intended to take the vehicle to auction and then sue me for the rest. I was finally able to work out an arrangement with them where they held the car until I got my student loan money and paid for it. When I got it back, I expected it to start and to be able to try the oil pump. However, now it will only start when you short out the starter, runs for a second and dies. During these brief seconds, we discovered that the oil pump is pumping oil. I have a theory that while they intended to sell the vehicle, they started to fix it. But why will it only start if the starter is shorted out and then not continue to run? Will a new starter solve this? And could the motor completely blow up in a matter of minutes from the oil pump going out? If you have muddled through this to the end, thanks! If you can help me with these questions, even more thanks!

A failed oil pump is essentially the same as running the motor without oil. Some of the lower part of the motor might still get some lubrication, but upper parts of the motor (valves, and timing chain/gears) would be running dry. If the motor stopped running due to this oil starvation it is pretty much a goner. Now when things cool off, sometimes a motor can be turned over again and will run, but it won’t last long.

Now you think you have oil pressure, but perhaps they put in a new oil pump, and perhaps they didn’t you don’t know. You are jumping the starter, so the starter likely ok. The solenoid or some other part of the starting circuit is not working.

You can replace the starter, but whatever you do I think this motor is toast. With the little money you have I’d not suggest putting more money into this car. I feel you are in a tight spot on this one, but more time and money on this car seems likely to be a waste of your resources.

And could the motor completely blow up in a matter of minutes from the oil pump going out?


How did your husband determine that the oil pump was bad???

Something is fishy here…If the engine is blown then how are you able to get it running? If the oil pump is bad…then it probably is a blown engine. And I don’t see how it’s going to start with a blown engine.

Are you confusing this with a FUEL pump???

It seems likely that your engine is gone, although a second opinion wouldn’t hurt. In your financial situation, you probably have no choice but to look for the cheapest junkyard engine, throw it in, and keep your fingers crossed that it holds up for a while.

As for the starting issue, are you dealing with one of those buy-here-pay-here places? If so, some of those places have a way of remotely disabling the car when people don’t pay. Maybe they forgot to turn that off when you paid for the car.

I don’t quite follow how you paid for a car with your student loan, but I guess that’s none of my business.

It sounds like you are using a transponder key that has not been programmed to the vehicle. This will prevent normal starter operation and start and stall condition. Your blown engine is another matter.

If the oil pump quit working and you heard an explosion, and the engine died, well, no doubt the engine is destroyed.

How do you know the engine is not out of oil or extremely low on oil? Is the oil level at the FULL mark on the dipstick or in that general area?
Your post is a bit hard to figure due to many missing details.

Maybe a bit off topic here but in regard to lion9car’s comment about not following how a student loan paid for this it’s not hard to figure out. Notice all of the TV commercials for scam education degrees along with legitimate accredited universities and so on?
The government is raising an entire generation of people who will be indebted for decades, and even for the rest of their lives, due to student loans. The loans, and grants, are often for more than base tuition and this leaves students with “freebies from heaven” so to speak.

Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy court so the yoke is going to be around the student’s neck for a long, long time.

Okay. Thank you all for such quick responses. Let me elaborate. Car talk is not my best subject, so I will do my best to explain and answer each of your questions. First of all, the van still ran during all of this. As I explained, I continued to drive the kids a mile to school. It, also, ran after it was brought home from it’s initial visit to the car lot. I was often tempted to just drive it until it laid completely down, but didn’t want to do further damage. It spent a considerable amount of time in the car lot’s garage after being repoed, approximately 5 months. When it messed up, it was just very loud. It was not a pop or explosion. It was more like a chug and thumping noise. Both of those evened out if I sped up. I am for sure it was the oil pump, not the fuel pump. It is a buy here pay here but that was not the issue. When it starts now, it is not as loud as it was before, which is encouraging. However, getting it to continue to run is the problem. The junk yard motor is our only option if it is not a starter problem and they only carry a 30 day warranty.

As for the second topic of student loans. My tuition and books are deducted from my grant/loan total, and I receive the extra. Yes, I will have to pay them back, but the rates and payments are low. Without the loans I could not afford to go to school. It helps to supplement our income, especially now that I am not working at all. I assure I don’t attend a “scam education school”. I attend our local community college at the moment for my basics because it is inexpensive, and with my grades, I will transfer to a local University on scholarship for the same low tuition rate as the community college. I am majoring in Secondary Education. With three children to support, I consider any loans for my education not only an investment in myself, but an investment in their future. It will be well worth it to be able to afford a decent lifestyle instead of the current 7-10K we attempt to exist on now. The irony is if we didn’t try and would accept welfare, they would pay to fix my van. However, there is no assistance to the working person to help them keep their job. But that is a different topic altogether and I would prefer to stick to the subject of my beautiful clunker. :slight_smile:

Thanks again for your responses!

You are going to have to explain to us better what you mean by saying the engine won’t run unless the starter is shorted. That makes absolutely no sense, to me anyways. A shorted starter can do nothing but make a lot of smoke.

If you are sure there is a problem with the oil pump and you are trying to still drive the vehicle you are going to be facing a very large engine repair bill. It may be more than the van is worth. Your best option may be to trade the vehicle in for something else and extend your payments. You should pull over ASAP whenever you hear a loud noise from the engine area. It usually means something bad has happened and to continue driving it will most likely make things worse and cost more to fix. You may have broken a piston and or damaged a valve.

That is just how my husband says it. I have no idea what he means by shorting out the starter. Sorry. But it does make the car run for a minute.

Did the oil light on the dash ever come on?

This is too confusing - too much to sort out by internet. Do you have a mechanic anywhere among your friends? Or perhaps if your husband seems to know what he is doing he might type something up.

I have a '00 Silhouette, btw (same van). It is a piece of junk. If it was me, and I did need a new engine, I’d take whatever the cost of that would end up being and plunk it down on a different vehicle - comb craigslist for a chevy prism or some other inexpensive car. Ford Taurus are also a dime a dozen as are Crown Vics. These van’s are generally not worth the trouble. They need frequent attention and are impossible to work on.

The situation seems to be a no win for anyone but the dealer. It’s a shame, Charity, but you and your husband seem to be way over your head mechanically and financially. That is if this is an honest post.

Charity, is there a vocational area in your community college that teaches auto mechanics? If so, you might be able to get some advice from an instructor on your car and perhaps get it repaired for the cost of the parts by the students in the auto mechanics area.


I think I know what your husband did, and ‘shorting’ the starter is the wrong term. I prefer to use the term ‘jumping’. In the old days, we could do it with a screwdriver. Today, I typically need a jump wire.

I believe the problem is the security system. It could be the transponder in the key, like Nevada said. The security light will be on or blinking if it doesn’t recognize the key. If so, you need to follow a specific procedure to reprogram the security system for the key. If you only have one key, the dealer may need to get involved. You need at least one key the security system recognizes to program more.

If that is not the reason, now you have an electronic problem on top of your mechanical one.

Thank you so much “Busted Nuckles”. That is exactly what he was doing. The screwdriver. I really appreciate your information. I will check for the security light. There is a code in the key, I just wonder why it would stop being recognized. Possibly from sitting so long?

Charity, those Passlock security systems can just go wacky once a whole for no apparent reason. Sometimes it can be connected to a loss of battery power. Its all computer stuff & relies on computer memory.

I’ve seen reports of people trying to permanently bypass the dumb thing - but its not a straightforward thing or something everyone could do. I don’t know much about it, so I can’t recommend looking for info about it not. I just know I’ve come across internet discussions about it.

Thank you. The battery WAS dead for the duration of it’s stay at the dealer.

Charity–You express yourself well. I hope you make your goal to become a teacher.

Thank you, Triedaq! That is very kind. I have always loved and excelled in school. Unfortunately, life happens and choices have consequences. I have a very loving and supportive family, though, and do not allow circumstances to break my joy and spirit. I hope to pass my life lessons and experience on as I mentor and teach.

Charity, sorry you’re in such a jam.

Since the details you’ve explained have others puzzled, I’m wondering if this may be a whole different problem than you suspect, or maybe more than one problem. Triedaq’s suggestion to look for a vocational program at your school is an excellent place to start. If there is such, you’re golden. If there isn’t, then I’d encourage you look for a local independent mechanic who might diagnose the problem for a nominal fee. If you are upfront about being willing to pay just for the diagnosis, you’ll have no obligation to pay them to do the repair and you are being completely fair with them. And that lets them waive the diagnosis charge if they find it quickly, which is possible. (if they do, bake them some cookies!) To find a mechanic, you migh start by checking the “Mechanics Files” at the top of this page. Or make friends with people at a locally owned parts store and ask them about local mechanics. You’ll always need a trustworthy mechanic so no better time than now to cultivate a good relationship there.

No guarantees, but it’s possible that you have something simple here, and I really hope that’s the case. If the problem is much more complex and expensive, the advice given by others here to consider cutting your losses and finding another car is worth considering. More than anything else, I’d urge you to not rely on the used car lot for repair, diagnostics, or especially, another vehicle.