Sometimes Car Won't Start

My girlfriend has had trouble starting her car (a 2002 Pontiac Grand Am) during the past few months, and despite having mechanics look it over several times, we still don’t know why this is continuing to happen. It only occurs intermittingly (sometimes several weeks apart) and usually just in the morning, although it will often turn over later that very same day. No sound other than the radio can be heard when she tries to turn on the ignition. I initially thought the starter was the source of the problem, but the shop she took it to thought differently and replaced the battery. A short time later, the car wouldn’t start as though nothing at all had been changed. They came to investigate when it happened again just recently and decided that corrosion on cables connected to the battery was responsible. They cleaned it up back at the shop, but the next morning it was apparent that other forces were at work when the car simply would not start. My girlfriend has understandably become quite frustrated and has given up hope of ever resolving this problem. Neither one of us is very savvy when it comes to automotive matters, so I thought I’d check in with you guys and try to benefit from your expertise. Any idea what could be causing this and why it’s been so difficult for us to figure out?

We very recently have been discussing a very, very, similar situation with 2 Chevy Impalas.

My Chevy has a mind of its own

Click this link to have a look.

First Update

After going and looking at the similar question: My Chevy has a mind of its own, let’s agree to discuss here, to keep it simpler.

What I think I have found out:

I do not suspect a bad starter or crank relay as much any more.

This appears to be a fairly common issue with these GM built cars of this era that use a “Passlock” (GM trademark) security system (see: Owner’s Manual).

While trying to start the car, very occasionally, I think the car believes, mistakenly, that someone is trying to steal it! When this happens the vehicle’s security system disables the car’s fuel injectors (no fuel, any more) and the crank relay (can’t even turn it over) and you can’t start it, for ten minutes! Poke a turtle and it does the same thing. It pulls everything inside its shell for 10 minutes, until you leave!

So, what would make it think that? Many things: a bad BCM (Body Control Module), corrosion of wires on BCM connector, a bad ignition switch, a bad key, etc.

It seems as though the ignition switch is a likely suspect (and most dealers seem to stock them). Although the key used to start this car has no “chip” like a “passkey” system has, there are fussy sensors in the ignition lock/switch assembly that decide if you are tampering, with a screwdriver or wrong key to steal it, or really have the correct key and you just want to get to the doughnut shop.

I was told to try this the next time it fails to start so that… 1) It starts, and 2) It helps narrow down the culprit:

  1. Try a different (spare) key (I know it sounds hokey), but this comes from a brilliant GM service guy. (Maybe they wear down.)

  2. I was told to turn the key to “ON” and leave it for up to 10 minutes (I think the security light is blinking) and after ten minutes (or when light stops) it should start right up, possibly.

  3. I saw a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin for technicians) that says: Delayed crank, may be necessary to hold key in START several seconds until starts. I haven’t gotten any more info other than this brief summary, but I think maybe you just hold the key over to “start” position a while and see if it starts to crank over(?)

You do have the Passlock security feature, correct? Let me know what you think.

Does anybody else have any other ideas?

Could be the ignition switch itself. That wears out too. Good luck!

This would sometimes happen to me in a GM car that has the little resistor chip on the key shaft. It seemed that if I didn’t insert the key properly (I don’t know if it was not putting it in all the way or maybe doing it too fast - I could never figure it out) the anti-theft system would kick in. It was very intermittant, so I never finally figured it out.

Thanks, but as I pointed out in my post, the switch is already a key suspect in the case. The dealers all seem to stock them. They don’t like stocking parts, for several year-old cars, that don’t sell. Also, my guru “does quite a few of them,” to fix problems of this nature.

Well, we just picked up the car from the shop today and were told that the ignition switch was replaced, so that confirms your suspicions in this particular case. What’s odd is they couldn’t actually see anything wrong with the switch even though that was apparently the cause of the problem. The guy who towed the car in for us mentioned that he suspected the ignition to be faulty since he had seen a lot of this happening with other Grand Ams. Anyway, thanks for all the information you’ve provided for us, and hopefully this’ll be it until something else crops up.

You’re welcome for the information. Thanks for the feed-back on the 2002 Grand Am about the ignition switch replacement. My son has not yet replaced the one on his 01 Impala, but it is sounding more and more like what it needs.
Thanks, again
Good Luck

A similar problem has just been posted as:
starting a 99 malibu

Find it in current posts or click the link below: