CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Sporadic lack of ignition

'99 Olds 88, @90k miles. For @last 3 years, sporadic refusal to start. I turn the key in the steering column ignition, the lights and electric stuff work fine, but the car doesn’t even attempt to start – won’t turn over. HOWEVER – if I let the car sit for 3-4 minutes, then try the ignition again, the car starts right up.



This used to happen once every 6-8 weeks, but for the past month or so it’s happening 1-2 times weekly.



I had the starter replaced about eight months ago, but that has had no effect. My trusted mechanic cannot replicate the problem and hasn’t offered a cause or solution.



Is there perhaps a problem with the chip in the ignition key? Or perhaps someloose connection involving the ignition and the automatic transmission shifter in the steering column?



More annoying than anything else, but I fear it will become more frequent and eventually a real hazard.



Thanks for your assistance.

Most likely a bad battery connection … make sure the battery posts and the connecting clamp surfaces are scraped clean of all lead oxide deposits.

Do a little reasearch (find the RPO code as to how you vehicle is equipped in regards to security systems) as you may be onto something as to why your car refuses to crank.

I need to know which system your car uses to help you eliminate or fix the security system. I am not so sure your key has a “chip” in it. I will back up some,first place to look as to how your car is equipped is owners manual,the go to the RPO code (this placard is often on the underside of the cover for the spare tire in the trunk,sometimes its in the door. UA6 is a general Theft Deterent System but its not telling me what type of theft deterent).

Wow! Thanks for the tip. This car originally belonged to my mother, and before she took possession of it c.2000, the dealer who sold it to her installed a security system. When I started using the car about five years ago, the security system was so hypersensitive – it would start honking at the most inappropriate times – that I simply quit using it – but did not disconnect it — and just forgot about it. Hadn’t even considered that possibility! I will definitely pursue this angle, Many thanks, OldSchool!

If you do not hear a starter solenoid click sound when the key is turned to the START position it’s also possible the cause could be a faulty neutral safety switch.
That can be a common problem with automatic transmission cars of any make.

Next time it acts up, shift the transmission into NEUTRAL and attempt to start it.
If it runs then the neutral switch is likely the cause and I’m surprised your mechanic has not considered this possibility.

I read about this elsewhere and did try to start it in neutral – no go. That was several months ago, though, and I should mention it to my mechanic just to see if he can make any use of it. Thanks for the reminder.