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Trouble starting after sensor change

2001 Saturn SL1 162,500 miles. I just changed the camshaft position sensor after experiencing an intermittent P3041. Now, I’m having issues starting the car. On the first attempt after the sensor change, I had quite a bit of rapid clicking before it started. Second and third attempts, after driving a few miles, the car started but needed an extra crank or two. Fourth attempt after driving back home and we’re back to the rapid clicking / “ratatatatatat” noise.

Something that might have played a role in this . . . . I made a stupid amateur mistake and didn’t disconnect the negative cable before I started working on the car. I realized that when the metal socket wrench I was holding made contact with one of the terminals on the starter. Sparks flew, but no romance. I disconnected the negative cable from the battery after that. I’d think, though, if I’d shorted something out, I wouldn’t be having varying success starting the car.

I’m really hoping this is not a case of a defective, new sensor. It was a bear of a job to change that sensor – I basically had to work blind and backwards. Not looking forward to doing that again.

I appreciate any guidance anyone can provide. Thanks.

Was it P)341? See this video about the coil:

Did you clean the battery terminal and battery with a wire brush before you re-connected the battery.

Sounds like a dirty or loose connection to me

How old is the battery? Rapid clicking like this indicate a very weak battery. Hook it up to a battery charger until you reach 12.5V. When car finally starts, let it idle a bit then go for a ride.

Thanks for the responses, guys. I have to clarify, it was an error code for the crankshaft position sensor, not the camshaft position sensor, and the crankshaft sensor was the part I replaced. I’m not exactly an expert in automotive terminology and I got things garbled.

I checked the battery terminals and they look decent. I got the car started tonight after probably 5 seconds of clicking and took it for a 20-mile highway drive. Checked the battery with a digital multimeter afterward and got 12.82 volts. I dug through my records – I installed the battery almost 6 years ago, so it’s due for replacement regardless.

I’m thinking I’m going to replace the battery and see if that clears things up. And, maybe it’s just a psychological effect, but the car feels like it’s running smoother than before the sensor change. No check engine light yet, but I don’t know if it’s too early for that.

A weak and failing battery can cause irregular cranking speeds and crankshaft/camshaft fault codes, the battery seems to be the problem.

An update here from the original poster. I replaced the battery. Now the engine is slowly trying to turn over, but no ignition. Checked the voltage on the new battery - it was 12.70. The negative cable felt a little weird when I was connecting it to the battery. If I turned the ratchet too far, it would go from somewhat tight to absolutely loose. I’m not sure if that’s normal for battery cables. My positive cable doesn’t do that. Erring on the safe side, I ordered a new negative cable, so I’ll see if that does the trick. I have to emphasize that this car didn’t have any problem starting before. All I had was a CEL with a code for the crankshaft position sensor.

I do find it ironic that I’m engaging in a practice I’ve criticized mechanics for doing - throwing parts at a problem. But, the battery was due for replacement regardless and I can’t see any harm in replacing a 17 year-old cable. I will keep you all posted. I’m a long-time lurker on this forum and it absolutely drives me nuts when people don’t post back with the results of whatever they tried.

The crankshaft position sensor is unrelated to not properly cranking the engine, which is the problem you seem to be having now. Often replacing both the battery and starter motor will fix that problem, if you don’t want to do a proper voltage diagnosis. The battery cable connector shouldn’t ever get looser as you tighten it of course, probably the threads are stripped, so purchasing another negative cable seems spot on. Until you have a known good battery properly connected you won’t be able to do any further diagnosis on the slow cranking problem.

That car has a side post battery, examine the bolt and the threads in the battery to determine which is damaged. A battery bolt is much easier to replace than a cable.

I agree 100% with @Nevada_545 . . . it’s almost certainly the battery bolt that’s bad, not the cable

Probably stripped threads. Get new connectors or complete new cable.

Here’s the latest update . . . I had the negative cable on order, so I replaced it. It did involve more than I thought it would, but I got everything back together properly. The old bolt was definitely stripped – it looked like there was an entire thread missing.

On attempting to start the car, well . . . I had slightly more rapid cranking for maybe three seconds, then we were back to the rapid clicking.

It appears we’re down to the starter or the positive connection. I have a set of alligator clips for my multimeter on order and I’m researching the steps to test the starter and the connection. The starter on this car is located at the back of the engine, only accessible from underneath.

Many thanks for the replies and guidance I’ve received. If anyone has any advice for diagnosing this with a multimeter, I would definitely appreciate that. This car is not my daily driver, so I’m just going to keep plugging away at this until I figure it out. It’s becoming kind of a personal challenge and learning experience at this point.

There’s two electrical connections to the starter. Both should measure at least 10.5 volts during attempted cranking. If they both do, then the problem is likely the starter motor. If one or both isn’t above 10.5 volts during attempted cranking, work backward toward the battery to find out why. Measure the voltage from the terminal on the starter to the starter case. A set of long test leads is helpful for this, along with an analog type voltage meter (the kind with a dial and needle that points to the voltage).

Here’s the latest update. I have some voltage readings I’m hoping you can help me interpret. I’ll caution that I don’t know how reliable this data is. This was my first time doing anything this adventurous with a multimeter, and I also discovered that I have a transmission gasket leaking. Let’s just say it’s really hard to read a multimeter with transmission fluid in your mouth.

I tried to do the tests George San Jose1 recommended, along with a few others I found online.

With my leads connected to the positive battery terminal and the positive cable connection to the starter, I got 12.64 volts. With the ignition key turned, it dropped to 10.63.

With the leads connected to the negative terminal and the outside of the starter, I got 0 volts. With the ignition key turned, there was no change.

With the leads connected to the positive cable connection to the starter and the outside of the starter, I got 0.02 volts. There was no change with the ignition key turned.

I appreciate any input anyone can provide. I will certainly get back underneath the car if I missed a crucial step or anything like that. Thanks.

Update from the OP, I’m running out of ignition system parts to replace. I’m getting a lot more comfortable working on this car, but I still do not have a vehicle that starts. To recap for those who haven’t followed this . . . I had a running car with a CEL for a crankshaft position sensor. Replaced the sensor. In the process, I accidentally brought my wrench into contact with the positive terminal on the starter. Had some sparks. Regardless, the car started and ran 20 miles, but it was having trouble starting – a lot of rapid clicking involved. Replaced the (6-year old) battery and a negative cable that had a stripped bolt. But, still no start – just a slow crank followed by rapid clicking. Traced voltage from battery to starter, found full 12.6 volts reaching starter motor. Replaced the starter (starter and solenoid – all one unit on this car).

Now, the engine cranks beautifully, but still no start. Checked all ignition fuses, no issue. Using an inline plug tester, I found no power reaching any of the plugs. The plug wires are relatively new (less than 2 yrs/10k miles), so I don’t believe the issue is there. Decided to check the coils/ignition module. I was able to test the resistance on the coils. Secondary was borderline spec on both, just above 8 ohms. Primary was 1.2 on one and 1.8 on the other. I don’t have the specs for the primary, but it’s my understanding the value should be between 0.4 and 2 on most cars – and my symptoms aren’t indicative of a bad coil, so I’m close to ruling out the coils.

I also checked the ignition wires that connect to the pins on the ignition module and found voltage ranging from 0.10 to 0.30, but I have no idea what the specs for these wires are.

At this point, I think the odds are on the ignition module, possibly the coils, or possibly something in the wiring that’s beyond my abilities.

Can anyone provide the primary resistance specs for the coils or any guidance on how to test the ignition module? It’s my understanding that a bad ignition module can cause a crank/no start, but I don’t know how to test it. Thanks.

Any codes in the computer?