What wrong with my father's Oldsmobile

My dad has a 1997 Oldsmobile delta 88’, front wheel drive, V6 3.8 liter engine with A/C. It currently has about 90.000 miles to its name.

There is some form of electronic anti-theft installed

in it, although he’s not sure what kind since he bought the car used.

The problem with which I’m about to discribe began occuring about a week ago, or so he told me.

Apparently when he turns the key in the ignition to the “on” position first and pauses for about a second or so and then proceeds to turn the key to turn the car over, the car fails to start. He’s had the battery checked and the starter motor tested and all appear to be fine.

Now here is the kicker, if he inserts the key and fully turns it to start the car (no pauses), the car turns over beautifully, and runs fine.

What could this be? What could cause the car in one instance to not turn over when he pauses at the “on” position, and yet when he turns the key fully in the ingnition it turns over.

Also my father as noticed when he has started the car every morning since this problem began, the car clock has reset itself to 12:00. He’ll correct the time, next morning same thing; the clock will say 12:00.

Now he knows and I know that a reset clock is a symptom of a power loss, or battery disconect.

All battery connections are fine, and as stated before the battery (tested at Autozone) checks out fine.

Could the starting problems and the clock reset be some how connected?

For now my father is just simply turning the key in the ingnition fully and quickly to get it started.

Anyone’s thoughts on this problem would be greatly appreciated.



I’m not a tech, but I’m thinking you may have a faulty starter relay.

Does your dad’s key have a resistor pellet in it?
~Michael (dartman69)

Does it have a security system?

  Try removing both ends of the battery cables (both of them) and cleaning both the cable and where it goes very well and reattaching making sure they are secure.

When you say it “fails to start” what exactly do you mean?

It does nothing at all. It may click once or more but not turn over, or it turns over but does not start?

Yes, my father has a resistor pellet in the key. He has only one key for the car. Could the pellet be casusing the problem in question. Could the pellet be damaged in some way or just worn.

Thank you for your helpful insight.

According my father, yes, he can hear a clicking sound and a kinda of “buzzing”
sound when he turns the key in the ignition.

I would change the ignition switch (NOT the key lock part. the wire part). To get the specifics on how to change the ignition switch, you need the Haynes or Chilton’s manual (the more detailed, smaller manual, not BIG BOOK). The ignition switch is probably on the side of the steering column. The steering column will, probably, have to be lowered.

[b]When you see that the clock has reset itself to 12:00 oclock, it means at some point the battery was disconnected or there’s a poor connection at the battery.

The first thing to check on the vehicle is the positive battery terminal. As you notice, the battery in this vehicle has side mounted terminals. It’s under the red rubber cover for the positive battery terminal where corrosion can form. When this happens it can cause a major voltage drop to the power distribution center. This would explain why the clock resets itself.

When the ignition is turned to the on position, voltage is being drawn from the battery. If there’s a poor connection at the postive terminal, the resistance from the corrosion can cause the terminal to heat up. When this happens, the terminal my lose a good connection. But when you go directly to the start position, you don’t give the terminal time to heat up. So a good connection is maintained and the engine starts.

My expierience has shown that corrosion under that red rubber cover can cause all kinds of electrical problems on GM vehicles. So, the cheapest thing to try is replace the positive battery cable. And see if that fixes the problem.