The Truth About Cars » ignition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ignition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Too Big To Fail, Too Confused To Operate: Analysis Of 619 Pages Of Cobalt Engineering Documents [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799138  

DSC_9144
The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out of the “run” position; and in the case of several accidents, allowed the ignition cylinder to rotate out of the run condition before or during accidents, causing the airbags to not deploy when required.

The documents, totaling 619 pages (some with repeat info), reveal just how deep seated “old GM” was in their cost cutting ways (Driving down supplier costs to the point of sacrificing quality, admittedly poorly designed ignition cylinder, and removing internal quality control on the parts), and just how blind sided “new GM” was during their investigations. It also confirms how suspended engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the ignition switch response, and fuzzy problem solving. Full text and an analysis of key documents below.

We already know the basics of how this happened, but it’s still surprising just how ingrained GM was in putting the issue aside. The key issues are these:

  • GM became aware of the ignition issue in the 2001 preproduction Saturn Ion and the 2005 preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Gary Altman initiated the report that lead to the insert, and Ray DeGiorgio consulted on the fix and argued against ignition switch changes.
  • Many different options were proposed, including suggestions from Delphi.
  • Cost played a major role in the decision to not recall the ignition switch early on.
  • The later key insert was the result, and was seen not as a fix, but as a “containment.”
  • GM also had very little oversight on parts from Delphi, only relying on Delphi’s incomplete testing.
  • GM’s engineers knowingly put the cars to market with a defective ignition switch.
  • This lead to ISB #05-02-35-007.
  • In 2006, DeGiorgio eventually signed off on design changes for Delphi, that included a stronger spring and plunger for the detent mechanism in the ignition cylinder, which provides a physical resistance between the different key positions.
  • When implemented in 2007, the new ignition cylinders cost less than a dollar per unit more than the original design; $400,000 to retool the production lines. These are the same changes that were deemed “not an acceptable business case” in 2005
  • As company, however, no one knew who signed off on the change until the Melton family lawsuit.
  • In court, DeGiorgio testified that he was unaware of changes to the ignition cylinder that would have effected the detents, only mentioning the key change..
  • Later investigations showed that the Cobalt had a substantial number of airbag warranty claims.
  • Higher level GM representatives broadsided by NHTSA’s investigations and disapproval of their slow reaction to other recent recalls.

First up, Gary Altman’s and Ray Giorgio’s role in the ignition cylinder issue is a problem. In court, Altman claimed that he did not feel that the Melton’s car was “unsafe.” This coming after submitting the initial mechanical complaint about the ignition falling out of run, in 2004:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf
During the investigation, several different approaches to modify the ignition cylinder were brought up to DeGiorgio. All of which were quickly dismissed by DeGiorgio, because the switch was already “very fragile,”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (1)
Later on, all fixes were dropped, as it wasn’t deemed necessary. With a tight deadline and budget, the engineers could not justify any of the fixes at the time, as it wasn’t an “acceptable business case.”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (2) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (3) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (4)

In 2006, DeGiorgio finally signed off on a design change for Delphi. The design change included  a stronger spring and longer detent plunger to increase the force needed to switch the key between different positions, along with an unrelated electrical upgrade. In an unexplained move, DeGiorgio did not assign a new part number to the improved switch design. The design change added 90 cents to the parts cost, and about $400,000 in tooling costs.

 

cobalt report 3
docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD047.pdf (1)

But, with this large of a role in the decision to delay the redesigned ignition switch, DeGiorgio claimed that he was not aware of any mechanical changes to the switches during his testimony in the Melton family suit against GM:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD056.pdf
Though, he did sign off on the changes, and worked with Delphi to test batches of ignition cylinders that contained an upgraded PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and detent plunger:

cobalt report 14

democrats.energycommerce.house.gov sites default files documents GM-Commodity-Validation-Sign-Off-2006-4-26.pdf

 

Curiously enough, though, is that GM had very little oversight on Delphi’s quality control, and Delphi did not check the rotational torque needed to turn past the switches detents. GM simply accepted Delphi’s parts and trusted their QC. But with rumored tensions between GM and Delphi, it’s said that cost cutting measures might be to blame as GM forced Delphi to push prices down, sacrificing parts quality. If this were true, GM’s choice to outsource QC to the supplier left them in the dark for too long, preventing them from seeing the immediate effects of their problems with Delphi:

cobalt report 4cobalt report 18

While this was going on, GM released the key insert as a “containment solution;” it would be the minimum needed to alleviate the problem for effected customers. This was chosen over two other modifications to the ignition cylinder, which were seen as a “partial solution” in the case of adding an additional detent mechanism to add more resistance to rotating the key out of park, and a “sure solution” involving moving the ignition switch higher up on the column, using a gear drive system to reach the rotary switch responsible for selecting which electrical circuit to run on. The added gearing would also increase rotational torque, the design stated.
cobalt report 11
cobalt report 12cobalt report 13
In 2007, the NHTSA began to probe into the surprising number of airbag-related complaints, despite “GM’s indications that they see no specific pattern.”
cobalt report 15

The issue was set aside, for the most part, until GM was informed by the Melton suit that there was a possible design change in the switch, based on an investigation into junkyard-found switches from the effected models. The testing showed that there was a noticeable change in detent torque, but no documentation from GM to show the changes. The GM engineers and representatives in the case were caught off guard by this design change, and began an internal investigation. This investigation lead GM engineer Brian Stouffer to find the documents that showed DeGiorgio signing off on design changes with no part number change.

cobalt report 5cobalt report 16
Finally, the most impressive point of this story comes from GM’s reactions to the NHTSA’s investigations. The NHTSA emailed GM asking for clarification on several other recalls, documenting GM’s reactions to other product issues with a disdain for GM’s penchant for doing the least amout possible to avoid full recalls; ie: regional recalls for parts failures in the rust-belt states. Saying that some were broadsided by this information would be an understatement:

cobalt report 19[...]
cobalt report 19

The response by Mike Robinson, VP for environment, energy and safety policy, sums up GM’s perception and confusion over their responses to the Cobalt issue, and several other poor recall responses in the past. “This note from NHTsA, both the content and tone, comes like a bolt out of the blue,” he states, “We worked way too hard to earn a reputation as the best and we are not going to let this slide.”

cobalt report 19
To summarize, GM is its own worst enemy. They responded poorly to incredibly early reports, dismissing the issue too quickly as a casual problem. With reports going back to 2001, during the Saturn Ion development, there is no reason why the switch should have come unmodified to the Cobalt development; never mind the dismissal of the problem before the car was produced. Ray DeGiorgio’s role in this problem is larger than he initially lead on in the Melton case, though his motive in this discrepancy is unknown at this time.

Full text to all 619 pages can be find here.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/feed/ 121
GM Found Ignition Switch Issues In 2001 With Saturn, Updated Chronology, New Study Shows 303 No-Airbag Deaths [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-found-ignition-switch-issues-in-2001-with-saturn-updated-chonology-new-study-shows-303-no-airbag-deaths-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-found-ignition-switch-issues-in-2001-with-saturn-updated-chonology-new-study-shows-303-no-airbag-deaths-w-full-text/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:45:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771081 DSC_9022
General Motors released their updated chronology to the recall effecting the 2007 and earlier Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR; Pontiac G5 and Solstice; and Saturn Ion and Sky. Most of the new chronology works just to update the document with the expanded recall, but there’s a key update:

During the Saturn Ion development in 2001, a preproduction model had  an ignition cylinder problem that was caused by, you guessed it, “low detent plunger force,” the result being that it takes a low amount of effort to knock the key out of the “run” position.

The 2001 Saturn Ion pre-production report goes on to say that design changes to the ignition cylinder seemingly eliminated the issue. However, in 2003 a report documented an instance where an Ion was brought in for repair, and the technician servicing the car experienced a situation where the Ion stalled while driving, due to the key rotating “off.” The technician noted that “[t]he owner had several keys on the key ring,” and initially thought that “[t]he additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch.” The technician replaced the ignition cylinder, and the report was closed.

As we discussed in previous posts, Technical Service Bulletins (known by GM as Information Service Bulletins, or ISP for short) is the result of several field reports on a common issue, and is eventually entered into a database known as the General Motors Vehicle Information System, or GMVIS for short. ISB’s are not found by a tech unless they are searching for a related issue. Thus, the 2003 example above is an early report that lead to ISB  #05-02-35-007.

Also outlined in the updated chronology deals with Saturn’s  sensing and diagnostic module (“SDM”), which differs from the Cobalt in that it is designed to stop recording once the engine of the car is no longer running. This means that crash data from a Saturn Ion SDM is not as conclusive as a Cobalt’s, which continues to record the ignition position during an accident in which the engine has been turned off.

Despite this, GM believes that the ignition cylinder issue has lead to eight accidents and four fatalities involving a Saturn Ion. At least three accidents involving the Chevrolet HHR can be linked; but no accidents involving a Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky have been found by GM. This brings the confirmed number of accidents to 31, and total number of deaths to 13.

The New York Times reports that in a study initiated by the Center for Automotive Safety (“CSA”), a private watchdog group, Friedman Research Corporation analyzed federal crash data and found 303 deaths linked to no airbag deployment in the recall-effected vehicles. The study does not link these no-airbag crashes to the ignition switch maladies, but questions why the NHTSA took so long to react to a mounting problem with the Cobalt and Ion.

In the letter to the NHTSA, CSA states the “NHTSA should have and could have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags are not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers.” And GM has began its own internal investigation, hiring former United States attorney for Northern Illinois, Anton Valukas to investigate.

“Research is underway at G.M. and the investigation of the ignition switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing,” Mr. Martin, the G.M. spokesman, said. “While this is happening, we are doing what we can now to ensure our customers’ safety and peace of mind. We want our customers to know that today’s G.M. is committed to fixing this problem in a manner that earns their trust.”

What have we learned through all of this? The engineers and technicians did their job, and GM had every piece of the puzzle; but as explained in the chronology, each piece was scattered about by an alphabet soup of committees. The review process let us down, both with Delphi’s quality control in the early switches and GM’s internal reaction to the situation. Further investigation will hopefully lead us to fully understanding the error in GM’s review process.

The full text of the updated chronology can be seen here.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-found-ignition-switch-issues-in-2001-with-saturn-updated-chonology-new-study-shows-303-no-airbag-deaths-w-full-text/feed/ 49
GM Knew About Deadly Defect For Nearly A Decade, Dismissed It In Technical Service Bulletin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-knew-about-deadly-defect-for-a-decade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-knew-about-deadly-defect-for-a-decade/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 02:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750297 cobalt TSB1
GM is recalling 778,000 units of the 2005 through 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 over an issue where the ignition cylinder inadvertently turns out of the “Run” position, there by turning the car’s main electrical systems “off”. These systems include the engine, anti-lock brakes, and airbag systems. According to USA Today, GM knew of six deaths, and twenty-two other wrecks related to the ignition failure, and was aware of the defect since 2004.

The recall was issued last week to replace the ignition cylinder on effected models, but the problem is, GM knew about this failure early in 2006 in a Technical Service Bulletin, or TSB for short. In fact, the Cobalt and G5 have had two more ignition related service bulletins in the last few years, which TTAC has obtained.

Upon examining the full text of the 2006 TSB #05-02-35-007A, which dismisses the issue as a mechanical fault almost immediately, TTAC learned that dealers are instructed to adjust customer’s habits before carrying out the apparent fix, which involves changing the shape of the key ring design on the factory key.

According to court documents sourced by USA Today, GM is being sued by the estate of Brooke Melton, who died on March 10, 2010 when her Cobalt lost electrical power and she lost control of the car. This happened despite Melton’s car being returned to her from the dealer after ignition switch repairs, according to the Melton estate’s lawyer, Lance Cooper.

Lance Cooper also added that Melton’s car was not equipped with the modified key GM used for the TSB #05-02-35-007A repair, despite having just left the dealership for ignition cylinder repair.

Full text of TSB#05-02-35-007A and a full understanding of TSBs below:

#05-02-35-007A : Information on Inadvertent Turning of Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical System and No DTCs – (Oct 25, 2006)

Subject: Information on Inadvertent Turning of Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical Systems and No DTCs [DTC stands for Diagnostic Trouble Codes]

Models:

  • 2005–2007 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2005–2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2005–2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada Only)
  • 2007 Pontiac G5
  • 2006–2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2003–2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2007 Saturn Sky

This bulletin is being revised to add a model year. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 05-02-35-007 (Section 02 — Steering).

There is potential for the driver to inadvertently turn off the ignition due to low ignition key torque/effort.

The concern is more likely to occur if the driver is short and has a large and/or heavy key chain. In these cases, this condition was documented and the driver’s knee would contact the key chain while the vehicle was turning and the steering column was adjusted all the way down. This is more likely to happen to a person who is short, as they will have the seat positioned closer to the the steering column.

In cases that fit this profile, question the customer thoroughly to determine if this may [be] the cause. The customer should be advised of this potential and should take steps to prevent it — such as removing unessential items from their key chain.

Engineering has come up with an insert for the key ring so that it goes from a “slot” design to a hole design. As a result, the key ring cannot move up and down in the slot any longer – it can only rotate on the hole. In addition, the previous key ring has been replaced with a smaller, 13 mm (0.5 in) design. This will result in the keys not hanging as low as in the past.

Part Number: 15842334
Description: Cover, Dr Lk & Ign Lk Key

This is one of many TSBs related to ignition problems with the Cobalt, among other GM models. Most of the issues were lesser related to the ignition cylinder itself, and more to do with the key being locked into the ignition cylinder when the shifter’s neutral safety switch failed, locking the key in.

But the first line in the TSB description states that there is a fault with the low amount of effort or torque needed to twist the key out of the “Run” position. The method advises by the TSB is to tell the driver to reduce the number of items on the key chain, and presumably adjust their driver position to avoid contact. It’s a fair mention, since having an excess amount of keys on a key chain can wear out the key and tumblers, which would mean it would be harder to ‘unlock’ the cylinder.

But in this case, it sounds more like the weight or size of the key chain can allow the key to back out of the “Run” position, thereby powering down all major driving systems. With the engine down, power steering is gone, and power brakes now only have a short reservoir of vacuum left — enough for one, maybe two pumps of the pedal. With the key out of the “Run” position, safety systems like the anti-lock brakes and airbags are no longer powered up.

In the worst circumstances, such as what was documented in the TSB, it’s easy to see how this would cause an accident. No matter who you are, or what kind of driver you suspect you are, the situation is very dangerous. Even with engine stalling issues for other vehicles, at least the anti-lock brakes and airbag system likely would be powered if there was an accident.

There’s different methods in which suggested repairs are sent to a customer, there are TSB’s (GM calls them Interstate Bulletins, specifically), and there are “Campaigns,” otherwise known as voluntary recalls. When a vehicle comes into a GM dealer, they check the General Motors Vehicle Information System, or GMVIS, for Campaigns.

Now, here’s the kicker, Techincal Service Bulletins are not displayed in the GMVIS report. TSBs are not required repairs. These are not recalls, and customers are not informed of TSBs, and they are only checked for by a service tech when there is a related repair. In this case, the customer would have to bring a car in with ignition problems for a tech to find the TSB.

This is standard practice for the industry, and it works this way for almost every manufacturer. But, whether or not something of this nature should have been left to a TSB and not a Campaign is another issue.

cobalt tsb key

Poorly Photoshopped representation of the suggested 2006 key fix.

The hard solution in 2006 was to change the shape of the key ring hole in the key, from a slot to a hole. This would give the key chain less leverage on the edge of the key, reducing the key chains ability to rotate the key in the cylinder. 

Below is a photo gallery of related TSBs with the initial problem description, along with the full description of the NHTSA Campaign issued last week.. The ignition interlock issues were repaired by diagnosing and repairing the shifter assembly. It is unknown at this time what ignition cylinder issue Melton had when she brought in her Cobalt for repair.

cobalt TSB 3 cobalt TSB 2 cobalt TSB1 2006 CHEVROLET COBALT   Safercar   National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  NHTSA  (1)

 

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-knew-about-deadly-defect-for-a-decade/feed/ 101
Piston Slap: a Camry Car Wash Conspiracy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/piston-slap-a-camry-car-wash-conspiracy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/piston-slap-a-camry-car-wash-conspiracy/#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2012 11:28:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461314

Scott writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Recently I took my 1999 Toyota Camry (2.2L 4-cylinder) to a touchless car wash with underbody sprayers. This was a car wash that I used often, so I had good luck with it until this one particular day. Prior to getting it washed the Camry ran fine all afternoon, including during the wash.

However, after I left and drove about a quarter-mile down the road, the car acted funny–running rough, no power, etc. This happened sporadically, so one second it would “act up” and then it would run normally for another half of a mile and then “act up” again. As I was trying to nurse the car along to get me back home, the check engine light came on and the hiccups became more frequent until it ran poorly, period (the entire trip, from car wash to my house, was about four miles in stop-and-go traffic with speeds up to 30 MPH). Conveniently the engine stalled just as I parked it in my driveway. Long story short–I had to get it towed and the mechanic had to replace both ignition coils. Was this just a matter of coincidence, or was there a possibility the car wash somehow affected my vehicle?

Thanks in advance for the help.

Sajeev answers:

This is pretty scary: it’s a conspiracy by the automakers to damage the sterling reputation the Camry’s durability! I’ve never heard of this problem with livery drivers (in regularly washed Panthers) so I suggest you find the nearest Mercury Grand Marquis for sale and BUY IT…SON!

I’m realizing that I need a Panther Super PAC: I’d make a difference in our society!  Hey, if Colbert has one, why not the Crown Victoria?

But I digress. It’s unfortunate that water vapor does this, but it is true. One of the cars in the Mehta garage is a Mercedes buyback because of this exact problem. Or was. But that’s not the point: power washing is bad for electrics, but older motors with older rubber bits are susceptible to even a bit of vapor from regular car wash use.

Let’s make this simple: odds are your Camry needed a FULL tune up (plugs, spark plug wires, fuel filter etc.) anyway, and the magic powers of water vapor was the last straw.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/piston-slap-a-camry-car-wash-conspiracy/feed/ 21
Piston Slap: Throwing (Ignition) Parts at a (Fuel) Problem? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-throwing-ignition-parts-at-a-fuel-problem/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-throwing-ignition-parts-at-a-fuel-problem/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 11:07:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434665

 

Chris writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Long time lurker here.  Since you asked so nice, here’s a problem that I haven’t managed to troubleshoot myself, and so far my own searches & forum postings haven’t nailed an answer. My girlfriend drives a 99 Mazda Protégé.  If driven for an extremely short distance (like from the street into the garage), it will not start the next morning.  It turns over just fine, but doesn’t catch.

I’ve found that I can eventually get it to start by holding the gas pedal to the floor & cranking, followed by easing up on the pedal slightly (maybe 1/2 or 3/4 of the way down) & continuing to crank.  This process takes 5 – 10 minutes, so there’s lots of breaks in there as well.

Almost everything on the spark side has been replaced for different reasons (I was chasing engine codes the wrong way).  So I’m pretty sure it’s not battery, spark plug/wire, or coil pack related.  Simiarly, I’ve changed the MAF, O2 sensors, cat, & the acordian hose that feeds from the intake to the throttle body (the hose being what was actually causing the codes, BTW).  None of these changes seemed to affect this particular problem.

This lead me to believe the problem must be fuel delivery in some way, but now I’m second guessing myself.  The problem seems to happen most often when it’s cold & damp outside (by Georgia standards).

Normally I’d have changed the fuel filter by now, but it’s not a separate unit.  It’s attached to the pump & sits in the tank.  That’s probably going to be my next step.  Before I do that I wanted to run this by you.  Any ideas?  Someone suggested the the charcoal canister could be trapping water vapor (since the engine is never hot), and then forcing that vapor into engine when I try to start it the next morning.  I’ve never played with that before, but if that’s right then shouldn’t there be a hose I could disconnect & see if the car starts?

Anyway, if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  This isn’t an urgent problem, but it’s one I’d like to be able to solve.

Thanks

-Chris

PS, here’s another write up of the problem, just in case I missed something.  Mine’s the 3rd post.

Sajeev answers:

Thanks for your letter. I like the post on the Mazda Forum, especially since you did my homework for me. And by your own admission, you threw parts at a problem instead of finding the proper diagnostic for the engine codes generated.  Are the codes still present?

Your problem sounds like a lack of fuel, and I seriously doubt that’s a stretch for me to armchair analyze that from my remote vantage point. Check the fuel pressure with the key on, engine off.  Compare the reading on the gauge to what your EFI system needs to run properly.  If you are at the lower end of acceptable (or worse) you have found your problem.

Maybe a bottle of fuel system cleaner in the tank is all you need.  Or maybe a fuel filter.  Or maybe the fuel pump itself. Or maybe the fuel injector’s resistance is out of spec. Or maybe the fuel pressure regulator, or its associated vacuum plumbing. My point is, this is hard to guess from my laptop.

My advice is to start with a fuel pressure tester and buy a filter, maybe a pump after that. Also make sure the vacuum lines to the regulator aren’t fossilized, gooey or cracked. If they aren’t as soft/pliable as the rubber on your shoes, replace them.

Good luck on your hunt, I am sure your girlfriend appreciates your hard work…provided you never, ever throw parts at a problem again.  Never again, son!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-throwing-ignition-parts-at-a-fuel-problem/feed/ 22
Piston Slap: I’m on tonight, you know my Gauge don’t Lie! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/piston-slap-im-on-tonight-you-know-my-gauge-dont-lie/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/piston-slap-im-on-tonight-you-know-my-gauge-dont-lie/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2011 21:07:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421334

 

Dave writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I just bought a 2000 Saturn LW1 6 weeks ago.  It has a L4 2.2 Liter engine with 200,000 miles on it.  After 3 weeks out of the country I came back and started it up.  Was a little rough then smoothed out.  I just changed parking spots.  Did this one more time.  The third time starting it up it would not fire.  No strange noises, just no running engine.  I suspected bad ignition coil.  I had just changed the spark plugs before my trip and they had about 50 miles on them.  Ignition coil was fine at all four points using a ignition tester.  I even put new plugs in again.  Fuel rail has the specified 60 PSI.  Theorizing that may the fuel injectors were shut down i tried starter spray in the air intake.  The motor will not fire.  A compression test with a gauge picked up at advance gave me less than 10 PSI on the two outer cylinders and about 24 on the two inner.  The Haynes manual is very unhelpful and only states for compression specs. that the lowest compression cylinder value should be no less that 70% of the highest compression cylinder value.

I read on-line (http://www.saturnfans.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1781795)  the same but that no cylinder should be less than 100 PSI.  While cranking the engine there was some light smoke visible behind the engine above the exhaust manifold, but unable to determine the source.

My question is: are you aware of catastrophic head gasket failures on these engines?  I am surprised that the engine will not fire at all even if the head gasket does have a problem.  I have removed the valve cover and see that the timing chain is still there and working.

When I changed the plugs last month I applied anti-seize thread sealant to the plugs as instructed in the manual.  I am now having wild imaginings that the anti-seize thread sealant got into the cylinders and impregnated the gasket and is somehow responsible for this catastrophic failure.   I am going to tear into the engine tomorrow and try to replace the head gasket, because i need to get this car running again ASAP.  I am being hopeful and unrealistically optimistic that I cold get some input/ thoughts from you before morning when I start this laborious task…

Ideas?

Sajeev Answers:

You are in a tough spot: a seemingly severe mechanical failure. This is when we tend to trust everything we see or read, even if we shouldn’t.  It’s not your fault, but you need to verify what you are seeing.  It’s like getting a second opinion when a doctor tells you that you have 6 months to live. Because the lack of compression has sent you down a path of diagnostic madness. Which truly sucks.

So try another compression gauge.  I don’t know why, but these things are terribly unreliable and not durable. Bang it around in a toolbox in your garage (or the rental counter at your local parts store) and the needle won’t move nearly as much as before. The odds of you losing that much compression on all cylinders that quickly just doesn’t add up: so I think the tester is bad.

I think you need to check for spark the old-fashioned way…put a screwdriver in the end of a spark plug wire and lay it near a piece of metal…you should see a spark when you crank, and it should be pretty strong.  Google this for more information.

Good luck.  I suspect the ignition module finally crapped out.  Did yours ever get the recall?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/piston-slap-im-on-tonight-you-know-my-gauge-dont-lie/feed/ 43