Car shuts off randomly - Maintenance and Repair Forum

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Car shuts off randomly
Monday, September 03, 2007 5:07 PM
Hey guys, I was out today trying to get my 97 back on the road to get ready for winter. I haven't driven it very much this summer but it has run no problem. Today I did some brake work and I took it out for a spin. As I was coming up to a bend in the road I went to turn and I had no power steering. I realized the car was completely off as if I had turned the key. Many of the lights were on in the cluster. I didn't realize the car was shut off because I was just kinda coasting. So I thought nothing of it, parked it, started it back up no problem and continued on.

About 15 minutes later I was turning onto my road and it died again. Same deal with the lights in the cluster, and once again started without a problem.

Any ideas where to start looking? It's not giving me a check engine light at all.




Re: Car shuts off randomly
Monday, September 03, 2007 6:10 PM
sounds like Alternator...
Re: Car shuts off randomly
Monday, September 03, 2007 6:29 PM
Why would it start right back up though without a problem? I'll take the voltmeter out to it tomorrow and see what its putting out.



Re: Car shuts off randomly
Monday, September 03, 2007 10:54 PM
Sounds very much like the ignition switch. Let me guess, this is what happens:

You're driving, the car "shuts off", but not really, the dash lights are still on and everything is lit up exactly as it would if you had the key in the ON position?

I've had this happen on other GM vehicles, and seen it happen to friends as well. On my Jimmy, it got really bad though. At first, yeah, it turns back on right away, but then it takes longer, and longer and longer. In that vehicle it became very dangerous, as when the power steering and brakes went, it was hard as hell to turn and stop (it's a well-known, well-encountered and well-documented problem on the '97 Jimmy though).

There was actually a recall on these on Sunfires/Cavaliers at one point in time because they would overheat and literally begin to burn up and melt the wiring. Something to look into...

Check this article out on how to install it, but it's super simple on J-Bodies though, and takes about 5 minutes to do: Ignition Switch Installation Article





Re: Car shuts off randomly
Tuesday, September 04, 2007 9:21 AM
HELFENBEIN wrote:

Sounds very much like the ignition switch. Let me guess, this is what happens:

You're driving, the car "shuts off", but not really, the dash lights are still on and everything is lit up exactly as it would if you had the key in the ON position?

I've had this happen on other GM vehicles, and seen it happen to friends as well. On my Jimmy, it got really bad though. At first, yeah, it turns back on right away, but then it takes longer, and longer and longer. In that vehicle it became very dangerous, as when the power steering and brakes went, it was hard as hell to turn and stop (it's a well-known, well-encountered and well-documented problem on the '97 Jimmy though).

There was actually a recall on these on Sunfires/Cavaliers at one point in time because they would overheat and literally begin to burn up and melt the wiring. Something to look into...

Check this article out on how to install it, but it's super simple on J-Bodies though, and takes about 5 minutes to do: Ignition Switch Installation Article


That sounds exactly like what its doing. That's an awesome article. Thanks a ton, I'll give it a whirl doesn't look that hard and/or expensive.



Re: Car shuts off randomly
Wednesday, September 05, 2007 4:50 PM
Well...small delay. Got the switch, got the stuff apart no problem. Don't have a small enough star socket.



Re: Car shuts off randomly
Wednesday, September 05, 2007 7:20 PM
I've actually used vise-grips (the plier-style ones) to start them off, though it's still a tight fit. As for the socket needed, you can use a regular socket (it doesn't need to be the Torx-style). I can't remember off the top of my head what the size is, but I think it's around 4mm.





Re: Car shuts off randomly
Friday, September 07, 2007 1:42 AM
I know you already got the parts, but my car was doing this off and on for a couple weeks, and it turned out my fuel pump relay was failing. Replaced it (10 bucks) and voila, haven't had that problem since.



Re: Car shuts off randomly
Friday, September 07, 2007 2:38 PM
Just got the socket today (ordered a few more sizes so this never happens again, I hate not having the right tools for the job). I wish I could edit that tutorial because that socket isn't available at "any local auto parts store". What a pain in the butt it is to get to that back one even with the right socket. Cars aren't made for people with pudgy hands. LOL. Anyways switch is installed and i'm going to take it for a spin after dinner. We'll see if she still does it.

Greg Z thanks for that input, i'll keep that in mind in case that switch isn't the problem.



Re: Car shuts off randomly
Sunday, September 09, 2007 2:34 AM
I had a similar thing happen on my GFs Sunfire with the fuel pump relay. I was stumped (I actually changed out the ignition switch earlier on when diagnosing as I had an extra one lying around and wanted to rule it out). After I dropped the tank, checked and tested the fuel pump, fuel lines and fuel pressure, I started putting everything back together and happened to knock the FP relay with the fuse panel cover and noticed a response from the car. It turned out to be the receptacles that hold the relay prongs in place. They had somehow become widened, and every time I would start the car, the good ol' violent J-body start would shake the relay enough to make it lose contact. Once it lost contact it would shut off as a result of the lost connection. It was just a quick fix of bending the four slots back in so that when I insert the relay now, it takes a pair of pliers to get it back out.

The main difference I found between diagnosing these though was, with the ignition switch failure I could still drive the car, but would experience the periodic power loss flashes. With the fuel pump relay issue, I couldn't even start the damn car (except for the odd time when it would keep contact for maybe 30 seconds), never mind drive it.




Re: Car shuts off randomly
Sunday, September 09, 2007 8:35 AM
With the fuel pump relay going bad wouldn't the car spit and sputter then shut off because of the loss of fuel?

So far so good with the ignition switch. Drove it for a half hour friday, no problems yet. Still not 100% convinced yet, but only time will tell.




Re: Car shuts off randomly
Monday, September 10, 2007 10:05 PM
For me personally, and I would assume in all cases if the relay was in fact done for, the car won't even start. No connection equals no fuel which equals no engine turnover. Yes, if it happened while you were driving the car would run on the limited fuel that was left in the lines, but as mentioned, if the relay's done or the connection is bad, it won't even start.




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