Jim Grant's Tech Tips
`02 Saturn L300, Bad Starter?
During a recent school trip with my ’02 Saturn L300, I was driving down the turnpike with 3 teenagers in the back seat with the dome light on for entertainment. After about 60 miles, we stopped for a bathroom break. When we got back to the car it would not start. I tried a jump, no good. So that we could get my daughter to her tournament on time, I decided to deal with it later. I left the car and went on in another car. 12 hours later, we were back to replace the battery or whatever it took. It started right up, no problem. One time, 2 years earlier, my daughter left the map light on. The car would not start for awhile. Then, it started right up. Any explanation?? I called Saturn, but they had no clue and just wanted me to bring it in. I would like to get this resolved, but I need to save money.
Leaving a map light on in a vehicle that is not running will run the battery down, resulting in a no start condition. But batteries can sort of, kind-of regenerate themselves. Under the right conditions, the lights or whatever that is left on can drain the battery enough so the starter will not crank the engine. But if the light or whatever that was left on is turned off and the vehicle is allowed to set, the battery will recover. Not that it will recover fully, but recover enough to start the engine. Just recently one of our customers was at her son’s football practice and had left her headlights on. The result was a vehicle that would not start. After setting overnight, the battery recovered enough to allow the vehicle to be started. The battery did test low, but had recovered enough to start the engine. That may explain why your vehicle started 2 years ago after your daughter left the map light on. Back to your other event. There is no reason for a starting problem because the map light was on while the vehicle was being driven. After all things like headlights and heaters & A/C use much more electrical power than a map light or 2. The jumper cables would get you around most any battery problem. If the jumper cables were installed correctly (all connections good) and the engine did not crank over then the starter would be suspect. Also I would not rule out human error. How is that? Are you sure the shifter was fully in the park position? There is a safety switch that will not allow the starter to work unless the transmission is in park. Sometimes that safety switch can be just on the edge of being in the right position but not right enough. A wiggle of the shifting lever can correct that problem. Have the starting and charging system tested in your vehicle. If no problem is found try turning on the map light, maybe it is some new antitheft device.