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Old 10-06-2017, 07:15 PM   #1
cdinges
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Default Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Spring of 2016 my 97 SL2 with 145K miles started to have intermittent issues with severe loss of engine power and has even died on me once or twice. My best guess is fuel starvation. However it was not effected by hills or acceleration, even just cruising down the road all of a sudden it would sputter and cannot maintain speed, then after a few seconds the engine would come back to normal and the car could accelerate again.

I have no engine codes, the only thing I have noticed is it would not happen on cool mornings and in the afternoons (above 70) it would get more and more often. I purchased a new truck last spring so I put the car in storage, now I want my commuter car back and am trying to troubleshoot it to get it back on the road.

Today in the driveway it started to act up while I was letting it run, I pulled spark plugs one at a time and they all had a severe miss on the engine so I know its not an ignition issue. No codes so I dont think its a sensor.

I replaced the fuel pump years ago due to the system loosing its pressure when the car was off causing long crank times to start.

I am going to replace the fuel filter but I dont see that being the issue with heat related symptoms and no P0087 Low fuel pressure codes and the immediate cuts in and out not related to throttle position or RPMs

Anyone else have any ideas?
Also before I parked it I ran a few tanks of fuel through it so I know it was not a bad tank of fuel, however now the tank has 1.5 year old fuel in it. I am going to pump it out when I have the fuel filter off and put in new gas.

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Old 10-07-2017, 04:21 AM   #2
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

I had something similar on another vehicle, turned out the ICM was bad. Seemed to act up only when the weather was hot or the car sat in the hot sun before starting to act up. After pulling the 2 coils and then getting the sensor out and replaced, it has never acted erratic since.

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Old 10-07-2017, 02:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Are you sure it is P0087? That doesn't sound like a valid code to me. Regardless, there is no fuel pressure sensor on the S-series so whatever "pressure" that code refers to can't be the fuel pressure. Use a mechanical pressure gauge with a long hose to watch what FP does as the engine acts up while driving. That will be cheaper and easier than just throwing a fuel filter or pump at it.

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Old 10-09-2017, 03:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

You can ignore the code I gave, I googled GMs code for low fuel pressure. I assumed that these cars had a fuel pressure transducer and would send a code if that it sensed it.

When the car was running rough I pulled spark plug wires one at a time to see if there was a change in the way it ran and each one effected it. unless an ICM can screw up timing a little so it doesnt run smoothly but still fires I dont think thats the issue. However usually if it sits for a few weeks on first start It runs rough for a few seconds, I get a CEL and the code is #3 misfire detected. it usually doesnt have an issue after a few seconds when it throws the code after startup.

In the meantime I found videos to clean the ICM and will hook up a pressure tester to it. Crappy part is its getting into cold months so it might take forever for it to have a problem again to where I can troubleshoot it.

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Old 10-09-2017, 08:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

I gotta ask... have you checked/replaced the ECT sensor?

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Old 10-10-2017, 07:34 AM   #6
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Did you check proper gaps on your Spark Plugs?
Change the Plugs and Wires?
Clean the Coil Pack Towers or even swap them out for new ones.
What is your Engine Compression? Standard should be 185 psi across all 4 cylinders.

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Old 10-15-2017, 04:09 PM   #7
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Sorry it took me so long to reply, I finally got some time to dig into it a little.

Cyl 1
.040 Gap
189 PSI
SP looks new

Cyl 2
.040 Gap
181 PSI
SP looks new

Cyl 3
.042 Gap
182 PSI
SP Carbon Coked, replaced it (possibly causing the misfire every once in a while.

Cyl 4
.040 Gap
182 PSI
SP looks new

Here is where I finally got somewhere:
Fuel pressure

Cold Idle 36 PSI
Throttle blip pressure spikes to 42 and stabilizes at 36

After hour of idleing
Pressure would hunt between 20-30 psi
When somewhat stable at 26 PSI a throttle blip would drop it to 20
Never did stutter or lag like what I am trying to do.

After the hour of idling I took it for a short drive and it did hesitate, not bad but it did show itself. Today is somewhat cool at 58, I think if it was 70+ the pressure would drop even more and the issue would be more present.

Just to address the ECT suggestion (assuming maybe it was bad and the car was overheating but the sensor was not telling you so) The OBD2 reader says the car sits between 200-220, when it hits 220 my fans kick on dropping the temp. So I believe it is cooling correctly.

So after all of this I am pointing to low fuel pressure related to temperatures. Cold it is steadily 36-42, when it gets hot it drops to 20-30.

Fuel pump was replaced with Autozone one 30k miles ago, could possibly be going bad.

Never changed fuel filter that I know of just needs to be done but I dont see how heat can cause it to restrict flow and cause gradual decrease in power changes, also be worse under throttle demand.

Fuel regulator? is this near the engine to where it warms up and stops functioning properly?

I do want to point out that when it does act up it immediate response flipping back and forth between normal and dying, like a flip of a switch. maybe fuel pump turning off and on. or if someone knows how the saturn fuel regulator operates it could point to that.

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Old 10-15-2017, 04:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

I just started thinking about the fuel delivery sequence. Correct me if I am wrong,

Fuel pump--> Fuel Filter--(test port, reading 20-42 psi)-->Regulator--> Fuel rail

I read on another thread that the fuel pump should have a delivery pressure of 46-94 PSI. So if if my sequence is correct at the pressure port built into the line after the fuel filter I should be reading over 46 PSI, correct?

So must be pump or filter

I will just change the darn filter

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Old 10-15-2017, 05:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Yes, test pressure at that port on the rail, but both the two ranges you mentioned (20-42 and 46-94) sound way too wide. Somebody will post the correct range.

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Old 10-20-2017, 10:31 AM   #10
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Earlier this week I ordered a fuel filter from Amazon, O-reillys, autozone, and chevy dealer did not have one in stock. The new one will be here sometime today but I wont be back home to install it until Sunday.

While I am waiting does anyone else have any input on the fuel pressure?

Does anyone have a diagram on how the fuel delivery system works on the 97 SL2? such as the regulator, fuel return line if this one has one, ect..

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Old 10-20-2017, 10:58 PM   #11
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Expect between 40-55 psi at the fuel rail (downstream of fuel filter/pressure regulator). At 145k miles, the fuel filter should have been replaced at 100k miles to rule it our since its between pump and injectors. The filter also has a pressure regulator. Unless you have a way to measure fuel pump pressure before the filter/regulator, replacing the filter/regulator should be first. The best way to determine if the pump (145k miles) is on its way to failure is to disconnect the inlet fuel line to filter and connect a pressure gauge to measure pump pressure. Ideally, a 'T' fitting would be the best way to assess pump operation with engine off and on. And if at all possible, leaving the pressure gauge connected may help determine where pressure is lost. [I've done this years ago to another car but the pressure gauge was in the engine bay so I could observe pressures at any time] It helped me find the problem - a worn pump switch. I wouldn't suggest leaving a pressure gauge under the car as this is an individual choice with safety in mind.
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Old 10-21-2017, 12:07 AM   #12
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Expect between 40-55 psi at the fuel rail (downstream of fuel filter/pressure regulator).
That's for '98-'02's with a different fuel system from '91-'97's.

The filter is on the front driver wheel well, the regulator is on the fuel rail and the filter should be replaced every 25-30k miles.
key-on-engine-off: 38-44psi
Operating/running pressure: 31-36psi
If the pressure is higher, then test & probably replace the FPR.
Lower pressure requires more part testing & diagnosis, mainly checking the FP for proper output and checking for blockage's in the fuel line.

Fuel system (I don't have a full system diagram, just wiring diagrams): Tank -> Pump -> filter -> test port -> FPR on fuel rail -> fuel rail -> injectors -> return line

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Old 10-23-2017, 04:37 PM   #13
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Unfortunately today has been a very disappointing day. I had high hopes when I pulled the supply line to the fuel filter to find the draining fuel from it was very brown and full of debris. I thought for sure it was a clogged fuel filter.

After I Installed the new filter and serviced the K&N air filter I started it up and it ran great. I backed it out of the driveway and let it idle for about 30-45 minutes while I washed it and my truck before I put it in the garage for the winter. Never had a hiccup while I washed the rigs and the overheat fan kicked on and off a few times so I knew it was up to temp. After that I repositioned it in the driveway and turned it off thinking it was fixed.

After a shower I hopped in the car going to take it to the auto parts store to check the fuel pressure just for fun and to get a fresh oil change. after I started the engine it idled fine for about 10 seconds and then had the severe loss of power again and died. After that I was able to get it started about 4-5 times with it to reach idle speed and immediately struggle and die.

It may be a sign but I let the car sit off for about a minute while I opened the hood to check for signs of fuel leaks, maybe a fuel line came off. I couldnt find anything so I started up the car after a minute of sitting, the engine started and instead of idleing it fired and went straight to about 2500 rpm and held for about 5 seconds and then back down to a smooth 800 idle. After this the car idled no problem for about 5 minutes until I turned it off.

So the issue is still there, I will get a fuel pressure tester again to see what happened to the pressure but I did verify in the Haynes manual that the pump delivery pressure should be 46-96 psi, it is a wide range. I will see what pressure I get after the fuel filter now.

I would question the integrity of the injectors now that I found the fuel filter so dirty but I would think one bad injector would still allow the car to run but miss just like a bad plug. This issue the car will completely die so my next target like said before will be to clean the coil packs. Maybe one is going bad and it cuts out two cylinders while it acts up. We will see.

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Old 10-23-2017, 06:24 PM   #14
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

The problem that can hide from any fuel pressure measurement are the failing ones that don't tell you anything at a glance. A perfect example was my car having intermittent problems that were either ignition or fuel.

My car (years ago) was a first generation EFI system and a learning curve for me to understand EFI. My fuel filter was by the engine without a fuel test valve all cars have so I had to create a 'T' fitting so I could monitor pressures at all times without hoses - a direct gauge connection to the 'T' fitting. The engine had less than 50k miles on it so this was unusual. A distributor ignition system still prevailed and didn't seem to be the issue. It was purely serendipity when I went to look under the hood while on lunch break with someone when the engine idling died in front of me. I quickly glanced at the fuel pressure gauge and saw zero pressure (no fuel check valve back then to see residual pressure when the engine is shut down) but it pointed me to the fuel pressure switch by the air mass sensor, a simple set of contacts moved by air flow. All I had to do was tweak the arm a bit and polish the contacts with a card and never had the intermittent hiccup occur again. Purely by chance with the hood up, engine idling, pressure gauge connected and the engine suddenly dying as I quickly glanced over to the gauge. Its almost impossible to setup monitoring unless everything comes together at the same time when looking for something odd.

Having a fuel pressure gauge connected for as long as it takes to wait for what just occurred to is difficult to suggest to anyone not seeing the perspective of a fleeting problem that pops up on it own without any rhyme or reason. It would have been appropriate if a pressure gauge were already connected so you can see what pressures were the moment the engine died. The difference between your EFI system and my first gen EFI system is GM decided to use a fuel check valve to maintain pressure between pump and injectors for more than several minutes (hours) where older EFI systems didn't use a check valve. Having test equipment can be a valuable aid when hunting for an elusive problem that comes and goes away on it own.

With an old car with over 100k miles, GM doesn't warrant parts after a new car warranty expires. Everything on our cars go downhill sooner or later. My L300 gave up its fuel pump with less than 85k miles, long after the new car warranty and not what I expected when it was determined pump failure.

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Old 10-23-2017, 07:43 PM   #15
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Well, I will say again and then let it drop: a pressure range of 46-96 makes no sense. Consider that the Haynes manual may simply have an error there. All manuals have some errors, and Haynes seems to have a poorer reputation than most. Anybody else care to comment of what FP should be on this beast?

I gotta peek through this thread again, see if a plugged cat has been properly eliminated as a possible cause.

OK, after I see that FP was getting down to 20 psi after the engine had run a while. Is that still true? No need to consider anything else (like the cat) as long as you know the FP is bad.

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Old 10-23-2017, 07:55 PM   #16
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Well fdryer I was on the same wavelength as you about driving around with the fuel pressure gauge.

After the fuel filter change the pressure was 42 with the key on, 34 with engine running, and spikes up the 42 when the throttle is hit, basically the same as before.

I drove it down the street to my dads and let it idle in the driveway while we chatted, I saw the pressure drop to its lowest point of 10 psi so I immediately took it down the road, the acceleration was sluggish but never cut out like before. As I drove further down the road the pressure steadily climbed to 36-40 depending on throttle. It never did drop again and the car performed like normal. This is the first time it was fully warmed up and doing over 30mph in over a year. it had steady pressure down the highway at 60mph for 10 min before I returned home without issue. For the bleed off test the pressure at shutdown was 36 and bled off to 12 psi within seconds and held steady there. so according the the Haynes manual the max bleed off pressure is 3 psi after 5 minutes, indicating a failed test.

Now it is all pointing to a fuel pump. I replaced my first pump about 5 years ago (40K miles ago) so must have got a bad autozone pump.

Now I have an old filter that I can rob the fuel fitting nipple and hook the gauge directly to the fuel supply line and then hotwire the pump to run for a while and monitor the pump pressure.

In the meantime I want to thank everyone's help and advice in advance, it is all appreciated giving me some troubleshooting paths. I apologize that it takes me so long to throw parts at it, it has been a great car but the intention is to save money with it and keep miles off our new rigs. Throwing pumps, filters, plugs, coils, and sensors at it is against the cause of the car. I am trying to make sure money is spent in the best way possible to keep this car as a money saver so I will troubleshoot everything to death before I need to spend money on it. My time wrenching is just the fun of it.

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Old 10-23-2017, 08:17 PM   #17
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

cdinges, personally, I wouldn't place any value to bleed off pressures after the engine shuts off. Who cares? The engine doesn't because its off. The premise of pressure remaining long after engine shutdown to allow quick startup is a shallow explanation. Pressurized fuel lines are small diameter and help pumps develop pressure instantly - just one observation of pressure when someone turns on ignition should tell anyone how quick pressure develops. The important part of fuel pressure is while starting and running in all speeds, conditions and weather extremes where pressure should never vary at all because pressure deviation alters how much fuel is injected. Having consistent and reliable pressure with no more than one or two psi fluctuation minimizes part of the fuel mixture issues with EFI systems to have precision and control emissions. A pressure drop of more than say 5 psi is cause for concern after eliminating fuel filter and pressure regulator. As far as injectors, if they were ever considered as part of any troubleshooting then the entire car world with EFI system is in a world of hurt because the fact is there are rarely any injector issues. Any real injector problems can be blamed on poor fuel, filtering, pump, and magic elixirs poured into gas tanks that aren't compatible to injector longevity. Its extremely difficult for anyone to prove injector failure since if one injector fails then why not the rest in the same engine? Blaming injector failures is putting blame on not knowing where the problem lies from lack of thorough troubleshooting to eliminate everything before concluding injector failure.

Your pump dropping dramatically, once and never dropping again as drastically is a hint. When considering every failure mode a fuel pump can suffer, momentary pressure drops are difficult to see unless a person sees it and correlates it with engine power loss and all other variables are eliminated. This is not ordinary experience shared easily so testing in the simplest way possible can help narrow the problem. And if you search past threads, the S-series suffer aftermarket pump problems when the stock OEM pump is the only reliable one.

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Old 10-23-2017, 08:45 PM   #18
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

I wasnt aware that the aftermarket pumps were prone to early failure. The factory pump lasted only 100K so I was hoping the aftermarket was better.

Looks like the fuel pump is the issue. Factory pump is $227, I can afford it but it really blows the annual savings out of the water vs driving the new rigs (if thats the only thing that breaks). Annual insurance and licensing is $540 a year just to have it on the road legally, not including fuel and oil changes. New truck gets 20mpg vs saturn 32. not sure if its really financially worth it.

Who am I kidding? its been my go-to car for the last 10 years, I will end up putting a new pump in it. It must live on.

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Old 10-24-2017, 10:49 AM   #19
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Default Re: Intermittent loss of power, no codes

Quote:
Originally Posted by cdinges View Post
Who am I kidding? its been my go-to car for the last 10 years, I will end up putting a new pump in it. It must live on.
lol, so true.

I believe the aftermarket Carter P74845M or Bosch 67385 (oem?) fuel pump is recommended, and the Airtex has frequent failures?

http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=142900

Carter $117.79 plus S&H at rockauto
http://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo....452875&jsn=257

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Last edited by alordofchaos; 10-24-2017 at 11:01 AM..

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Intermittent loss of power fred_putty S-Series Tech 13 04-08-2002 11:45 PM


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