2002 Park Avenue... weird no start

84ZZ4

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Hi all,

I've been trying to diagnose a weird intermittent no-start condition on my 2002 Park Avenue (base model) for some time now. This is complicated by the fact that it's my wife's car and it hs never once failed for me. It doesn't help that the car has also been going through about a fuel pump every 6-18 months for several years now, which makes troubleshooting this issue even more difficult, because half the time the reason it won't start is that the fuel pump has failed.

However a couple of days ago it decided to fail while she was close enough for me to drive over and troubleshoot it while it was still refusing to start. I tried the following, in order:

First I tried just starting it. The car refused to start, but cranked fine, and it did sound like some of the cylinders were firing. Thinking the engine might have flooded, I used "clear flood" mode (pedal all the way to the ground while cranking). This caused it to crank smoothly, without any attempt at catching. When I released the pedal while cranking, it struggled to start and almost caught a few times (getting up to about 1000RPM). Further feathering of the gas pedal while cranking almost got it running, but it never got much about 1250RPM, and it always stalled out immediately when I quit giving it extra gas.

Second I checked to see if there was fuel pressure. I didn't have a gauge on me, but I did poke the schrader valve with the key and fuel shot out under high pressure. So that eliminated the fuel pump.

Third, I tried a few more times, this time with my scan tool attached. The engine showed a cranking RPM of about 250RPM, which if I remember correctly eliminates either the cam sensor or the crank sensor (can't remember which). but couldn't get it to start, so we gave up and called a tow truck. The truck took about 10-15 minutes to arrive and it took about 30 minutes to tow the car home.

Fourth, as soon as the tow truck driver left, I went over and tried to start the vehicle again, and it started up immediately and idled smoothly. Revving the engine sounds normal, but, I haven't driven the vehicle anywhere since then as we can't afford to both get stuck somewhere. This seems to eliminate any internal engine problems.

So I'm at a loss as to how to further troubleshoot this, since it refuses to do it more than once every couple of months and NEVER at home where I have my tools. I'm fairly certain it's not the fuel pump or any sort of internal engine damage. It doesn't feel like a bad plug to me either; for one thing these engines will run (albeit poorly) on 5 cylinders, for another I don't see how it could have fixed itself after 45 minutes.

I'm leaning towards one or more ignition coils as the issue, but could it be the ignition module itself, the crank or cam sensor, or something else I haven't thought of? Anyone have any suggestions on what to do next? (Aside from convince the car to be more considerate and consistent in its failure, which I have tried but have gotten nowhere on.)

Edit: Forgot to mention, at no point did the PCM store or display any trouble codes.

Edit 2: My wife says apparently this was the second warm restart. She drove to the gas station, shut it off, put in a few gallons, and it restarted fine. She then drove to the grocery store, shut it off, and when she came out that's when the car refused to start.
 
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MelsRegal

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Have you removed the coils and ICM just to examine them for signs of any electrical issue, connectors, ground, etc.?
 

84ZZ4

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Coils, yes, but not since this last failure since it won't stop raining. I took them off before, when it had this weird stuttering going up a hill that vanished two fuel pump replacements ago. Didn't see anything then. I don't think I've ever had the ICM off this particular car.

Don't know if I'll see anything, but I'll give it a try, maybe I'll get lucky. As an aside, I also had the coils off my '01 once, when it started breaking up badly over 4000 RPM or any time I got into the boost--no visible indication of any issue and they measured correctly, but replacing all three coils solved the issue.
 

2007LucerneCXL

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Not sure as it appears intermittent witch almost anything, but the number of fuel pumps replaced is high by most standards. Can't say it's because of the quality of the pump or if it's a electrical issues as that would be something to consider as it doesn't seem that has been solved.
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imidazol97

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I keep thinking of the CPS problems that were common. Have you tried taking off a plug wire and putting it on a spare spark plug lying on the engine metal and watching the spark while cranking to see if it's there or if it's consistent or just sporadic?

The CPS magnetic field weakens with age and then the hot engine causes it to not trigger the signal to the spark control module. If it does it again, you can try cooling the CPS with water poured on it.



Also I don't know that I have a link to it, but there was an online help manual for troubleshooting these electrical problems that involved checking the voltages at the various wires into the spark control module. This verified the CPS was giving the right input.

Does someone know the online problem-checking link? It helped with various engines and problems.
 
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HotZ28

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Have you checked the MAF sensor with a scanner, or just simply unplugged it to see if the symptoms change? How about the fuel pressure regulator, have you disconnected the vacuum line to check for raw fuel in the hose?
 

84ZZ4

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Okay, sorry for the delay, had an account issue but it's all sorted now. I'll try and answer all the questions.

HotZ28, MAF was reading normally when cranking during the no-start (in fact all of the basic sensors were reading normal during cranking). I did not think to check the fuel pressure regulator, if it ever decides to do it again I'll check that. I can check and see if there's any fuel in it after idling and letting it sit, as well.

However I did have a bad pressure regulator in my '99 4.8L Chevy Truck once, though, and the symptoms didn't match--you could get it to start with no problem by cranking it in clear flood mode for a bit and then cranking normally--or if you were just willing to crank forever until it finally started (it would clear the flood on its own and finally catch).

imidazol97, not familiar with the abbreviation "CPS", is that the crank sensor or the cam sensor? Is there any way these sensors can fail and still allow one or more cylinders to fire? I'd assume they'd be "all or nothing", and at least one of the cylinders was definitely firing even during the no-start condition (as I could get it to struggle and "almost" catch). If the CKS/CPS either works or disables spark to all six cylinders, that's not going to be it.

2007LucerneCXL, regarding the fuel pump, yes, I am heartily sick of changing them. I've changed the pump *once* in my '01 Ultra during the 80,000 miles or so I've owned it, and that was the original, and I haven't had to change it again. I never see anything wrong with the pump itself (as evidenced by the fact that I never get any pushback on warranty replacement), but this time I found a fine gray particulate in the fuel filter when I replaced it--looked almost like the crap you used to get in your carburetors float bowl from some fuels. The only difference between the cars is my wife always fills up at the Circle K and I always fill the Ultra up at the Sheetz. I've asked her to stop filling up at the Circle K for now just to see if that's the problem.

Tomorrow during the day I'm just going to disconnect one ignition coil completely and see if that mimics the symptoms. Open to any other suggestions to add to that and the fuel pressure regulator.
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84ZZ4

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Due to work and personal emergencies, I never got a chance to do anything before we were forced to take the car somewhere, where it promptly left us stranded again. The good news is that I was able to verify that there was no fuel in the fuel pressure regulator (bone dry, in fact).

Since I was there from the very start this time, I can add a little bit more to the description of the problem. When we finally came back out after the car had been sitting for over an hour, it started right up, got up to about 1500 RPM, and then stalled and would not restart. After letting it sit for 10 minutes, I was able to replicate that behavior again, normal start, rev to about 1500RPM, and immediately stall again.

I tried waiting less time (only a couple of minutes) and the engine would still start and catch, but it would only rev up to about 500 RPM and then immediately stall.

During the "catch and stall", no amount of throttle would keep the engine running, but the initial "catch" sounded normal. After each "catch and stall", some time needed to pass before trying to run it again, or it exhibited the symptoms in the first post.

I didn't think to check the MAF at the time, I was so frustrated I wanted to set the car on fire.

Edit: Drove back out with a friend to pick the car up less than an hour later and it started fine. Drove it home about 15 minutes, shut it off, restarted it twice, no issues. Tapped on the MAF with the handle of my door panel removal tool, no effect. I'm going to let it sit for a little bit before trying to start it again as it has always sat for >30 minutes hot before refusing to start.
 
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84ZZ4

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Every attempt to convince the car to no-start again has ended in failure. We've taken it out a couple of times on short trips without shutting the engine off (as thus far it has never stalled while running, just failed to re-start). Nothing so far. It's started manifesting an occasional rough idle, which is the first symptom it's shown aside from the no-start condition.

On the last trip out it pitched a check engine light before we even got off of our street, but as our scan tool is in the trunk of our '01 Ultra (which is in for service for an EVAP code--I don't have a smoke tester), I don't know what the code is. We are hoping to get the Ultra back today, then I'll be able to scan the code. Whatever it is, it threw before the car was warm enough for closed-loop operation, so that limits the possibilities.
 

84ZZ4

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Code ended up being a P0171. The culprit of that code was a broken vacuum line--I might have broken it messing around with the fuel pressure regulator. Either way, both the rough idle and the code are gone now. I don't think that had anything to do with the no-start condition, so that's still a complete mystery at this point, I'll tear the ignition system apart when it gets back from the shop and see if there's anything obviously wrong.
 

84ZZ4

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I've disassembled the ignition system and don't see anything obviously wrong. There's no visible damage to any of the coils, and the secondary side of the coils all measure within spec (5-8kΩ):

1/4: 5.69 kΩ
2/5: 5.47 kΩ
3/6: 5.54 kΩ

I don't see any obvious damage to the ignition control module either, aside from a small amount of corrosion on the bottom plate.

IMG_20210119_151803.jpg IMG_20210119_151821.jpg

The mounting bracket on the engine itself seems to have significantly more corrosion, but I don't know if that matters. Does it cool or ground through the mounting bracket?

IMG_20210119_151900.jpg IMG_20210119_151905.jpg
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84ZZ4

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So the 2002 finally decided to break in a place where I could perform at least some troubleshooting. My wife came to pick me up in the 2001, and it was still refusing to stay running when she got there. So I swapped both the ignition coil packs and the ignition control module between the two cars. After the swap, the 2002 still refused to start and stay running and the 2001 still started fine.

So I've eliminated the coil packs and the ignition control module as the issue.

I also unplugged the MAF sensor while this was going on, no change in behavior. No fuel in the fuel pressure regulator either, and plenty of fuel pressure at the fuel rail schrader valve.

The car actually does start when the problem occurs, it just doesn't stay running (sometimes it will sputter for a few seconds and stall, sometimes it will catch and stall immediately).

As near as I can tell, this leaves the crankshaft position sensor, (possibly) the camshaft position sensor , and the PCM itself. I'm not 100% convinced it's the crankshaft position sensor because the engine DOES catch (it just doesn't stay running). But I don't know what else it could be.
 

HotZ28

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Could it be a security issue? Do you see the security light bulb test light come on for 2-3 sec and go out when you first turn ON the ignition switch? Are you using the same key every time, or different keys when the NO start takes place?
 

84ZZ4

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We have two separate keys, the no start has occurred with both of them. The security light works normally--on rare occasions it'll get mad and stay on, but the car starts and runs normally when that happens. That's also happened with both keys.

I'm not super familiar with the newer PASSKEY systems; the older ones cut the fuel injector pulse when they activated, do the new ones operate the same way? Because during the no start condition I smell raw fuel (primarily from the tailpipe, after it's gone on long enough). All I can think to do is drag along a timing gun and a sparkplug wrench and wait for the next time that it fails.

We did go and pick it up about 6 hours later. It struggled to start a little bit (I had to prime the pump a couple of times by turning the key on and off) but when it caught it stayed running. I'd say it idled roughly for about 5-10 seconds, then smoothed out and ran like a champ the whole way home (about 20 minutes). This was with the same key it didn't start with earlier in the day.
 

Mad_Coachman

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I had a hot start problem with an Olds 88 (1997) several years ago that was very similar to the issues you describe. I changed the fuel pressure regulator and that seemed to take care of it. I ultimately changed the fuel pump as well due to low pressure (33 lbs). I have used Carter fuel pumps and they have never failed. I've had both Airtex and Bosch fail within a year....no fun when you have to drop the tank again.
Have you changed the fuel filter? A clogged fuel filter would cause your pump to strain. What is your fuel pressure?
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bigsky

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I have used Carter fuel pumps and they have never failed. I've had both Airtex and Bosch fail within a year....
I would have to have to have an ACDelco "GM Original Equipment" Fuel pump in there before going any further. I had trouble (got stranded) with a Napa cross in an Ultra. I think Napa's cross reference was off (and it is no longer recommended on their website)...!

The proper ACDelco made the car run so much better. Yours though is a Base PA, which does not have the demand of an Ultra, even still, I want the ACDelco...!

I am not a trained mechanic, just a hacker, and do what I can do before going to the mechanic for help... I would clean or replace the IAC, and replace the throttle position sensor (TPS) as well.

In my experience with these cars at higher mileage, the MAF has been an issue... no prob. just get a new genuine ACDelco in there at some point. This is another part I will only use ACDelco, no matter what it costs or how cheap one is on ebay.

Of course one can always clean the throttle body and replace the air filter... you probably have a lot of this covered as you seem to have a good working knowledge of cars...! Run some Chevron injector cleaner liquid.

After reading this thread, I keep thinking this has to be able to be solved... it has to be something simple... this 3800 engine is time tested and works pretty darn good and is usually quite fixable. But I know I am ignorant as well. Don't give up...!
 
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Buickguy123

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Hi all,

I've been trying to diagnose a weird intermittent no-start condition on my 2002 Park Avenue (base model) for some time now. This is complicated by the fact that it's my wife's car and it hs never once failed for me. It doesn't help that the car has also been going through about a fuel pump every 6-18 months for several years now, which makes troubleshooting this issue even more difficult, because half the time the reason it won't start is that the fuel pump has failed.

However a couple of days ago it decided to fail while she was close enough for me to drive over and troubleshoot it while it was still refusing to start. I tried the following, in order:

First I tried just starting it. The car refused to start, but cranked fine, and it did sound like some of the cylinders were firing. Thinking the engine might have flooded, I used "clear flood" mode (pedal all the way to the ground while cranking). This caused it to crank smoothly, without any attempt at catching. When I released the pedal while cranking, it struggled to start and almost caught a few times (getting up to about 1000RPM). Further feathering of the gas pedal while cranking almost got it running, but it never got much about 1250RPM, and it always stalled out immediately when I quit giving it extra gas.

Second I checked to see if there was fuel pressure. I didn't have a gauge on me, but I did poke the schrader valve with the key and fuel shot out under high pressure. So that eliminated the fuel pump.

Third, I tried a few more times, this time with my scan tool attached. The engine showed a cranking RPM of about 250RPM, which if I remember correctly eliminates either the cam sensor or the crank sensor (can't remember which). but couldn't get it to start, so we gave up and called a tow truck. The truck took about 10-15 minutes to arrive and it took about 30 minutes to tow the car home.

Fourth, as soon as the tow truck driver left, I went over and tried to start the vehicle again, and it started up immediately and idled smoothly. Revving the engine sounds normal, but, I haven't driven the vehicle anywhere since then as we can't afford to both get stuck somewhere. This seems to eliminate any internal engine problems.

So I'm at a loss as to how to further troubleshoot this, since it refuses to do it more than once every couple of months and NEVER at home where I have my tools. I'm fairly certain it's not the fuel pump or any sort of internal engine damage. It doesn't feel like a bad plug to me either; for one thing these engines will run (albeit poorly) on 5 cylinders, for another I don't see how it could have fixed itself after 45 minutes.

I'm leaning towards one or more ignition coils as the issue, but could it be the ignition module itself, the crank or cam sensor, or something else I haven't thought of? Anyone have any suggestions on what to do next? (Aside from convince the car to be more considerate and consistent in its failure, which I have tried but have gotten nowhere on.)

Edit: Forgot to mention, at no point did the PCM store or display any trouble codes.

Edit 2: My wife says apparently this was the second warm restart. She drove to the gas station, shut it off, put in a few gallons, and it restarted fine. She then drove to the grocery store, shut it off, and when she came out that's when the car refused to start.
Is your fuel FILTER new? When was it changed?? If it is partially clogged you can get the symptoms you talk about....I know...$12 fix.....
 

84ZZ4

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'83 Regal T-Type, '01 Park Avenue Ultra, '02 Park Avenue Base
Okay, so far, the car has refused to break again, so I can't offer any more troubleshooting information. But I can answer a few questions:

Filter is (relatively) new, changed it after the last fuel pump failure. I don't have an exact date for the replacement, but I received the new pump 11/1/2020, so it can't have been put in before then. The installed pump is a Delphi, P/N FG0347. So the fuel filter isn't any older than that.

Air filter is a K&N, and the baffles have all been removed from the air box. No other airflow modifications (unlike my Ultra, where the airbox is heavily modified).

I haven't measured the fuel pressure other than to verify that there is pressure (by depressing the schraeder valve) during the no-start condition.

Haven't replaced the fuel pressure regulator ever, but that's cheap enough I'm willing to try it. I'd just replace the MAF if I thought that had anything do with it, but shouldn't it start with the MAF disconnected in that case? I could try the MAF from the original TB in my Ultra, or hell, just try the entire TB (Ultra is running a Northstar TB along with an LQ4 MAF, so those original parts are around somewhere).
 

Oktsme

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1991 Buick Park Avenue
I am going to throw this out there. I have worked on mostly Honda, Acura, Toyota cars, and have found similar problems on many of the Hondas. I am no trained mechanic, but I usually can trace a problem and do research to fix it without replacing a lot of parts. Fuel pump relays can be an intermittent problem. I would check out the relay and see if tests okay. I usually keep an extra one in my glove box just in case. I have been stranded a few times. They can get corroded or the solder points can get old and crack so that temperature changes can affect whether this is making a good electrical contact. See what you think:

1. Engine stalls

One of the first symptoms of an issue with the fuel pump relay is an engine that suddenly stalls. If the fuel pump relay has an issue while the vehicle is operating it will cut off power to the fuel pump, which will cause the engine to stall. A faulty relay may allow the vehicle to be restarted a short while later, while a completely failed relay will not.

2. Engine does not start
Another symptom of a faulty fuel pump relay is an engine that does not start. If the fuel pump relay fails the fuel pump will be left without power. The engine may still crank when the key is turned, however it will not be able to start due to lack of fuel. This symptom can also be caused by a wide variety of other issues, so having the vehicle properly diagnosed is highly recommended.

3. No noise from the fuel pump

Another symptom that may hint at an issue with the fuel pump relay is no noise from the fuel pump when the key is switched on. Most fuel pumps will produce a low volume hum or whine which can be heard from the inside the vehicle if listened for closely, or from the outside of the vehicle, near the fuel tank. If the fuel pump relay fails, it will cut off power to the fuel pump which will render it inoperable, and therefore silent, when the ignition is on.
 
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