: 98 Catera won't crank

01-03-09, 01:17 AM
I have a 98 catera, it started to act up lately. On certain days its slow to have the initial crank but starts fine and I can drive around normally with no problems. Today I went to the mechanic and told him about the problem, he guessed it may be the starter going bad. He was busy and told me to come back next week. I left to go to the store, came back and the car would not crank at all. Tried to jump start and nothing happened (no crank). Had to get it towed to the mechanic. He looked at it and told me it was the starter. He wanted to charge me $200 for labor and around $200 for the parts. Any other ideas that could cause the car not to start?

Your help is appreciated.

Thank you.

01-03-09, 09:51 AM
bad positive cable from starter to battery? I've seen a few threads here that talk about this cable going bad. It gets a good workout since the alternator cable runs from the alt. to the starter (meaning the starter cable also carries charging current sometimes in reverse direction from starting current). Cable also gets a lot of engine heat since it runs in the wireway in the front of the engine right below the timing belt cover. If the cable has broken down and got corroded inside it may not carry a high-amp load without dropping voltage due to high resistance.

I might expect other problems if this is the case since it may not charge as effectively and may cause low-voltage faults (i.e. the same symptoms seen when a multifunction module is failing). You did not note any other problems but things like radio failing, trunk and fuel door release failing, interior lights not coming on, etc. could be a symptom of this. I am also assuming there is no abnormal noise during cranking, just a slow crank like a dying battery, and since the engine runs normally, no abnormal engine load.

Not sure where the starter is but thinks its on the passenger side at bottom of engine (toward the rear near the trans bell housing).

I've been planning to run my alternator straight to the battery and also replace this cable with a higher gauge to prevent future problems (like I read elsewhere in the forum).

Starter bench test may be the best way to confirm the starter is failed - from a mechanic's point of view this can be risky since he must perform half the labor just to get this far, and an intermittent failure may disappear on the bench meaning re-installing a bad part (now double the labor plus part to fix the problem). He must make a decision based on the quickest and most likely fix to the problem so he will eliminate the obvious, then replace the most likely failed part. He doesn't want to see you again in two days for the same problem either (if he gives a crap about it).

To save a buck or two, eliminate the cheaper problem first (confirm the cable is good or bad; make sure all available battery capacity is being applied to the starter); then remove the starter for a bench test at your local autozoo.

01-03-09, 11:45 AM
Thanks for the info, how easy is it to get the starter out for a bench test? There is no other issues with the car other than it wouldn't crank now. The initial problem was that it had the slow crank on certain days for two weeks. I haver also noticed after the car wouldn't crank the battery light on the dash stays red. What could be the problem for that?

Thank you.

01-03-09, 03:30 PM
sounds like your mechanic is correct...the battery light would stay on if the voltage is pulled down excessively. A binding starter would do that easy.
I've never pulled the starter off a Catera...it appears I spoke off the top of my head as it doesn't seem as easy as removing one wire and two bolts! I just looked up the procedure in my service manual. I can see $200 of labor easy (have to remove the RH cat, the RH motor mount, raise the engine and use a special tool to secure the engine) just from reading the manual.
It could probably be done without the special tools but I can't say that for sure...definitely don't want the engine to shift with arms and elbows under it...unless you are set up with ramps and engine lift, and can get that catalytic converter off without cutting or breaking anything, it may not be a job for home.

01-03-09, 04:30 PM
Okay, thanks for your help. I'll post an update later regarding this issue.

frank moran
01-03-09, 07:57 PM
Lakeside gave you good info, have your mech pay particular attention to the +cable and the wire that runs from the back of the alt to the starter. this wire is crimped into the starter cable lug at the starter. To rule out the Pos cable you need to do a voltage drop check on the cable, the alt wire is a bit undersize and gets too hot..

01-05-09, 01:48 PM
I talked to the mechanic about the cables and he did test them and there is power coming all the way to the stater. He is sure that the starter is the problem. I have told to him to go ahead and replace it, we'll see what happens after that. He also provides 90 days warranty on the labor.

He just called me while I got a chance to post an update and he said the starter has been replaced and car is starting fine.

FYI-He had to take out the motor mount first to get to the starter.

Thanks everybody for your help.

Thank you

01-06-09, 09:45 AM
good deal. Sometimes the best help is knowing enough to keep from wasting your money.

I wonder if the mechanic had to remove the RH cat to get that starter out. Be good to know if there was a short cut from the service manual for those that may tackle it themselves...

01-06-09, 05:31 PM
He only had to take the motor mount out.

I was able to see the new starter very clearly while the car was lifted. It looked like there was enough room to get to the starter once the motor mount was out.

Thank you.