Ian, I just had a call from my son who informs me that his '98 Grand Am died
today. He was on the highway when he says he heard a high pitched whining
noise just before "all the dash lights came on", apparently including the
Service Engine Soon light. There was no smoke or clunking sounds. He said it
seemed to lose power, but he managed to take an exit ramp into a small town
and parked it at a Canadian Tire lot before shutting it off. Unfortunately
there is no GM dealer anywhere near where the car is, so he went into
Canadian Tire and asked them to check it out. He said that they came out and
started it up but it wouldn't shift into any gear until they raised the hood
and did something. Also, the warning lights were all still on. It was late
in the day and they are going to check it out tomorrow. The car has the 3.1
V6 in it and has over 200,000 kilometres on it, so I wouldn't be surprised
if it's computer related. Any ideas what we may be looking at here problem
wise and cost? Thanks for your usual thoughtfulness.
First thing that comes to mind is an alternator problem.
Pretty common failure on GM vehicles in general.
Let us know what the diagnosis is. If it turns out
to be the alternator, diagnosis and labor should
be right around the 1.0-1.5 hrs range. Price of the
alt is hard to know. I don't know what CT uses
for their parts.
Ian, it's interesting how the light of day changes the diagnostic symptoms.
My son now tells me that there were only 3 lights illuminated on the dash -
the "service engine soon" light, the "brake warning" light and the
"emergency brake warning light" (? I didn't know there was such a thing!)
Also, he told me that CTC started the engine with no problem, but had to do
something under the hood to get it into gear. He also said that the engine
seemed to be running okay and he surmised that the "drop in power" that he
thought he noticed on the highway may have actually been the transmission
CTC called him this morning and said that they thought the problem was the
ABS sensor, so he gave them the go-ahead to replace it. Then they called
back and said that it still wouldn't shift into any gear. Now they think the
problem is the shift linkage. They had to order in a new shift linkage which
they said will be in tomorrow. I assume that they had to order it through a
GM dealership. This saga and increasing repair costs will continue tomorrow.
I wish he had been able to get it into a GM shop where I suspect they would
be more familiar with the symptoms!
He wouldn't have done something like put it in "P" for passing while
driving down the highway? If it won't come out of park, there's a
solenoid that could be busted or the linkage could be bent - but I
don't hear of too many bent/broken shift linkages...
Ha, ha! No, he's been driving for quite a few years and I know that he
wouldn't have put it in "P" while driving. I'll suggest he mention the
solenoid to the technician though and have them test it. Thanks for the
The sad story continues. My son picked up the car and when he was about 20
miles from the shop, the "Service Engine Soon" light came back on and the
engine started to lose power. He was almost home, so he drove slowly the
rest of the way. He put it in park and you guessed it, it wouldn't shift
back out of park. He called CTC who initially advised him he would have to
have the car towed back at his own expense. He called me for advice and I
suggested he call back to CTC and ask for the service technician who had
completed the work and to tell them that they should send a tow truck at
their own expense. He got the fellow on the phone who said and I quote: "Oh.
The "Service Engine Soon" light came on when I tested the car too, but since
I was testing the car for the shifter problem, I didn't think too much about
it. I reset the light just before you picked up the car. The car keeps
blowing a fuse and that's why the "Service Engine Soon" light comes on."
CTC then agreed to send a tow truck.
Call me crazy, but if the fuse for the shift-inter lock system was blown
when they first checked the car, isn't the first thing the technician should
have traced is what was blowing the fuse? As it now stands, I have paid over
$ 400 for an ABS Sensor and a new shift linkage, all of which I probably
didn't need and the car still has the same problem as when my son first took
it in. Should the technician not have examined all the pertinent wiring for
a break, a short or a bad connection? Should I demand a refund for the
unnecessary repairs already carried out? Does anyone have any thoughts on
what could be blowing the fuse? All suggestions and recommendations would be
greatly appreciated because I'll have to deal with this again tomorrow. To
make matters worse, my son lives about 80 miles from me, so I'm not there to
help him out.
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